Archive for March, 2013

March 14, 2013

Fasting to Cleanse

As Spring approaches fasting can be a great way to cleanse and reconnect. The logic of fasting is that while food does give us energy it also requires an extremely large amount of energy to digest. Overeating and snacking in between meals leaves our bodies with very little time to rest and cleanse. Fasting provides this rest and in doing so allows for the activation the body’s own healing and detoxification mechanisms. Philippus Paracelsus, a 14th century physician and one of the three fathers of Western medicine said that fasting was the greatest remedy– the physician within.

Fasting has been used to treat conditions such as allergies, skin conditions, arthritis and digestive disorders of all kinds.  Other commonly cited benefits of fasting include, mental clarity, increased energy levels, and the disruption of unhealthy eating, emotional, mental patterns. Eating habits are some of our most engrained patterns. Breaking up this powerful pattern often opens us up to looking at other aspects of our lives as well, encouraging us to develop the skills of svadhyaya (self-study) and satya (honesty). Fasting is an opportunity to discover why we overeat, or eat unhealthy foods at all, or why we do so more often when overtired or stressed out. Maybe we are eating to cover up something that is easier to ignore than address. Fasting also allows us time to clean the slate so that we can once again hear our bodies’ inner cues, to know when we are truly hungry and to notice when an unhealthy food makes us feel sluggish or agitated. For years we have been eating when meal time comes and emptying our plates, hungry or not, simply because we have always been told to do so. Fasting helps us retrain ourselves to understand our body’s signals.

There are many types of fasts and you might be happy to learn that you can get the benefits of fasting without completely stopping your food intake. Juice and fruit fasts are common ways to flush the body by eating easily digestible nutrition that still maintains an environment in which healing can occur. Fasts can be for whole days or just the first or last half of a day (such as not eating past 6pm in the evening) 

For the winter months a brown rice fast is grounding and warming. Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, has a dish called kitchari that often includes rice. It is nourishing, easily digested and cleansing in nature. It is the first food recommended to follow other types of fasts or can be a fast in itself. It is a wonderfully flexible dish that can be eaten in its most basic form or with the addition of your favourite vegetables. This can be the last meal of your day, or the only food you eat for a day or two.

Fasting can come with some temporary detox symptoms such as, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, body odor, body aches, and other flu-like symptoms. This is less likely for the more gentle versions of fasting diets described here because the body is cleansing at a slower rate. If you drink caffeinated beverages wean yourself off a few days before your cleanse to avoid the withdrawal headache. Break your fast slowly, easing back into regular foods with more clarity, making better food choices.

 Even if you are not fasting most of us can take a step back and look at our portion size. Even eating too much of nutritious food overwhelms the body. Here is a nice quote from an Egyptian pyramid inscription, 3800, B.C “Humans live on one-quarter of what they eat; on the other three-quarters lives their doctor.” My ashram teaches that we should half fill our stomach with food, one quarter should remain for fluid and the final quarter to remain empty to provide room for processing. Eat with conscious attention, chewing carefully, talking less, sitting rather than eating on the run to help with portion control as well.

The fasts talked about in this article are gentle,  short term and appropriate for most, however if you have any medical conditions, are pregnant or nursing  then fasting may not be a good choice for you right now. Talk to your doctor before beginning any type of fast if you are in doubt.

 “Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food.” Hippocrates

Kitchari recipe 

The Ayurvedic Institute

 

Ingredients

1 cup  Basmati Rice

2 cups Mung Dal (split yellow)

7 cups (approx.)  Water

a bit of Salt

2 Tbs. Ghee (or butter)

3 tsp. Mustard Seeds

2 tsp. Cumin Seeds or Powder

2 tsp. Turmeric Powder

2 tsp. Coriander Powder

2 tsp. Fennel Powder

1 pinch Asafoetida (Hing)

1 pinch of ginger

Vegetables such as zucchini, asparagus or sweet potato are also nice additions.

Wash rice and dal. Sauté the seeds in the ghee/butter until they pop. Then add the other spices. Add the mung dal and salt. Sauté for 1 or 2 minutes. Add boiling water, bring to boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or until the dal is about 2/3 cooked.

Cut vegetables into smallish pieces. Add rice and vegetables. Stir to mix, adding extra water if required. Bring back to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Aim to have minimal water remaining, leaving the lid on the pot to allow any excess to slowly be absorbed.

If doing this clease for more than one day,  eat a spoonful of psyllium husks or seeds with water OR oat bran OR drink prune juice once daily. (away from you kitchari meal)

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