When I was 15 years old I was diagnosed with lupus. By 18, I had figured out that diet was a major contributor to my condition and reworked my entire lifestyle around my diagnosis. Removing key foods like nightshades, dairy, and legumes really improved my achy joints, runs to the bathroom, and overall health—but sometimes there’s more to it than just nutrition. When I dug deeper and deeper into my healing process I noticed a few things about my health that my diet hadn't been able to change, and most of them had everything to do with the medication I was taking.
When you're on medication it’s very important to supplement your body with what those medicines might be depleting. Take oral contraceptives, for instance, and your body is being stripped of B vitamins. Being deficient in vitamin B12 can show up in symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, and anxiety—just to name a few.
Why I turned to ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is an ayurvedic herb known for its extremely powerful, intelligent, and notoriously restorative benefits. It is an adaptogen that helps regulate the hormones in your body. An adaptogen is a natural substance that helps the body adapt and regulate to cope with the stresses of life, clear brain fog, and restore balance. Interestingly enough, ashwagandha is a part of the Solanaceae (or nightshade) family, which is normally not recommended for people with inflammation. But in such low doses, it does not seem to trigger my inflammatory response.
I turned to this herb because I'd been on prednisone and Plaquenil to control my illness for almost eight years. Prednisone is a corticosteroid that imitates the effect of the adrenal hormones that your body produces naturally. It's not good to be on prednisone for an extended period of time since it can cause weak bones, weight fluctuations, bruising, mood changes, a weakened immune system, depression, and anxiety—again, just to name a few.
Here's what happened when I started taking ashwagandha every day.
Prednisone also depletes calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, selenium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, and zinc, nutrients you need in order to be functional. While on one of my late-night Facebook scrolls I stumbled across a few articles on ashwagandha and figured I’d give it a try. Here's what happened:
1. I woke up with ENERGY.
With lupus, you experience habitual fatigue, and waking up in the morning is one of the most dreaded tasks of the day. You lie there groggy, in pain, just waiting for your body to catch up, which takes about another hour or two. During my first week of ashwagandha, I noticed a big change. I woke up with energy! While it would normally take me 45 minutes to get up and moving, now it took me only five.
2. I didn't crash.
About halfway through the day I would normally crash, and crash hard. Do you ever feel like you have weights pulling on your eyelids? This would happen and I would ask myself why? What is my body telling me? Eventually, I realized that I had adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal gland is at the root of balancing your hormones and making sure you run smoothly. When your adrenal gland is out of whack you experience things like cravings for sweet and salty foods, mood swings, trouble concentrating, and you’re always tired. The recommended amount is two tincture droplets, three times a day. I started with two droplets once a day just to introduce it to my body. I have noticed my crashes sneaking up on me again after allowing my body to get acclimated to ashwagandha. So I am now ready to keep going and try twice a day!
3. My hormones regulated.
My lupus flare-ups always begin with my hormones; actually, the only time I flare is when it's that time of the month. Normally I would experience acne, extreme fatigue, heavy periods, and headaches, but after starting my ashwagandha trial I had clear skin, no headaches, lighter periods, and only minor fatigue.
4. My brain fog lifted.
After the first couple of hours of taking ashwagandha, I felt a sudden lift of that dreaded fog that had been sitting on my brain. All of a sudden I felt clear and could make sense of my thoughts. Now, three weeks into allergy season I’ve noticed my fog creep back in around 5 p.m. and will try increasing my dosage, listening to my body to find what works for me.
5. I felt calm.
My days are usually riddled with anxiety but now I am now more Zen than ever. Since I'm able to process my thoughts and think clearly, it has granted me the ability to plan and move forward, which has really put me at ease. Ashwagandha seems to have regulated my system enough that I can be the person I want to be.
What you should know about ashwagandha.
You can buy it at your local health food store or online. It comes in a variation of forms like tea, tincture, and supplement. Ashwagandha translated in Sanskrit means "smell of a horse" and it definitely has a very nature like taste…sort of like trees. So breathe before you take it! If you are using it in droplet form you can mix it with juice to quiet the taste.
I hope this article gives you the courage to try something new and look at the root of your health problems. Especially if you're on any harsh medications, if you find yourself not feeling like you normally do, it's beneficial to talk to your doctor about doing a blood test to see what your body might be missing and what you can do to give it what it needs.