A Kitchari Cleanse

From ancient Vedic wisdom, Ayurveda was realized. Ayurveda, in short, is a 5,000 year old holistic healthcare system that encourages maintaining a balance between the individual self and the external rhythms of nature. It is believed that the same elements that comprise nature around us also comprise what is within us. When in balance, one experiences health and well-being. When balance is disrupted, one experiences disease.

Kitchari, a staple medicinal food in Ayurveda, is both delicious and healing. The word “kitchari” literally translates to “combination” (usually of two grains). You can get creative in the realms of kitchari, varying which digestive spices you use, which grains you decide to combine, and whether or not you want to bulk your dish up with vegetables. For the purposes of a kitchari cleanses, however, it is best to keep it simple.

Cleansing the body periodically is a wonderful way to reset our health, give our systems a break, and remove any toxic build-up that has accumulated as a result of a modern day lifestyle and diet. Some notable times to cleanse are at times of transitions: moving into a new year, after an emotional trauma, and/or between the seasons. In India, where Ayurveda is abundantly practiced, it is common to eat a mono diet of kitchari while sick, in a time of high emotions, if you are very young or elderly, or just on occasion to reset the gut and the bodily systems and to benefit from gentle detox.

Cleansing with a diet of purely kitchari is a gentle and effective way to reap multiple benefits:

  • Ease of digestion
  • Stabilization of blood sugar
  • Removal of “ama” (toxic build-up within the body)
  • Regulation and improvement of elimination
  • Support of a healthy body weight
  • Rejuvenation of intestinal skin
  • Increase of mental clarity
  • Support of emotional balance
  • Increase of energy and vitality
  • Enjoyment of a complete protein source
  • Enjoyment of a diet high in fiber
  • Restoration of balanced sleep cycles

So, how to go about a kitchari cleanse then? There is a lot of freedom within this type of cleanse. One may choose for their active part of the cleanse to be as brief as one day, or one may choose to partake of this ancient mono diet for up to 7 days. One may prefer to add vegetables to their dish to assist in regular elimination, or to keep it minimal with only rice and beans. This cleanse encourages participants to use their intuition when deciding what is right for their body, mind and spirit.

A kitchari cleanse has four phases:

Preparation: this first phase of your cleanse requires you to prepare your body through practicing clean eating and healthy lifestyle habits. Be mindful during this phase to avoid processed foods, sugars, caffeine and alcohol. Also try to get to bed on time, drink plenty of water, and enjoy moderate amounts of exercise.

Active Cleansing: this is the phase of your cleanse that requires a mono diet of kitchari. If you feel that you need to include vegetables in your kitchari to assist with elimination, then do so. If a mono diet is fostering a sense of deprivation, then enjoy plain oats for breakfast instead. Remember, you are in charge of your cleanse at all times. Taking extra rest during this phase is advised.

Reintroduction: after your body has experienced an extended mono diet, it is wise to ease back into your regular diet and lifestyle. Introduce foods slowly and avoid complex food combinations during the beginning of this phase. Drink plenty of liquids and take rest.

Rejuvenation: this is where you get to reap the benefits of your cleanse, such as enhanced vitality and energy, and a general sense well-being. This is really separate from the cleanse itself and marks a time where you can enjoy rejuvenating foods and practices that bring you feelings of sweet comfort. Include foods that are nourishing and building with a goal of replenishing your body and mind after your cleanse.

Once you have decided on the length of your cleanse, you will distribute an equal amount of days to each of the first three phases. For example, if you choose to only partake of the mono diet for one day, then your preparation and reintroduction phases will also be one day each. Try to stick to three square meals a day, avoiding snacks to allow your digestive system time to rest in between meals. Aim to have most of your fluids between meals so as not to dilute the digestive processes. Be sure to drink plenty of water (8-12 cups daily) during this time to flush out any toxins as they are released. Try not to eat after 7 PM, and get plenty of sleep at night while you cleanse. Most importantly, have fun with it! Treating yourself to a cleanse is a special opportunity. Try to focus on the benefits to see you through if/when struggles arise.

A simple kitchari recipe is listed below, but remember to trust your body’s intuition and get creative with what works best for you!