A traditional Ayurvedic detoxification and rejuvenation therapy that aims to balance the body, mind, and spirit, the panchakarma involves a series of therapeutic treatments and practices, including dietary modifications – which is an essential aspect of this therapy.
Ancient Ayurvedic wisdom was designed and conceptualised in a way where every aspect of an individual’s existence was taken into account, for holistic wellness. One of these practices – the Panchakarma, involves a series of massages with herbal oils, treatments that soothe mind and body, as well as strict dietary disciplines to follow. With specific focus on detoxification through diet, the panchakarma is tailored to an individual's constitution or doshas, current imbalances and the specific Panchakarma treatment suited to balance the elements. It is believed in Ayurveda that vata, pitta and kapha, are present in a unique combination in every individual.
Before participating in the process of panchakarma, individuals usually undergo a preparatory phase called purva karma, that involves consuming easily digestible foods, gradually reducing heavy, fried and processed foods, along with drinking herbal teas to prepare the body for the detoxification process. During the main panchakarma treatment, a simple and easily digestible diet is recommended, that includes khichdi – a well-cooked mixture of rice and lentils seasoned with digestive spices, non-starchy, minimally-seasoned vegetables and warm herbal teas made from ginger, cumin, coriander and other detoxifying herbs that aid digestion and toxin elimination.
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The diet also prescribes that foods with strong flavours, excess salt, and artificial additives should also be minimized. Warming up liquids like water, buttermilk or herbal teas is encouraged in order to flush toxins out of the body. Eating meals at regular intervals and not overeating is also an important aspect, along with leaving sufficient time between meals to allow the body to digest the previous meal properly. Other finer nuances while eating a meal are also advised – like sitting cross-legged in an upright posture, eating what is in season and according to the weather as well as eating just enough to keep hunger pangs at bay.
Additionally, some spices like ginger, cumin, coriander and turmeric, that are known for their digestive and detoxifying properties are often included in the panchakarma diet to enhance digestion and metabolism. On completing the detoxification phase, the diet is gradually reintroduced to the individual based on their dosha and any remaining imbalances. This phase helps the body transition back to a regular diet while maintaining the benefits of the Panchakarma treatment.