AN AYURVEDIC APPROACH TO OPTIMIZING MY VEGAN DIET | a health journey
"Hello again" she said, speaking to no one. It's hard to type while one hand is occupied with face-palming after every other word because "No one f@!#ing cares! Why are you even writing on the internet? What are you doing here?!". *Deep breath* So what you aren't a real blogger? If you can help just one person poop more regularly and eat more plants, it will be worth it.
I'd like to start a new series here on this little blog of mine; a health journey. I intend for it to cover a range of health topics, illustrated through my own quest. I am not a nutritionist, psychologist or life coach. I have no special training in any health related field, so this is all I can offer, my own journey. Because, dear internet, here's the truth; I don't feel healthy. Gasp, the vegan just admitted that plants aren't the magic pill to cure all ails, and she doesn't glow from within and poop out gold? Not so fast vegan haters (let's pretend my audience is wide enough there are some of you out there) IT'S NOT THE PLANTS, GOD DAMN IT, IT'S ME.
My diet is relatively "clean", but I'm prone to binging and thus restriction follows. My personal relationship with food has always been a strange one, while I love food I am afraid of it's effects on my body. My body changes shape and size, it aches, it stretches, it strengthens, it weakens, I am always in flux, never steady, never the same and never at peace. And then there's my mind, a steady commentary, a critic, a judge, and at times a tyrant.
My first step is refocusing my diet. I know I am not getting all that I could be out of this bountiful plant based lifestyle. My digestion is shit (no pun intended, this will be the last of the poop humor), my skin is sensitive, I'm swollen, I'm headachy, and my hormones are wack. I have the sneaking suspicion that due to my finicky digestion, I'm just not absorbing all the fantastic nutrients from the plants I'm eating. So, in accordance with ayurvedic medicine, an approach I am deeply fascinated by and have growing respect for, I am going to be following steps suggested to those suffering from malabsorption.
I am choosing to begin my health journey with a Kithcari Cleanse, recommended to me when I took this digestion quiz while trying to find answers from a holistic viewpoint to my bloating, constipation and recurring acid reflux. I am learning that digestion is the foundation to health. If you aren't digesting your food properly, you aren't benefiting from its nutrients. Makes a lot of sense, right?
A Kitchari Cleanse is a gentle yet effective way to essentially reset the digestive tract. Very simply put, this dish which is composed of rice, mung beans and spices balances the digestive juices, supports stable blood sugar by providing the body with a complete protein, pulls toxins from the tissues of your bowels and gets you regular... *cough cough* like, regularly sitting on the toilet. What attracted me to the cleanse, aside from it's range of benefits which I won't go into here, but you can read all about at the links I will provide at the bottom of this post, was that unlike so many crazy cleanses out there, it supports stable blood sugar, thus allowing you to go about your normal day without cravings, crashes or brain fog. This also means your hormones aren't going to flip out -- and that's very important to me -- my hormones and my sanity currently share a conditional relationship.
The cleanse consists of 4 phases in total: preparation, active cleansing, reintroduction and rejuvenation. The full duration will depend on the length of time you choose for your active cleanse, and each of the other phases will match that. Typically the active cleansing will range from 3 to 7 days. I am choosing to cleanse for 7 days, making my entire cleanse a month long.. well sorta, we'll get to that (I'm a cheater)
Phase I : Preparation Beginning the transition from your everyday diet to one consisting of only whole foods, cutting out processed foods, substances, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
Phase II : Active cleansing Consuming only kitchari and some fruits and vegetables if desired. A simple oatmeal can be added if feeling deprived or not in the mood for savory food during the mornings. It is important to neither feel deprived nor to overeat.
Phase III : Reintroduction Adding whole foods back into the diet slowly and consciously. A great time to test for food sensitivities. At this time you will still primarily consume kitchari and other complimenting foods such as cooked vegetables, chutneys and oatmeal with fruit.
Phase VI Rejuvenation Now the body is primed for revitalization and ready to accept nutrients. During this phase you will fill the body with nutrient dense and harmonizing foods. To do this in the best way it is advised to follow rejuvenation guidelines specific to your personal dosha. This phase should serve as preparation for a maintainable lifestyle change.
* I will include links and references containing more detailed instructions on performing this cleanse
As kitchari is best performed at the turning of the seasons, I am doing mine at the transition from spring to summer. As I already eat a whole foods plant based diet, I have chosen to forgo the preparation phase. With my acid reflux surprising me daily, I am anxious to get on with the gut healing ASAP. I am 100% a cheater -- I had champagne on Friday, coffee on Saturday and a cigarette on Sunday. Don't judge me, Linda. We shall see if I made a fatal mistake... updates will follow each phase.
During the active cleansing I will be doing my best to stick to the kitchari only, using lemon juice to season my food and avocado in the morning or afternoon for good fats and the false impresion of indulgence. As one may notice, the recipe I have linked uses gee, for which I will be substituting coconut oil.
My reintroduction will help me test suspected sensitivities to wheat (not gluten, me and gluten be friends), soy, nightshade vegetables and almonds. And finally, I will be following the guidelines for a Kapha-Vata type rejuvenation.
A few words on this change, this new beginning. For me, it is symbolic in a sense because here I am preparing my system, the very cells of this body, for absorption of the good I put into it. I have been through an immense change in the last few months (my apologies for the lack of context, but it will come) and have struggled to find the good in it, even though I chose it. This piece of change is part of the larger change I have chosen. This is a moment to become the creator, to become responsible for what appears on the surface of my body. I am giving myself the chance to realign with all that I believe to be good. This is part of the newness I have carved out for myself, the newness I have asked for, the newness I desire. I won't hold back. I am going to create all that I long for, and long to be. Wholeness is on the horizon. I won't lose hope this time, although perhaps I never did. I'm here aren't I? A step forward.