Is Detox a Hoax?

An article running in the British The Guardian in December 2014 concluded  that much: “detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.”  

While it is true that over the past decade we have witnessed a proliferation of ineffective as well as harmful detox protocols and products on the market, it is also true that the article’s take on detoxification is elementary:

“There are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. The respectable one […] is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

The problem is simple: scientists want to measure and identify the toxic substances that are making us ill, but apparently they don’t seem to know where to start: “Much of the sales patter revolves around “toxins”: poisonous substances that you ingest or inhale. But it’s not clear exactly what these toxins are. If they were named they could be measured before and after treatment to test effectiveness.”

Well then we could put aside the good work done by NGO environmentalist groups and just revert back to the time-tested ayurvedic texts, but particularly SV Ayurveda, as taught by Vaidya Mishra, the only living tradition of Ayurveda that actually goes into a detailed explanation of the 4 different types of  toxins that can accumulate in our physiology from different sources. SV Ayurveda has full protocols for identifying these toxins, as well as helping us eliminate them. In general, we know that detox is part and parcel of Ayurveda – one of the many synonyms of disease in Ayurveda is “amaya” – originating from ama. Taking care of ama, or toxins that accumulate daily, is the sure way of a healthy life according to Ayurveda.

We live in a toxic culture where our bodies are daily exposed to chemical fumes emanating from the environment we live and sleep in; a culture where we ingest highly processed foods and drinks; are driven to use personal care products that are laden with toxic preservatives, scents, and ingredients; use electric and magnetic devices that disrupt our body’s natural vibrational make-up; etc. Not to mention the acidic chemical toxic waste that our own bodies produce on a daily basis as we struggle with stress.

Our bodies are naturally programmed to detox on a daily basis, and come equipped with detox pathways. As the article also mentions: “The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak, […]There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.” Ayurveda, however, offers a much more refined and holistic perspective on detox, as well as diet, daily regimens, and seasonal and other detox protocols that do and can help make a healthy body work better. And nothing, but nothing, beats daily detox! Daily detox through skin(sweating), urination, and bowel movements. Making sure you not only have at least one daily bowel movement (ideal is two!), but are also fully evacuating toxic buildup is key to your optimal health. In this sense, colon detox and colon health (though colonics, colon irrigation or flushing, etc) have also become very popular amongst the health-conscious population.

Vaidya Mishra’s stand on these is conclusive: you must not adopt any of these short-cut cleansingmethods because even as they may flush out accumulated toxins, they deplete our gut of its friendly bacteria. Our brains thrive on the health of our colons. Maintaining a healthy colon is key, as Vaidya Kameshwar Mishra, Vaidya Mishra’s father used to say: “the brain of our brain lies in our gut!” If we can take care of our daily bowel movements, making sure we are following a diet that suits our body types, then we can skip the confusing detox isles in the health food stores, heading straight to our happiness! In general, Triphala, made of 3 fruits as its name indicates, is a safe and effective daily non-habit forming supplement for supporting colon health. However, Ayurveda has much to offer in terms of colon health. 
Vaidya Mishra explains that in Ayurveda, colons can be categorized into three types. A colon is called “kostha” in Sanskrit. Identifying your colon type will give you the advantage of managing it better, and improving your daily detox needs. See which type below best describes your bowel tendencies.

The three kinds of colons or “kostha“-s are:

mridu kostha: individuals who are usually not constipated, have a proper daily stool, softer (unless they eat salty, dry or drying, foods which absorb more water and result in increased absorption and there dryer stool). For people with this bowel tendency, Vaidya recommends only soft, gentle products to support the bowel movements. For example, prune or tamarind chutney (recipes available in the detox booklet), taken at night with dinner, 1-2 tablespoons. In addition 1 tablet of Prakrit at night, along with DGL or Prakrit cream on the spine before bed will further support and help this bowel type.

madhya kostha: second category or type of bowel is called madhya kostha where a person can easily experience harder stools, has the tendency of getting harder stool due to stress, lack of sleep, not eating on time, eating drying foods, too salty or pungent food. These individuals need to maintain a proper SVA diet, consuming chutneys on a regular basis, as well as  add 2-4 tablets of Prakrit at night. Sometimes Prakrit will not be enough, then they can add SVA LAX (mild) – 1 capsule before bed. Probiotic support is essential for a healthy colon. A mixture of 20% yogurt with 80% water, blended with a couple of pinches of Soma Salt in one glass of water will help. Add 1/4 tsp of Mums Masala for added support and flavor and drink only with lunch, never dinner. In addition, Prakrit Transdermal cream before bed on the spine, to connect the mind with the colon will help re-instate the intelligence of the colon even faster and more efficiently.
kroor kostha: the third type is called kroor kostha. Kroor means difficult. Individuals with this type of colon tend to experience hard stools, and when they eat dry or drying foods that may contain too much salt, or they sit for long periods of time, or they do not drink enough water, it makes their bowel movements even more difficult. The following protocol is good for them, and will not give them any side effects – such as Senna leaf, or Castor oil, or Cascara Sagrada. All these ingredients, while they might help, are very habit forming and detrimental for the colon in the long-run. The colon loses its intelligence, it forgets to fulfill its own function and comes to depend on these plants. There are specific protocols for individuals who have this bowel tendency. The proper SVA diet, eating more cooked leafy greens, drinking extra water, consuming 2-4 tablespoons of prune and tamarind chutney at night, 4-6 tablets of Prakrit before bed, and applying Prakrit and Anushudhi Transdermal creams on the lower abdomen before bed. If Prakrit tablets do not help, they can try 1 capsule of SVA LAX.

Special note for high pitta individual: sometimes, when the individual  is high pitta type, or the colon has accumulated more heat (this can be assessed through an ayurvedic consultations), regardless of the colon type or tendency, then along with the lunch yogurt drink (which is ideal for all 3 colon types), they should only use the High Pitta Triphala tablets to pacify the pitta of the body and pitta of the colon. Start with one capsule and go up to 4 capsules per night. In addition to the High Pitta Triphala Capsules, a pitta- pacifying diet (minimize sour, pungent, and salty foods) should be followed, while pitta masala and pitta tea would make a great addition. It is important to always use a good salt, such as Soma Salt. Consuming sweet lassi with 20% yogurt and 80% water, add a teaspoon of 1/2 tsp of rose petal jam, or toasted fennel in 1 glass of water is also recommended. In addition, applying DGL on the colon and the liver before bed will also help.

Sweet Summer Juice Blend

It’s too tempting not to have a drink, or two specially in the hot days of summer! How long can you steer clear of the sweet, juicy, refreshing experience of a smoothy or a juice blend?  But you have to beware. Smoothies and juices can dilute your digestive agni within minutes, giving you the feeling of satiation but causing long-term harm. In addition,  protein powders and/or other minerals and vitamins also add an additional layer of complication. You may not feel the effects right away, but such mixtures are not ayurvedically ideal to keep a happy digestive balance. But we all could do with a glass or two of sweet summer drinks, so here is a balanced recipe that will keep all your doshas in check, rehydrate you, and soothe your heart and mind.

This recipe will make about 25-30 fluid ounces
  • 1 red apple
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 pear
  • 2-3 carrot sticks
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 3-5 celery sticks
  • a good handful of fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2-3 chunks of fresh ginger (thumb-size)

variation: you can also replace one apple with some grapes, or blueberries if you like. However, economically speaking, such fruits are always better just eaten as is, as they tend to be a little more expensive than apples and pears, and you will need larger amounts to yield juice. If your juicer is powerful enough, you can just slice/dice your apples and orange/lime and throw into your juicer.

This recipe will pacify your pitta through the sweet juicy fruits, but keep vata and kapha in check with the lime and the ginger. You can reduce the amount of ginger if you tend to have high pitta, but must keep some to keep your agni ignited so it can digest the juice. The celery will help further alkalize and balance the sweetness of the blend. If you are sensitive to sugar, or are avoiding sugar in general, you can avoid the carrots. This drink will rehydrate, soothe, and even detox some through the cilantro. It is a perfect summer juice blend.