The leaves are turning yellow, and the air is fresh and crisp. It must be fall! For many people, fall is about more than just pumpkin spice and fuzzy socks. It’s also a transitional time as we move from the long days and sunny weather of summer, and into the frigid winter months. In the ancient Ayurvedic system, fall is the time to reset and repair. As such, millions of people around the world take part in fall cleansing and detoxing during this time of year.
What is the Ayurvedic system?
Originating in India, the Ayurvedic system is a holistic approach to health and healing that focuses on both the mind and the body. The tradition is over 5,000 years old and is also known as “the science of life.” It’s practices are still widely used today to promote and maintain overall health and wellbeing.
Ayurvedic protocols are highly individualized to each person, with most regimes including lifestyle and diet modifications, along with yoga and meditation. Importantly, Ayurveda teaches the importance of adjusting our lifestyle each season. This is known as Ritucharya. One aspect of Ritucharya is cleansing the body and mind of toxins through detoxes.
Though Ayurveda is not my primary area of practice, as an experienced Naturopathic Doctor, I hold many views that are in line with the Ayurvedic system. In my own practice, I emphasize the importance of personalized, holistic treatment and prevention plans. I believe nutritional or hormonal fall cleanses can have many benefits when they are supervised and personalized for each unique individual.
Why is fall an ideal time for a cleanse?
According to the Ayurvedic system, fall is a perfect time to cleanse the body and mind. In order to understand why, we have to consider one of the main principles of Ayurveda: the three doshas. I recommend doing two cleanses per year, with spring and fall being ideal times to reset your mind and body.
Dosha is a sanskrit word that means “that which can cause problems.” Certain doshas are more active based on the season. During the summer, our bodies store up large amounts of Pitta, a fiery energy. This can make it difficult for us to transition into the colder, slower months of winter when dry and chilly Vata is increased.
Fall is a transitional time for nature, and for us as well! As the leaves change, your body is moving from summer to winter, which can cause disruptions to overall health. A fall cleanse can help you prepare for the cold winter months ahead.
You’ll benefit from a cleanse if:
- You are feeling fatigued
- You are experiencing digestive issues or undesired weight loss/gain
- You’ve been more irritable than usual
- You have skin irritation like rashes or breakouts
- You have been feeling stiff or achey
- Your brain has been feeling foggy or you are having trouble focusing.
How can a fall cleanse improve my health?
During the fall, our bodies and minds are ready for a reset. Our bodies accumulate toxins over time from the food we eat and from exterior factors. These toxins can cause a build up of environmental pollutants in our tissue, blood, and organs. A fall cleanse will focus on detoxing and rejuvenating the mind and body, removing these built up toxins within the liver and digestive system. While we cannot avoid all of these toxins in our day-to-day lives, we can give our bodies a chance to clear them out by doing a detox.
Holistic cleanses offer many health benefits, and should leave you feeling revitalized and ready for the winter.
Focusing on whole foods reduces pain and improves gut health
Many foods that we eat on a day-to-day basis are highly processed and can cause inflammation in the tissues and organs that power our bodies. Whole foods that are anti-inflammatory in nature are a key aspect of any Ayurvedic or nutritional cleanse. This is because our digestive health is directly linked to all other systems in our bodies, from mental wellness to skin health. Improved gut health in turn improves the health of many other systems in your body!
Detoxing allows your digestive system the time it needs to heal and repair by gently removing waste that has built up in the intestines over time. Nutritional and hormonal cleanses include dietary changes that reduce inflammation and give the digestive system time to heal by easing the amount of work required to process the food you eat. For people experiencing digestive issues like chronic constipation, bloating, gas, or abdominal pain, a fall cleanse can be extremely effective at eliminating discomfort and getting your digestion back on track.
Cleanses promote healthy habits for long-term health
While a cleanse can range anywhere from days to weeks, you will learn new ways to take care of your body and get a better understanding of how diet and lifestyle can impact your overall health.
During a fall cleanse, you will learn new recipes that are made without processed foods, take a break from alcohol and sugar, and focus on eating nutrient-dense meals. A detox diet helps you get away from the inflammatory and high-sugar foods that are common in the Standard American Diet. Instead, you will learn new recipes that are made without processed foods, take a break from alcohol and sugar, and focus on eating nutrient-dense meals. These are great habits to carry into your daily life after your detox, and can help reduce your risk of long term illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.
Similar to the Ayurvedic detox, any cleanse is about more than just food. The goal is to approach health in a holistic manner. During a fall cleanse, you will learn new mindfulness techniques and get into the habit of making healthier lifestyle choices. Whether it is incorporating an evening walk into your daily routine or attending a yoga class once a week, cleansing gives you the opportunity to focus on keeping your body and mind happy. This improves physical wellness and can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Detoxing in fall helps to prepare your immune system for winter
During the colder, dryer months, many of us experience an increase in common colds and flus. Because winter is considered a depleting season in the Ayurvedic teachings, burnout and fatigue in our bodies and minds is common during this time. A fall cleanse can help stabilize imbalances in organs and systems like the lungs and large intestine that help to fight off illnesses. Cleansing also gives your body a chance to heal and repair essential organs, tissues, and systems by helping it create energy that can be used to restore these functions.
Clearing heavy metals for expecting mothers
Heavy metal testing is incredibly important for women considering starting a family, or who are already expecting. These metals can interfere with fertility and can be passed along to the baby through the placenta and breastmilk. A hormonal or nutritional cleanse is a great way to prepare your body for pregnancy and help improve the health of you and your baby. In this case, cleanses can be done outside of fall as well.
What’s a cleanse like?
Cleanses may seem intimidating at first, but with the right resources and guidance, you can give your body the break that it craves without feeling too restricted.
One thing that should be expected regardless of the length or type of cleanse is a big change in diet. Cutting out inflammatory foods like sugar, red meat, caffeine, and alcohol is key to seeing great results. Instead, a meal plan for a fall cleanse will typically include meal replacement smoothies and shakes, as well as lightly prepared seasonal dishes like hearty soups and root vegetables.
Another dietary change to expect is a shift from three large meals per day to a series of smaller, nutrient dense meals. In order to make fall cleanses more accessible, I offer shakes and recipes that can be prepared quickly and easily, as well as shopping lists and cleanse schedules if you are feeling overwhelmed by the process.
A holistic fall cleanse also includes lifestyle changes to encourage mindfulness and physical rejuvenation. This could be anything from a quick meditation to hot yoga.
Depending on the type of cleanse you decide to do, the protocol will vary slightly. During a 4-week nutritional cleanse, you will gradually move from two full meals per day towards smaller, nutrient-dense meal options like shakes. In a 2-week hormone cleanse, you will start with one balanced meal per day and two shakes, supplemented with detox supporting nutrient capsules.
You can also supplement your cleanse with IV Vitamin therapy, home treatments like dry brushing, and infrared sauna sessions to sweat out all those toxins.
How long should a fall cleanse be?
Most cleanses range from 2-4 weeks. While shorter cleanses, including 3 and 7 day protocols, can help to lift you out of a rut or assist with short-term ailments, cleanses that are longer tend to have better results. During a 2-4 week cleanse, your body has time to repair and heal its natural functions. Longer cleanses typically mean more time to gradually adjust to a more strict diet and regimen. Importantly, longer cleanses also encourage habit solidification making it easier to integrate good habits into your daily life after the cleanse.
Can’t I just buy a cleanse kit or do a juice cleanse?
Modern juice cleanses and DIY cleanse kits are vastly different from cleanses based on Ayurvedic traditions. One important difference is that juice cleanses and cleanse kits do not take a holistic approach to your healing. Supervised cleanses take all of your body’s systems into consideration (including your mental wellbeing), helping them work better together.
When you do a supervised fall cleanse, you will be encouraged to eat nutrient dense food that meets all of your body’s needs. You should not feel depleted during the cleansing process, which is often the case with juice cleanses. It is much easier to stay committed to a cleanse that allows you to eat than a juice only protocol.
Finally, detoxing is not a “one size fits all” process. You will see much better results with a program that is tailored to your individual health. For people with conditions like diabetes, cleansing can be safe with the right supervision and guidance. If you have never done a cleanse before, I strongly encourage a supervised cleanse that takes your nutritional and wellness needs into account.
3 Tips for a Healthy DIY Fall Cleanse
While detoxing with the guidance of a professional is always ideal, you can still successfully complete a fall cleanse on your own. With proper considerations and care, a DIY fall cleanse can give your body the fresh start it craves.
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
One of the main goals of a detox is to give your body a chance to repair and recover. The best way to do this is by cutting out foods that lead to inflammation, in favour of foods that offer nutritional support for your organs and tissues.
Try detox therapies
To help flush toxins out of your body, activities like saunas, hydrotherapy, or even a hot bath are incredibly helpful. It is also important to get moving. Activities like hot yoga and walking are great ways to get moving during your fall cleanse.
Use Supplements to enhance your cleanse
Natural supplements can help you get the most out of your cleanse. Try amino acids, detoxifying herbs, and enzymes to help flush toxins and heavy metals out.
Fall is a season of renewal – and that goes for your health, too.
Fall is the perfect time to try a cleanse and give your body and mind a chance to heal, repair, and get ready for the changing of the seasons. A holistic cleanse supports overall health by detoxing and rejuvenating your body and mind, allowing you to connect with what your body needs. Cleansing supports healthier minds and provides an opportunity to build lasting lifestyle improvements as we move through a transitional time. I truly believe that a fall cleanse can have incredible health benefits. As always, I am here to provide support and offer high-quality, easy to follow nutritional and hormonal detoxes.