HeyDahls: Detox Culture and Old-Timey Wisdom

Q: Hey girl!! I’m starting a one month clean eating / detox on Sep 30 and wondering if you have any tips / recipes to share for kapha dosha. Trying to stick to Ayurvedic diet, and would really appreciate help!! Feeling a little overwhelmed- have looked online for recipes but still would be nice to have a little guidance.

A: Heeeyyyybooooooheeeeyyyy!

I admire your determination and courage to take on a 30 day clean eating challenge.  And the shift in season, from summer to fall/winter is a great time to do take on an intentional shift in eating patterns and prepare the body for the season ahead.

Many of our ancestors share this ritual of cleansing, fasting, or detoxing during seasonal shifts into Spring or Fall. This ancestral theme of purification in anticipation of the shift provides physical and spiriutal context for how our bodies fit into nature.

It’s how they observed of a natural order of things: Kept physically balanced and strong, and perhaps even placated the gods and bargained with them for a good harvest year or safe passage into cold winter days

Very cool indeed.

Greens for the Week: Chard, Kale, Dandelion

Greens for the Week: Chard, Kale, Dandelion

A Note on Detox Culture

Can I confess something?  I’ve always been wary, even downright cynical about detox culture in the West. Perhaps because it has been co-opted by the very diet and fitness industry that is intent on keeping consumers confused and unhealthy.  

There is a lot of money to be made in playing into the unhealthy binge-purge paradigm that dominates American diet culture.  The supplement and juice companies that dominate the ‘detox’ industry, peddle their products and ultimately train people out of their intuition around healthy lifestyle.

I once participated in a 21-day detox program that a colleague ran out of the acupuncture clinic where I used to practice.  He followed a protocol created by a major supplement company in which I and fellow participants were put on a regimen of the company’s products. Boxes and boxes of capsules, chalky powders to put in shakes and smoothies… I thought to myself, ain’t nothing natural about this shit.

Sure the substances went to work on my digestive system, but I’m not sure I learned anything about how to transition back into everyday rhythms, the long haul process of healthy eating and lifestyle. So I’m glad you are doing a detox that is grounded in Ayurveda, the indigenous medical tradition from the Indian subcontinent, the sister science to yoga.

A little about Ayurveda…

Ayurveda translates to the ‘science of life’  from the original Sanskrit and examines the interplay of the three doshas – or elements- in attuning the individual to their environments and creating equilibrium, based on:

  • Climate
  • Season of the year (Spring, Summer, Winter)
  • Season of life (Childhood, Middle age, Old age)
  • And unique body constitution (Is an individual naturally more more fiery and run hot? Relaxed and more grounded? Flighty and more creative?)

10418141_839087072812852_477884917339161169_n What I love about Ayuveda is that it honors the interplay of these elements both within and outside of us.

We all have the three doshas – Kapha (water and earth), Pitta (fire), and Vatta (Air/Ether) – inside of us in varying degrees.

And based on our unique body compositions, and where we are on the earth, or our season of life, or lifestyles, one or two elements can be more dominant. And our diet and lifestyle choices can bring these elements into balance.

A little backgrounder:

Kapha: Foundation for Growth, Fertility and Stability

  • Element: Water/Earth
  • Season in Nature: Spring
  • Season of Life: Birth- Adolescence
  • Corresponding chakras (energy centers): 1st (root) and 2nd (pelvic)


  • In nature: Rainy, Congested, Muddy
  • In people: Tranquil, Steady, Slow, Easy-going, Heavy;  Tend to hold onto water/bloating
    • When in balance: Good athletes (strong/steady), Generous, Tranquil
    • When out of Balance: Depressed, Lethargic, Overweight


  • Kapha-Producing Foods: Salty, Sweet, Sour;  Comfort Foods, Heavy Carbs
  • Antidote Foods: Bitter, Pungent, Astringent; Fat Emulsifying Sprouts, Berries, dark leafy greens, bitter roots

Source: Ayurvedadosha.org

Pitta: Foundation for Power, Action, Confidence

  • Element: Fire
  • Season in Nature: Summer
  • Season of Life: Adolescence- Middle Age
  • Corresponding chakras (energy centers): 3rd (digestive) and 4th (heart)


  • In nature: Hot, Dry, Oily
  • In people: Dense, Muscular, Sharp, Ambitious
    • When in balance: Good leaders, Driven, Competitive… Make shit happen
    • When out of Balance: Easily Irritable, Angry, Inflamed Skin and Digestion


  • Pitta-Producing Foods: Hot, Spicy
  • Antidote Foods: Raw Cooling Veggies, Fruits, Dairy

Vatta: Foundation for Spiritual, Creative Growth, Inspiration

  • Element: Air, Ether
  • Season in Nature: Winter
  • Season of Life: Middle Age – Old Age
  • Corresponding chakras (energy centers): 4th (heart), 5th (throat), 6th (third eye)  7th (crown)


  • In nature: Cold, Dry
  • In people: Thin, Frail, Flexible
    • When in balance: Good artists, creative, spiritually connected… transcendent
    • When out of Balance: Easily anxious, Flighty, Prone to Addiction/Self destruction, Constipation and dry skin


  • Vatta-Producing Foods: Light Carbs, Salads
  • Antidote Foods: Warming fatty protein, Grounding Soups and Stews, Root Veggies, Cooked Veggies

Wanna learn more?  Find out your doshas here.

So back to you and an Ayurvedic Detox…

If you are Kapha-dominant, think foods that are fat-emulsifying and break down excess water and phlegm. Bitter, Pungent, Astringent flavor profiles.

DARK LEAFY GREENS!  Ideally cooked for increased digestibility.  Dandelion greens are especially detoxifying.

And do keep in mind that we are entering into the season of Vatta – Fall & Winter- so you will need more warming, grounding, lubricating foods to keep you balanced and strong for the season.

Think Root Veggies… all of them. Roasted, Soups, Purees, Mashed. Enjoy! 1476438_809898185468_182393441_n And the traditional Ayurvedic ‘detox’ regimen is Panchakarma, which includes Ayurvedic massage and oil treatments, and clean diet.

From what I understand, the panchakarma cleanse prescribes an easily digestible  mono-diet of kitchari, traditional porridge made of lentils or mung beans and rice. Now, purists say that kitchari ought to be made with white rice, but I’ll always find occasions for using whole grains like brown rice. Check out my recipe.

I don’t know how strict your cleanse is, but in general, I would say to avoid inflammatory, acid-producing foods like sugars and refined carbohydrates – that includes breads, pastas, cereals, and crackers. Opt instead for *whole* grains. Magnet (1) I’ve got a formula to help you with getting in dark leafy greens and whole grains into every meal.

OH! And apples. Nature provides us apples a plenty this time of year to clean out the digestive tract. So skip the juice, and chomp into real deal freshly harvested apples- with all that gut-restoring fiber to detox naturally.

And of course… Eat. Real. Food. Now that’s old-timey.

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