Prime your body for summer by discovering its natural, seasonal needs. Learn how how to eat, cook, cleanse, and heal to balance your body and mind. In our online course Ayurveda 101, Larissa Hall Carlson, former dean of Kripalu's School of Ayurveda, and Dr. John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com and best-selling author, demystify yoga's elemental sister science. Sign up for the summer session now!
Let me start out by saying that I consider myself a healthy, physically fit 24-year old woman and am grateful for the body and lifestyle I have been given. Since I was a teenager, though, I’ve suffered from IBS-C, painful menstrual cramps, and hormonal acne. After the implantation of my hormonal IUD last fall, I noticed an increase in my symptoms as well as some minor weight gain. I was feeling anxious, exhausted, and stressed constantly. I found myself in a yoga slump where the creative vinyasas I normally enjoyed seemed boring and my monkey mind never wanted to slow down. I didn’t feel like my normal creative, silly self anymore.
The Ayurvedic Doctor’s Prescription
Dr. Douillard prescribed me with herbs, yoga poses, and diet changes he believed would help balance my body and mitigate my symptoms. For the first week, I would complete his “Short 4-Day Home Cleanse” regimen. The rest of the month I would eat off of his “3-Season Diet” grocery list, take some supplements (specifically Cool Digest Capsules, Turmeric Plus Capsules, Neem Capsules, Liver Repair Capsules, Manjishtha Capsules), drink a Slippery Elm Prebiotic formula from Lifespa and a homemade beet, apple, and celery juice every morning. He also encouraged daily Sun Salutes, stomach pulling, and backbends to help open my abdomen.
Week 1: My First Ayurvedic Cleanse
In order to reset my clock and give my liver a break, Dr. Douillard prescribed a “Short 4-Day Home Cleanse.” I was nervous about doing a cleanse because I had heard they could be dangerous for the body if taken to the extreme—not to mention my reputation for getting “hangry.” But this safe cleanse allowed me to alter my diet with veggies, fruits and chicken if needed. For four days, I cooked and ate only non-fat kitchari with seasonal vegetables, the occasional chicken breast for protein, took herbs and a teaspoon of ghee every morning.
I’m not gonna lie—the first two days were difficult. I was having intense sugar cravings and wasn’t seeing any immediate improvements. I still felt fatigued and my IBS-C still remained. I took a restorative yoga class, and the teacher De West told us that in Chinese medicine the liver holds anger. Interestingly, I felt like anger was rising up in me throughout the liver cleanse. Old memories, resentments, and fears surfaced, but at the same time I felt a sense of calm like they were not attached to me anymore. My stress and anxiety really were melting away.
I ate my dinners at 5:30 pm every day, as Dr. Douillard had recommended, to give my digestive system a break until the next morning. I noticed by doing this, I woke up with more energy, positivity and enthusiasm. Before the cleanse, I would hit the snooze button several times and then immediately pick up my phone and scroll through social media until I felt awake.
By the fourth day, I was feeling more energetic than I had in years. I was excited to start working out, eating healthy foods, and taking care of myself in a loving way again. The final push of the cleanse was to drink an epsom salt laxative to release all the leftover toxins.
By the end of the four-day period, I lost eight pounds and I felt like a fog had been lifted off of my life. Everything felt clearer. My portion sizes had become a lot smaller, and I felt satisfied by less. I realized that before this diet, I’d frequently been eating out of boredom more than hunger. I felt like I had been brought back to life.
Week 2: Eating seasonally is harder than I thought...
Dr. Douillard’s Ayurvedic Kapha-balancing diet for Spring called for no gluten or dairy and to load up on bitter greens like dandelion, endive and swiss chard. Cooking from home, this was easy enough. I often made brown rice bowls loaded with dandelion greens, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. But when I went out to eat, I struggled to follow the diet. Because most fruits and vegetables are available to us year-round, most restaurants do not offer a seasonal menu. I tried my best to follow the diet, but sometimes I ended up eating something with tomatoes or zucchini (two foods I’d been advised to avoid) or gluten. I noticed more gas and bloat when I strayed from the diet, but overall I was still feeling more energetic and experiencing less IBS-C symptoms throughout the week.
Week 3: Ayurveda helped me return to myself.
The boost in energy, contentment, and gratitude I got early on continued through the month. I began taking our office yoga classes every day and got back into running because my body was craving it. I noticed this lifestyle change brought me closer to my partner, and my libido increased with my energy. Because I had started slowing down and listening to my body, I began to feel more in tune with what it actually needed. I stopped using food as a stress reliever and started using it as a vessel to fuel me. The Sun Salutes and backbends were opening up my chest and and loosening my stomach. I noticed less fat around my belly and that my jeans became more comfortable. I wasn’t seeing much improvement with my acne, but I began to see a drastic difference in my digestion. I found myself getting on a consistent schedule and noticed less stomach irritation.
Week 4: Finishing up and finding balance
In the last week of my diet, I was excited to introduce foods I previously restricted back into my routine. I noticed I was more sensitive to gluten, alcohol, and sweets. I was having intense cravings for avocado, a food I was previously intolerant to. I am happy to report that I now can eat avocados without any issue. I believe the cleanse and diet change helped my liver and digestive tract reset, allowing me to eat this food again. Overall, I lost 10 pounds and saw an increase in energy and mood. I saw a slight change in my acne and a mild lessening of my menstrual cramps. My digestion completely cleared and was not struggling with the gas, bloat or constipation I constantly suffered with in the past. Another added benefit I did not expect from this diet was that my immunity increased. I have not experienced any Spring allergies or suffered from a common cold since.
Now that the month of Ayurvedic living is over, I plan to follow the 3-season diet throughout the year, but with less restriction. If I feel the urge to eat something, I will allow myself. I have learned how to be mindful of what I put in my body and how to nourish it. The 4-Day Home Cleanse can be practiced at the beginning of each season, but I plan to do the kitchari cleanse once a year at the beginning of January to restart my body for the new year. This was the change I needed to balance my mind and body.