Do a Kitchen Cleanse!

Cleansing your kitchen is a great complementary practice to a spring digestive cleanse. In the same way the body naturally wants to purge excess accumulation during this season, we also find desires to clear our physical spaces of clutter as well.

Kitchen cleansing is a great way to cultivate a deeper sense of mindfulness in the kitchen. Food waste is at epidemic proportions and I’ve found that doing regular kitchen cleanses helps me to be more mindful of using everything that I buy and minimizes the waste coming out of my kitchen. When I first started doing these, it was sometimes staggering how many half-bags of bulk foods I had floating around, sometimes with multiple portions of the same items.

Here are seven tips to make your kitchen cleansing process effective and easeful:

1) Take everything out. Empty your fridge, freezer, pantry and cupboards shelf by shelf. This allows you to take thorough stock of what exactly you have. As you take out each item, purge anything that is well past its expiration date (use a smell test for anything just expired), as well as any items that have visibly degraded or that you are certain you won’t use. For any items that are still usable, you might donate them to a friend or seek out your local Buy Nothing group if you use Facebook (people on my local group are always giving away partially-used food items).

2) Take inventory. After a shelf is empty, clean it well to remove any dust or food matter that may have accumulated. As you return items to their rightful place, make mental notes of things you might wish to use that you may have forgotten about. You might commit to using as many items as possible in your meal planning for the next week.

3) Find a place for everything. If you’re a bulk foods shopper like I am, consider transferring any items in bags to jars. This has a few advantages: a) foods will stay fresher for longer, and b) foods become more visible. Jars can initially seem bulkier to store, but The Container Store and other places sell expanding shelves that allow you to house items efficiently in a way where you can see everything.

4) Say goodbye to sad spices. The good thing about spices is that they last quite a long time, often even beyond any printed expiration dates on their packaging. But, they do eventually lose their potency, both in terms of flavor and medicinal effect. As you go through your spices, get rid of any that have clearly changed in color (this is often most prevalent in green leafy dried herbs like oregano). To test other items, place a small amount of a spice in your hand or on a spoon. Bring it to your nose. If you don’t detect a pungent odor, chances are it is pretty lifeless and should be replaced. You can avoid collecting too many spices by seeking out somewhere that sells spices in bulk, where you can buy small amounts or just what you need, rather than a full jar. For those in Los Angeles, Spice Station is my go-to for bulk spices (and they ship for those who are not local). Co-opportunity in Santa Monica also has a great selection of mainly organic spices.

5) Label everything. Have you ever tried to discern a bag of dried marjoram from dried oregano? Stared at a powdered spice mix with no clue what it is? Or forgotten the name of that really cool heirloom dried bean you bought at the farmers market? Labeling jars or other unmarked packaging makes everything easier, especially when you share a kitchen with someone else who also enjoyed cooking. A Sharpie and masking tape will do the trick, or an old-school label maker is always fun!

 I love my label maker!

I love my label maker!

6) Remove clutter. After you’ve tackled food items, turn your attention to your kitchen counters. If you find things that don’t pertain to cooking, move them elsewhere. Let your kitchen be a dedicated space to cook in, not an office. Find new homes for anything that doesn’t belong there.

Once counters are done, empty and inventory all cabinets and drawers housing your kitchen tools. If you come across anything you haven’t used in over a year or that you purchased for one-time use, consider donating it or gifting it to someone who can use it (again, the Buy Nothing groups mentioned above are great for this). The same goes for anything you may have excess of. You only need so many measuring cups, wooden spoons, etc.

7) Be regular. I recommend doing a kitchen cleanse twice a year, and schedule mine to coincide with my annual spring and fall cleanses. If you don’t have a regular cleansing routine, set a reminder in your phone for the spring and autumn equinoxes to prompt you.

Do you have a favorite kitchen cleansing tip? Click “Comment” and share below!

 

 

 

Five Pieces of Advice for Choosing a Spring Cleanse

It’s not an accident that spring is a popular time for cleansing. As we shift into kapha season in the Ayurvedic calendar, we enter into a time when we are especially prone to feelings of sluggishness, lethargy and overaccumulation. Just as accumulated snowfalls melt at this time of year, we too have an instinct to transform and release anything in our bodies, minds or physical space that has served its purpose.

In the age of the Internet, we have access to thousands of cleanse regimens at our fingertips. While I don’t think there is one optimal cleanse for everybody, I do think there are some common traits that differentiate the most effective cleanse from less effective routines.

Here are five things in particular I urge you to consider when choosing a cleanse:


1) Find someone you trust: There’s a ton of information in books and on the Internet about how to cleanse, but nothing compares to having a real person to go to for questions, support and encouragement. If you’re considering a cleanse with someone you don’t already know, take some time to get to know them via their website/social media and feel into your heart to detect if you feel a resonance with that person and their message. If the answer is no, keep searching until you find someone who feels more aligned with you.

2) Look for Options: The best cleanses I have done give suitable options for people with different lifestyles, body types, activity levels, etc. A good cleanse should have some flexibility built into it and be able to support you wherever you are in your life. If you have special circumstances or concerns in your life that may impact your ability to cleanse, have a conversation with your cleanse guide to learn about modifications that can support you.

3) Avoid Too Many Pricey Supplements: I’m a big believer in the power of food to help us detox, rejuvenate and heal. You don’t need dozens of supplements to have an effective cleanse experience. Supplements are often just a money-making tactic for cleanse leaders, who get a cut of every bottle sold. I’ve also seen cleanses where supplements are recommended without much explanation. If you choose such a cleanse, ask your cleanse guide for information on what the various formulas do so that you can be informed. Someone I know recently did a cleanse that required over $500 worth of herbs, many of which were left over after the cleanse. If you are considering making a substantial investment, it is worthwhile to get a sense of dosages and perhaps skip any supplements where you’ll only need a couple pills during the cleanse.

4) Go Beyond Food: Anyone who has done a cleanse can tell you that it is much more than a physical experience. Cleansing encourages us to work on our minds and emotions as well. The best cleanses I have come across offer support through tools like articles, discussions and guided meditations around particular themes. If you choose a cleanse that only offers food recommendations, I would encourage you to assemble your own set of tools to accompany you on your journey. This could include spiritual books you’ve wanted to read, podcasts or downloadable meditations, yoga classes and more.

5) Be Skeptical of Weight Loss Promises: You may lose some weight when you do a cleanse, but that should never be the primary outcome you are searching for. In my experience, when people get fixated on a number on the scale, they miss the beauty of the cleanse journey itself, and can spiral down a hole of self-judgment and blame when they don’t lose the weight they were hoping to shed. It’s problematic that so many cleanse leaders make promises about weight loss because each one of us responds differently to cleansing routines, and we don’t always see our waistlines shrink. Honor your body and its own process and trust that whatever outcomes you experience are right for where you are in this point in time.

If you’re looking for a food-based cleanse that is in alignment with all these recommendations, you are invited to join me March 20-27 for the Pranaful Spring Cleanse. This cleanse can also be done in any one-week window of your choice. By signing up, you’ll get all the materials for use at any time.

Whatever cleanse you may end up choosing, I hope you have a positive experience and that you stay curious. I’ve done numerous cleanses over the last 15 years and each experience is different than the last – sometimes wildly so! Keep an open mind and heart and be willing to receive all that this transformational ritual can offer.

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New Years Series (5/5): Choose Smarter Sweeteners

There’s a saying that you can pour the purest golden nectar into a chalice, but if the cup is dirty on the inside, then the quality of the nectar is irrelevant.

When it comes to food and your body, the same is true. You can eat the freshet, high-quality whole foods but if your digestive system is not in good shape, then your ability to process and assimilate the nutrients from your food is severely compromised. This is a key reason why Ayurveda and most other healing systems place such a strong focus on creating and maintaining a healthy gut.

This week, as many people focus on making changes to what they are eating, I am offering a five-part series on simple ways to boost your digestive capacity so that you can more optimally process the healthy foods you are consuming.

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Part 5: Choose Smarter Sweeteners

Most of us know there are plenty of reasons to stay away from refined sugars, yet their addictive nature keep many people hooked. If you’re hoping to have a healthier gut, kicking the sugar habit is essential because “bad bacteria” in your gut (e.g., candida) thrive on sugar. When you consume a lot of sugar regularly, these bacteria can begin to swell to a point where they outnumber “good” gut flora that assist in the digestive process.

If you’re a fan of diet sodas or artificial sweeteners, you’re still at risk. Numerous studies in recent years have found that Splenda and other sweeteners still cause an upset in the balance of delicate gut bacteria. Over time, both refined sugars and artificial sweeteners can diminish healthy bacteria to a point where the body becomes glucose intolerant, increasing the risk of diabetes.

When you decide to eliminate refined sugars, you automatically say good-bye to the majority of processed foods, and in doing so also give up a host of other ingredients that can cause havoc in the gut.

If you do consume light to moderate amounts of refined sugars, there is some evidence that probiotic supplements can help mitigate the effects of sugar on the gut. But, given the host of other health threats refined sugars pose, I suggest steering clear of them as much as possible.

If you are heavily reliant on sugar in your diet, know that it can be difficult to quit sugar completely overnight. Go slow, making incremental changes. Familiarize yourself with unrefined sweeteners, and use them in moderation. My personal favorite sweeteners are maple syrup and honey, and I enjoy using coconut sugar in baking in place of white sugar.

 

 

New Years Series (4/5): Stress Less

There’s a saying that you can pour the purest golden nectar into a chalice, but if the cup is dirty on the inside, then the quality of the nectar is irrelevant.

When it comes to food and your body, the same is true. You can eat the freshet, high-quality whole foods but if your digestive system is not in good shape, then your ability to process and assimilate the nutrients from your food is severely compromised. This is a key reason why Ayurveda and most other healing systems place such a strong focus on creating and maintaining a healthy gut.

This week, as many people focus on making changes to what they are eating, I am offering a five-part series on simple ways to boost your digestive capacity so that you can more optimally process the healthy foods you are consuming.

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Part 4: Stress Less

Adding healthy foods into your diet is only one part of the equation when it comes to achieving good gut health. There’s also some subtraction to be done: namely, reducing the amount of stress you experience on a daily basis.

Remember that despite all its complexities, the body is in many ways a very simple machine. Think back to the caveman days: if a pack of saber-toothed tigers interrupted your lunch, your body would go into self-preservation mode and direct its energy to helping you to flee. It would not be in your best interest for the body to divert energy to digest whatever you had just eaten, as digestion is a very energy-intense process.

Although large furry predators are no longer a daily threat for most of us, the functioning of our nervous system hasn’t changed much. Anytime we experience any form of stress, our body shifts into this same fight-or-flight mode, regulated by the autonomic nervous system. On the flip-side, when we are relatively relaxed and out of a survival state of mind, our body can shift control over to the parasympathetic nervous system, often referred to as the “rest and digest” system.

When I used to work in a corporate setting, I was very aware that my digestion suffered when I was working on stressful projects. I would experience a lot of bloating, stomachaches and other issues that weren’t normal for me. Things would inevitably improve once a deadline passed or a project ended. And like most people under stress, I tended to make poorer food choices when I was stressed, which likely fueled the symptoms I was experiencing. 

Unfortunately, our society has normalized indigestion and other gut issues, and given us a host of over-the-counter “solutions” for them, leading many people to not even think twice about how stress may be affecting their gut. Rather than getting to the root cause of things, we can pop a pill and plow on at the same stressful pace.

Whether or not you actively suffer from gut issues, I encourage you to be mindful of how you take on stress in your own life.  Meditation, yoga and other mind-body modalities can help us to shed the unnecessary we may carry. Making choices to leave our work at the office, turn off our screens by a certain time each evening and other proactive steps can help us find greater work-life balance.

Consciously scheduling in some resting time after meals can be a beneficial step if you’re someone who tends to always be on the go. Spend 15-20 minutes enjoying a book, walking leisurely or enjoying another restful activity. If you do decide to take a nap after a meal, be sure to lay on your left size (this puts the digestive organs in optimal position to keep working while you rest).