For the past 3 weeks, I participated in Panchakarma, an ancient detoxification process in Ayurveda that is total rejuvenation for the body, mind, and spirit. I went through this process with the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque , where I stayed for 6 days. My diet primarily consisted of 21 days of kitchadi (a porridge of yellow mung beans, rice, digestive spices, and vegetables). I abstained from caffeine, dairy, alcohol, and meat. Here are some valuable insights that I gained from this experience:
1. Everyone is different and unique. Our individual constitutions determine the best diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle for our wellbeing.
2. Stress directly impacts the gut.
It is exciting that now the latest research verifies this, with the discovery of the bidirectional brain-gut axis. Here is great article on this topic.
3. Proper food combining is important for optimal digestion and overall health.
Ayurveda has guidelines on food combining, and not following them can lead to decreased digestive capability and toxins. Dr. Lad has a great article about this, and I have cut out his table and taped it up in my kitchen so that I can learn the guidelines. Even implementing a few key concepts is great start, such as never cook honey, don’t mix bananas with milk, and fruit should be eaten away from meals (especially melons).
4. Having adequate “agni” (digestive fire) is crucial for health.
A balanced amount of agni, not excessive and not too little, is important. Inadequate agni is the root cause of many problems. Ayurveda has specific guidelines on how to improve agni, such as not drinking too much during meals, not drinking iced drinks, eating in a relaxed environment, avoiding overeating, and using digestive herbs and spices like ginger, cayenne, cumin, and asoefatida.
5. Giving up certain food and beverages makes you realize how much you rely on them for comfort. Being on a mono-diet of kitchadi and giving up my daily chai and green tea was not easy! I realized that no matter how healthy we are, we turn to certain foods and beverages to make us feel better. That very realization strengthened my resolve to stick to the protocol, and helped me to simply observe and acknowledge my cravings, but not indulge in them.
6. Ghee is a superfood!
Ghee is clarified butter. I grew up eating ghee with my Indian meals and we make fresh ghee at home. However, the more I learn about the uses and benefits of ghee, the more I realize what an amazing, nourishing superfood it really is. Ghee has been used for thousands of years as it provides a variety of benefits, including detoxification and lubrication of the body. I actually felt more energized when I did the internal oleation process (swallowing tablespoons of ghee on an empty stomach for 3 days). Here is a great article on the benefits of ghee.
7. For optimal health, detoxification should be done regularly. Panchakarma is recommended a few times a year, during the change of seasons, but even once a year is great. It helps to release toxins that naturally accumulate in the mind and body and restore the body’s innate healing system.