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Reset your health with this 28-day detox

Reading time: 14 minutes

Integrative physician Dr Chiti Parikh shares her ancient recipe for staying young, increasing vitality and preventing diseases for years to come

To feel youthful and blissful and to defy age and disease, you must fix issues at the earliest sign of wear and tear—before they become a bigger problem. This 28-day reset will help you achieve that goal.

I developed it based on my personal experience and the knowledge I’ve gained in treating thousands of patients. Its foundation lies in the ancient process of panchakarma, an Ayurvedic detoxification ritual.

If your body can reset and realign, it will work more efficiently to get rid of the toxins built up over the years. Once they’re removed, you can start with a clean slate and nourish your body with nutrient-rich food, along with herbs to help it rebuild and rejuvenate.

Some of you might not suffer from any symptoms or diseases, so you may feel that you don’t need to reset. But it’s harder to fix things once they’re broken. This regimen will help you maintain your good health.

On the other hand, if you suffer from chronic fatigue, brain fog, gastrointestinal issues, inflammation in the body, hormone imbalance or other chronic diseases that affect your quality of life, you can jump-start your health journey now.

For almost every new patient I see, regardless of the reason for their consultation, this is the regimen I recommend. After the 28-day reset, their body will have unlocked its inner intelligence so that any further diet or lifestyle changes I recommend will be far more effective.

When to reset

I recommend the 28-day reset annually or semi-annually, but you can use it any time you want to breathe vitality back into your body. That said, follow these guidelines for optimal timing, and always consult with your physician before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle, even for a short time.

  • Start the reset when you feel well, not during an acute illness or while you’re recovering from an illness.
  • According to Ayurveda, the best time to do any cleansing or detox ritual is in the fall or spring.
  • For menstruating women, start the 28-day reset right after your period.
  • Avoid detoxification while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • If you’re thinking of getting pregnant soon, do the reset at least six months prior to trying to conceive.

The four phases of the 28-day reset

Phase 1: Preparation

The first step in jump-starting your health journey, which lasts a week, is to actually do less. The more you allow yourself to slow down and make your health your singular focus, the better your results.

In Eastern philosophy, doing less, simplifying the diet, becoming more mindful and paying closer attention to the state of your body are of great importance. This philosophy allows you to prioritize the elimination of toxins before repair and regeneration.

Too often, people try to do it all at once. They change their diet dramatically and start taking bags full of supplements, hoping to reverse the damage done over the years. This 180-degree shift asks their body to work doubly hard to process too many supplements while also processing nutrients and toxins.

Instead, during the reset, your body can finally focus on healing, releasing toxins and reducing inflammation while it stops playing Whack-a-Mole with unpredictable mealtimes, bedtimes and stress levels. By simplifying your diet and lifestyle during this time, you support the natural processes ingrained in your DNA to help you repair and rejuvenate.

Diet

The primary rationale behind the phase 1 diet (see below) is to give your digestive system a break. Foods such as wheat, dairy and animal products use up most of your digestive fire. The harder a food is to digest and process, the more it’s likely to trigger inflammation.

Ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats significantly overwhelm the body’s detox machinery and cause inflammation. A simple rule of thumb is to eat foods that don’t come in a box or contain more than one ingredient. This ingredient should be something our ancestors would have recognized. During the 28 days, it’s important to be even more vigilant than usual.

There’s ample research behind how eating a whole-food, plant-based diet is good for our overall health. It promotes the growth of good bacteria in the colon, reduces inflammation, and can even help prevent colon cancer.1

Mindful eating

As well as focusing on what you eat, pay attention to how and when you eat. Here are some guidelines for the entire 28-day reset.

  • Consume two to three meals per day, separated by at least three hours. Avoid snacking.
  • Be mindful of your portion sizes. After a meal, your stomach should contain one-third solid food and one-third liquid. The other one-third should be left empty. A soup bowl holds around 10 ounces of liquid. Your stomach size is three times that. Hence, it makes sense to eat about two soup bowls’ worth of food and leave another bowl’s worth of space for the gastric juices to do their magic.
  • Make lunch your biggest meal, with a lighter dinner that you eat earlier than usual.
  • Drink plenty of warm water throughout the day, mostly between meals.
  • Stimulate digestion by drinking one cup of ginger tea with meals and one cup of cumin, coriander and fennel tea (CCF tea) after meals.
  • Slow down, chew your food well and avoid looking at screens while you eat.

Lifestyle

During the entire 28 days, continue your daily activities, such as work or school and household chores. But put anything outside of these necessities on hold as much as possible. This is not the time to start a new project, run a marathon, travel or socialize too much. Instead, use this opportunity to look inward and learn more about yourself.

Keep time on social media and in front of the television to a minimum. Instead, read uplifting books, listen to soothing music and write in your journal. These are great ways to supercharge your battery.

If you have a meditation practice, dedicate more time to it than you normally would. Even if you’ve never meditated before, engage in deep breathing, long walks or time in nature. Continue regular exercise but avoid long, strenuous workouts. Instead, try more mindful movements like yoga, Pilates or tai chi.

The ideal time for exercise is in the morning. In the evening, you can take a walk or engage in a gentle practice of yoga nidra, a form of guided mediation that involves lying on your back, which enhances relaxation and improves sleep.

Adequate sleep should be one of your top priorities. Most of the metabolic activity pertaining to detox, repair and rejuvenation occurs while we sleep. Try your best to get at least eight hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep.

Oral care

Ayurveda places significant emphasis on oral care, which is believed to be intimately connected to our gut health. This isn’t surprising, since our oral cavity houses the second largest microbiome after our gut.

Any imbalance in the oral microbiome will perturb the gut as well. In fact, imbalances in the oral microbiome have been linked with rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatic cancer, diabetes and heart disease.2

Ayurveda recommends two simple steps to ensure a healthy oral microbiome: oil pulling and tongue scraping. These habits are important to continue all the time, not just during your reset.

Oil pulling is believed to help with gingivitis, dry mouth, plaque buildup and bad breath. It can also help with teeth whitening and improve the strength of our jaw muscles, and we know from studies that it can reduce plaque and bacteria in the mouth.3

It involves swishing a quarter teaspoon of coconut, sesame or sunflower oil in the mouth for several minutes, although coconut oil is the most popular due to its antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.

Once your mouth becomes full of saliva mixed with the oil, spit it out. Then brush and floss as normal. Start with two minutes of swishing, then increase the time as tolerated.

Taking good care of your tongue with daily tongue scraping is also vital. We need to keep it clean so that it doesn’t house bad bacteria.

In Eastern medicine, the tongue is an important aspect of disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. A normal tongue is pink with a clear or whitish coating, no teeth marks on the edges and no major discoloration.

You can buy a metal tongue scraper at most drugstores these days. I suggest scraping it three or four times after you perform oil pulling, and then floss and brush your teeth. It takes just a few seconds, but your oral microbiome will thank you. Even your dentist will be happy because studies have shown that tongue scraping reduces plaque buildup.4

Herbal therapy

As part of the reset, I prescribe certain Ayurvedic herbal combinations to my patients to facilitate the detoxification process, such as triphala. A combination of amalaki or amla (Emblica officinalis), bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica) and haritaki (Terminalia chebula), triphala is widely available online.

These herbs have been used for thousands of years to optimize gut health. Recent studies have demonstrated that triphala, along with Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia), another Ayurvedic herb, can alter our microbiome5 in a way that optimizes the ratio of good and bad bacteria in the gut.

Additional herbal combinations I suggest to my patients include herbs that detox the gut, liver, kidneys and blood. The following are two commercial formulas I commonly recommend:

Banyan Botanicals Total Body Cleanse

  • Amalaki fruit (Emblica officinalis)
  • Bhumyamalaki herb (Phyllanthus)
  • Kalmegh herb (Andrographis paniculata)
  • Haritaki fruit (Terminalia chebula)
  • Manjistha root (Rubia cordifolia)
  • Punarnava root (Boerhavia diffusa)
  • Pippali fruit (Piper longum)
  • Gingerroot (Zingiber officinale)
  • Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare)

Banyan Botanicals Blood Cleanse

  • Manjistha root (Rubia cordifolia)
  • Neem leaf (Azadirachta indica)
  • Turmeric root (Curcuma longa)
  • Guduchi stem (Tinospora cordifolia)
  • Burdock root (Arctium lappa)

These are available in the US from banyanbotanicals.com and in the UK from ayurvedicherbsdirect.com. But you can also look for these herbs as individual preparations (and follow the label instructions).

Suggested dosages

Triphala: two to four tablets or ½ to 1 teaspoon of triphala powder in a cup of hot water at bedtime. Titrate the dose as needed to attain one to three bowel movements a day during the preparation phase.

Banyan Botanicals Total Body Cleanse: two tablets in the morning

Banyan Botanicals Blood Cleanse: two tablets in the morning

Caution: These herbs should not be taken by women who are menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding. Always consult your doctor before adding any herbs or supplements to your regimen.

Phase 2: Detoxification

During this week-long step, you will further simplify your diet and lifestyle. Instead of spending a lot of energy to break down food, your body can now focus on removing toxins that are a product of improper digestion—the root cause of all diseases. With a mono-diet, prolonged intermittent fasting and detoxifying herbs, you can further enhance the cleansing process.

Diet

In Phase 2, you’ll dial back to two meals per day. For each of these, you will stick to one protein, one grain and one fat. This mono-diet will make it easy for your body to digest the meal, ideally within four hours. The less energy your body spends on digestion, the more it can focus on detoxification.

It’s natural to feel hungry part of the time since you’re skipping one meal a day. You can satisfy your hunger and aid the detox process by drinking plenty of warm water and herbal teas.

Instead of breakfast, you can have 16 ounces of ginger tea with lemon and honey. Also, avoid other categories of food that can be hard to digest, as during the detox phase, your digestion will be weaker (see Phase 2 diet, below).

Don’t worry—there are plenty of healthy, delicious foods you can enjoy while you detox. One of my go-to meals during detox is khichari (see below), an Indian porridge made with rice, split mung beans, ghee and spices. With the right amount of protein, carbs and fat, it’s a balanced meal in and of itself.

Here are some other meal ideas you can enjoy for either lunch or dinner:

  • Fried rice with edamame
  • Red lentil coconut curry with pumpkin
  • Mung bean soup with zucchini and dill
  • Rice noodles with steamed broccoli
  • Carrot ginger soup

Lifestyle

During Phase 2, a lot of your energy will go toward detoxification, so again, don’t overdo it with exercise. Stick to gentle walking and stretching.

Instead of breaking a sweat through working out, use infrared saunas, steam baths, a heating pad or just a good old hot shower. Avoid extreme temperatures, however, and know your limits. Make sure you hydrate well before and after any sauna sessions.

Herbal therapy

During Phase 2, it’s time to kick it up a notch with herbs as your ally to flush out toxins. Increase the dose of herbs from Phase 1 and add the following herbs to give you a deeper gut detox.

  • Banyan Botanicals Total Body Cleanse: 2 tablets after breakfast and 1 tablet after dinner
  • Banyan Botanicals Blood Cleanse: 2 tablets after breakfast and 1 tablet after dinner
  • Triphala: 2 tablets before bedtime
  • Haritaki: 2 tablets before bedtime

Haritaki (widely available online) is one of the three herbs found in triphala. It is known for its gut-cleansing effect. Hence, during this phase we take more haritaki, in addition to what is found in triphala, for additional gut detoxification.

While taking these herbs, you may have more bowel movements than usual. They may also be looser and vary in color and smell. What comes out of your body tells you a lot about what’s happening inside.

What you’re purging are toxins from all the undigested foods that have accumulated over time. They are finally being mobilized so that you can get rid of them instead of allowing them to take root in your body and lead to diseases.

Phase 3: Reintroduction

After the detox phase, instead of rushing back to your usual diet and lifestyle, it’s important to take it one step at a time. Over the next week, slowly add back more foods and activity.

Be gentle, mindful and intentional as you get back to your daily routine.

Diet

The first thing to reintroduce is breakfast. Start with fresh fruit or green juice for two days, and then add grains. Here are some seasonal recommendations for easy-to-digest breakfasts that are perfect for the reintroduction phase.

Summer/spring

  • Bowl of seasonal fresh fruits
  • Fresh-pressed juice with celery, cucumber, apple and ginger, served at room temperature
  • Overnight oats with chia seeds, dried apricots and honey, served at room temperature

Winter/fall

  • Hot water with ginger, lemon, cinnamon and honey
  • Congee (a form of savory rice porridge)
  • Steel-cut oatmeal with coconut sugar, cinnamon and raisins; add extra water to give the oatmeal a soupy consistency, and avoid adding nuts since they can be a bit heavy to digest

Besides adding breakfast back into your diet, also reintroduce grains, vegetables and legumes that you eliminated during the detox. Add foods in order of how easy they are to process as listed in the Phase 3 diet table, below.

Continue to avoid cold foods and beverages while minimizing leftovers. You can now eat foods within 48 hours of cooking them instead of 24 hours.

As you add foods back into your diet, you may notice that some cause digestive discomfort. You may also experience other symptoms, such as brain fog, joint pain and sluggishness with certain foods.

If you identify such triggers, you should avoid the foods that might have led to them for another week as you continue to add more agreeable foods. This type of elimination diet helps identify hidden triggers of inflammation in the body.

Lifestyle

Slowly increase your activity level with slightly more strenuous workouts. Always listen to your body, however, and see how you feel. There’s no need to push yourself beyond what’s comfortable. Within a few days, some people can get back to their usual diet and activity level, while others take a bit longer.

Herbs

It’s time to ease off the detox herbs as you shift gears from detox to rejuvenation. You can stop the Banyan Botanicals Total Body Cleanse, Total Blood Cleanse and haritaki at this point. Continue taking two tablets of triphala before bedtime.

Phase 4: Rejuvenation

Once the toxins have been mobilized and eliminated, you’re presented with a clean slate. You have the opportunity to consciously decide what you want to put back in your body. The addition of herbs and supplements will enhance the rejuvenation process because they’ll be far more effective post-detox.

This phase starts after 21 days and continues for three to six months. These are some of the benefits you may notice in this time:

  • Stronger immune system
  • Decrease in inflammation
  • More acute senses: hearing, taste, vision, touch and smell
  • Improved concentration and memory
  • Lower stress and anxiety
  • Boost in energy and libido
  • Improved muscle recovery time, less joint stiffness
  • More regular and complete bowel movements
  • Improved skin complexion
  • Stronger, faster-growing hair and nails

Since the rejuvenation phase continues for months in the background, it’s helpful to include certain “positive” energy foods in your diet, which can enhance the process. These include nuts, seeds, sprouted legumes and grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and certain spices.

For the next week, however, your diet, lifestyle and daily routine will be the same as in Phase 1. The central part of rejuvenation is adding certain herbs to enhance the process so that you can achieve even better results.

In Ayurveda, all the rejuvenating herbs are combined into a delicious jam called chyavanprash. It contains more than 30 different herbs and spices that work seamlessly together. These herbs are far more effective when taken after a detox.

I favor Banyan Botanicals Chyavanprash (also available at banyanbotanicals.com or ayurvedicherbsdirect.com), but chyavanprash products from other brands are widely available online.

For the next week, take 1 teaspoon of chyavanprash twice a day with meals. After that, take 1 teaspoon once a day for the next three months.

You will also continue taking two tablets of triphala at bedtime for the next three months. This is something I suggest most of my patients take for a lifetime!

Once you’ve completed the reset, take a moment to reflect on your journey. You have purged not only physical but also emotional toxins that you were harboring for a long time.

Now you have a powerful tool in your toolbox to bring your body back into balance.

Phase 1 diet

Food type Foods to avoid Reasons Eat this instead
Gluten Wheat, barley, rye, couscous, spelt, farro, Kamut • Hard to digest

• Gluten sensitivity and intolerance are common

Gluten-free grains such as oats, rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth
Dairy Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter

Exception: ghee

• Hard to digest

• Often contains hormones

Almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, coconut yogurt, ghee
Animal products Meat, seafood • Take too long to digest and process

• Affect the gut microbiome

• Contain hormones and antibiotics

Lentils, beans, tofu, edamame, honey
Processed foods Potato chips, candy, soda, packaged desserts • No nutritional value

• Increase inflammation and insulin levels

• Contain preservatives and artificial colorings

Fruits (fresh or dried), small number of nuts or nut butters
Alcohol, caffeine, drugs Beer, wine, hard liquor, coffee, illicit drugs, marijuana • Alcohol and drugs affect the liver, which is your main detox organ

• Caffeine affects your adrenal glands

Non-caffeinated herbal teas, ginger, mint, jasmine, chamomile, CCF (cumin, coriander and fennel) tea

Phase 2 diet

Food type Additional foods to avoid Reasons Eat this instead
Nightshades

 

Potatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes • Increase inflammation Zucchini (courgette), sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, asparagus, cooked spinach, peas
FODMAPs

 

Garlic, onions, mushrooms • Cause indigestion, bloating Same as above
Leftovers

 

Any food more than 24 hours after cooking • Less nutritional value

• More gas and bloating

• Affect the gut microbiome

Food cooked less than 24 hours ago; make two servings for the day
Cold foods

 

Iced beverages, frozen foods • Diminish digestive fire

• Cause indigestion and acid reflux

Warm foods, such as soups and stews
Beans

 

Chickpeas and beans such as kidney, white, black, pinto, lima, adzuki • Hard to digest

• Cause gas and bloating

Mung beans, lentils (green, black, orange)
Grains Quinoa, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, teff, corn • Hard to digest

• Some grains, such as quinoa, contain toxic saponins

Rice, oats

Phase 3 diet: Order of food introduction

1 Nightshades Potatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes
2 FODMAPs Garlic, onions, mushrooms
3 Beans Chickpeas and beans, such as kidney, white, black, pinto, lima, adzuki or other beans you avoided
4 Grains Quinoa, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, teff, corn or other grains you avoided

 

Khichari recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients

½ cup basmati rice

½ cup split yellow mung beans

1 Tbsp ghee/clarified butter, or coconut oil (vegan)

1 bay leaf (optional)

2 to 3 whole cloves or ⅛ tsp ground cloves

1 small cinnamon stick or ⅛ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp cumin seeds or ground cumin

½ tsp ground turmeric

Salt and pepper to taste

Vegetables, such as peas, carrots, pumpkin or zucchini (optional)

Fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

Method

1 Soak the rice and mung beans overnight to make them easy to digest. Rinse them well before cooking.

2 In a 6-quart saucepan, heat the ghee on high. Add the spices and sauté for 1 minute.

3 Add the rice, mung beans, and vegetables. Sauté for 2 more minutes.

4 Add 6 cups of water and bring the mixture to a boil.

5 Reduce the flame to low/medium and cover, stirring occasionally to avoid burning or sticking. Cook for 30 minutes or until the rice and mung beans are well cooked.

6 Remove the bay leaf. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Serve hot.

Adapted from Intentional Health: Detoxify, Nourish and Rejuvenate Your Body into Balance by Dr Chiti Parikh (Hay House, 2024)

 

References
 
  1. JAMA Intern Med, 2015; 175(5): 767–76
  2. Microorganisms, 2020; 8(2): 308
  3. Heliyon, 2020; 6(8): e04789
  4. Int J Clin Pediatr Dent, 2013; 6(3): 188–92
  5. J Altern Complement Med, 2020; 26(11): 1015–24
MAR24 'Reset your health'
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