As the body metabolizes raw material to energize the cells, the process produces waste residues, called ama, that have natural channels of elimination. In a healthy person, these residues exit the body via the lungs, skin, liver, colon, and kidneys. In addition to these internally-produced toxins, modern humans are exposed to many external toxic residues, such as heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, food additives, and food preservatives. These toxins can enter our bodies via food, water, and air supply.
When ama does not fully exit the body, it accumulates in the tissues, leading to a toxic load and causing illness. Accumulation of ama is worsened by pollution in the environment, and poisons created internally due to poor food combinations, inadequate elimination of wastes, or unbalanced doshas.
Toxins can cause disease in any part of the body, and tend to be most problematic in areas in which we already experience weakness. If we have inherent weakness in the heart, waste products are transported there and can lead to coronary heart disease. If waste products are transported to the joints, we may develop arthritis. Disease can develop wherever toxins are transported. Environmental toxins can be more dangerous that internally-produced toxins and have a tendency to target particular areas of the body.
The three areas of the body most critically affected by environmental pollutants are the brain and the reproductive and immune systems.
It is important to remove toxins from the body and support the body’s natural detoxification systems. Without following detoxifying habits, your body may accumulate toxins and develop illness and disease. Follow the steps outlined below to promote balance and health throughout the body.
5 Ways to Detox with Ayurveda
A diminishing of digestive fire is one of the first steps that can lead to a buildup of toxins. Slow digestion contributes to a slow metabolism, which slows cellular function and limits the body’s ability to naturally detoxify. Low-burning digestion can contribute to incomplete digestion. According to Ayurveda, the residues of incomplete digestion are transported by Vata to weak areas in the body, blocking important channels.
Balance your constitution with diet and movement
When the doshas are balanced, the body is able to more easily clear toxins from the tissues. It is important to identify an imbalance in the doshas as soon as possible. The earlier treatment begins, the easier it is to remedy imbalance and heal the body. If you don’t know your constitution, you can discover it with this free Prakriti quiz.
Balanced doshas can help with managing toxins. Likewise, removal of toxins can help to balance doshas and is an important step in promoting constitution balance. It is also important to follow diet and movement guidelines for your dominant dosha. For more information, check out the pages for Vata, Kapha, and Pitta.
Herbs are a wonderful tool to support detox with Ayurveda. Choose herbs for general detox, or based on the specific bodily system that is affected by toxin buildup.
- Triphala (powder|liquid|tablets)
- Neem (powder|liquid|tablets)
- Brahmi/Gotu Kola (powder|liquid)
- Pitta Digest, Kapha Digest, or Vata Digest
- Ashwagandha (liquid|tablets)
- Shatavari (powder|liquid|tablets)
- Yogaraj guggulu (powder|tablets)
- Kutki (powder|liquid)
When embarking on detox with Ayurveda it is important to eat the right types of cleansing, nourishing, and detoxifying foods. Consuming the right foods can help to support the body’s organs to promote detox and can have detoxification properties of their own.
Ayurvedic cleanses often begin with following a kitchari-only diet for a few days. Kitchariis at the core of Ayurvedic nutritional healing and forms an excellent basis for detoxification, allowing the body to undertake its natural healing processes without adding additional toxins to the system. Kitchari recipes can be tailored to your specific constitution to balance the body and further promote detoxification.
For a more targeted approach, you can use foods that target each specific bodily system that is most likely to accumulate toxins:
Hormonal and Reproductive System:
- Organic foods
- Vitamin B6 – found in buckwheat, beans, carrots, brown rice
- Tofu – beneficial for female hormone recovery
- Sea Vegetables
- Green foods such as wheatgrass powder or juice
- Organic fruits – cherries, figs, grapes, melons, papayas, pears, pineapples, raspberries,
- Organic Vegetables – artichokes, beets, bitter melon, avocados, beans, brussels sprouts, mung sprouts/beans, celery, watercress, barley, corn
- Vitamin B2 – found in millet, soy, whole wheat, wheat germ, beans, milk, nuts, dark greens, molasses
- Green foods (e.g., wheatgrass powder or juice)
Massage is a powerful tool for detoxification and works in multiple ways to support detox with Ayurveda. It creates balance among the three doshas, which is important for improving resilience toward toxin buildup in the body. Massage also works to assist the bodily organs in purging toxins from the tissues by supporting natural detox pathways, especially via the skin.
Daily self-massage is a valuable part of a self-care process and can help to support the body in ongoing detoxification. Whenever possible, it is also a good idea to receive massage from a professional massage therapist. Massage can be targeted to encourage detoxification in tissues that have a tendency to accumulate toxins.
For optimal hormonal health, focus on the neck, top of the head, between eyebrows, and just below navel. To promote liver detox, massage especially throat, heart, navel, and the elbow and knee joints.
Interested in a more directed cleanse? Banyan Botanicals provide introductory information about Ayurvedic cleanses and offers guidelines for 1-day, 3-day, and 7-day cleanses. The information is completely free and consists of consuming nourishing foods and teas. Banyan also makes recommendations for herbs to support a cleanse, but none are required. If you would like to purchase the recommended foods in a bundle instead of purchasing the components separately, a cleanse kit is available for purchase from Banyan’s site.