Santa Barbara Wellness Directory
Cleansing & Detoxification

by Claudia Ward, L.Ac, Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist

My desire for sweets is a weakness that I’ve fought almost constantly from the time I realized I had teeth. My mother’s skills at baking the most delicious Austrian desserts, cakes, and pastries – as well as our daily coffee klatch or chat where my mother, my sister, the neighbors, and the neighbors’ children gathered to enjoy coffee, tea, and sweets in the afternoon - have blessed me with a sweet tooth that is extremely difficult to overcome. As a teenager I began to seriously study nutrition and became macrobiotic. I cooked bland grayish grains and seasoned them with miso or soy sauce. This phase did not last very long because my mother was continuously tempting me with her delicious treats. My sweet tooth is now somewhat under control after studying nutritional theories from various traditions (Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and the latest Western research). However, it definitely flares up during the holiday season when I am compelled to bake cookies from my mother’s Austrian cookbooks. After the holidays, I feel like I need to lose a few pounds and plan to start the new year with plenty of exercise and a healthy diet.

A cleanse is the best way to jumpstart a healthier regime. I prefer the Ayurvedic panchakarma cleanse, a gentle yet powerful Ayurvedic approach to rejuvenation and detoxification. The cleanse begins at home with a diet consisting of cooked, easy-to-digest foods such as rice, vegetables, lentils, stewed fruit (for my sweet tooth!), herbal decoctions, and clarified butter. The delicious treatments start after five days of this preparation phase: Each day consists of hours of warm oil massages, herbal steam treatments, and body scrubs with Ayurvedic herbs, as well as treatments that nourish body and soul and simultaneously eliminate toxins in a gentle way.

I believe that gentleness is the key to detoxing. I am not convinced that any of the so-called drastic detox diets recommending a strict regimen of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup, etc are beneficial. My many years of medical education have taught me that the body does not like being off balance too much and for too long. Our bodies try to maintain homeostasis, a balanced state in which everything functions properly. Both fasting and these drastic detox regimens alter this homeostasis, often in a harmful way. Liver glycogen stores are depleted, alterations occur in the mineral and electrolyte balance in the blood, muscle and bone tissue start breaking down, changes occur in the acid-alkaline balance, alterations occur in the fatty acid composition of cells, and immune function may be impaired. The adrenals are overtaxed, which means that the body will hold on to each calorie we ingest after the fast and store it as fat - especially around the middle - due to the cortisol-insulin reaction. The Master Cleanse with lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper can cause candida or diabetes. In Ayurvedic terms, an extreme fast creates high pitta/low agni, which means too much fire and a weak digestion. This imbalance is very hard to treat.

All types of detoxification require great care. Any procedure that can loosen toxins from the fatty tissue must also be able to safely eliminate these chemicals from the bloodstream and the body. It is possible to harm the body if detoxification is not done properly. For example, some people fast for extended periods to reduce their toxicity levels. However, as they reduce their adipose tissue through fasting, they also push the fat-soluble toxins into the blood stream, which can cause damage to various organs. Panchakarma uses specific steps that take care to properly remove the toxicants from the blood stream without harming the body in process.

During panchakarma, the doshas are brought into balance. By eliminating irritating foods and drinks and focusing on nourishing simple foods, we create new healthy eating habits. When we are in balance we crave what brings us into balance, and when we are out of balance we crave what brings us out of balance. The balancing effects of panchakarma can be felt for a long time after the cleanse.

Using high-tech laboratory techniques, Robert Herron, PhD, and John Fagan, Ph.D., conducted a two-month longitudinal study on subjects receiving five days of panchakarma with significant results. Compared to tests taken prior to treatment, blood levels of the highly toxic PCBs and Beta-HCH were reduced by 46 and 48 percent respectively. Without this detoxification program, the natural expected drop in PCB and Beta-HCH over a two-month period is only a fraction of one percent. No other method has been scientifically verified to reduce fat-soluble toxins in the human body without causing negative side effects. Normally these fat-soluble substances remain in the body for many years, but panchakarma allows us a healthy alternative for coping with a toxic world.

Another study researched the effects of a three-to-five-day panchakarma cleanse with the following results: three months later, the total cholesterol had dropped acutely, HDL (the good cholesterol) rose 7.5 %, free radical damage fell significantly, blood pressure dropped, and problems with anxiety improved. Vasoactive intestinal peptide, which is a coronary vasodilator, increased substantially. These findings confirm the efficacy of panchakarma for cardiovascular health.

The Concept of Ama

In Ayurveda, toxins that accumulate in the body are called ama. Symptoms of ama accumulation are lethargy, low energy, generalized aches and pains, lack of mental clarity, heaviness in the body, digestive problems (such as constipation, gas, bloating, or heartburn), weakened immune system, frequent colds and sinus infections, coated tongue, body odor, etc.

With the tremendous growth of industry over the past 100 years, thousands of toxic chemicals have been introduced into our food, air, drinking water, and almost every manufactured product. As a result, we are exposed to a potentially huge toxic overload during our lifetime. Regular panchakarma cleanses (one to four times a year) help the body eliminate ama or toxins and rejuvenate, strengthen, and balance it.

Who Can Benefit from Panchakarma?

Panchakarma is beneficial for healthy individuals who want to stay healthy or the following conditions: arthritis, generalized body pain, fibromyalgia, sciatica, menstrual disorders and menopausal symptoms, emotional and psychological disorders (such as depression and anxiety), chronic fatigue, hypertension, dizziness, migraines and headaches, allergies, frequent colds, flu, sinus problems, asthma, gastrointestinal conditions, endocrine disorders, autoimmune disorders, insomnia, stress, etc. Panchakarma can be performed as a post-treatment for cancer to remove toxic residues of malignancies.

All authentic panchakarma therapies and individual Ayurvedic body treatments are available at our Prana Center in Santa Barbara. Email me at [email protected] if you would like to have more information.

About the Author

Nutrition, acupuncture and Pancha Karma cleanses in Santa Barbara by Claudia Brachtl, L.AcClaudia Ward, L.Ac. is cofounder of The Prana Center, Santa Barbara's exclusive healing center for Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, offering authentic Ayurvedic bodywork, marma therapy, consultations, nutrition, acupuncture and Pancha Karma cleanses. She is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Diplomate of Acupuncture, Diplomate of Chinese Herbology and an Ayurvedic practitioner.

Claudia may be contacted at:

USA Phone and Fax: 805-560-9727
email: [email protected]
web site:

See Claudia's page in The Santa Barbara Wellness Directory

Read the article "Oh Baby! Prenatal and Postpartum the Ayurvedic Way"
- by Gina Tolleson, Santa Barbara News-Press, July 31, 2006

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