Winter Kitchari Cleanse

Winter Kitchari Cleanse

As someone who is naturally introspective, health conscious, and a deep planner, I revel in transition periods and fresh starts. However the new year often feels abrupt and abrasive – like a mini midlife crisis forced upon us, at the wrong time, loaded with doubts and anxiety as we assess whether we are living our best lives. 

It is mid-January, and personally I am just now coming up for air from the holidays. I could use a few more weeks of rest, and yet there's a nagging voice telling me it's time to get motivated and make this year the one that really counts. But as I walk amongst the dormant forest of winter, I recognize a starkly different message within the seasons – one that says it is time to rest and go inward.

Taking cues from nature, I prefer to approach the months of January and February as a period of quiet insight and assimilation. A time to allow enough spaciousness in my days to tune into what my body and spirit are truly longing for. It's the perfect time to slowly, mindfully set intentions. This is not something to be rushed. 

And yet I often roll into the new year feeling frayed, depleted and stagnant. Whenever I feel that way, no matter the season, I have long turned to cleansing and fasting as a way to reboot my energy and vitality. And in the wintertime, I favor the restorative benefits of an ayurvedic kitchari cleanse.

Kitchari is a seasoned mixture of rice and mung dal, together creating a very balanced, nourishing food that is an excellent and easy to digest source of protein. Perfect for winter, this warming and nourishing approach to cleansing is accessible while maintaining energy levels so that you can keep up with the demands of modern life, even when it is freezing cold outside.

There are many variations and recipes, including breakfast kitcharis and ones catered to specific ayurvedic doshas (vata/pitta/kapha). If you are curious to know your ayurvedic constitution, try an online dosha test, though to get an accurate assessment you should visit an ayurvedic practitioner.

I've included a few reference and cookbooks at the end of the post, along with a basic tridoshic kitchari recipe. You can also find many recipes and guidelines on websites such as this three-day kitchari cleanse via Banyan Botanicals. And if you aren't a cook or just need some help getting started, try to find a restaurant that serves it – here in Asheville we are blessed with two wonderful tea houses, Dobra Tea and Alchemy, both serving next level delicious bowls of kitchari!!

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As with any cleanse, it is important to prepare on many levels. Here are a few suggestions on how to set yourself up for a beneficial cleanse with intention:

• Determine the number of days you will cleanse for. I would suggest a minimum of three days, up to as long as two weeks for a deeper experience.
• Mark the days for your cleanse in your calendar, and try to clear as much off your schedule as possible. If you are able to take off time from work or school, go ahead and give yourself that time.
• Take a minimum of 1-2 weeks to begin eliminating foods that you already know cause imbalance or addiction (ie: coffee, alcohol, sugar, gluten, etc.) See the books, classes and tools listed below for support in doing so.
• Read and research. To get yourself in the right state of mind, we highly recommend reading The Transformational Power of Fasting by Stephen Buhner. 
• Once you are ready to start the cleanse, make kitchari daily and eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can vary your meals by experimenting with different spices and steamed vegetables on top.
• Start your day with a warm cup of water with lemon, and be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
• Consider detoxifying herbal teas such as dandelion and burdock, as well as nutritive herbs such as nettle leaf, alfafa, red clover and oatstraw.
• Get plenty of rest and take time for self care in its many forms: massage, yoga, warm baths, gentle walks, reading, writing, making things, listening to music .... whatever fills your cup!
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Recommended Books

•  The Transformational Power of Fasting by Stephen Buhner
•  Adrenal-Thyroid Revolution by Aviva Romm
The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates
The Heal Your Gut Cookbook by Hilary Boynton + Mary G. Brackett
Sugar Detox Me by Summer Rayne Oakes
Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing by Usha Lad + Dr. Vasant Lad (out of print, buy on ebay)
What to Eat for How You Feel by Divya Alter

Upcoming Classes at the shop

• Detox from Sugar on 1/21 with Shannon Nickerson 
• Ayurvedic Kitchen Pharmacy on 2/4 with Gretta Kent-Stoll
• Restoring Balance in the Gut on 2/18 with Katherine Wilson
• Digestive Bitters with Janet Kent (available anytime online)
Other Recommendations
• Addicted to coffee? We're big fans of the Didn't It Rain herbal roasted blend as a delicious way to wean yourself off of caffeine.

• Addicted to sugar? Check out the cookbook Sugar Detox Me, and/or join us on for a class on detoxing from sugar on January 21st.

• Addicted to alcohol? This is a big one for many people. Get the support you need if you can't do it on your own. One tip is to replace that glass of wine or whiskey with another beverage, like a glass of kombucha or a calming tea for your nerves. You can also try weaning yourself off alcohol with a digestive bitter liqueur such as Campari.


MUNG DAL KITCHARI (tridoshic recipe) 

**from Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing by Usha Lad + Dr. Vasant Lad



1 cup yellow mung dal
1 cup basmati rice
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
2 tablespoons shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 small hanful fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup water
3 tablesoons ghee (or coconut oil)
1 ½ inch piece of cinnamon bark
5 whole cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
10 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon salt
6 cups water


How to Prepare:
• Wash the mung dal and rice until water is clear. Soaking the dal for a few hours helps with digestibility.
• In a blender, put the ginger, coconut, cilantro and ½ cup water and blend until liquified.
• Heat a large suacepan on medium heat and add the ghee, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, peppercorns and bay leaves. Stir for a moment until fragrant. Add the blended items to the spices, then the turmeric and salt. Stir until lightly browned.
• Stir in the mung dal and rice and mix very well.
• Pour in 6 cups of water, cover and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to ver low and cook, lightly covered, until the dal and rice are soft, about 25-30 minutes. 
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What the eyes are for the outer world, fasts are for the inner. – Gandhi
When we fast we are engaging in a multi-dimensional process filled with myriad ramifications for who we are and how we live. What we are doing is deciding to consciously engage the hidden parts of ourselves, the secret face of the sacred that is within all forms of the material world, and our most fundamental relationships with food and nurturing. When we decide to fast we make the choice to become aware. – Stephen Buhner
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Note from the author: I have experimented with many approaches from the master cleanse to panchakarma, juice fasts to the Whole 30 Program. Each has distinct qualities and benefits, and there will never be a one-size-fits-all answer to how to cleanse or fast. We all have our own unique physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Within that, there are a confusing array of opinions and recommendations available to us, and I strongly believe that it is up to each of us to take responsibility for our own well-being – to explore, research and inquire until we discover what works best for us on a holistic level.

Sometimes the best recommendation will come from a traditional doctor, especially when facing life threatening illness. That is a disclaimer to say that I am not a doctor and to please do your own research before jumping into any of this! No matter the approach, be sure to take as much time as you need to reach your goals and be sure not to shock your system too drastically. By that I mean please don't go from eating donuts and burgers one day to drinking nothing but carrot juice the next. That is a sure setup for failure.

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