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Fall Cleansing


Written by Mary Thompson

Fall cleansing in Ayurveda is distinctly different from the cleansing that is usually done in the spring.  The intention of spring cleansing is to rid the body of toxins stored during the long winter.  During the winter the diet is usually heavier and we are less active than the rest of the year and these two factors may cause ama, toxins, to accumulate in the tissues of the body.  The pancha karma procedures followed during springtime are intended to quickly remove toxins and prepare the body for the work it must do in the summer and fall. 

During the fall, we are cleansing in preparation for winter.  This cleanse is not so much to remove toxins as to prevent the body from building up toxicity during the coming winter months.   This is a cleanse designed to strengthen the digestion and cellular metabolism in order to best create and maintain healthy tissue. 

Strengthening digestion is done through diet, food habits and, often, herbal support.  The diet that is indicated during a fall cleanse is light and well spiced.  A kichadi fast may be followed.  Kichadi is a dish usually made with basmati rice, mung dal, vegetables and spices.  It is a complete protein and meets all nutritional needs while being light and easily digested.  Limiting the foods for a time to this mono-diet, the digestive system has a chance to rest.  What this means, is that by limiting one’s intake to a simple meal, the digestive enzymes and acids needed are limited as well.  This allows the body’s resources to be directed to digestion on a deeper level, to restore a strong digestive fire and clean the blood of any impurities that may be there. 

Food habits are as important, if not more so, than food choices when it comes to our ability to digest our food.  By slowing down and remaining present during our meals, we improve the body’s ability to fully digest what we’re eating.  Limiting or eliminating distractions during meals allows us to focus on our food and on the sensations of hunger or fullness that we may be feeling.  Eating until we are 3/4 full provides adequate space for our body to digest our food without discomfort.  Saying grace before a meal and pausing at the end of a meal to signal the end of digestion reminds us to view our food as a gift that we receive from the universe’s bounty.  When eaten in a state of gratitude, the food nourishes the body, mind and soul.

Herbal support may be used to strengthen appetite and digestion.  The spices that you may be most familiar with in your kitchen are the same ones used Ayurvedically for igniting the digestive fire.  Fennel and ginger tea is excellent for enhancing digestion.   Spices used commonly in fall cleansing include cardamom, fresh ginger, cinnamon, fennel, cumin, and turmeric.  Including these spices with your food at each meal will enable you to better absorb all the nutrients of the foods you consume.

Enhancing cellular metabolism is done with exercise and massage.  During the fall cleanse, it is essential that one exercise daily.  If possible, it is beneficial to incorporate two periods of exercise, one in the morning that is more stimulating and one in the evening that is more restorative.  Yoga practice is excellent for this, though one may find benefit from a walking regimen or other types of full body, weight-bearing, sweat inducing exercise.  The key is to exercise daily, preferably after a meal.  Allow at least one half hour after a small meal before exercise, longer for a larger meal.  The time taken in exercise is determined by the strength and health of the individual and may be 20-40 minutes depending on one’s health history. 

Massage is vitally important during a cleanse to move lymphatic fluid.  All of your body’s purification systems are being activated during the cleanse; the digestive system is alkalizing and removing toxicity through the g.i. tract, the liver is purifying the blood and the lymph nodes are clearing the lymph.  Massage facilitates the movement of lymphatic fluid to lymph nodes and allows the body to build healthy tissue free of accumulated toxins.  Massage may be done daily by oneself or taken at a spa or health center.  If doing self-massage, one always strokes in the direction of the heart to enhance lymphatic flow.  A small amount of warm oil is applied to the body and massaged in.  After a few minutes, this may be showered off or, if desired, may be kept on during the day.

As with any cleanse, intake of adequate amounts of water is important.  Generally, we want to take in about 1 oz of water for every 2 pounds of body weight.  For example, a 150-pound person would want to take in 75 oz water during a day.  This includes water/liquid taken with food in the form of soup, juices, tea, etc. as well as plain water.  As your body uses the blood and the lymph to move toxins, it is imperative that we keep those channels well hydrated.

The cleanse detailed here may be followed for one to two weeks.  To do a more intense cleanse, one would want to work with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner.  Cleansing is a wonderful way to help your body prepare for winter.  Each season brings us opportunities to enhance our health and healing. 

Simple Fall Kichadi

1 Tbs. Ghee
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup basmati rice, rinsed
3/4 cup mung dal, rinsed and soaked
5 cups water, heated if possible
1 cup chopped vegetables

Heat ghee in a heavy bottomed saucepan and add mustard seed and cumin.  When these begin to pop, stir in the rice, and other spices.  Stir together to coat all in ghee.  Add drained mung dal and water.   Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.  Add in chopped vegetables and continue to cook until vegetables are soft.

Fennel and Ginger Tea

1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 cup water

Place all ingredients in pan and boil together 5 minutes.  Strain out herbs and drink.  (No problem with leaving the herb in eating that, too.)  May sweeten with honey when cool enough to drink.