Q and A: Improve Your General Well-Being

| July/August 2007

  • Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) have been shown to reduce the effects of autoimmune conditions.
    By Steven Foster

I am a 50-year-old female, about 5’ 3” and 120 pounds. My general well-being has been greatly diminished in the last couple of years; I feel very sluggish, very tired, not motivated and have many aches and pains. My lymph glands often swell. My diet is terrible and I often don’t eat very much. I also drink no more than 16 ounces of liquid a day. I don’t see a doctor very often; the most they’ve ever said is that I possibly have an autoimmune disorder, arthritis, etc. The only thing that ever showed up in my blood work was a low white and red blood cell count.
Via e-mail

Khalsa Responds: Your situation is so typical of the state of modern living. The symptoms you describe might or might not turn out to be related, but I’m betting that they are. These problems are just the extreme versions of today’s human condition—stressed, anxious, sleep-deprived and undernourished. Some people are using the apt term “chronic subclinical everything syndrome”—a reflection of the American lifestyle.

You’re not yet quite sick enough to get an official diagnosis of a “disease,” but you clearly are not well. You might eventually get a diagnosis like fibromyalgia syndrome, but that refers to a collection of symptoms, much like what you are describing now, and there is no medical cure, anyway. These complex syndromes resist simple classification and must be treated holistically, with an eye toward restoring the balance of the entire body.

I know you are frustrated by your experiences with conventional physicians, but please do not ignore your situation. Without help, it will only get worse. Consider seeking out a practitioner of alternative medicine in your area. She can help you methodically untangle this conundrum.

You should certainly eat a good diet and drink more clean water. Confusing situations like yours is where Asian herbal concepts can also help. Asian systems of herbalism have a category called tonics, which are broad-acting, nutritive and balancing herbs that are quite safe and usually produce some benefit for nearly everyone who takes them. One such herb is ashwaganda root (Withania somnifera), which is tailor-made for cases like yours.

Sometimes named “winter cherry,” ashwaganda is the main tonic herb in Ayurveda. It is a “grounding” herb—one that nourishes and regulates metabolic processes and stabilizes mood.

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