By Dr. John Peterson
As we age, we Baby Boomers crave vitality. We want to enjoy life to the last drop. So if we feel fatigue creeping in, we need to know how to get rid of it. There are two kinds of fatigue. It's important to know the difference. In the first case, for example, if you know why you're tired and can recover with a good night's sleep, then you just need to recommit to a good daily routine. For example, I stayed up all night with the birth of my first grandchild on Father's Day. Yes, I was tired, but as soon as I slept a few hours and did my Transcendental Meditation® and TM-Sidhi® program I was rejuvenated. The "tools" of Maharishi Ayurveda are powerful in that way.
The other kind of fatigue is more serious, a medical concern, defined by a feeling of generalized tiredness or weariness and characterized by reduced efficiency and lessened capacity for work. It is considered medically significant if it lasts longer than three months. Fatigue is one of the most common complaints in a typical primary care medical practice, and its cause is often multifactorial. It can require a medical workup, including blood testing.
Complete blood counts (CBC) can help diagnose iron deficiency anemia — usually associated with chronic menstrual blood loss. A CBC can also reveal various types of infections. There are specific tests for Epstein-Barr virus, mononucleosis, hepatitis viruses and Lyme disease, including "Chronic Lyme Disease," a controversial diagnosis. Liver function and renal function tests screen for liver and kidney disease.
Hypothyroidism, with the thyroid producing less than adequate thyroid hormones, can be diagnosed with a serum TSH level. (TSH is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.)
If the sinuses are congested or infected, the brain can't get adequately ventilated, resulting in fatigue, headaches and clouded thinking. Findings on the physical exam, X-rays and scans can aid in the diagnosis of sinusitis. Digestive problems can result in nutritional imbalances and fatigue. Hidden depression and hidden cancers are more difficult to test for, but need to be part of the differential diagnoses.
Chronic fatigue of unknown origin is a frequent complaint of people who seek out a Maharishi Ayurveda consultation. From the ayurvedic perspective, the causes of chronic fatigue include weak digestion (inadequate digestive agnis, or digestive enzymes), accumulation of ama (impurities), obesity, chronic stress, depression, "disease not attended to," anemia and old age.
The Maharishi Ayurvedic approach is to restore vitality by treating the underlying condition.
First, determine whether you have ama or not. Ama is the product of incomplete digestion of food and experiences. It is a sticky substance that clogs up the millions of channels of flow in the body, whether gross or subtle. Fatigue is one of the signs of ama. So is poor digestion, lack of appetite, lack of mental clarity, physical weakness, frequent colds, feeling heaviness in the body, feeling lazy, frequently needing to clear the throat or spit, and any sense of blockage or obstruction in the body, as in constipation or head congestion.
If you have ama, you can benefit from four simple practices:
- Go to bed before 10:00 so the body can take advantage of the natural self-cleaning cycle during the Pitta time of night (10 PM to 2 AM).
- When you first get up in the morning, drink a big glass of pure warm water, with a spoonful of raw honey and a squirt of fresh lemon. This helps flush those toxins out of the body.
- Eliminate ice-cold food and drink from your diet.
- Every 30 minutes during the day, sip on hot water that has been boiled for 10 minutes in the morning and then kept in a thermos. Your ayurvedic physician can recommend spices or herbs to add to this ama-reducing water.
Address other causative factors such as exposure to toxins, poor routine and overworking. Follow a diet prescribed according to the underlying doshic imbalances, generally Vata or Kapha or Vata-Kapha. The doshas are governing principles of human constitution — our bodies. There are three core tendencies: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The doshas govern both physical and emotional tendencies. In general, eat freshly-cooked, organic food, prepared by someone who loves you. Include raw honey, sweet juicy fruit and freshly-made sweet fruit juices and warm milk cooked with saffron. Use revitalizing spices, including ginger, black pepper, cumin seed, turmeric, saffron, asafetida (also called hing), nutmeg, fennel, coriander, fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds. These herbs are more than just tasty. Research shows all of them have important properties that support health. Try to avoid snacking between meals; ice-cold foods; frozen, canned or leftover foods; and foods that are too spicy or too oily. Avoid root vegetables and onions. Avoid drinking too much during meals and eating too fast or too slow.
A health professional trained in Maharishi Ayurveda Pulse Diagnosis can determine what subdoshas are involved in your vitality issues and prescribe appropriate herbal preparations. The subdoshas can include Apana Vata, Prana Vata, Udana Vata, Sadhaka Pitta and Kledaka Kapha.
Your daily activity should be in accord with natural law, with removal of Pragyaparadh (the "mistake of the intellect"), resulting in the experience of wholeness value in the physiology, the source of bliss, ojas and vitality. Daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation® program removes mental ama and restores your connection to pure consciousness, the underlying field of bliss and vitality.
Follow a regular routine that includes a morning bowel movement, regular meals and regular bedtimes. Early to bed, early to rise! Avoid sleeping late in the morning or during the day. Take an early morning walk in nature. Exercise daily, without straining, including yoga asanas. Enjoy leisure activities: play with children, play a musical instrument, tend a garden, etc. Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption. Make sure your surroundings are uplifting and that you have contact with good people. Maintain a clean body, wear clean clothes and live in a clean, orderly environment. Avoid dark colors. Use fresh flowers and aromas in rooms where you will be staying for long periods of time.
Ayurveda also recommends that you read religious texts from your own spiritual tradition: the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita and the Upanishads, the Tao Te Ching, Buddhist Scriptures, the Koran.
You can look into some of the other Vedic technologies for living in accord with Natural Law. Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology includes a treatment for chronic fatigue. Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems helps restore vitality. Listen to Maharishi Gandharva Veda music. Live and work in proper Vastu (Maharishi Sthapatya Veda). At a minimum, your home and workplace should face east or north and you should sleep with the head of the bed to the east or south. Get a Maharishi Jyotish℠ consultation and follow the recommendations about Jyotish intervention with gems and Yagyas (Vedic ceremonies performed by professional Vedic pundits.)
Special ayurvedic preparations, called Rasayanas, help strengthen the immune system and enable us to maintain youthful vigor up to a good old age. Rasayanas convert easily into ojas, which supports vitality, bliss, intelligence and higher states of consciousness. As ojas increases, the skin becomes lustrous, the eyes sparkling, the temperament stable and blissful, the mind intelligent and calm, and the body free of disease.
Of all the Rasayanas, Amalaki is revered as one of the most potent and nourishing. The Charaka Samhita (one of the ancient ayurvedic texts) says, "Amalaki is the best among rejuvenative herbs." MAPI's Organic Premium Amla Berry is a Rasayana made from very pure, traditionally harvested and prepared Amalaki. This is a small fruit that balances all three doshas because it contains five of the six tastes — sweet, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent — and is both heavy and dry in quality. It is good for all seasons, all weather conditions, and all body types.
Amalaki is a small deciduous tree with gray bark and reddish wood that grows in India. Organic Premium Amla Berry and Amrit Kalash Nectar use only the fully ripened fruit, which is smooth on the outside, about one-half to one inch in diameter, with many seeds. The ripe fruit is yellowish-pink and sour when you bite into it. After it mixes with saliva or water, it becomes sweet.
MAPI uses the smaller, forest variety that grows in the wild in India. Wild Amalaki has bigger seeds and smaller fruit than the hybrid variety, which means that you must collect many more fruits to make the Rasayana.
Another MAPI product, Fatigue Free combines 18 herbs and minerals that help build energetic new cells and aid the flow of energy in the body. Fatigue Free includes an ayurvedic energy tonic called Dashmula, famous for helping the body replace dead cells quickly. In addition, Licorice, Nutmeg, Ginger, Black Pepper, and Long Pepper improve digestion and the flow of nutrients. Winter Cherry (Ashwagandha) helps the body recover from stress. The trace mineral zinc is especially valuable in combating fatigue. It is meticulously processed with other herbs to enhance its bioavailability.
Ayurvedic preparations that increase vitality often include Shilajit, or mineral pitch, a dark sticky substance that oozes out of the rocks in the high Himalayas. This is present in Prostate Protection for men and Rejuvenation for Ladies, and in some of the specialized herbal preparations that a physician trained in Maharishi Ayurveda can prescribe.
One final thought about aging and Rasayanas: ayurveda considers grandchildren to be a Rasayana. After ten days as a Grandpa, I can say that appears to be true!