[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:
rice (basmatic or jasmine work well, brown or white)
lemons or limes
cold pressed olive oil
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.