A few years ago, it felt like my entire body was rebelling against me. I was constantly bloated, then bloating turned into distention — I looked four months pregnant at all times. After every meal, whether it was a green juice or a burger, I experienced sharp stomach pains. And worst of all (because I’m nothing if not vain!), my skin was going through it. I’d developed both perioral dermatitis and perioribital dermatitis, which gave me dry, scaly patches of red skin in two big circles around my eyes and another one around my mouth. Cute!
I went to a dermatologist to get to the bottom of it. She put me on antibiotics, topicals, and steroids; none of which worked.
I also went to a primary care doctor to figure out what was wrong with my gut. In typical white-older-male-doctor form, he didn’t think it was a big deal and suggested I “go to CVS and get a stool softener.”
Needless to say, I wasn’t getting anywhere with Western medicine — so eventually I looked East and found Ayurveda.
The Kitchari Cleanse
A few minutes into my first Ayurvedic appointment, though, I found myself wondering if Ayurveda was batshit crazy. My practitioner spent five minutes inspecting my tongue and checking my fingernails before she announced her diagnosis: My simultaneous gut issues and skin issues weren’t a coincidence. They were inextricably intertwined.
My digestive system was apparently malfunctioning (which I felt), so toxins weren’t leaving my body properly. Instead, they popped up on my face (which I saw). The cure for one was the cure for the other — and the first step was a Kitchari cleanse.
I balked at the word “cleanse.” After all, I’d been doing juice cleanses for months and they didn’t help my stomach or skin one bit; in fact, they almost made it worse. But Kitchari, my Ayurvedic guru said, is not that kind of cleanse. It’s warm, nourishing, filling, simple, deeply healing on every level, and actually helps your body detox (which a juice cleanse can’t do). Essentially, Kitchari “resets” the entire body and flushes out your digestive system, making it easier to break down foods, absorb their nutrients, and eliminate toxins efficiently.
I reluctantly agreed to three days of cleansing… and on day three, I went for four. I loved it! I felt so light, energized, and awake — oh, and my distended tummy totally flattened out. And my skin looked better. It was an essential starting point for all the work I had to do afterward to fully heal my body.
It’s recommended to do a Kitchari cleanse four times a year as the seasons change, so I’m gearing up to do my fall cleanse with the autumnal equinox on September 21st.
Want to join me? Here’s what you need, what to do, and why.
KITCHARI CLEANSE INGREDIENTS
1 cup of split mung beans: Mung beans are easy for the body to digest and are a good source of fiber. Since they’re so astringent, they also “pull up” stagnant toxins from the intestinal lining and send them out through the GI tract.
1 cup of basmati rice OR 1 cup of quinoa: Rice is easy for the body to digest and gives your system a break from breaking down tough foods. If you can’t do rice, try quinoa for a lighter take on Kitchari.
Together, rice and mung beans form a complete protein, which regulates blood sugar and boosts energy.
3 tablespoons of ghee: Ghee is full of healthy fats and lots of essential vitamins.
1 stick of cinnamon
5 whole cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
10 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
These spices all work together to improve digestion and metabolism — and they’re delish, too.
6 cups water
1 piece of kombu: Kombu releases digestive enzymes when it’s cooked. Adding in a piece or two will help your body break down the Kitchari even more easily.
Lime juice or fresh cilantro: To sprinkle on top for flavor.
Any veggies you want: You can add different cooked veggies to your Kitchari mixture every time you make it! In this way, it doesn’t have to feel like a cleanse at all… you can switch up the texture and flavor profile however you’d like. Just make sure the vegetables are cooked — raw veggies are hard to digest (which is why juice cleanses don’t actually work).
Heat a large pan or pot on medium heat
Add ghee and spices, and stir until fragrant
Add in the (washed) rice and mung beans and mix
Pour in the water
Cover and bring to a boil for five minutes
If you’re including root vegetables, add them in while the water is boiling
Turn the heat down to low for about 30 minutes
If you’re including medium-textured vegetables, add them in after about 15 minutes
When the rice and beans are soft like risotto, you’re done!
WHAT TO DO WITH IT
This makes a pretty large batch; two batches should last you the full three days.
Have a bowl of Kitchari for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day of your cleanse.
Drink lots of water and herbal teas in between.
If it’s going well, feel free to cleanse for a longer period of time.
Make sure to take extra-good care of your body while it detoxes: meditate, massage yourself with oils, take a bath, and got to bed early.