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An Ayurvedic Approach to Adrenal Depletion

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According to the Ayurveda, disease results from an imbalance in our bodies, minds, and spirits. Ayurveda uses the concept of Rasayana to help describe this action. Rasa literally means “life force” or “life energy’ and ayana means “that which enters”. So Rasayana action or activity is that which is nourishing and promotes positive life energy. The opposite is also true. That which robs the body, mind and spirit is what we refer to as toxic action or activity. This would seem to be an obvious and clear observation and yet many people suffer from an extraordinary imbalance in their daily lives. This is most obvious when we look at the “average” diet of our so-called modern society. The daily consumption of processed foods, processed sugars, caffeine, meat, and other toxins we consume literally rob us of our “rasa” – or life.

Many of us are unaware of the damage we inflict on our bodies and minds on a daily basis. The constant worries and stress of dealing with life’s challenges can also robs us of our life force. Often we develop bad habits in response to stress, which further implicate us. This is most evident in our society’s use of caffeine in all of its forms. Millions of people are addicted to caffeine, whether it is in the form of coffee, black teas, chocolate or even the seemingly benign bottle of soda pop. The average daily intake of caffeine in the US is equal is approximately 200mg per day.(1) This is equal to about two cups of mild coffee, although for the average coffee and tea drinker the amount is much higher. One 12 oz. cup of Starbucks coffee contains 375mg of caffeine. Even very young children are consuming significant amounts of caffeine. A recent study involving 36 children and teens, ages 6 to 18, were excessive caffeine drinkers. All reported drinking at least 1.5 liters of cola each day or an average of 11 liters of cola each week — a caffeine intake roughly equivalent to two large cups of instant coffee or three small cups of ground coffee per day, and 17 such servings per week. (2)

To make matters worse, tens of millions of people in the US alone are addicted to cigarettes. So what is the net result of all of this abuse to our bodies? Quite simply it is called imbalance, or more directly stated – disease.

This disease presents itself in many shapes and forms of illness. Most people who complain of fatigue, insomnia, swelling of the joints, depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and a host of other ailments are often suffering from adrenal depletion or adrenal exhaustion as a direct result of the overuse of caffeine and other toxic materials. The adrenal glands have become overused and overworked. Many people feel tired upon waking and think they need a “pick me up” from Starbucks or some kind of sugar just to get started. This creates a viscous cycle that continues day after day for millions of people.

Generally the coffee or tea drinker feels worse in just a few short minutes after finishing the drink. Why is this? What is going on in the body that could create this kind of illusion and deception? To understand this one must have a basic understanding of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are two triangular shaped organs located on top of the kidneys. These glands serve several functions. The first is the production of cortisone and adrenaline. Adrenalin is produced when the body is under stress of some sort. It is nature’s way of allowing the body’s metabolism to speed up in response to a stressful situation. This increase in metabolism can result in increased blood flow from the heart to the muscles of the body as well as the brain. Generally the respiration increases and the system can metabolize protein, fats and carbohydrates at a quicker rate thus giving the entire system more energy. This is known as the “Fight or Flight” syndrome. This syndrome may be of benefit in an extremely difficult situation where this enhanced energy is needed quickly, but it comes at a high price. That price, simply stated is exhaustion or a depletion of rasa. The system must return to an equilibrium or status quo. The laws of karma are always at work and this is most evident in the body and mind. If great energy is required then deep rest and relaxation is also required to bring the body back to a state of balance. Ayurveda is constantly reminding us to bring our bodies, minds and spirit into balance. Lack of balance creates disease .

So the adrenal production is very powerful and sometimes needed, but it should not be produced by artificial means. This is exactly what happens with caffeine and other stimulating chemicals. These chemicals unnaturally force the adrenal gland to produce adrenaline. This adrenaline dumping into the blood stream is what causes the sensation of the so called “pick me up’’ from having that cup of coffee or tea in the morning.

Although initially it may seem to be a small thing for many people it can become a major problem in their lives. Without realizing it, many millions of people including children of a young age are addicted to caffeine in it’s many forms. Constant overuse of the drug “caffeine’, forces the adrenal glands to work at an abnormal rate. Nature did not intend for the adrenals to be used except for in extremely stressful situations. Drinking coffee, tea and pop all day forces the adrenal glands to work in a way Mother Nature never intended. Again what is the result? Depletion of rasa or ojas. According to Ayurveda, natures demands balance. Without balance you will experience disease. The disease associated with chronic overuse of the adrenals is what we are seeing throughout society. As we mentioned above: fatigue, insomnia, swelling of the joints, depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are the most common know ailments. A deep sense of hopelessness can often accompany this imbalance.

The good news is that if you one of the many millions suffering from this malady the fix is not difficult. First and foremost: one must stop using the substance which is the cause of the problem. This may include coffee, pop, tea or any other substance containing caffeine. As much as possible reduce the stress in your life.

You may feel some discomfort for a few days once you’ve stopped taking the caffeine. This is mild withdrawal symptoms associated with the absence of something that the body has become very dependent on. These symptoms can range from mild headaches, body aches and a sense of being even more tired. These will generally dissipate in a few days. Again it is simply the body’s way of balancing itself. Besides avoiding caffeine, processed foods and stress it is important to repair the damage to the adrenals themselves. This can generally be accomplished with a good diet. One should focus on fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. One should avoid processed food as much as possible. The long term ingestion of caffeine in any form depletes the body of minerals and vitamins that it needs to function properly. Specifically it robs the body of calcium, zinc, iron, and Vitamins B and C.

Generally is best to try to get our vitamins and minerals through the diet but this may be difficult. Especially if the body is extremely depleted, as is often the case in caffeine abuse. So you might want to take a high quality Vitamin Supplement to help restore the B vitamins and minerals in the system. Amla is the richest source of Vitamin C and can be taken by itself or in the form of Chyawanprash. This is a wonderful way to help the body reestablish its balance. Chyawanprash contains Amla along with over 40 different herbs which act in harmony to feed the depleted system what it is lacking from the chronic abuse. One of the most powerful herbs available for repairing the Adrenals is Ashwagandha. In Ayurveda Ashwagandha is called the “King of the Herbs” and is the herb of choice for restoring the Adrenals to there natural state.

Ashwagandha works by delaying release of cortisol by the adrenals. This helps to prevent the adrenals from becoming exhausted and aids in the repair of the gland once it is already exhausted .Ashwagandha is also know to have a sedative effect thus calming the nervous system. Ashwagandha may very well help to reestablish a good sleeping pattern which is often interrupted by long term caffeine use. It has been found that Ashwagandha increases the number of immune cells known as T cells and B cells which are critical to fight infection. Triphala can also be taken to help the body eliminate the toxins stored in the colon. You may also feel that you need to cleanse the blood. You may want to consider taking Neem or a product containing Neem to help further your clean your system of the toxins.

You should start feeling better within a few weeks but it make take three to four month for the body and the Adrenal Glands to return to there normal state of health.

Caffeine addiction and adrenal exhaustion is a serous issue for millions of people and yet Nature provides a simple and beautiful way to reestablish the balance they we all must strive for. By living in moderation and maintaining good habits, we can once again find a state of balance where rasa is preserved and cherished instead of wasted and neglected.

References

  1. Barone JJ, Roberts H. Human consumption of caffeine. Caffeine. Springer-Verlag: New York, 1984.
  2. Roberts H. Caffeine consumption. Paper presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Pharmacology Session, New Orleans, October 1991.
  3. Gray, J. Caffeine, coffee and health. Nutr Food Sci 1998;6:314-19.


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