healers highly recommend periodic internal cleansing as a way to maintain
good health and prevent disorders from taking root in the physiology.
Just like you regularly flush out the plumbing system in your home
or change the oil in your automobile engine, periodically helping your
body flush toxins out thoroughly is a good maintenance technique that
will help organs and systems stay more efficient for a longer period
the age of 40, when your body's own cleansing and rejuvenating capability
starts slowing down, supporting it with a cleansing regime is important
for ongoing health and vitality.
The Seed and
Land Theory of Ayurveda
is crucial for health. When digestion is efficient and complete, all
of the food you eat is either converted into nutrient fluids for absorption
into the body, or flushed out as wastes. When the digestive process
is incomplete or inefficient, partially digested food matter is left
behind in the digestive system. This substance, called ama in ayurveda,
becomes toxic to the physiology if allowed to stay in the body or build
up over time. Ama is not only inherently toxic in itself, it also clogs
the channels of the body, further disrupting the flow of digestion
and leading to an escalating cycle of toxin build-up. Ama is fertile
ground for infections and disorders to germinate, take root and flourish.
Ama build-up is considered the first stage of imbalance in the physiology.
If not addressed, disorders invariably follow.
process leaves behind toxins either when you eat foods that are not
fresh, natural or suited to your constitution and digestive capability,
or when you follow eating routines and practices that are not ideal.
Eating processed or artificially flavored foods and foods that are
grown with chemical pesticides and fertilizers can lead to toxin build-up.
Drinking iced water or ice- cold beverages douses the digestive fire
and causes ama to be generated. Eating heavier foods after sundown,
eating a new meal before the previous one is digested, or eating when
stressed or working also impact digestion.
How to Tell
if You Have Ama Build-Up
It is best to
visit an ayurvedic healer and have him or her assess your ama levels.
The following are general indications that you may have an accumulation
of toxins in your physiology:
1. Your tongue
has a white coating in the morning when you wake up.
2. You yawn after
a main meal and just want to curl up and snooze.
3. You feel tired
and lethargic all day long, even though you eat well and sleep well.
4. Your appetite
is poor or you crave junk foods.
5. You feel a
general lack of motivation or zest for life.
6. You feel "spaced
out" and your mind is cloudy.
7. You experience
abdominal bloating and gas, especially after a main meal.
8. You feel heavy
and congested or constipated.
9. You have a
general sense of malaise, with vague aches and pains.
If you experience
three or more of the above on a regular basis, your physiology would
probably benefit from a cleansing regime.
cleansing programs, called Panchakarma, are best done under the supervision
of an ayurvedic physician. Harsh sudden purges are also not recommended
in ayurveda. A gentle program of cleansing, done over 45-60 days, is
least stressful for the physiology, easiest to follow on a regular
basis, and adequate for enhancing the digestive fire to burn off simple
The Best Time
for Internal Cleansing
a seasonal routine (ritucharya) as well as daily routine (dinacharya).
Each season brings with it its own challenges with respect to your
health and needs for balance. The time when the seasons change is the
best time to do an at-home cleansing regime, to divest yourself of
the earlier season's accumulation of ama and to prepare the physiology
for the new season.
is considered an ideal time to rejuvenate the physiology, in keeping
with Nature's own calendar for rejuvenation. With the melting of the
snows and the thawing of the ground, the fluids in the body also start
flowing more freely, and performing an internal cleansing routine at
this time accelerates the flushing of toxins from the physiology.
Cleansing Routine: Diet
Start by eliminating
from your diet all foods that can create ama. This includes leftovers,
foods with preservatives, additives or chemicals, and foods grown in
an environment laced with chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and canned,
frozen or processed foods.
foods from your diet. Avoid heavy desserts, heavy meats and cheeses,
deep-fried foods, candy and chocolate, white sugar, carbonated drinks,
caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Minimize breads made with yeast and
Avoid raw foods
such as uncooked salads, sprouts and cold sandwiches, because raw foods
are harder on the digestive system. Avoid yogurt, as it sometimes clogs
the channels of the body. If you drink milk, boil it with a pinch of
nutmeg for Vata, cardamom for Pitta and a slice of fresh ginger for
Kapha to enhance digestibility.
Avoid iced water
and cold beverages.
Pick foods that
are best for your constitution and needs for balance, as well as the
strength of your digestive agni. Stick to lighter, easier-to-digest
foods from the choices you do have.
Eat whole, fresh,
natural foods, organic if you can get it. Buy your produce fresh, and
consume it quickly.
Eat cooked foods,
warm or at room temperature.
Drink lots of
warm water through the day. Accompany meals with small sips of warm
water as needed. A detoxifying "tea" is even better. Coriander, cumin,
fennel and ajwain (carum copticum) are digestion- enhancing spices
to choose from. Here are suggestions for detoxifying herbal waters
for the three doshas:
Bring two quarts
of pure water to a rolling boil. Add the herbs/spices listed below,
turn off heat after a couple of minutes and let steep for about 15-20
minutes. Strain and pour the water into a thermos. Drink the tea through
the day, especially 15 minutes after a meal. Throw out any that remains
after 6.30 pm, and make a fresh batch the next morning.
Vata: 1/2 tsp
cumin seed, 1/4 tsp ajwain seed, 1/2 tsp fennel seed
Pitta: 1/2 tsp
cumin seed, 1/2 tsp coriander seed, 2 fresh mint leaves
Kapha: 1/2 tsp
cumin seed, 1 clove, 1-2 slices fresh ginger root
If you can find
fresh Tulsi (Holy Basil), add a leaf or two to the water for all doshas.
Tulsi is known for its ability to cleanse the physiology of environmental
of cleansing fruits and vegetables in your diet. Barley water or rice
kanjee, made by cooking a small amount of grain with a large quantity
of water (1/2 cup to 10 cups) are also wonderful cleansers of the digestive
system and the urinary tract. Greens, daikon radish, bitter gourd,
cabbage and celery are examples of cleansing vegetables. Cooked apples
and pears are a great way to get elimination going in the morning.
Prunes, pineapple, papaya and pomegranate are other fruits that aid
digestion and cleansing. Herbs such as cilantro, mint, fresh ginger
and lemon are also helpful for cleansing and purifying the digestive
Cook with digestion-enhancing,
detoxifying spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, clove, ajwain,
fenugreek, dried ginger, Chinese cinnamon and fennel. Add the turmeric
to foods as they are cooking, and sauté other spices in ghee or olive
oil and pour over prepared dishes for the best therapeutic benefit.
Digestion-enhancing lassi, made by blending one part yogurt and three
parts water with some of the herbs and spices mentioned in this section,
is an excellent choice for a lunchtime beverage.
Cleansing Routine: Lifestyle
guidelines for proper digestion. Eat three meals a day at about the
same times, eat lighter in the morning and evening than in the afternoon,
and eat in a quiet, pleasant atmosphere.
Get lots of rest.
Sleep is important any time of year, but especially during purification,
when your body needs the quiet time to cleanse itself and recharge.
Go to bed early and rise early.
Stress contributes to disrupted digestion, and meditation can help
reduce stress levels.
everyday, is important. Exercise early in the morning. Walking is excellent
exercise for all body types. Practice deep breathing to draw in oxygen
and cleanse the air channels of the body. Avoid napping during the
daily massage, called abhyanga, helps loosen toxins deeply embedded
in body tissues for ease of elimination.
If there is a
day spa that offers ayurvedic rejuvenation treatments in the area,
treat yourself to a shirodhara—a routine where a stream of warm oil
is poured steadily on the forehead for 30-45 minutes, followed by a
scalp massage. The shirodhara is wonderful for calming the mind and
nervous system and recharging the entire physiology.
is important. Empty your bowel and bladder regularly to flush the toxins
that have been loosened or released from the tissues, joints and organs
out of the body before they get back into circulation.
Cleansing Routine: Herbal Rasayanas
Triphala and Tulsi
together can help cleanse the physiology of internally generated digestive
ama as well as toxins drawn in from the environment through less-than-ideal
air, water or food.
Triphala, a classical
ayurvedic herbal combination of three fruits, helps cleanse and tone
the entire digestive tract, strengthens the digestion to deter further
ama formation and strengthens and purifies the liver. It can be taken
by all body types.
Tulsi (Holy Basil)
helps balance Kapha dosha, which tends to get aggravated in the spring,
and helps purify the system of spring- related ama problems as well
as environmental toxins. It also helps bolster your natural immunity.
(Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the three psycho-physiological principles
that govern all the activities of mind and body)
After the 30 days
of cleansing, you can gradually add back heavier foods and small portions
of raw foods into your diet if your constitution and digestive fire
permit you to have these foods usually. Continue your diet of fresh,
whole, pure foods and continue to drink lots of water through the day.
Get plenty of rest, moderate exercise and some relaxation every day.
At the next change
of seasons, perform the cleansing routine again to keep ama out of
the system and to support natural good health and vitality on a long-term
Note: This information
is educational, and is not intended to replace standard medical care
or advice. Before making changes to your diet or lifestyle, please
consult your physician.