Nourishing Exhausted Adrenals, the Ayurvedic Way

Nourishing Exhausted Adrenals, the Ayurvedic Way

Getty/Nadia Bormotova

Adrenal fatigue can sap us of energy, leave our minds foggy, and take over our lives. Ayurveda offers the opportunity for holistic support.

In my experience as an Ayurvedic practitioner, low energy, unmanageable stress, and extreme exhaustion are among the top reasons clients seek help from alternative health providers.

These symptoms could be indicative of many illnesses, but if blood tests and other inquiries yield no conclusive results in the Western medical model, people are left without any answers. Feeling hopeless, some people turn to alternative therapies to heal.

In 1998, naturopath and alternative medicine expert James Wilson, Ph.D, coined the term “adrenal fatigue.” He described it as a “group of related signs and symptoms (a syndrome) that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level.”

Unfortunately, in Western medicine there’s no approved test for adrenal fatigue. A small drop in adrenal production can't be detected in a blood test. This is where the beauty of Ayurveda comes in: It offers an insightful framework from which we can understand disturbances in our adrenal glands.

All About the Adrenals

Our adrenal glands—small, pyramid-shaped endocrine organs located above the kidneys—usually deal with producing several hormones, including cortisol. When under stress, we produce and release short bursts of cortisol into the bloodstream. These hormones are part of our “fight or flight” response. They increase our blood pressure and heart rate.

According to the adrenal fatigue theory, if you have long-term exposure to stress, your adrenal glands burn out from prolonged production of cortisol. Let's be clear: Adrenal fatigue is less about the adrenals becoming “worn out” and more about the body’s response to a constant stream of high cortisol.

There are many potential causes for adrenal fatigue: inappropriate dietary choices (including overuse of caffeine and alcohol); the shock from the sudden death of a family member; an autoimmune condition; surviving a toxic relationship; battling a serious illness; burning the candle at both ends; dealing with constant financial stress and performance pressures; overexercising; and substance abuse. When our adrenal glands are no longer able to keep up with the constant demand of one (or many) of these factors, adrenal fatigue sets in.

Signs of Adrenal Fatigue

Do any of these symptoms seem familiar?

  • Brain fog

  • Low, depressive mood

  • Disturbances in your sleep pattern

  • Constant body aches and pain

  • Unusual cravings for salty or sweet food

  • Impaired memory

  • Low libido

  • Constant nagging cold and cough

  • Decreased immunity

  • Belly fat accumulation

  • A sense of lightheadedness

If you’ve dealt with any combination of these symptoms for an extended period of time, Ayurveda would suggest you might be suffering from adrenal fatigue.

The Ayurvedic Explanation for Adrenal Fatigue

According to Ayurveda, adrenal fatigue could be caused by excessive Vata, excessive Pitta, or a combination of Vata-Pitta imbalance.

Vata is the most sensitive and delicate dosha out of all three. Any mental distress, overstimulation, anxiety, erratic lifestyle, or sudden shock can immediately throw Vata out of balance. Vitiated Vata dosha will directly influence the nervous system, which includes the brain.

Pitta dosha impacts our endocrine glands, hormones, and enzymes (remember that adrenals are endocrine organs and cortisol is a hormone). Not knowing when to stop, being overcommitted, clinging to an imbalanced lifestyle, too much intensity, chronic anger … all of these can create Pitta imbalance.

Each one of these factors can interrupt the flow of prana and negatively influence the body’s self-healing mechanisms.

Ayurvedic Tips for Navigating Adrenal Fatigue

  • Throughout the day, pause, slow down, and ground yourself.

  • Make time to relax your mind and body.

  • Practice mindful social media consumption to decrease emotional overwhelm.

  • Take tech breaks throughout the day to avoid overstimulation.

  • Practice yoga asanas for stress relief.

  • Rely on pranayama; alternate nostril breathing in particular helps clear the energy channels of the body.

  • Ayurvedic herbs like Brahmi and Ashwagandha can help settle the nervous system, alleviate stress, and improve quality of sleep. Tulsi (holy basil) helps the body adapt to stressors of all kinds, including chemical, physical, infectious, and emotional stressors. It is one of the best remedies to enhance the body’s ability to maintain balance in a stressful world.

  • Pay attention to what and how you feed yourself—leftovers, processed food, and sugary foods should be eliminated. Eat at regular times, and finish dinner by 6:30pm.

  • Create a nourishing life—surround yourself with people who are kind and keep your stress low.

These are some generalized Ayurvedic tips to inspire you. But if you have been stressed for a long time and suffer from adrenal fatigue, it would be beneficial to have a consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner who will use a holistic and customized approach and recommend a plan to address your health and wellbeing on various levels.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your health care practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.

Explore the connection between your adrenals and the brain.

Nourishing Exhausted Adrenals the Ayurvedic Way

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