For my birthday, my dear friend, Stefanie, gave me a copy of The Prime by integrative neurologist Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D., whose name you might recognize since she is a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show. In the book, Dr. Chaudhary explains her fascinating background – her early childhood in India, her transition from Indian culture to American culture, her adoption of the Standard American Diet in college and medical school, her battle with migraines, her rediscovery of the efficacy of Ayurveda, and her patients’ successes with integrative medicine. This is not just another cockamamie diet book. Throughout the book, Dr. Chaudhary explains the ancient history and modern science behind her recommendations.
The Prime was conceived as a detoxification and weight loss guide for people who are unable to meet with Dr. Chaudhary in person. The Prime is a 4-stage program; each stage lasts 2+ weeks. The detox, which involves tea, juice, broth, supplements, and lifestyle elements, is supposed to help you improve both your physical and mental health. Dr. Chaudhary is a neurologist, but in The Prime she painstakingly explains the brain-gut connection in an accessible manner.
Dr. Chaudhary emphasizes that readers should take their time in each stage because the stages build upon the progress made in the prior stage(s). I am still on Stage 1 and have been for about a month. I can be impatient with health progress, so I am really working on internalizing the concept of “slow and steady wins the race.”
There are 4 recommendations per stage, and the recommendations accumulate. By the end of the detoxification process, you are doing 12 different recommendations, some of which are easy, like popping a few pills. Others are more time consuming, like juicing and meditating, or disruptive, like changing your eating and sleeping patterns. I’m not going to lie, the whole process seems daunting, which may be another reason why I’m still on Stage 1.
The first stage involves dry brushing before you shower using a brush or silk gloves, drinking Prime Tea (fennel, cumin, and coriander seeds), taking a fiber supplement (half ground flax, half psyllium husk) every other night, and taking Triphala before bed. These recommendations, as well as those in the following stages, purportedly help increase agni (digestive fire), remove toxins from your gastrointestinal tract, and stimulate your lymphatic system.
So far, I feel healthier. Prime Tea tastes yummy and helps me stay hydrated. Dry brushing feels nice before hopping in the shower. The fiber and Triphala have improved the consistency of my poops and increased their frequency, which is always amazing! Those last two recommendations are musts for people with constipation issues (as is upping your fruit and veggie consumption).
Stage 2 includes the incorporation of Prime Broth and Prime Juice, both of which need to be made fresh on a regular basis for the duration of the detox. Thankfully, Stef and I discovered that Juice Press’s Mother Earth is relatively low in sugar and could reasonably replace the Prime Juice when you’re in a pinch. Prime Broth is a bone broth, which is obviously not going to work for ethical vegans, like me. I found a few vegan substitutions, like this rich vegetable broth recipe, which I will adapt using the spices from Prime Broth to make a vegan bone-free broth. As I write this, I am realizing that Stage 2 really won’t be that hard!
Dr. Chaudhary says you don’t have to change your diet before embarking on the detox program because, if you implement the recommendations consistently at a your own pace, your taste preferences will automatically change. The idea is that you will become increasingly in tune with how various foods make you feel and will gravitate toward foods that make you feel good (i.e. whole, plant-based foods). For non-vegans, she recommends a few high quality dairy products, like ghee, boiled raw milk, and homemade yogurt.
Personally, I am happy that I switched over to a predominantly organic, whole foods, plant-based diet prior to embarking on the detox. Dr. Chaudhary concedes that the depth of the detoxification depends on your starting point (i.e. how toxic you are at the beginning) and notes that some people will need more extreme measures, like Panchakarma, in order to fully detoxify. Moreover, for many people, the long term gain of detoxification comes with moderate to severe short term discomfort.
I have not experienced any detoxification side effects so far because I probably wasn’t that toxic to begin with. I should note that I gave up alcohol and coffee prior to starting the detox. I did not like feeling dependent on coffee or dehydrated from alcohol, so I gave them both up. Everyone keeps thinking I’m pregnant, but I’m notttt! My mind-body connection is just strong, thank you very much.
For more information and details on the recommendations I did not discuss, buy the book or borrow it from your local library. I don’t want to give away the whole shebang because I really want you to read the book. The background and scientific discussions, in addition to the recommendations, are eye opening or validating, depending on your point of view. Plus, understanding the “why” behind each recommendation will help you stay more focused and motivated than if I just told you what to do ;)