[a medicinal cooking blog: using food as medicine to treat whatever may ail you]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tis' the Season.. for a Detox

Tis' the season for a little .... detox. Heavy foods, lots of imbibing, and a constant parade of opportunities for the two makes for a sometimes great desire to detox. I get a lot of patients who ask about cleansing and detox, and many who have done some heavy duty liquid versions combined with colon cleanses, meditation, yoga, etc. This (what I am about to share) is not any of that. It is an eating cleanse, based out of Ayurvedic (known sometimes as kitchari) and TCM theory, designed for someone who is working and quite simply : needs to eat! I don't want to get too into an analysis of how to detox and the different opinions on it, because there are many ways and I myself have not studied them all nor have I tried them all so I am hesitant to comment. However, I have noticed that many people do not fare well doing hardcore intense deprivation-based detoxes whilst working and living their lives. In fact, some come in worst off after partaking in this type of cleanse. I will say this, read up on whatever you are going to do and if you intend to cleanse while you are living your life as you normally do (actively), then I suggest not going overboard. If you can afford the time to go sit on a mountain and eat very little while doing very little, then by all means, go for it. Otherwise, your body needs the energy from food, it's really that simple. You can trigger all kinds of imbalances and go steps back instead of forward if you do not cleanse approrpriately. Most of the time, Spring is the ideal time to cleanse (not only your closets) your body, but sometimes, you need a boost right smack in the middle of winter.

Now that that is somewhat clear (I hope), we can get to the purpose of this posting: the mung bean liver cleanse. This is a wonderful way to clean out your liver which is the main organ responsible for processing toxins that enter your system. Your liver gets tired. If you are eating heavy foods and drinking more than usual, your liver will start to get overburdened and you may experience: sluggishness, bloating, gas, diarrhea, indigestion, depression, irregular menses, headaches, fits of anger, tense muscles, and believe it or not more symptoms than those! This cleanse is a great way to give your liver a break and get back on track. I'm not saying you should eat mung beans and then go back to hamburger-land the next day, you'll still need to ease up on your body afterwards, but this will help to give your liver a break.

At the base of this detox is the wonderful medicinal and food: the mung bean, or lu dou in Chinese. Mung beans are originally from India but long ago became a part of Chinese cuisine and medicine, that is why this is a cleanse which falls into both the Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine traditions. Mung beans are cooling, sweet, beneficial to the liver and gallbladder, and nourish yin (the fluids of the body). Usually, mung beans are used in the summertime to cool hot conditions and keep the body regulated, but they can also be used to cool hot conditions or liver-related toxicity during other times of the year. When I lived in China I loved having mung bean juice and ice cream in the summer! But winter is never a good time for this version of mung beans, you must eat them hot as they are still cooling and you don't want to overburden your digestive system with too much cold.

When you do this cleanse you want to do as follows to be effective: choose one whole day per week for a period of a month OR do it for one day, then take a week off, then do it for two days, then take a week off, then do it for three days, and so on and so forth until you've reached 5 days total straight. I will not lie, while the recipe is delicious, it is not easy to only eat mung beans and rice for even a day, especially if you love food and/or are surrounded by festive holiday dishes. That's why maybe the one day a week for a month is best for the majority of people at this time, but if you've got the stamina and willpower, go the whole nine yards! You can not eat anything else but the recipe below, you can only drink water and non-caffeinated teas. You can eat as much as the mung bean recipe as you want, but that is all. You can not smoke or drink alcohol (this would obviously counteract the benefits of a liver cleanse!). To increase the benefit of this further, I suggest you eat your last meal at 8 p.m. and do not eat again until 8 a.m. (you want a full 12 hours between your last and your first meal to completely give your body and liver a chance to rest). If you must eat at 9 p.m., then eat your breakfast at 9 a.m., and so on and so forth.

Conditions you would want to use this cleanse for: chronic fatigue (see a TCM practitioner for more guidance in this case), vertex or temporal headaches (ie. top of the head or side of the head), red eyes, indigestion, gas and bloating, acid reflux, irregular menses (also see a TCM practitioner for more guidance), chronic bronchitis, phlegm, depression, if you are undergoing chemotherapy (email me for more information on this please - but you would want to do it before chemo sessions for a day if possible), if you have cirrhosis or hepatitis C, if you feel angry and stuck, or if you just simply feel the need to clean the body out and give the liver a break.

Conditions you do NOT want to use this cleanse: DURING menstruation (avoid! it is too cold and will cause complications), if you have chronic diarrhea and difficulty digesting food (you may be having a "cold" condition in TCM and this would not be a good cleanse for you), if you start this cleanse and find it exacerbates any pain or discomfort in your body.

Suggestions and warnings:
If you are going for a 2-3 day cleanse you may experience some headaches or dryness, this is often your body detoxing (especially for those accustomed to drinking caffeine or smoking cigarettes), so long as it does not persist beyond a day or two, this is within the normal range of a liver detox. Again, and I can not emphasize this enough, if you are very delicate or have a complex condition, please see a licensed TCM practitioner while you do this.

Ingredients and Cooking Instructions:
mung beans
rice (basmatic or jasmine work well, brown or white)
lemons or limes
cold pressed olive oil
sea salt
chile (dried, fresh, or sauce)

1. One cup of mung beans to 5 cups of water, add salt, bring to a boil and let it simmer. Depending on how soft you want your mung beans (taste to decide) it can take from 45 minutes to an hour and change for this to cook. I added a little cumin to my last batch to give it a little more warmth since mung beans are cold and it is winter.
2. Cook rice separately.
3. Plate rice, add beans on top, sprinkle olive oil generously, sprinkle sea salt, squeeze lemon or lime on top, and add chile flakes, chile sauce (I used sriracha as seen above), fresh chiles, or black pepper for those that find red chile too much.

*** A little side note here, a reader below has noted that the kitchari version of the mung bean cleanse can be done for longer periods of time and by adding garlic, onions, spices (cumin, tumeric, etc), ghee (clarified butter - very good for your digestive system) and vegetables to it. This is definitely the case if you want to make it a meal which you integrate more often into your culinary path and that is still incredibly healing and cleansing. However, if you want to clean your system out for a full day at a time you would want to be more strict and lean on the ingredients and stick to the five basic flavors : sour (lemon), salty (salt), spice (chile, cumin, tumeric or a combo), sweet (rice), bitter (mung beans). There are many links out there to kitchari (or kitcharee) recipes, here is one.


Pooja said...

Thanks for the wonderful and informative article as it includes lot more with a recipe. It’s great to know all about the information. Detox cleansing is good topic to know about the health issues. Thanks for the recipe once again. Will try out and let you know.

There are lot of advantages from detoxification cleanse, as it removes the useless toxins from our body. Away from refining our body, it will assist our organs to be fit as well. More than that, everyone will feel more energetic and will not feel tired. Particularly those who are fat or obese, Detox cleansing acts as a diet and allows lose weight.

The Spice Doc said...

Hi Pooja - Glad you enjoyed the recipe & information. It's a great cleanse, I just did it myself a few days ago, feeling tip top from it. Let me know how it goes!

getstoried said...

Nicole - thanks for sharing more details on the wonder called the mung bean.

I've been doing kitchari detox for years, and most recently the past couple months pretty intensely.

I would mention to your readers, that there are other recipes that can be done that make it easy to eat mung bean kitchari, for every meal for many days on end. With still huge health benefits.

First - lots more spices - cumin seed, coriander seed, cardamon, ginger, tumeric powder, and a little heat - chili or cayenne. I'm always experimenting with new additions to the spice mix.

Second - LOTS of organic ghee (clarified butter), which you can even find in indian section of Whole Foods. The vedics say that fat is necessary to find to toxins to be removed from the body. Ghee is a great fat with no trans-fat or glycerides.

Third - throw in some vegetables for texture and extra nutrition. I often throw in greens (e.g. spinach, dandelion, kale, broccoli rabbe), and some frozen green peas.

Fourth - I also use both onion and garlic for extra flavor. a strict satvic does eat those because they consider them too stimulating, but many kitchari recipes include them, and makes more sense if you're living an urban warrior lifestyle...

Anyways, with these adjustments, I often make kitchari and eat it ~ 10 meals a week, while supplementing with other meals on occassion. The spice and the fat make it a wonderfully satisfying meal that also has huge detox benefits.

Readers can just google mung bean kitchari, to find many of the recipes out there.

The Spice Doc said...

Hi Michael/Get Storied!

Yes, kitchari/the mung bean cleanse can have many more ingredients added if you are going to make it into a longer term cleanse and to make it more hearty. I will add that to my post, thank you. However if you are going to do it as the one day a week style then it needs to be more austere for lack of a better word - thus just mung beans, lemon, olive oil, salt, chile (you can of course add some cumin or other spices to benefit the lungs a bit more). That's amazing you do it for such long periods of time! Feeling great I assume?

Unknown said...

What are your thoughts about this cleanse for someone with candida? He is presently on a candida diet and taking a Chinese herbal formula to transform phlegm, harmonize the liver and spleen, boost his immune system, clear heat in the middle jiao. Beans in general are to be limited on a candida diet, as would rice. However, the cleansing effect of mung along with using the right herbs and spices I could see might be ok while doing the diet (especially since so many of the benefits of mung are appropriate for this patient). OR do you think he should do the diet for about a month or so and THEN start the mung bean cleanse?

Unknown said...

What are your thoughts about this cleanse for someone with candida? He is presently on a candida diet and taking a Chinese herbal formula to transform phlegm, harmonize the liver and spleen, boost his immune system, clear heat in the middle jiao. Beans in general are to be limited on a candida diet, as would rice. However, the cleansing effect of mung along with using the right herbs and spices I could see might be ok while doing the diet (especially since so many of the benefits of mung are appropriate for this patient). OR do you think he should do the diet for about a month or so and THEN start the mung bean cleanse?

The Spice Doc said...

@ Lorraine, without having seen your patient, I would venture to say that it would be a good idea to do the mung bean cleanse before starting (1-2 days) and then do it again after a month (2-3 days), the idea would be to build up to a full week cleanse of mung beans (after the month of the candida cleanse he can take one week breaks from the mung beans and build up gradually), which can be challenging since it is all you eat for that week (only water and herbal/non caffeinated drinks). Hope that's clear, if not, email me at thespicedoc@gmail.com

There is both an ayurvedic and TCM approach to the mung bean cleanse, I would say either is beneficial. With the ayurvedic one you can add herbs to further stimulate cleansing and digestion.

Searching Angel said...

Thanks for this! Very encouraging. I m in the midst of a mung bean, veggie and rice (Kitchari) cleanse and thought of doing veggie juice though Id been advised against it by practitioners due to my tendency to anemia. I apparently should be building not cleansing more than often. However it is time for a cleanse so the good old mung bean and rice is what I'm doing. I like how you give options for the length of time also. I will try out your recipe after I finish of the one I just made with dandelion greens and purple kale. I first did this cleanse about 6 years ago and it really worked wonders on me. Love how your site popped up as I searched for alternative recipes.
Thats awesome! Keep doing your thing my dear.
Un Abrazo fuerte,

Caroline said...

To Spice Doc,

as you mentioned, to avoid the mung bean cleanse during menstruation period, I wonder if it is okay to cleanse all the way up to my period arrives or should I stop a few days before my period.

The Spice Doc said...

@Caroline - I would stop a few days before your menses as this could be a bit too cold for you, everyone is a little different but this is the safest route. Then wait 2-3 days after your menses before commencing it again. G'luck! Nicole

Unknown said...

Hi there, and thanks for this wonderful site!
My homeopath highly recommends kitchari fasts from time to time throughout the year.
Do you recommend eating kitchari after a stomach flu? I am no longer vomiting, but am still quite tired and nauseous, but yet hungry at the same time.


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