A couple of years ago, a blogger than I followed (@itstaylermarie) shared her experience going through something called a Kitchari Cleanse which, at the time, I was completely unfamiliar with. Yet as I began to personally dive more deeply into Ayurvedic medicine and frequently order the Kitchari Bowl from Curcuma, an Ayruvedic food truck in Austin, this idea began to reoccur again and again.
Curcuma recently began offering group Kitchari Cleanses, but unfortunately my travel schedule has kept me from participating. Luckily, they were kind enough to organize my own individual cleanse by providing the kitchari and resources I needed to get through the week. Now that my 5-day cleanse has come to a close, I want to share all of the details for both those unfamiliar with this custom as well as anyone who might be interested in participating in the future.
What Is Kitchari?
Kitchari is a traditional Ayurvedic mixture of two grains, typically mung beans and basmati rice or quinoa, with a variety of healing spices. These ingredients together provide the amino acid profile needed to be a complete protein. Thus, it’s a nourishing food to enjoy any day, but it also ensures stable blood sugar levels so one’s energy and mental clarity are balanced during the cleansing process.
Kitchari is seen as a balancing, grounding meal for all Ayurvedic Dosha types as it’s easy to digest and packed with nutrients to help re-center one’s equilibrium.
Kitchari Cleanse 101
Sarah Kucera, a renowned Ayurvedic practitioner based in Kansas City, says that the Kitchari Cleanse dates back Ayurveda’s origin over 5,000 years ago, and its benefits and effectiveness have stood the test of time. If you’re experiencing chronic low energy, digestive issues, disrupted sleep or need an overall reset, this cleanse might be the key. Likewise, it’s recommended to participate during times of seasonal change to support our body’s ability to adapt.
Key benefits of the cleanse include:
- Improved digestion
- Increased energy
- Reduced inflammation
- Clear skin
- Mental clarity
During this cleanse, eating a “mono-diet” of mainly kitchari provides the digestive system a needed rest, given the diet is extremely simple. The length of the cleanse can vary based on your personal preference and situation. Anywhere from 3-5 days is recommended, with 5 being a particularly long cleanse but incredibly beneficial.
Not only is the kitchari working its magic from within but the elimination of sugar, caffeine, processed foods, meat and dairy also allows the body to breathe and recharge.
Yet given no one individual is like another, everyone must listen to what their body needs throughout the cleansing process. Because of this, Curcuma and Sarah Kucera both recommend choosing between three options:
- Only kitchari for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Simple oatmeal for breakfast and kitchari for lunch and dinner
- One of the above plus optional additions including steamed, easy to digest vegetables, simple fruits like apples, bone broth, fermented foods, avocado, herbs and nuts/seeds for snacking.
Along with this, it’s important to stick to a daily Ayruvedic schedule and routine that includes rising with the sun, meditating in the morning, powering down and sipping herbal tea at night. Check out The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook for more details on an optimal routine to stick to in order to reap the maximum benefit from the cleanse.
My Cleanse Experience
First off, I am typically not pro-cleanses. Juicing, “detox” teas and anything intended for quick weight loss are absolute no’s from me. The Kitchari Cleanse peaked my interest when I began researching further and discovered the deep history and intention behind this esteemed Ayurvedic tradition. Plus, I absolutely love kitchari to begin with and appreciate that this cleanse provides enough real food to function without feeling completely deprived or miserable.
Still, one of the greatest difficulties to adapt to early on the in the cleanse was the more limited quantity and variety of food available. Curcuma’s cleanse provides about a cup of kitchari for every meal, and I quickly realized I’d have to supplement with some bone broth and simple vegetables as needed. Since I teach classes at CorePower and am very active on my own, a bit more fuel was necessary at times.
The first couple of days I noticed an overall lack of energy along with the minor headaches, fatigue and sluggishness common in the cleanse. Most people even need a little afternoon nap which can be helpful! Because I typically only drink matcha, I didn’t encounter much caffeine withdrawal, but that is a very common side effect for many. But I did notice more bloat, constipation and gas than normal at the beginning of the week (TMI, but true).
As the days went on, though, I began to see significant improvements in my quality of sleep, digestion and energy. According to Curcuma’s founder, Day 3 is when your body is finishing up the detoxification process, and thus when one feels the worst (which was true for me), while the rest of the week brings great results.
When I woke up on Day 5, I truly felt energized, calm, rested and grounded. While I was still very hungry for my meals throughout the day and ready to get back to a wider variety of foods, I believe the cleanse succeeded in providing the reset I was in need of.
Tips For Maximizing Your Cleanse
Below are my recommendations for cleansing in the most effective way possible and finishing the week strong.
- Pick a time when you can commit – It’s important to ease into and out of the cleanse, so be sure to schedule it during a week without travel or out-of-the-ordinary eating/drinking before or after.
- Drink A LOT of water (warm lemon water, preferably) – Not only does this aid the detoxification process, but it also helps fill you up and satiates. I’ve truly never felt more hydrated!
- Stick to the Ayurvedic routine – I noticed a major difference in how I felt mentally and physically on the days I adhered to the Ayurvedic schedule versus when I didn’t.
- No screens during meals – Slowing down and focussing on my meals each day forced me to actually enjoy and be more intentional.
- Limit your social schedule – The cleanse itself keeps you from eating out, drinking or having coffee, which are the bases of most social activities anyways. Take this time to really focus on you without distraction.
- Prioritize sleep – This wasn’t overly difficult for me, as I was tired and ready for bed each night. Yet I found that canceling super early workouts and other obligations allowed me to wake when my body was ready and enjoy a slow yet energizing morning routine.
- Try dry brushing – I began incorporating this daily about halfway through the cleanse, and I believe it helped the detox process as well. Dry brushing is a method for supporting lymphatic drainage, improving circulation, eliminating toxins and exfoliating the skin.
How to Do the Cleanse Yourself
I was lucky enough to have Curcuma’s support throughout my cleanse, as they supplied me with my week’s worth of pre-made kitchari and helpful resources. If you’re local to Austin, check out Curcuma’s website or Instagram for updates on their group cleanses now offered several times a year.
If you live elsewhere, kitchari is simple to whip up for yourself at home! There are a variety of recipes online for guidance (here’s one to get you started: kitchari recipe). You can also find all of the ingredients you need online, like this Kitchari Kit from Banyon Botanicals.
I can’t rave enough about my experience with the cleanse and how it made me feel as a result. It was most certainly a challenge to stick to a strict food regime and not get creative in the kitchen, but the renewed energy, digestive reset and overall grounded feeling it brought about made for a worthwhile and impactful experience!