The great healing tradition of Ayurveda has a profound understanding of biological rhythms and a spring cleanse is one important part of its seasonal detox and healing programs.
Modern medicine has begun to recognize the importance of daily and seasonal rhythms to our health. In 2017, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was given for research on the genetic basis of biological rhythms. Recent research on our gut bacteria reveals that even bacteria have daily and seasonal biorhythms. In 2016, the Nobel Prize was given for the discovery of a natural detox process called autophagy. And in 2015, the prize was given for research on a herbal product from Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is now being used to treat malaria. Each of these discoveries is helping modern science to better understand how Ayurveda works.
Ayurveda clearly identifies daily rhythms, seasonal rhythms, and lifetime rhythms. The focus of this blog is on seasonal rhythms, specifically Spring Detox. Different seasons are characterized by the three main doshas, which, according to Ayurveda, are the fundamental balancing forces of nature. Fall and winter are cold and dry, and correspond to a combination of Vata and Kapha doshas. Summer, which is Pitta season, is hot. Spring is cold and wet, and corresponds to Kapha season.
Kapha is associated with the earth and water elements. Its qualities are cold, wet, heavy, slow, dull, and dense. In its balanced state, Kapha is responsible for the solid structure of our body, such as bones and muscles, and for the maintenance of bodily fluids, such as the lubrication of joints. When out of balance, Kapha reduces our digestive ability and increases the accumulation of mucus, which can lead to respiratory and other diseases. Kapha builds up in winter and can result in an increase in weight. Spring, which is Kapha season, is the ideal time for us to do whatever we can to reduce excess Kapha, rebalance ourselves, and lose excess pounds.
According to Ayurveda, there tends to be an increase in ama or toxins during the winter, however, by toxins we do not mean a “toxic chemical” or poison. In Ayurveda, ama literally means undigested food, and it can be any type of waste material or toxin that disrupts the body. A small amount of ama is a normal part of our digestive process, but if it is not eliminated or removed, ama builds up. It is important to understand that Ayurveda considers excess ama to be the root cause of all disease. Ama is particularly harmful when it leaves the digestive system and enters other parts of the body, accumulating in the tissues. Symptoms of excess ama include fatigue and heaviness, especially after eating, congestion, constipation, and mental confusion (brain fog).
Agni is the digestive fire in our gut and in our cells. It is the opposite of ama in many ways. While ama is cold, heavy, and wet, agni is hot, light, and dry. Spring is a period of renewal and awakening, and it is the ideal time for us to balance our kapha and reduce ama in order to prevent toxins and excess mucus from creating congestion and allergies. It is also an excellent time to reboot or increase our digestive fire or agni, so that we are able to digest excess ama. If our agni is weak, ama accumulates and clogs our system, causing real health problems.
Ayurveda tells us that during the spring, we should eat less and exercise more. One of its key recommendations for this season is a detox diet to eliminate ama. It is even more important for us to allow our gut to rest and repair itself so that our digestive fire or agni can reboot and become strong enough to naturally digest excess ama.
Foods that are primarily Kapha in nature—meaning heavy, greasy, and mucus forming—tend to increase both kapha and ama. So it is important to reduce or eliminate kapha foods such as milk products, wheat products, sugar, and red meat. This can best be accomplished by the full REST and REPAIR DIET program, offered in the online course, Your Healthy Gut.
During the first preparation week of the REST and REPAIR DIET, you will start to detox your body with various herbal supplements, along with some changes in lifestyle. These can be as simple as sipping a digest and detox tea, and exercising at least half an hour a day.
Rest and Repair Diet
You now begin the full REST and REPAIR DIET for 1 to 3 weeks, depending on your dosha type and state of health. In order to give your gut a chance to repair itself, you are going to reduce, or better yet eliminate, all gluten, dairy, and sugar. These foods can be hard to digest and disruptive to your gut bacteria.
One of the healthiest and most beneficial foods you can eat during these weeks is a liquid preparation of rice and dhal called kitchari, which has long been used in Ayurveda to detoxify and heal the gut. Leafy green vegetables are included in the diet because they are good detoxifiers, but heavier root vegetables should be eaten sparingly. The bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes of certain foods, spices, and herbs, are a powerful detoxing and cleansing combination. A bitter taste can dry and drain ama, while a pungent taste destroys and digests it. Many other important considerations from both Ayurveda and modern science are also included in the REST and REPAIR DIET. Those who are overweight will be encouraged to learn that weight loss is often one of the many side-benefits.
The Self Discovery Diet
After you have completed your REST and REPAIR DIET, you begin the Self Discovery Diet part of your detox and healing. At this point, you will gradually reintroduce dairy, gluten, and sugar—one at a time.
It is helpful to keep a Food Journal so that when you introduce each food, you can record how it affects your body and mind. For example, if you reintroduce wheat and then experience unpleasant symptoms, note this in your Journal.
After you finish the Self Discovery Diet and you are easing back into a more complex diet, begin to take a daily probiotic (if you are not taking one already), either as a pill or in the form of a natural food like lassi. This can help to repopulate your microbiome with beneficial bacteria. Once again, note in your Food Journal how different types of probiotics affect you.
*For a comprehensive evaluation of different probiotics, see docgut.com.
Our body is affected by all the cycles of nature, and for us to maintain good health, we need to be in harmony with the changing seasons.
Davenport, ER et al., Seasonal Variation in Human Gut Microbiome Composition. PLoS ONE 2014; 9(3): e90731.
Chauhan, NS et al., Western Indian Rural Gut Microbial Diversity in Extreme Prakriti Endo-Phenotypes Reveals Signature Microbes. Front. Microbiol. 2018; 9:118.
Gut Crisis: How Diet, Probiotics, and Friendly Bacteria Help You Lose Weight and Heal Your Body and Mind by Robert Keith Wallace, PhD and Samantha Wallace, Dharma Publications, 2017 and website (docgut.com)
Click here for information on the Your Healthy Gut online course with the REST and REPAIR DIET.
ROBERT KEITH WALLACE is a pioneering researcher on the physiology of consciousness. His work has inspired hundreds of studies on the benefits of meditation and other mind-body techniques, and his findings have been published in Science, American Journal of Physiology, and Scientific American. After receiving his BS in physics and his PhD in physiology from UCLA, he conducted postgraduate research at Harvard University. Dr. Wallace serves as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Physiology and Health and Trustee of Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, Iowa. He helped create the first fully accredited Masters of Science degree in Maharishi AyurVeda and Integrative Medicine in the US. Dr. Wallace is the author of several books, including Gut Crisis: How Diet, Probiotics, and Friendly Bacteria Help You Lose Weight and Heal Your Body and Mind with his wife Samantha Wallace. See Gut Crisis website and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/gutcrisis/).
SAMANTHA JONES WALLACE is a former model, featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Look Magazine. She is a lifelong practitioner of Transcendental Meditation, and has a deep understanding of Ayurveda and its relationship to health and well being. The coauthor of Quantum Golf, Samantha is an editor of Dharma Parenting, and coauthor of Gut Crisis. She is now finishing a book called Real Deep True Beauty, which emphasizes Essential Oil Skincare, and Ayurveda.