It’s a brand new year and if you are like me, you have a laundry list of things you want to do, places you want to go, and things you want to learn. It all can be a bit overwhelming and lofty goals sometimes seem entirely unattainable.
The one intention that is always on my list is simple enough that I’m able to complete it within a few months of the new year! Not only do I reap all the benefits, but achieving this early win gives me the vitality and confidence to tackle the rest of what’s on my list.
I am talking about a 3-day cleanse.
I used to turn and run the other way when my friends and colleagues suggested a cleanse. It always seemed like something beyond my reach, as I have always been someone who gets “hangry” if I haven’t eaten for several hours. But when I heard I could actually eat yummy food during a cleanse, I was game!
Why should I do a 3-day cleanse?
There are as many cleanses being espoused out there as there are mung beans in a one pound bag and some are much longer and complex than the 3-day cleanse. But even cleansing for just three days has a mountain of benefits for the mind, body, and spirit. All cleansing provides a path for clearing accumulated waste and toxins from the mind and body. We are constantly beset with harmful substances from our food, water, bad habits, unhealthy products, the environment, emotions, and stress. A periodic cleanse helps to clear the gunk.
Proper digestion is the key to optimal health. When we do a cleanse, we are giving our digestive system a much needed rest. We also tend to get better rest when our digestive system is not being overtaxed. Cleansing can help to balance our metabolism and elimination, increase absorption of nutrients, enhance our energy and vitality, and help us to feel more grounded and at ease. Now who wouldn’t want some of that?
In addition, I find that after a cleanse I tend to eat cleaner, make healthier lifestyle and social decisions, read books and watch videos that are more life-affirming, as I am more mindful about what I allow into my body and mind after a cleanse.
When is best time for a 3-day cleanse?
The most important decision to make is when to do a 3-day cleanse. It has a significant impact on the success of your cleanse, how you ultimately feel at the end of the cleanse, and whether you are likely to do another one.
I usually choose a 3-day weekend to do my cleanse, and never over a holiday, as that is when I usually indulge myself with food and activities outside my routine.
Be sure you have not scheduled any social engagements during your cleanse and depending on the type of work you do, you may want to clear all work-related obligations for the duration of your cleanse. This is a time for you to care and nurture yourself without distractions.
Giving yourself permission to take three days for yourself has innumerable benefits for reducing stress and has a positive impact on your overall health. We do not all have the same lives and obligations, so just do the best you can to eliminate any have-to’s. If you carry a heavy load, you may need to rely on a spouse, partner, friend, or family member to shoulder some of that load during your cleanse so you can optimize the benefits.
The use of technology during a cleanse is fodder for another article. Suffice it to say, use technology moderately and mindfully, and if appropriate, not at all.
In Ayurveda, a cleanse is often scheduled at the juncture between seasons. For more on Ayurveda, a 5,000 year old healthy life system that emphasizes prevention of illness by diet, yoga, massage, meditation, pranayama, cleansing, and the use of herbal remedies, check out Dr. Lad’s book, Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing. A Practical Guide. Others, in keeping with the seasonal changes, plan a cleanse over an equinox or solstice.
Whenever you choose to do your cleanse, be sure to clear away anything that might be challenging, difficult, stressful, or unnecessary. This is your time to devote to yourself and you will be glad you did, as you will have more to give others by giving yourself this luxury.
Be sure to avoid cleansing during menstruation, pregnancy, or breastfeeding, or if you are in a weakened, debilitated, or vulnerable state. Cleansing can be uncomfortable, mentally and physically, due to the detoxification process, so you want to be sure you don’t overtax yourself.
How to prepare for a 3-day cleanse?
Once you have chosen the most opportune time for your cleanse, you will want to devote the week prior to preparation. If you smoke, drink alcohol, consume caffeine, take recreational drugs, eat refined sugar, eat meat or processed food, you will begin to taper these habits as best you can, if not eliminate them entirely by the start of your cleanse. This allows your body to prepare itself for the detoxification process.
Gather up the ingredients you’ll need for the three days. Be sure you’ve done all your shopping before your cleanse is set to begin. If it’s helpful to enroll your family, roommates, or friends for encouragement, then do so. You might even find that someone would like to join you in the cleanse, which can make meal preparation easier and offer some emotional support.
I like to line up a good book to read, calming music, and inspiring videos to watch. If weather permits, I take easy walks in nature or work in the garden. Stay away from strenuous exercise and activities. Yin yoga or any rejuvenative practice is amazing during a cleanse and will keep you feeling grounded and relaxed during the detoxification process.
If you don’t already have a yoga and/or meditation practice, it might be a good time to start one! There are many yoga streaming services that offer classes at all levels of practice, some of which are free. You might spend your cleanse time designing your own home yoga studio or fitness gym and commit to a regular practice during and long after your cleanse. Check out our blog, 10 Tips To Design Your Home Gym For Wellness for ideas and inspiration!
During the actual cleanse you will be eating kitchari (a simple dish of mung beans and rice) cooked apples, and oatmeal. It’s best to cook each meal fresh every day and not make quantities to last the entire three days. Leftovers lose nutritional value over time and fresh food has more life-affirming qualities. However, it is acceptable to prepare a day's food in the morning, if that is easier for you.
Your diet will consist of your choice of kitchari, oatmeal or cooked apples in the morning, and kitchari for lunch and dinner. I know, it sounds a bit bleak, but the spices will help you feel less deprived! If you expect you'll need a bit more to make it through the day, you can steam some easily digestible vegetables (ex. asparagus, carrots, celery, zucchini, sweet potato) or saute the veggies with ghee (clarified butter) and add them to your kitchari to help you feel more satiated, without deterring the cleansing process.
The Cleansing Recipes
If you have seen the delightful Mexican movie, Like Water For Chocolate, you might remember the main character, Tita, experiencing unrequited love, while cooking for her family she infuses the food with her desperate emotions. Everyone who eats her food is filled with whatever emotion Tita was feeling as she cooked. I love this movie and always try to infuse my food with love, peace, and joy during the cooking process. Many believe that food can absorb the energy of your emotions while you cook, so stay ever present during the process and imbue your food with your healthy intentions.
Be sure to buy organic, non-GMO ingredients for your cleanse, as many foods have been genetically altered and/or contain pesticides and other chemicals which will work to negate the benefits of your cleanse.
- 1 cup white basmati rice
- ½ cup split yellow mung dal
- 2 Tbsp. Ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 Tbsp. Kitchari Spice Mix
- 1 tsp. mineral salt
- 6 cups water
- Steamed or sauteed veggies (optional)
- Cilantro for garnish (optional)
Kitchari Spice Mix Ingredients:
- ¼ tsp. black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
- Pinch of asafoetida
- 1.5 tsp. coriander powder
- ½ tsp. fennel powder
- ½ tsp. cumin seeds
- ½ tsp. turmeric powder
Soak the split mung dal overnight.
Strain the soaking water, combine with the rice and rinse the mixture until water runs clear.
In a soup pot, melt the ghee over medium heat. Add the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and sauté until the mustard seeds begin to pop, usually a minute or two.
Add the remaining spices (except for the salt) and stir for another minute.
Stir the rice and dal mixture into the spices and sauté for a few moments, stirring constantly.
Add the water, turn heat to high, and bring the mixture to a boil.
Once boiling, add the salt, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Let cook for about forty minutes.
Meanwhile, if you choose to add veggies, prepare by steaming or sauteing in ghee until almost done. Add to mixture at the halfway point and return to a boil.
Continue to simmer until the rice, dal, and vegetables are fully cooked. Remove from heat. Garnish with fresh cut cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!
Oatmeal and Sauteed Apples
Use your favorite rolled oats and follow the cooking directions. Sliced apples are sauteed in ghee until softened and limp. You can also add some warming spices to the apples or oatmeal, such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and ginger. Fruit is meant to be eaten separately from other foods for digestive purposes, so choose oatmeal or apples, but don’t consume at the same time.
The Cleansing Routine
Everyone is different, so use the following as a guide for planning your cleanse days and create the routine that works best for you and your circumstance.
- The night before each day of your cleanse, soak your mung beans for the following day's kitchari.
- Upon awakening, use a tongue scraper (I prefer one made of steel over plastic). Tongue-scraping is a wonderful practice everyday, not just during cleansing. It will reduce toxins on your tongue, improve digestion, stimulate your internal organs, and improve your sense of taste. You might even want to add the practice of oil pulling. Follow this by your usual oral care routine.
- Prepare and drink a warm cup of water with the juice from half a lemon or a tbsp. of apple cider vinegar. This will quite literally awaken your digestive system.
- If you like to do a bit of motion in the morning, keep it light and not too taxing. Try a short walk around your neighborhood, tai chi, qigong, or gentle yoga. You might consider adding a moment of meditation or pranayama to start your day out right.
- Prepare your breakfast, or, alternatively, your meals for the day.
- Take a shower or a warm epsom salt bath when you normally schedule this activity.
- Ideally, you will want to eat breakfast between 7-8:00am, lunch between 12-1:00pm, and dinner between 5-6:00pm. Eliminate distractions while you eat. Mealtime is an opportunity to focus and connect with the inherent energy and information of the food you are consuming. Eat until you are satisfied, but not until you feel overfull.
- Activities can include anything that brings you joy and is relaxing to your mind, body, and spirit.
- In between meals, indulge in a detox tea of your choice and drink at room temperature. My favorite detox tea is CCF Tea and is made from equal amounts of cumin seed, coriander seed, and fennel seed. You can make a batch by combining the three spices, using 1 tsp. per cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. This tea supports healthy digestion throughout your cleanse and beyond!
- In addition to sipping tea between meals, be sure to keep yourself adequately hydrated, as this will help to flush toxins from your body. At least 8-12 cups of water at room temperature is recommended. Do not drink during the time you are eating, as this can dampen your digestive fire.
- In the evening, about 30 minutes prior to bed, you can take a digestive supplement of your choice to assist your detoxification intentions. I highly recommend Triphala (made from three fruits), which you can continue to take after your cleanse for a gentle detox and digestive aid.
- Soak your mung beans for the following cleanse day.
- Retire for the evening by 10:00pm. While we sleep is the best time for the body to detox, so be sure to get plenty of rest during the cleanse.
Even though this is a short and relatively simple cleanse, you may still experience some side-effects from the detoxification process. Headaches, body aches, irritability, and exhaustion might occur and are perfectly normal. Keeping your fluid intake up will ensure that these symptoms are mild to non-existent.
The beauty of this reset is that you may find you want to continue with a more mindful diet and the activities you enjoyed during the cleanse. Although, after my first cleanse, I must confess, I celebrated immediately with a pizza! I would not recommend it. Instead, gradually start to diversify your diet and keep up with some of the healthy habits you observed during the cleanse. Slowly add wheat, dairy, meat, sugar, and nightshades back into your diet, one at a time, and pay attention to how they make you feel. Your body’s wisdom may have information to impart as to how well you tolerate certain foods, so listen!
You might be surprised as to how powerful even a simple cleanse experience can be in your life. Slowing down and cultivating a deeper awareness of your mind and body can help you to identify areas in your life you may want to change. Be sure to congratulate yourself for the time, commitment and discipline it took to give this kindness to your self, appreciating all that your body does to support you daily.
Send your friends and family a link to this article so they too can benefit from a mind/body cleansing experience!