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Some turn to ayurvedic regimen to counteract toxins, holiday excess

  • Alyssa McKim of Northampton, proprietor of Simple Abundance Herbals, pours a detoxifying blend of herbs for tea.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Alyssa McKim of Northampton, proprietor of Simple Abundance Herbals, pours a detoxifying blend of herbs for tea.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alyssa McKim of Northampton, proprietor of Simple Abundance Herbals, pours a detoxifying blend of herbs for tea.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Alyssa McKim of Northampton, proprietor of Simple Abundance Herbals, pours a detoxifying blend of herbs for tea.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alyssa McKim of Northampton, proprietor of Simple Abundance Herbals, pours a detoxifying blend of herbs for tea.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Alyssa McKim of Northampton, proprietor of Simple Abundance Herbals, pours a detoxifying blend of herbs for tea.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Yoga instructor Alyssa McKim of Northampton holds a pose at Sun Studio in the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Yoga instructor Alyssa McKim of Northampton holds a pose at Sun Studio in the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alyssa McKim of Northampton, proprietor of Simple Abundance Herbals, pours a detoxifying blend of herbs for tea.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Alyssa McKim of Northampton, proprietor of Simple Abundance Herbals, pours a detoxifying blend of herbs for tea.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Alyssa McKim of Northampton, proprietor of Simple Abundance Herbals, pours a detoxifying blend of herbs for tea.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Yoga instructor Alyssa McKim of Northampton holds a pose at Sun Studio in the Arts & Industry Building in Florence.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

“I’m never doing that again!” This oath is echoed everywhere on New Year’s Day. American overindulgence during the holidays is notorious — and then on Jan. 1, many of us declare bad habits off limits.

Few people can stick to resolutions, though, and by Valentine’s Day, all the toxin-laden treats we love are back in our kitchens and tummies. This is why some of our annual weight gain ends up padding us for the rest of our lives, according to NIH study findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March of 2000. So is it hopeless to try to change? No, but instead of making unrealistic resolutions, a likelier path to success may be through an ayurvedic cleanse.

Flushing your system

Ayurveda is a form of alternative medicine native to India, and cleanses have been an integral part of that practice for thousands of years. Detoxifying cleanses have become popular beyond their traditional communities, and several Pioneer Valley practitioners offer guidance. Cleanses break the cycle of food cravings, and provide your body with a fresh start, according to Brooksley Williams, of Valley Ayurveda, who compares cleansing to “flushing out your body’s carburetor.”

People often cleanse to lose weight, counteract environmental toxins, or as part of a spiritual journey. Alyssa McKim of Northampton, owner of Simple Abundance Herbals, first tried cleansing many years ago. She experienced physical changes, such as weight loss and newly radiant skin, as well as significant emotional and spiritual growth. Eager to learn more, she spent two years in Peru where she studied herbal remedies, cleansing practices and yoga.

In November, McKim guided a group of Valley residents through a seven-day cleanse. McKim explains that cleansing involves fasting from certain substances for a designated time period.

This gives the digestive system relief from working to break down the toxins we normally ingest, and allows our systems to deep clean, or, as Williams says, “flush out” our body tissues.

Cleanse participants abstain from animal protein, caffeine, gluten, sugar, alcohol and any nonprescribed drugs. Specific cleanse diets vary depending on the season and an individual’s constitution. McKim’s fall cleanse participants consumed kitchree, a traditional Indian dish made of mung beans and rice, cooked greens, ghee and herbal teas. Participants with more active lifestyles can add fermented lactose product, nuts and dried fruit. Yoga or other body work is recommended as a companion practice.

Post-cleanse, participants are usually lighter (weight loss in McKim’s group ranged from 2 to 10 pounds) and say they experience enhanced metal clarity. Tara Lacombe, 25, of Easthampton, reported that her mood and energy levels, prone to frequent ups and downs, were stabilized, and she felt refreshed and alert.

Completing a cleanse boosts confidence as well. Elena Daniell, 32, of Florence, was intrigued by cleansing since she had neglected her self-care after giving birth to her first child. While weight loss wasn’t her primary goal, Daniell’s cleanse helped her achieve one goal — she fit back into her pre-pregnancy jeans.

While cleansing, participants often develop heightened consciousness around food consumption. Since food is often used to offset emotions or boredom, the elimination of snacks breaks the practice of unmindful eating, experts say.

Some aspects are tough. Cleanse participants report having headaches from caffeine withdrawal, and find it monotonous to eat the same food each day. Time management is challenging too; while kitchree isn’t complicated to prepare, it requires planning. If other family members are not cleansing with you, it may be distracting to be with them while they eat a more typical diet.

Tips for success

To ease the process, practitioners recommend taking a few days off from work and enlisting family support. If you are the primary cook in your home, arrange for someone else to cook while you’re cleansing, or prepare your family’s meals ahead of time and stock the freezer. Be healthy and well rested at the outset. Practice under the guidance of a practitioner, and with a group.

Before starting, check with your doctor or health care provider. A cleanse may not be recommended for those on certain medications, or those with chronic health issues. Stay in constant contact with your cleanse practitioner, and immediately report any areas of concern. You should not experience major, prolonged discomfort.

Related

Ayurvedic cleansing

Monday, December 31, 2012

Ayurvedic cleanses are traditionally held in the fall and the spring, but several practitioners are offering cleanse guidance this month. Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, in Stockbridge, offers a five-day healthy living immersion program, “Detox for Health and Healing,” Jan. 13 to 18. Visit www.kripalu.org for more information. Redspring Ayurveda, in Northampton, offers pre-conception cleanse guidance, post-partum doula services …

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