By Dr. John Doulliard.
Ghee is ubiquitous in Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cooking alike. An aromatic substance that is solid at room temperature and melts into a liquid as it warms, ghee is made by boiling off the milk solids from unsalted butter, leaving only the golden oil behind. In Ayurveda, ghee is used as a carrier for the nutrients in herbs and to lubricate the intestinal tract and all the tissues inside the body. During an Ayurvedic cleanse, it is used as the preferred vehicle for oleation, a process of ingesting increasing amounts of oil over a series of mornings. This actually helps pull fat soluble toxins (the stubborn ones – water-soluble toxins usually flush out with our urine) out of the cells and triggers fat metabolism, a process whereby the body begins to burn its own fat for fuel.
The Active Ingredient – Also Made in Your Gut! Let’s start with butter, the raw material from which ghee is made. The primary fatty acid in butter is call butyric acid, so named because it was first discovered in butter. Butyric acid, also known as butyrate, is a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) that the intestinal tract thrives on, as it helps to protect the integrity of the gut wall, and then some! Well, the process of making ghee yields an even more concentrated source of butyric acid than butter. But there is another source of butyric acid: the busy beneficial microbes in your gut.
How the Gut Bugs Make Ghee – and What They Do with It Much of the healthy fiber that we eat directly feeds the intricate microbiology in the gut. In turn, the gut bugs convert this ingested fiber to butyric acid, the primary ingredient in ghee – the bugs in the gut are making their own ghee, or at least the major component of ghee! The cells of the colon use butyric acid as their preferred source of energy and their major agent for supporting the health and integrity of the intestinal wall. Studies show that having enough butyric acid in the gut is no laughing matter:
- Research has shown that patients with unhealthy digestive tracts do not produce butyric acid, and have low levels of fatty acids or related oils in the gut.
- Studies have also shown that adequate production of butyric acid supports the production of killer T cells in the gut, and thus supports the gut-related immunity, which many experts believe delivers up to 80% of the body’s overall immunity.
- Interestingly, butyrate enemas (basically ghee enemas) and other related treatments are now being used for many gut-related health issues.
In Ayurveda, taking ghee internally through ingestion and ghee enemas (Ayurvedic oil enemas are referred to as basti) has been done successfully for thousands of years to support intestinal health and function. Here is just another way the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda has been proven by modern science. That is not to say that, just because something is ancient, we should all do it. It does, however, encourage us to look deeply into techniques that have lasted thousands of years and find the science behind them. Often times, the research provides fascinating explanation and support!
A Goldmine of Nutrients: While ghee is one of the highest food sources of butyric acid, it is also packed with:
- A full spectrum of short (SCFA), medium (MCFA) and long chain fatty acids (LCFA), both unsaturated and saturated
- Omega 3 and Omega 9 essential fatty acids
- Vitamins A, D, E and K
- Ghee made from organic butter of pastured cows is one of the highest natural sources of CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)
- 9 phenolic antioxidants
- Numerous other minerals
SCFA’s, like butyric acid in ghee, are used immediately by the body for energy and do not have to be broken down by bile to be digested and utilized, while MCFA’s require minimal digestion and LCFA’s require much digesting by the liver and gall bladder. This may also be why our gut bugs love butyrate so much that they make their own – because the cells of the colon use it instantly for energy. As good fats go, ghee has it all!
Why Cleanse with Ghee? Normally when we think of a cleanse, we may think of eliminating oils or fats from our diet. Ayurveda takes a different approach, instructing that we take increasing amounts of melted ghee every morning for a series of days and follow with a no-fat diet. The benefits of this protocol may have you rethinking your idea of detoxing, as the benefits extend far beyond flushing toxins, although that is certainly a part of it.
Swap Old Bile for New: During an Ayurvedic cleanse, ghee is taken daily at increasing dosages to force the gallbladder to flush out its existing bile, which is often thick and viscous from multiple uses, and stimulate the liver to make new bile. Bile acts as an intestinal scrub and, in concert with the butyric acid from the ingested ghee, helps to support the health of the gut wall and the microbes who manufacture butyrate all along it.
Soften Hardened Tissues Ghee also has a saturating effect, called oleation, on the body. This is a process whereby, during the cleansing period of taking ghee daily, the oil penetrates the soft tissues, lubricating and softening the hardened tissues of the entire body.
“Pull” Toxins Out of their Hiding Spots: The ghee has a lipophilic effect on other fatty acids and fatty toxins in the body (which are lipophilic, meaning they are attracted to other fats like ghee), acting like a chelating agent to pull stored fat soluble toxins out of the body and back into the intestines for removal from the body. Molecules of emotion – which, according to Ayurveda and more recent research at the NIH, are also lipophilic and store in the fat cells – can also be “pulled” out of their hiding places using this method. In one study, fat soluble heavy metals and pesticides like dioxins were pulled out of the body, and continued to be detoxed for 3 months after the cleanse had ended. (4) During a ghee cleanse, the diet is classically one of no fat. Ingesting ghee first thing in the morning forces the body directly into a fat metabolic state. By not having any fat in the diet during the cleanse, the body quite naturally stays in a fat metabolic state. This allows for the burning of fat, a detoxification effect as mentioned above, and an experience of stable energy and mood.
Summary of Benefits: Here’s a list of the benefits of cleansing with ghee, explained in detail below:
- Flushes old bile – which can be re-used by the body up to 17 times.
- Stimulates the liver to make new bile, so 94% of old toxic bile is not re-absorbed.
- Scrubs the intestines of toxins and bad bugs.
- Supports the primary source of energy and immunity for the cells of the gut.
- Supports the health of the beneficial bacteria in the gut who make butyrate.
- Lubricates and softens the hardened tissues of the body.
- Pulls stored fat soluble toxins and molecules of emotion out of the body.
- Encourages fat metabolism and weight loss.
- Supports stable mood and energy levels.Protects against bad bacteria in the gut.