Winter Detoxing

Why a green juice cleanse may not be the best idea right now.

After the holidays, we are collectively more inspired to make changes for our health, whether it’s with a new diet, cleanse, supplement, or exercise regimen. Your digestive system is likely going to crave a fresh start after all the Thanksgiving to New Year’s debauchery as well.

Our instinct, or social programming, may lead us to a cleanse or detox regimen. And yes, you can likely green juice cleanse out those extra holiday pounds. But is that the healthiest approach?

Well, not really, especially this time of year.

In Ayurveda, winter is predominated by Vata energy. This means we see the qualities of Vata (cold, dry, depletion) in our environment as well as in ourselves. The key to keeping balance in this season is to replete, replete, replete. But most detoxifying cleanses strip away resources along with the toxins. The lemon juice-maple syrup-cayenne cleanse, a green juice cleanse, and the cabbage soup cleanse are a few examples of detox diets that are stripping and lack sufficient protein, carbs, fats, or vitamins.

The main ingredients of these cleanses are astringent and light in quality, which is why they help to rid the body of extra accumulation (whether that’s mucus or fat). But astringent and light are also qualities of Vata. This means these cleanses increase Vata in our bodies, at a time when Vata is already quite high in our natural climate. This is why doing a stripping cleanse for an extended period of time can be truly unhealthy, or depleting, especially during the winter.

The first signs of too much Vata are feeling easily fatigued, dry, gassy, or anxious, and having trouble sleeping or irregular bowel movements. When the body is functioning in a state of depletion, we run out of what Ayurveda calls ojas. I like to describe ojas as your life force reservoir, or a buffer to whatever life throws at you. When our ojas is low, we are more upset by the waves of life than when it is robust. Anyone under chronic stress has low ojas. That’s why those who are already depleted get more affected by a stressful event.

Low ojas manifests in our nervous system as frayed nerves, anxiety, reactivity, inability to relax or sleep well, difficulty concentrating. Internally, our reproductive tissues are most affected by low ojas, as resources are shunted to bodily functions that are essential for survival. This is the link between chronic depletion and the rise of reproductive cancers, and disorders (e.g. infertility, dysmennorhea, endometriosis).

In short, depleted states (when there’s more energetic output than input) lead to low ojas, which allows the effects of stress to be magnified. Stress affects every system in the body. For all of us, its a depleting and inflaming force, which means lower immunity, and poor quality tissue (re)generation.

So save the more stripping cleanses for the end of spring when we’re full of the energy of new life and accumulation. And try Ayurveda’s answer to a nutritive, replenishing cleanse, which is safe any time of year: Kitchardi.  See How To Do A Kitchardi Cleanse.

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