Late summer, early spring, winter’s first snowfall. In Ayurveda, the two-week gap between seasons is known as ritu sandhi, a delicate time when your digestive capacity, doshas, and gut health fluctuate along with the weather. During this time, it’s a good idea to eat light, nourishing fare and—if possible—do an easy, at-home Ayurvedic cleanse (ritucharya) to support your gut microbiome and digestion. Not sure how to do it? Just follow the steps in this simple guide.
Supporting your gut microbiome with Ayurveda
Strong digestion and elimination are crucial components of good health, according to the ancient teachings of Ayurveda. When your digestion is strong, you’re better able to assimilate nutrients and eliminate waste from everything you consume throughout the day. Your gut health and microbiome—the community of helpful and harmful bacteria living in your intestines—play an important role as well.
When your gut health is on track, your digestion and elimination generally run smoother. Gut health supports many other facets of health as well, including your immunity, emotions, and mental clarity, to name just a few. That’s why gut health is one of the key aims of Ayurveda.
The gut and the seasons
Your digestion and gut health fluctuate with the seasons, each of which is governed by a different dosha (mind-body energy).
- Summer is governed by the heating qualities of Pitta dosha.
- Autumn is governed by the cooling, drying qualities of Vata dosha.
- Winter is initially governed by Vata dosha but gradually yields to Kapha dosha’s wet and heavy qualities when Spring is on the horizon.
During the heat of summer, you might notice that you’re more prone to heat-related (Pitta) digestion issues, such as occasional acid indigestion or diarrhea. In the same way, you may experience Vata digestive issues like occasional gas, bloating, and constipation during autumn and early winter. In late winter and early spring, you may feel a bit heavy and lethargic, or experience mucus, allergen sensitivities, and other Kapha-related concerns.
This is where the practice of ritucharya, or seasonal cleansing, can come in so handy. Ritucharya not only helps to restore balance to the doshas, it also sets the stage for better digestion, elimination, gut health, and mind-body balance all year long.
Ritucharya (seasonal regimen) for cleansing your gut
The word “ritucharya” comes from the Sanskrit words for “season” (ritu) and “regimen” (charya). Different seasons call for slightly different approaches to cleansing, but the general principles remain the same. During the two-week transition between seasons:
1. Eat a Light, Nourishing Diet
During your seasonal cleanse, give your digestive system a break by easing up on heavy and/or processed foods and favoring light, nutritious fare.
Favor: lightly spiced, vegetarian soups and stews made with legumes, whole grains, and plenty of cooked veggies. Enjoy flatbreads like tortillas and chapatis, and drink a cup of probiotic lassi at lunchtime. Stay hydrated throughout the day by sipping warm or room-temperature water.
Avoid: foods that are rich, heavy, cold, raw, canned, frozen, and overly processed. Steer clear of yeasted breads and dry breads, such as crackers. It’s also better to avoid heavier dairy products (like cheese and yogurt), along with foods that are deep-fried or oily.
2. Take Ayurvedic Detox Herbs
For a simple, light cleanse, take a few tablets of Organic Triphala Rose, a well-known Ayurvedic Rasayana, before bedtime. This time-tested Ayurvedic go-to promotes regularity, digestion, and assimilation. Learn more about the benefits of triphala. To help keep things moving throughout the day, sip Organic Digest & Detox Tea—a simple but effective cleansing spice blend of cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds.
If you’re experiencing occasional constipation, you may want to try our Herbal Cleanse tablets instead. This beneficial formula clears toxins from the colon and bowel so your gut feels lighter and more comfortable.
3. Get Plenty of Rest—and a Bit of Activity
You may find you need a bit more rest while you’re cleansing. Try to get to bed before 10 p.m. and awaken before 6 a.m. Give yourself a daily massage with warm oil (abhyanga), which will help loosen impurities from your tissues and allow them to be more readily eliminated through the digestive tract and colon.
Make time each day for a little gentle movement, such as walking and yoga asanas, both of which support the detoxification process. Note: it’s best to avoid more strenuous activity at this time.
Note: While you’re cleansing, it’s not uncommon for difficult or unprocessed emotions to crop up in your awareness from time to time. If this happens, you can jot your feelings down in a journal or talk things over with a friend to help work things through. And remember, you can ease up on your cleanse at any time if it feels better to do so.
Seasonal tips for cleansing to support your gut microbiome
Different seasons call for a slightly different approach to cleansing. While you’re doing your ritucharya, keep these seasonal tips in mind.
As the heat of summer fades into the cooler, darker months of autumn, you may notice an excess of heat (Pitta) in your mind and body. This can leave you prone to heat-related issues, such as irritability, skin eruptions, and occasional acid indigestion and diarrhea. If this is your experience, favor Pitta-balancing foods during your summer-autumn ritucharya (while continuing to follow the light, cleansing diet outlined above).
Vata’s cooling, drying energy dominates during the transition from autumn to winter, which can leave you feel spaced-out, scattered, or prone to digestive concerns like occasional constipation and gas. This is a time to favor warm, grounding fare and follow a Vata-balancing diet and lifestyle (while following the general ritucharya guidelines above).
When winter snow is melting outside, toxins accumulated in your body over the winter are beginning to “melt” in our own system from winter to spring. For this reason, spring is the ideal time to shed any impurities that may have built up in your body during the cold months. Keep these Kapha-balancing guidelines in mind while doing your winter-spring ritucharya.
As spring transitions into summer, you’ll naturally feel lighter, brighter, and more dynamic and energetic. At the same time, you may feel some residual heaviness from spring’s Kapha qualities, depending on the weather and your individual constitution. During your spring-summer ritucharya, follow a largely Pitta-balancing diet and routine. Or, if you’re feeling heavy and congested, keep these Kapha-balancing guidelines in mind.
More easy ways to support your gut microbiome
Here are a few more things you can easily do to support your gut health all year long.
Drink warm water with lemon in the morning:
Start your day with a simple detox: drink a glass of lukewarm water mixed with a spoonful of raw honey and some fresh lemon juice. This little tonic stimulates elimination and helps to cleanse the digestive tract.
Make probiotics and prebiotics a priority:
Probiotics are “friendly,” or beneficial bacteria that support overall gut health. You can buy them in supplement form, but you’ll also find them in lassi, a delicious Ayurvedic probiotic beverage made with yogurt.
Prebiotics are foods with dietary fiber that support probiotics, or friendly gut bacteria. Examples of prebiotic foods include chicory root, asparagus, and leeks. Recent studies also suggest that triphala may have prebiotic properties.
Eat Ayurvedic pickles and chutneys:
Boost your digestive fire before meals by eating a pinch of ginger pickle (freshly grated ginger with a pinch of salt and some fresh lemon juice). If you’re experiencing acid stomach from time to time, some homemade pomegranate chutney can help restore balance.
The practice of seasonal cleansing is an age-old Ayurvedic tradition that supports greater vitality, immunity, gut health, and clarity of mind and heart. For more great ways to support your digestion and gut health, be sure to check out our Digestion Wellness Hub.
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