No caffeine. No alcohol. No sex. No exercise. No sugar. Those are the rules of Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker‘s customized detox routine.
In Thursday’s episode of “The Kardashians,” the reality star, 43, continued to open up about her IVF journey, noting that she’s trying a new approach to expand the family: the Panchakarma cleanse.
“Our last egg retrieval was not successful, so our new thing that we’re going to be trying is a Panchakarma cleanse, which is Ayurvedic. It’s like 3,000 years old, which will get all of the toxins that are like deep within our tissue out of our bodies,” she says in a confessional.
Panchakarma is an ancient method rooted in Indian practice of detoxifying and cleansing the body of unwanted waste. The treatment is unique in the sense that it includes preventive, curative and promotive actions for various diseases.
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In the episode, Kardashian and Barker were assisted by Martha Soffer, who guided them through dietary changes as well as treatments including a vaginal steam and ginger foot bath as a part of their pre-conception care.
Experts say the Panchakarma cleanse is used to address a variety of concerns including stress, fatigue, digestive issues or body inflammation. But while the cleanse can offer psychological, spiritual and even physical benefits, they caution that like most cleanses, Panchakarma is not a quick fix.
“It’s not a simple remedy,” says Navi Gill, an Ayurvedic practitioner and therapist. “It’s a process and it’s a lifestyle… it’s an ancient medicinal practice and a lot of the times when these things become super popularized, people take it lightly. But really it’s a deep and intensive process.”
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Panchakarma, which translates to “five actions,” typically includes a pre-cleanse, an actual cleanse and a post-cleanse process.
“You would prep your body with a particular diet or elimination of certain foods, then undergo bodily therapies, certain massages and sweatings. And once you’ve gone through that for a particular amount of days, Panchakarma is used to then flush it out of the body through purging, whether it’s from the intestines, stomach, sinuses or in the blood,” Gill explains.
For Kardashian and Barker, the process started with a five-day pre-cleanse of avoiding sex, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, which “typically weigh heavily on the digestive system,” according to Gill. They then spent seven days of going to the spa for four-hour treatments such as the Abhyanga, “the four-hand massage” or Shirobasti, an oil treatment for the head.
However, Gill emphasizes that “everything in Ayurveda is very individualized to the person.” So some participants may also undergo a purging process through enemas, for example, while others may be recommended a bloodletting.
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“When you’re going through Panchakarma, you would typically work with an Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner, and a protocol would be designed specifically for what you’re looking to achieve to best address your needs,” she says.
Gill says the cleanse can offer numerous psychological benefits, including decreased stress, increased immunity and improving sleeping and eating habits. And while many proponents recommend beej shuddhi — a pre-conception Panchakarma cleanse — to boost fertility, there is limited medical research to support its efficacy.
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In recent years, high-profile figures including Aaron Rodgers and Katy Perry have praised the Panchakarma cleanse. But some critics say the idea of a “detox” is a pseudo-medical concept. Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietician and author of “Read It Before You Eat It”, cautions that most cleanses are unnecessary for those who already have a well-balanced diet.
“If you want to ‘detox’ your body, you already have that with your liver, your kidneys that are basically there for detoxification,” she says.
The Panchakarma cleanse, which often involves purging methods can also be dangerous and result in the loss of essential fluids as well as severe dehydration, Taub-Dix says.
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“You also could be creating an electrolyte imbalance which is dangerous for your muscles, your heart and also your bowel function. Because when you do this then you go back to eating, you may not move your bowels so I think there are many risks to consider.”
For this reason, Gill says Panchakarma is not recommended for everyone, including the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions.
“Overall, we avoid any cleansing process when the body is already ‘in a state of distress or weakness.’ So we exercise extra precaution with those who are already sick (or with a weakened immune system),” Gill says, adding: “It’s really important to seek the guidance of a trained Ayurvedic therapist when you’re considering the Panchakarma cleanse.”
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