No deprivation. No extremes. A cleanse that helped reset and restore my system.
In Ayurveda, we say your digestion is an indicator of your true health. Digestive problems, over time can lead to chronic conditions or disease. I have been fortunate to have really strong digestion my entire life. I could eat anything, at any time, in any quantity and feel just fine.
For those of you that know me, know my addiction to sweets. I binge eat...hard. I call this "eating like an asshole". I have put my body, well my digestive system, through hell for years with my food choices and habits. Finally, it started to catch up with me. Over the last year, I began experiencing digestive problems. Like most of us these little problems stick around and become our new normal; we become used to them and blind to the messages the body is sending to us.
“Knowledge of constitution is the key for a holistic and integral health care, the true basis of any preventative medicine." -Dr. Vasant Lad
I was becoming desensitized to my digestive issues, like heartburn, feelings of heaviness in my system, and bloating. Things got worse when quarantine started due to COVID. This disruption in my routine and the unknowns of the world had my brain seeking comfort through the most unhealthy foods possible. While at the time, I was living my best life, I was making really poor food choices for my physical and mental health in the long run. During quarantine, I learned how much I like margaritas. And of course, with margaritas comes chips, queso, tacos, pizza, then of course dessert. I put on a few pounds and mentally I felt terrible.
A few months after quarantine I was back in my groove with a regular schedule. Now, for the first time I realized something was just not right. The affects of quarantine and my food choices stuck around after the rest of my word was back to regularity. I honestly have not felt worse in my life.
I felt like my body wasn't mine; a weird feeling that is hard to describe other than things just did not feel "right". My abdomen bloated after eating anything. This bloating became worse and my abdomen became distended after meals. I felt air and pressure in my system that I have never experienced before. I had heart burn all the time. I am not exaggerating. The heartburn was so bad it affected my sleep. I would have trouble falling asleep because of the pain and I would wake in the middle of the night dealing with burning sensations in my chest.
The lack of rest made me grumpy, the continual attention I had on my digestive system was annoying. I didn't feel good. My workouts suffered, my happiness was decreasing, I was agitated. I was a hot mess.
I felt like my system just needed a reset, but I could not mentally wrap my head around any type of cleanse that would have me feeling deprived. I decided to use my Ayurvedic training and go through the process of an Ayurvedic cleanse. Ayurvedic cleanses are traditionally done at the change of the seasons. Though at the time, we were still in the middle of summer, I wanted to give it a try to see if I could give my system time to recover from the hell I put it through over the last five months.
The Ayurvedic Cleanse
An Ayurvedic cleanse is not about deprivation, it is about minimizing the variety of food input, allowing the system to rest and repair itself. Many Ayurvedic cleanses are "mono diets" where you only eat one type of meal known as kitchari that is easily digestible. Overall Ayurvedic cleanses, along with living an Ayurvedic lifestyle, allow the body's natural intelligence to lead to improved energy and overall health.
My Cleanse Goals:
I wanted to try the cleanse for three days. That is honestly as long as I thought I could handle it.
I decided this cleanse needed to be more than just food. I took this time to also take a break from social media, news sources, and interactions that usually cause anxiety or have a negative impact to me.
Rest my body. I would avoid aggressive workouts, but stay active with low impact workouts such as rowing.
Outside of these three goals, I was just along for the ride. Eager to see how my body would respond.
Breakfast: Oatmeal cooked with ghee and raisins. An easily digestible food that would not technically result in cleansing with a "mono diet" but mentally I felt it was best to have a little variety.
Lunch and Dinner: Kitchari which is basmati rice, split mung beans, digestive herbs, and seasonal vegetables cooked with ghee. This is a one pot meal that I chose to cook with vegetable stock, carrots, and spinach.
If I was really craving something I would allow myself either a blended fruit pack, or a spoonful of peanut butter.
I eliminated all processed sugar, caffeine and anything outside of the ingredients and foods listed above.
I would drink a gallon of water a day (or close to) along with my Athletic Blend Herbal Tea.
My Daily Journey
The cleanse started on a Sunday. I had a plan to keep myself busy at home with projects I usually put of for another day, like cleaning the outside windows, and mopping the covered porch. I was grumpy, most likely from my first day without caffeine. As the day progressed, it became clear to me how often I eat because I am bored or just used to eating while not actually hungry. This made me tune into my body and try and learn my true hunger signals.
Monday rolls around and I start my work week with a new routine. Eating my oatmeal breakfast and relaxing before heading in to coach at the Box. I spent more time than usual during the cleanse, taking it easy and relaxing. I felt low on energy. I actually had several people ask me "are you ok today?" or comment "you look tired". I think most people are used to my high energy and enthusiasm and today, I just felt flat. I assumed this was most likely from a detoxifying effect from not having processed sugar or caffeine.
The first few days were not nearly as hard as I thought they would be. I was not hungry because I was eating high-quality and nutritious foods, not skipping meals, or depriving myself. However, after eating I was still feeling heavy and felt the air within my system.
Tuesday the third day, and I had not noticed an improvement with my digestion. This was discouraging and caused anxiety about what this would mean if my cleanse did not help my digestive symptoms. Without much improvement physically, I felt surprisingly mentally strong enough to continue the cleanse. Intuitively I felt my body needed more time. My original goal was three days, but I pressed on and decided to take it one day at a time with no end goal in mind.
Wednesday was my fourth day and I was getting worried because I did not feel much improvement. If this cleanse doesn't help me, I would be forced to find a doctor and navigate a cumbersome healthcare system to find solutions. My fears of being on prescription medication for the rest of my life were within arms reach. I was nervous, scared, and mad at myself for letting my health get so out of control.
Thursday marked the fifth day of the cleanse and I FINALLY start to notice improvement in my system. I was feeling true indications of hunger, my heartburn was subsiding, bloating was no longer after every meal, and as a result my sleep improved. I was finally starting to feel a difference in my body.
On Thursday I also got my period. Usually this day comes with nausea and some pretty terrible cramping. To my surprise I literally had no such symptoms. What a true reprieve from monthly hassle of feeling sick during my menstrual cycle. Ecstatic about the improvements not only in my digestion, but my menstrual symptoms, I continued for a fifth day.
Friday was my sixth day with noticeable improvements I decided I would finish the cleanse Friday. Over the weekend, I would slowly integrate more variety of foods back into my diet and pay attention to how my body responded. I would choose foods that were easily digestible, cook with ghee, have oatmeal for breakfast, drink herbal tea, and listen for true indications of hunger.
A few weeks have passed since the cleanse and I am still navigating learning my body's messages that I have tuned out for so long. I pay closer attention to what I am eating and how it makes me feel. The whole process has really helped me reduce cravings for sugar. I still have sweet treats, but no longer feel an out of control binge desire for these foods. I am learning what foods I can easily digest while on the go teaching yoga or coaching. I am also finding which foods work best for me post workout. I feel a deeper connection to my body and what it needs and I am trying to allow my body's natural intelligence to work.
I encourage anyone who feels their body needs to reset to try an Ayurvedic cleanse. Though I do not feel I am at 100% "out of the woods," I no longer feel I am in need of medical support and do not see prescription medicines in my near future. I am grateful for this Ayurveda knowledge, to allow me to find natural ways to tune into my body's natural intelligence and improve my health.
If you are interested in an Ayurvedic cleanse and would like my support or guidance, or if you have questions about my experience, please feel free reach out to me. My contact information is here.
The information in this blog is a personal account for my journey on an Ayurvedic cleanse. This information is educational in nature, based on the tradition of Ayurveda, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or to replace standard medical treatment or advice. If you have a medical condition, please consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.