Let’s be real, we live in a highly toxic world — from additives in our food and heavy metals in our drinking water, to parabens in our self-care products and electromagnetic frequencies emanating from our cell phones. And, if that wasn’t frightening enough, our own bodies produce toxins from poor digestion!
But… there’s hope. Detoxing, or ridding the body of toxins, is an antidote to this overhaul and spring is the ideal time to do so.
Most people consider detoxing to be either juicing, prolonged fasting, colonics or adopting a heavily restricted diet. But, according to Ayurveda (one of the oldest medical sciences in the world born from ancient India), these methods are too harsh for our complex, delicate digestive systems. Detoxing has to be as personalized as eating.
“Ayurveda has never supported fasting-based cleanses,” says chef Divya Alter, co-owner of Divya’s Kitchen and author of What To Eat For How You Feel, a culinary gem for anyone remotely interested in pursuing a more balanced, nourishing existence. “You don’t want to blow a bomb in your body. The body has its own detoxing function, so we just want to support it to work optimally.”
The main goal of detoxing is to release and then eliminate toxins, which happens regularly through our body’s elegant combination of urination, evacuation and sweating. But, the channels connected to these glorious elimination systems often get blocked and toxins get stored in our tissues. Your channels, says Divya, are “the physical pathways in your body. Think of them as the body’s transportation system, or like a plumbing system in the house.”
There are four different types of toxins:
1 | Undigested food residue —
Toxic residue caused by a heavy diet or weak digestion. It’s technically non-reactive, but can create poor circulation or blockages.
2 | Reactive undigested food residue —
When undigested food residue can’t be eliminated it gets stuck in the body and begins to ferment, causing various diseases.
3 | Environmental toxins —
A slow poison, which is basically any form of environmental pollution from detergents, preservatives and chemicals that we come into contact with.
4 | Electromagnetic Frequency and Electromagnetic Radiation —
Aka: toxicity from microwaves, computers, cell phones, TV, wireless internet, etc. Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF) disrupts our nervous systems, while Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) — or high doses of radiation — are heavily toxic and life-threatening.
It takes determination and preparation to rid of these toxins.
Ayurveda advises people to prepare for a detox just as you’d prepare your body for any significant physical challenge. This takes the form of practicing cleansing-type behaviors and increasing the frequency of those behaviors over time — as if warming up your body’s elimination engine.
Preparation is especially important because if, during a detox, toxins are released but not eliminated in time, they’ll get reabsorbed… causing a retox.
Here are a few cleansing practices that will help open up the channels:
“Oil pulling:” upon waking, scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper, placing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth, and swishing it around for 20 minutes before spitting it out.
Self massage at least once a week with oil. Putting oil on your body followed by a steam bath can help pull toxins out of your skin. Also, by limiting your time with electronics you’ll be able to shake that EMF buzz out of your system, helping you better connect with the earth and get better sleep.
Pick one weekend per month and consume just one type of dish the whole time. Ayurveda recommends khichri, a single pot meal comprised of lentils, grains, vegetables, spices and fats.
Once your channels are open you’re ready to do the seasonal Ayurvedic detox. The primary methods for a spring detox are eating simple, cleansing foods in small quantities, staying hydrated, resting, practicing meditation and connecting with nature. Though there isn’t enough space to list all the recipes for an entire detox protocol, I’ve included one for a gently cleansing asparagus and daikon radish soup taken from Divya’s book, What to Eat for How You Feel.
ASPARAGUS AND DAIKON RADISH SOUP RECIPE
An ode to asparagus: asparagus is in season in the spring and happens to be good for everyone regardless of dosha (Ayurvedic type). It reduces inflammation, encourages the elimination of toxins, lowers cholesterol, cleanses the kidneys, prevents kidney stones and neutralizes the effects of X-rays and other forms of radiation.
1 cup Daikon Radish, peeled and diced
1 medium Taro Root, peeled and diced, (about ⅔ cup)
1 teaspoon Fresh Ginger, grated
1 teaspoon Coriander, ground
¾ teaspoon Salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon Turmeric, ground
¼ teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1 bunch of Asparagus, fibrous stalk ends trimmed and spears cut into ½-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon Fresh Cilantro or Dill, chopped
3 or 4 Lime Slices
1 | In a 2-quart saucepan, combine 4 cups of water, daikon, taro, ginger, coriander, salt, turmeric, pepper and olive oil.
2 | Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
3 | Add the asparagus and cook for 5 more minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender.
4 | You may serve the soup hot, garnishing with cilantro and lime juice immediately, or let it sit uncovered to cool down a bit, blending to a smooth or chunky consistency. (In this case, reheat if necessary and garnish with the cilantro and lime juice.)
*Though I’ve been very pro-Ayurvedic in this article, sometimes it is best to refrain from Ayurvedic recipes as it will do more harm than healing. Never detox if you’re seriously ill, very weak, pregnant, nursing, or if you’re constipated, menstruating or have any other symptoms of blocked channels, such as exhaustion or depression. You should also never detox if you’re too busy. The body requires extra energy to be able to release toxins, especially ones stored deep in our fat cells — so give your body the chill time it needs.
Alyssa D. Benjamin has studied Ayurvedic cooking under Divya Alter since 2011 and lives (mostly) according to Ayurvedic practices. It’s all about balance after all.