Stress has become a norm in our society. It used to be just a few late nights here and there or mental tension from an occasional sick family member. But today, with poor diets, the constant need to achieve, and chemicals and pollutants in everything from food to household cleaning products and the water we drink, stress exists on a whole new scale. Stress, in the end, is anything that shifts our body away from its normal state of balance.
The adrenal glands allow our body to make the necessary adjustments needed to maintain balance in the face of stress through messenger hormones. Over time, however, they are pushed beyond their limits.
In Ayurveda, the adrenal glands are part of the fatty tissue (meda dhatu). As such, they bring balance through nourishment and a healthy level of building or regeneration (the earth and water elements, or kapha dosha). Stress, on the other hand, which drives our sympathetic nervous system, has a very activating, mobilizing, and depleting effect (the ether and air elements, or vata dosha).
Effects Of Adrenal Gland Burn Out
Initially the adrenal glands are able to keep up with stress. But then they have to call upon other glands for more support. The stress shunts steroid hormone precursors away from the reproductive glands (making estrogen and testosterone) towards the production of cortisol and other adrenal hormones. The pancreas shifts its production of insulin to allow for more blood glucose (eventually leading to insulin resistance) and the thyroid gland revs up to provide the extra metabolic support needed for stress. With time, the essence of vitality and immunity (or ojas) also diminishes.
As the adrenal glands burn out, we see symptoms of depleted kapha (dryness, cracking joints, bone issues, body pain, exhaustion and fatigue, sunken eyes, feelings of emptiness and fear, poor cognitive function). Additionally there is poor immunity, low sex drive, sleep problems, mood swings, digestive issues, depression, changes in the menstrual cycle, amongst many other symptoms.
Through a sustained effort at rejuvenation with the below tips, you can start to feel like your normal self again.
Begin By Decreasing The Stress On Your Gut!
Your intestinal flora (microbiome) is one of the first things to respond to and signal stress. Support your intestinal flora by decreasing sugar consumption (especially refined sugar); decreasing the intake of common allergens (nuts, soy, dairy, eggs), alcohol, and caffeine; eating a more plant-based diet; eating organic (avoid pesticides, herbicides, and preservatives); and doing an easy-to-digest mono diet of kitchari just one day a week. Additionally, the good bacteria of your gut loves ghee, so make sure you feed it plenty!
Your nervous system is on a perpetual high and needs to be soothed. Take regular baths and massages (or, better yet, perform your own daily self-massage of abhyanga at home. Avoid sensory stimulation by having cell phone breaks throughout the day, choose yoga or a walk instead of watching TV, and do not play on your iPad as the last thing you do before you sleep.
If nothing else, sleep more! Sleep before 10 pm (when pitta time starts) and try rubbing some oil on the head and feet for sound sleep. Initially, I encourage clients to sleep as much as needed and then settle into about eight hours of sleep a day.
Practice Yoga, Nadi Shodhana, And Yoga Nidra.
Calm, slow-paced, cooling yoga will serve you best. Try moon salutations, inversions, chest openers, and deep lunges. Soothing Nadi Shodhana for twenty solid minutes (upon waking or before sleep) will do a complete reset on your mind. And take a twenty-minute break around 3–4 pm (adrenal time) to practice yoga nidra.
This well-researched adaptogen is the king of Ayurvedic herbs for adrenal support.
-Brahmi (Centella Asiatica)
Not only does this support mental faculties (like cognition and attention), but it also significantly calms vata in the entire nervous system.
-7 Herb Energy
This is one of my favorite formulations and a lifesaver when on the go. Unlike most energy supplements, this tincture is caffeine-free and not stimulating. It simply supports the rejuvenation and functioning of the adrenal glands with the above herbs, as well as the American and Chinese favorite adaptogen, ginseng.
With an abundance of antioxidants and the immune-supporting amalaki, daily intake of this mixture supports ojas and energy.
This herb is popular in the mountain climbing and athletics community as it does wonders for energy at the cellular level.
As always, support a healthy gut, and Ayurveda’s go-to is to take Triphala every night.
Play with these herbs in different forms (powder, versus liquid extract, or with milk and ghee) to find your optimal state. Always look for companies that can show identity and heavy metal testing.
Be patient! Depending on how deeply affected your adrenals are, it can take several months to see significant results. Building ojas and kapha takes time, much like nurturing a garden.