A 19 year old female (vata-pitta prakriti) comes to you wanting help getting back to balance. She has late nights, either studying or spending time with her friends, and has a poor diet (candy and bagged chips are incredibly convenient). But she became concerned about her health when she started to have fatigue, difficulty concentrating, difficulty falling asleep, and noted that she’s been fighting a cold almost monthly this year. She also has had frequent vaginal yeast infections. You note bags under her eyes and more wrinkles than you’d expect for a nineteen year old. What one herb would be most beneficial?
This client would benefit most from help with bringing balance to her adrenal glands. Like most college students and kids in their late-teens, she has a poor routine, poor diet, likely enjoys frequent parties and alcohol, and experiences stress from school and relationships. Ashwagandha is Ayurveda’s go-to herb to help maintain balance of these important glands. Triphala would certainly help maintain a clean colon and would likely be included in her regimen, but that is not the primary concern. While most college students could use a little blood cleansing, Neem is not the first choice in her regimen. Trikatu is not appropriate as most her of concerns point towards vata vitiation.
In this article we will discuss diet, lifestyle, and herbal support for the adrenal glands. For a more in-depth view of stress and adrenal exhaustion, please read the first part of this series.
Too often, people underestimate the impact of their diet on their microbiome and body’s stress load. Encourage your clients to follow a doshic diet appropriate for them. In addition, discuss these recommendations.
- Decrease sugar consumption.
- Avoid or decrease the intake of common allergens, such as nuts, soy, dairy, egg.
- Decrease alcohol and caffeine consumption.
- Consider an easy-to-digest monodiet (such as kitchari) just one day a week.
- Eat a more plant-based diet.
- Eat organic and avoid pesticides, herbicides, and preservatives.
- Support the microbiome, the body’s cleansing process, and healthy meda tissue with ghee.
The root of most adrenal fatigue is poor lifestyle choices. Further, most people do not incorporate enough activities that can support the mind and body and that can counter the parts of life that we cannot control. To that end, consider these recommendations that largely balance vata and build ojas.
- Take regular baths. This is one recommendation that you could probably get most young adults to do. Tell them to light candles, put on their favorite movie, and indulge in this nurturing ritual.
- Get a regular massage. Massage has a drastic effect on easing stress and anxiety.
- Perform a daily self-massage (abhyanga) with an oil that is appropriate for the imbalance. For the same reasons as above, a daily massage with warm oil will do wonders.
- Create a daily routine. Find set times to wake up, eat, and sleep. The regularity fights the mobile quality of vata.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Sleep before 10 p.m. (pitta time), do not watch TV before sleep, and sleep with the lights off. At least initially, encourage your client to sleep in as much as needed. Consider I Sleep Soundly and Sleep Easy Oil on the head and feet for sound sleep.
- Meditate and breathe. If nothing else, five minutes of Nadi Shodhana will put the adrenals at rest.
- Teach your client yoga nidra. This practice, performed at the kidney adrenal time (around 3–4 p.m.), can have profound effects on rejuvenation.
- Avoid too much sensory stimulation. Have cell phone holiday periods through the day or consider yoga or a walk instead of watching TV.
Coupling these diet and lifestyle recommendations with herbal support helps to give support internally as well as externally.
- Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is a beautiful adaptogen, bringing balance to stress just about anywhere in the body. It has a particular affinity to the adrenal glands and can help promote sound sleep.
- Licorice. Licorice too has an affinity to the adrenal glands. Use this herb with caution if your client has elevated blood pressure.
- Brahmi/Gotu Kola. Gotu Kola as a tablet, powder, or liquid extract helps support mental faculties and also calms vata and pitta, supporting the entire nervous system.
- 7-Herb Energy. This liquid extract formulation has both of the above herbs, in addition to other adrenal gland adaptogens, such as ginseng. The formulation is not stimulating, but rather balancing and nourishing to the glands.
- Chyavanprash. Chyavanprash has an abundance of amalaki, which helps support immunity and ojas in the body.
- Tulsi. This herb as a tablet, powder, or liquid extract supports prana mentally and physically throughout the body, providing an energetic breath of fresh air.
- Shilajit. Shilajit is well known for supporting energy levels and the immune system, especially in the mountain climbing and athletics community.
- Stress Ease. This formulation has a blend of herbs to calm the mind and nervous system.
- Triphala. As always, a healthy gut is the key to health. Ensure that the gut is clean and free of ama by taking triphala every night.
Depending on the depth of imbalance, it can take several months for the client to feel back to their normal self. Encourage patience and remind them that this is an entire lifestyle change that will take some perseverance. Often times, it is a spiritual journey as well, requiring the client to introspect deeply, looking at what drives the behaviors that created the imbalance in the first place.