My Daily Morning Routine: Oil pulling, tongue scraping, drinking lemon water, and juicing.
I start each day by doing my own, Ayurveda-inspired, home detox routine. Once you get used to it, it only takes up a few minutes of your morning. And most of the steps allow for multitasking, be it checking your emails or reading the daily news. In addition to benefiting my immune system and overall physical health, doing this routine every morning gives me energy and centers me, setting me up on a healthy path for the rest of the day (especially if done in conjunction with some morning meditation and yoga!) As an added bonus, the process of detoxing has anti-aging properties.
If doing this whole process seems a bit overwhelming at first, start by incorporating just one of the techniques described here into your routine. Pretty soon, you will be able to appreciate its effects, which will motivate you to incorporate more of these detox steps into your daily self-healing practice!
Step 1: Oil Pulling
Oil pulling (also called oil swishing) is an alternative medicine preventative technique, with roots in Ayurvedic medicine (a system of Hindu traditional medicine). It detoxes the mouth, improving oral health (reduces plaque and bad breath), whitening teeth, and pulling out toxins, which reduces inflammation and health problems throughout the body.
Various oils such as sesame, extra virgin cold pressed coconut, sunflower, and olive oil can be used. Make sure to use organic oils to maximize the effectiveness of this technique. I personally prefer using coconut oil because it tastes the best. (If you do use coconut oil, remember that it solidifies at 74F, so do not spit out used oil into the sink as it might clog it up.) Keep in mind that some health food stores sell good oils in bulk, at more affordable prices.
Simply place around a tablespoon of oil into the mouth, and swish it around for approximately 10-20 minutes. Then spit it out, and brush your teeth (followed by tongue scarping, ideally, described below). At first, you might need to get used to the feel of the oil, so start out by swishing it for just a few minutes, and then build up to approximately 20 minutes. As you swish the oil in your mouth, its consistency and color will change. After the oil starts pulling out bacteria from your teeth and mouth, it will start becoming soapy and whitish. That is a sign that it is working.
In addition to cleansing out harmful bacteria and reducing any fungal overgrowth, oil pulling has been known to also result in strengthening teeth and gums, and preventing bad breath, cavities, gingivitis, and mouth dryness. The technique also benefits your body more generally by helping the lymphatic system and thus acting as a preventative health measure for many conditions such as headaches, arthritis, congestion, allergies, and hormonal imbalances.
Step 2: Tongue Scraping
Tongue scraping also has its roots in Ayurvedic self-care. It is an oral hygiene practice that removes bacteria, food debris, toxins, and dead cells from the surface of the tongue. The bacteria and toxins accumulate on the surface of our tongue when we sleep. If they are not removed, they get reabsorbed by the body and can lead to respiratory, digestive, and immune system problems.
You can purchase a tongue scraper at most natural health food stores. It is a U-shaped long thin piece of metal, with handles at each end. Note that using a tongue scraper is more effective than using a toothbrush at removing toxins and bacteria because a toothbrush will simply push a lot of the toxins back into your tongue. Almost half of our oral bacteria live on and in the deep crevices of our tongue, and this is what the tongue scraper collects. It is also very simple to use: Standing in front of a mirror, hold the two ends of the scraper in both hands, stick out your tongue, and place the scraper as far back on your tongue as possible. With firm but gentle pressure, scrape the surface of your tongue in one long stroke. Rinse the scraper and repeat until your tongue feels clean and is free of coating (usually 3 to 10 times, depending on what your health condition is that day).
In addition to improving dental health and overall immunity, having a clean tongue will enable you to fully experience the flavors of your food, activate saliva production, and help with digestion throughout the day.
Step 3: Warm Lemon Water
Drinking a cup of warm lemon water in the morning helps eliminate waste, helps the liver to detoxify your body, and gives you a shot of antioxidants. Warm water on its own aids digestion, and helps with morning bowel movement. Lemon juice contains vitamin C, which helps calm liver inflammation and protects your body against free-radical damage. It reboot your liver function, thereby allowing it to remove toxins at an optimal level In addition, lemon juice is a great cleanser and disinfectant, and over time, will whiten your teeth and freshen your breath.
Simply squeeze half a lemon (or a whole lemon if it’s small or does not produce a lot of juice) into a cup, and add a cup or so of warm or room-temperature filtered water. To maximize the detox effect, drink slowly, as you would coffee or tea. Make sure to freshly squeeze the lemon juice. Using a concentrate or juice that is not fresh will not produce the same beneficial effects. Also, if you do not use organic lemons, make sure to wash them thoroughly (ideally with a produce wash that removes chemicals) and be careful not expose your water to lemon skin.
Despite tasting acidic, fresh lemon juice is actually alkalizing (more on that below), and thus inhibits inflammation and chronic illnesses. Moreover, fresh lemon juice contains an acid that is very similar to the natural juices produced by the stomach, thus allowing for proper and quicker digestion. Thus, drinking lemon water after meals in general will reduce indigestion, bloating, and heartburn. Filled with antioxidants, lemon juice strengthened immune system and has anti-aging properties due to helping to flush out toxins and free radicals from the body, and promoting the production of collagen. Adequate amounts of natural Vitamin C also lead to stronger bones and teeth, better eyesight, and better joints.
Step 4: Fresh Green Juice
Freshly squeezed juices are concentrated with chlorophyll, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes, and are an efficient way to get several servings of fruit and veggies into your diet. Drinking processed or even “natural” juices does not have those benefits as almost all are pasteurized, which eliminates any live plant enzymes and reduces the amount of naturally-occurring vitamins. Hence, it is best to stop by your local juicer bar, or better yet, make it at home. Using a slow juicer that squeezes out the juice makes home juices even more beneficial as it does not destroy the cell structure of your produce due to heat and friction of traditional juicers. (An added bonus is that slow juicers are also quieter than traditional juicers.)
Fresh green vegetable juices have numerous benefits. Drinking, as opposed eating, produce allows for nutrients to be absorbed more quickly and efficiently as your body does not need to separate the fiber and the juice. Juicing also allows you to take in a lot more nutrients than you otherwise would. After all, it is much easier to consume half a pound of carrots, a cup of celery, an apple, an orange, and quarter of a cup of beet, with some fresh ginger or even a garlic clove (one of my default morning juices) as ONE tall glass of juice rather than chewing all those ingredients. In addition, it is easier to consume some veggies that might not be our favorite ones to eat (for me, that would be celery…) as a drink, mixed with other juices.
Now, some tips to keep in mind when choosing what to juice: Make sure to use organic veggies and fruit as much as possible. It is especially important to avoid “The Dirty Dozen” (the most polluted produce, based on measurements done each year on produce consumed in the USA) – you can find a complete list here: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-13571/12-fruits-veggies-with-the-most-pesticides-2014-dirty-dozen.html. Since I often juice celery, kale (and other dark greens), carrots, apples, and cucumbers, I always make sure to use organic ones. (If you are using conventional produce, make sure to wash it well and peel the skin first to limit the detrimental effect of chemicals.)
Start with juicing veggies and fruit that you enjoy eating, and ease yourself into dark green juices. A touch of lemon juice can counteract the natural bitterness of dark greens. At first, my juices were mostly apple/orange/carrot, with just a splash of dark greens and celery. Today, they are mostly greens, with fruit added just to mellow out the flavor.
Also keep in mind the great benefits of eating and drinking alkalinizing produce. When your body is in an alkaline state, you are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases, infections, allergies, and cancer. Dark, bitter greens tend to be more alkalinizing than other produce. (For a list of foods based on their alkaline and acidic properties, see http://greenopedia.com/article/alkaline-food-chart-degree.) In addition, bitter greens actually detoxify your liver by increasing bile flow and flushing out toxins.
On top of all these detox benefit of my morning routine, after drinking a full glass of lemon water and a full glass (or more!) of green juice each morning, my appetite is curbed, and I start my day well-hydrated. Here is to good mornings!