Here are some Peruvian superfoods I’ll talk more about later next month!
There are a ton of so-called superfoods on the market…
My approach is to err on the side of caution when using them, because I overstimulated myself with too much raw chocolate and caused a chain reaction of negative health effects.
So when I get questions about superfoods, I have a pretty standard approach and line of questioning that I take.
We received this email in the HelpDesk a week or two ago and I think it’s a valuable question(s) to answer…
“In the past, on several occasions I have tried to take maca powder, in small amounts (i.e. 1/4 tsp. in the a.m.). In every instance, I couldn’t sleep that night. Now, I have to say, that I believe I do have an adrenal issue, because poor sleep has been an issue for me for the past 20 years after several years of illness/surgeries due to Crohn’s Disease. But it was even worse after taking the maca. I realize you’re not a doctor, but am curious if you think that the maca is just too much stimulation for my weakened adrenals?” – Marie
Great question, Marie!
Here are my thoughts on maca, superfoods and adrenals for you as well as anyone else who may have experienced this in the past.
First, for those who may not know what maca is, let me explain a little about it…
To me maca is a superfood, it just needs to be used carefully.
It is a root from the cruciferous family (kale, broccoli, cabbage) that grows in the mountainous regions of Peru (and other parts of the Andes.) It has storied use as an energy booster, a hormone regulator / modulator, and aphrodisiac.
It’s mainly eaten in the U.S. in powder or extract form, but here in Peru (it’s a fitting subject) you can find chicha de maca, maca flour and porridge.
On thing that surprised me when I did some research on maca in the past and again recently while we’re here in Peru is that maca is almost NEVER traditionally eaten raw. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but it’s a thing to consider.
Now on to a more direct answer to this question…
If you can’t sleep, the food isn’t for you.
Simply put, if you are taking a food for whatever your illness, disease or longevity and it’s keeping you up, the long term damage of lost sleep is more than likely going to outweigh any supposed (or real) benefits of the food.
So if maca or any other food like cacao, sugar, honey, herbal teas, coffee, alcohol or anything else is keeping you up, cut it out of your diet.
Plenty of cultures have lived healthy lives without many of these superfoods before we were able to ship them all over the globe. (Please keep in mind, I don’t think eating foods from other countries or superfoods are patently bad – everything has pluses and minuses.)
I love Ceylon cinnamon and the cinnamon that we share with you is grown organically, fair trade and helps provide work for farmers in rural Costa Rica (where sometimes it’s hard to find.)
We get this from Costa Rica, so yes, it comes in a plane. It takes fossil fuel. But at the same time, our dollars support members of a community. You can take your pick. It’s entirely up to you to decide which story you read into.
Anyway, back to Marie’s question…
Just because someone says maca is great, doesn’t mean it’s great for you.
I don’t think there’s any need to explain this further than just to rehash it…
Just because someone says maca is great, doesn’t mean it’s great for you.
Your body, although it may look similar to the person next to you at work, on the subway or that you sleep next to, likely will react differently to different things.
It’s not necessarily because we’re hardwired differently – while there are some genetics involved – it’s because we’ve all had different experiences that have contributed to our bodies working differently.
Some of us have taken antibiotics, others have tons of stress, others have damaged their thyroids, others don’t exercise… regardless, there are many issues that can affect how the body metabolizes food, but one thing is for sure, if it doesn’t work for you – whatever the food may be – give it a rest.
With superfoods, less is usually better.
We live, at least in the U.S. in a culture of excess.
I’m a victim of it too.
I used to think that if a little chocolate is good, then a lot is better.
In the superfood culture, this is certainly the case as well.
It’s almost like these foods – at times – are being used to stimulate the body just enough to simulate a drug type high.
I’ve seen people drink cup after cup of superfood elixirs at parties and events and frankly, they look like they’re smoked a big old joint or ripped a few lines of blow.
So my only warning to you, when taking them therapeutically, is to separate the healing culture from the superfood culture.
Understand that there is more than one type of motivation and you may be caught up in one when you’re really, truly looking to feel better – not like you’ve just done a bong hit.
What this all leads to, of course, is the initial point I made when I started, with superfoods less is better – to start.
If you’re taking them therapeutically, start slow and steady and test your threshold. See where the results meet the negatives and pull back a bit. That’s likely how much you need.
Also, if from the very beginning you feel the negatives, just leave that food be.
And finally, if you don’t need superfoods therapeutically, why bother taking them at all?
I don’t take maca, cacao, goji berries and many other herbs and foods regularly anymore for this exact reason. (I do take them on occasion.)
The Cruciferous question.
Like I said in the beginning, maca is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family.
I’ve written extensively about the connection between thyroid and cruciferous vegetables, so I’m not going to rehash all the information here.
What I will do is give you this simple cruciferous vegetable guide.
1. If you have a perfectly fine thyroid, you should be able to eat raw cruciferous vegetables.
2. If you have a thyroid issue, cook or avoid cruciferous vegetables.
3. Eating too many cruciferous vegetables (excessively – like kale juice every day, a raw kale salad at lunch and raw broccoli and cauliflower for dinner) could lead to thyroid suppression.
Maca use, since it is a cruciferous vegetable as well, falls under these rules as well.
Maca makes me feel weird.
There’s not too much science to this one, but when I take maca, I feel plain old weird.
I’ve taken capsules, tinctures, and powders and no matter what maca makes my skin tingle and tweaks my mind to the point where I feel uncomfortable with myself.
A little or a lot, doesn’t matter. I get the same effects.
I’ve shelved it for the time being. Maybe I’ll try it again in a year to see if I get the same reaction, but chances are I’ll wait even longer.
I simply don’t like the way it makes me feel.
(I’ve actually never tried cooked maca flour, so I plan on getting some here in Peru and seeing if I get the same effects.)
How do you know you have an adrenal issue?
Moving on to more specific questions for Marie, when someone tells me that they have a specific issue, I always want to know how they know that specifically.
Marie, I’m assuming you’re done your homework and gotten your blood tests or hormones tested and identified your issue clearly, but if you haven’t I urge you to see someone who can help you figure out what’s going on with you.
You may find that it’s not just your adrenals. It could be other issues like residual digestion issues, thyroid weakness, and more.
The best way to actually use herbs and supplements to get better is to actually know what you’re dealing with, so you can choose the most effective products for your specific condition. This will save you a lot of stress, as well as save you a lot of money.
Believe me, when I was dealing with my acne I spent a lot of money on things that didn’t work. When I identified a hormone imbalance and yeast infection, I was able to target specifically what was causing the acne and it started to go away.
This knowledge is powerful and I warn anyone not to assume what’s happening in their bodies.
If you do, you’re in for a long, tail-chasing experience.
If you can’t sleep, do you take any other stimulants as well?
Of course, if you can’t sleep, the final thing I want to know is if you’re taking other stimulants.
I’ve spoken to people along the way, who’ve mentioned that they thought a food or a practice like maca was keeping them up only to come to the realization that they completely or conveniently forget that they always eat half a bar of raw chocolate for desert every night.
So for Marie, or anyone else who may have issues with sleeping, be sure you’re attributing the outcome with the right cause.
Humans, myself included, do have a hard time splitting apart variables, since we’re multi-variable beings. We don’t just eat food, or don’t just exercise, or don’t just work at our jobs – we do all three and thousands more. Each one of these aspects could compound to cause your problem, or it could be one singular thing.
The process takes time, it takes patience and you have to be diligent about writing down how you felt, what you did, what you ate and in this case, how poorly you slept – every day, until you start to see patterns.
To wrap this all up…
The best advice I can give you is to listen to your body. Use the superfoods that work and scrap the superfoods and herbs that don’t.
Also, be sure to be honest to yourself about why you’re taking them as well. Do they make you feel buzzed, high or like superman/woman, or are they doing your body some therapeutic good?
I think if you can recognize these things, you’ll be able to smartly and appropriately use superfoods for your benefit and have fun while you’re at it.
I want to know your thoughts: Have you had any experiences (good or bad) with maca or other superfoods?