Wednesday, May 29, 2019

An Ayurvedic Approach to Detox - Part 2

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

In part 1 of 'An Ayurvedic Approach to Detox', we explored the routes of toxin elimination, the concept of agni and ama and the three types of Ayurvedic detoxification. In part 2, we will explore the deeper aspects of Ayurvedic detoxification known as panchakarma.


To Detox or Not?

Everyone has heard about detoxification and most people are keen to do it. We all want to get rid of waste in the body, right? Before you jump into a cleanse, you need to ask yourself a few questions to ensure that it is appropriate for you.

  • Are you able to take time off - from work or activities? You need to focus your energy on internal healing. Overtaxing yourself will distract you from the real detoxing activities.
  • Is your body strong enough? Cleansing means hard work for your body and when toxins move, it can temporarily increase the burden on your body. If you have chronic conditions, fatigue or chronic stress your body may be in survival mode which won't allow deep healing to happen.
  • Do you have emotional support? Cleansing can make your more tired, irritable or overwhelmed as your body eliminates. Ensure you have support to keep you motivated and on track.

Ama - Toxic Load

If you are cleared for a detox, based on the amount of toxic burden in your body, a cleansing program can be outlined by your Ayurvedic practitioner. There are many questionnaires that can help you assess such as the Ama Detox Questionnaire.

When the vata, pitta and kapha go out of balance in your system, and your digestive fire is dampened, toxic waste known in Ayurveda as ama, builds up in the GI tract. When it overflows, it enters the bloodstream, clogs the channels and deposits in the joints, muscles, organs and settles deeper in the tissues etc. It can manifest as symptoms of brain fog, fatigue, body odour, constipation, lack of clarity or mood imbalances. An easy way to check if you have high levels of ama in your body is by checking your tongue when you wake up for a thick white/grey/yellow coating. If you have this coating, it indicates that there are toxins in your digestive tract. This is common in people with candida infections, chronic antibiotic use or diabetes.

Once ama accumulation becomes chronic, a more thorough detox is needed to dislodge toxins from the tissues and move them out through the channels of elimination (bowels, skin, kidneys, etc.). This is the basis of panchakarma or Ayurvedic detox, a thorough Ayurvedic detox program.

What is Panchakarma?

Traditional panchakarma treatment is an intensive detox which generally lasts 3 weeks in a residential setting where you experience a variety of treatments such as abhyanga, herbal regimens tailored to your body type, and specific diet or fasting under supervision of Ayurvedic doctors. In this process, doshas are provoked to expel toxins which can initially amplify symptoms before they subside. For example if you have sinus congestion, you may temporarily experience increased mucus, or if you have digestive issues, you may experience diarrhea. This is your body's way of speeding up elimination of toxins but must be done under supervision to ensure your body is working in the right direction.

Traditional panchakarma requires specific facilities in a residential setting, very strict diet and lifestyle guidelines and commitment to travel to a centre in India or abroad for several weeks. You are in full-time treatment with a specific routine of waking up and sleeping, timed medicine throughout the day, customized plant-based meals, bodywork therapies and supervision with Ayurvedic doctors to tailor your program each day. There is often a preparation phase a few weeks before and a long term plan for several months after panchakarma. While this is very therapeutic to help reverse chronic diseases and remove deep seated toxins, it becomes challenging for most people in the modern lifestyle to commit to this kind of detox. (You can read more about my personal detox experience in an Ayurvedic centre in India here.)

Many of the systematic panchakarma therapies can be incorporated into simplified detox programs of 1 week or 1 month, tailored to your constitution and health concerns. These therapies include diet and herbs or supplements individualized to your condition and constitution by your Ayurvedic practitioner, along with Ayurvedic therapies such as:



These treatments are most effective when several therapies are done in close succession (once a day for 3, 5, 7 days or once a week during detox) along with a specific diet and an environment at home to support healing. These treatments are offered in the clinic or as self-care therapies under guidance by your Ayurvedic practitioner. Spring and fall are generally the best seasons for panchakarma. If you are interested in an Ayurvedic detox, speak to Dr. Leena Athparia, ND on what treatment plans can be customized for you with panchakarma therapies.


Dr. Leena Athparia is a Naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus on joint health, pain and chronic disease. If you are healthy and looking into preventing disease or learning more about your constitution, Dr. Athparia can help you. Please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.