A couple months ago I went to my doctor for an annual checkup. While I’m generally pretty healthy, at the time I was feeling very tired all the time and I was also struggling with getting my weight to budge, despite working out and making what I felt were responsible eating choices. She recommended blood work to check my thyroid and vitamin levels and said we’d go from there.
When I got the blood work results back, everything was in the normal range (although my vitamin B and D were both low-ish) but they called to tell me my Cortisol was elevated and I need to see an endocrinologist. When I asked the nurse “so, what does this mean” she politely explained that my Cortisol levels were high. Ok thanks. I’ll let Google tell me.
If you don’t already know (as I didn’t) Cortisol is our stress hormone. I do not usually think of myself as being high stress, but when I read more about what can happen if cortisol levels get too high or are not managed, I got a little concerned. Things like high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. came up in more than one search. Ok I thought, I need to get this under control.
So I started doing some digging on how to lower Cortisol levels and the answers were pretty similar no matter which site or blog I read. Do things that lower your stress like getting enough sleep. Do more things that make you happy. Try meditation or mindfulness. Nothing about medicine or specialists ever presented itself in my research. I would much rather take a natural approach to wellness than getting on medication, so when I started digging more into supplements that could help lower Cortisol I came across one I’d never heard of: ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is an Indian root with multiple uses like increasing energy, supporting hormones and fertility, reducing stress and – cha-ching! – decreasing cortisol. In digging further and consulting with a friend I also learned about an Ayurvedic jam called Chyawanprash which contains some ashwagandha and a whole lot of other Indian herbs that promote good health. I take it daily now and not only is it tasty, but it’s a great source of antioxidants and promotes digestion and metabolism in addition to a few other benefits.
Ok, so how does this all tie into the Ayurvedic diet? I had read about an Ayurvedic diet several times before in my quest to constantly tweak my diet and eat what will make me feel healthy, what might make me lose weight – all the things I spend a lot of time considering and trying. However, what had kept me from trying it previously was that it is recommended that you have an Ayurvedic doctor read your dosha to figure out what is really the best plan for you.
What’s a dosha, you might ask? It’s essentially your constitution – a set of characteristics that are somewhat determined by your hair and eye color but are also determined by your general tendencies, personality and such. It’s also defined as the energies believed to circulate in the body and govern physiological activity. Doshas are made up of the five elements (ether, air, water, fire and earth) but there are only three of them: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
I recently learned that there is a very reputable Ayurvedic doctor right here in Kansas City, so I made an appointment. I had to wait about 8 weeks before I could get in, but I’m telling you right now it was definitely worth the wait.
When you meet with an Ayurvedic doctor, get ready to get personal. They will ask you all sorts of things about your family, your habits and your poop. During what feels like a casual conversation with a friend (except the poop part) she was categorizing all of the things I told her into the 3 doshas to determine which dosha(s) I’m governed by and which one(s) might be out of balance. Turns out I’m Pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth) and my Vata (air) is a little off balance.
Once my doshas were determined she explained what it all means and made some recommended changes that would help to keep my doshas in check. Since Pitta is hot and it’s summer, she recommended things like working out first thing in the morning and avoiding foods that could increase my internal heat (like spicy and sour). She told me that for the most part my diet is on point (I’ve been doing an elimination plan for the past 30 days so I had already significantly cut back on dairy, gluten, sugar and alcohol) but as we reviewed what I typically eat in a day we agreed together that I’m not eating enough and that could be the reason why I have low energy. My meal plans and times were adjusted to 3 meals a day at 8:30am, 12:30pm and 5:30pm with no snacks unless absolutely necessary. Why? Because our bodies need 4 hours to complete the digestion process. I would eat breakfast and then grab a snack 2-3 hours later which made my body stop what it was doing and restart the digestion process.
I also learned that as a Kapha (earth) I need a daily routine and schedule to help keep me grounded which I have been really bad about since I started working for myself. Ok, not REALLY bad, but not great either. So I now have a more set morning routine and am trying to get better about the way I block my work hours. But I still stop working around 4 or 5 most days because that’s what works for me.
Another interesting question that came up was if I made enough time for myself to be creative. The answer was no. I told her that most nights I’m so tired I don’t really feel like doing much, or I do this crazy thing where I spend time thinking about what I should be doing and then two hours later I decide I should get ready for bed. How LAME!! So I’ve made a list of things that I would like to be doing with my time and I’m going to figure out how to work them into my schedule.
If this all sounds a bit wacky to you, I understand. This is a completely unconventional way to look at health and wellness. But I will say that even though I’m only 1 week in I already feel more energetic, more productive, and my digestion seems to be better. I’ve been sleeping better too.
Here’s what I’m hoping to get out of this:
- Improved digestion (I’m not going to give you the exact details, but let’s just say I know what to watch for when I go #2)
- Decreased inflammation – I have some chronic hip pain that I’m hoping will lessen or go away completely.
- More energy and a general feeling of healthiness. Maybe even some weight loss.
- A daily feeling of joy and happiness with limited feelings of stress or being overwhelmed.
I go back for a follow up appointment in 4 weeks, so between now and then I’ll be sharing more updates about how I’m feeling, what I’m eating and more.
What do you think? Are you intrigued? Do you think I’m crazy? I’d love it if you’d comment below.