When we speak about “women’s health” we know that every woman goes through a series of changes during her lifetime. Female hormones play a vital role in the various physiological and emotional changes in a woman’s body.
Estrogen & progesterone are the primary female hormones affecting women’s health. Besides these hormones, FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinizing Hormone) are important hormones secreted by the Pituitary gland.
Despite the fact that our monthly cycle is a completely natural process, many of us experience it as painful and consider it as an inconvenience!
Well… Menstruation is a natural cleansing process! In fact, women are fortunate to have this regular monthly cleansing! It’s a gift that is unique to the female gender, and can be viewed as such, instead of being viewed as an inconvenience. I am sure many of us experience a sense of satisfaction, ease and relaxation every month after our periods. In fact, the week after the menstrual flow is the best week of the month for a woman when she is in her best possible mood and bursting with energy. Isn’t it?
Allow me to shine some light on menstruation through the lens of Ayurveda!
As per Ayurveda also, the menstrual cycle is a monthly cleanse for a woman’s body. Therefore, our goal must be to support the process of cleansing. As with any other cleanse, importance is placed on rest and rejuvenation and kindling our agni. For this reason, for centuries, women in India have been given the opportunity to be relieved from their daily duties and take rest so that their body may fully get cleansed both on the physical and mental level. While this is not possible in our fast-paced culture of the present, but we can still slow down a little during these 3-5 days of the month!
If you experience painful cramps, bloating, intense mood swings and any kind of pain or discomfort that you notice very strongly, they are merely symptoms of an imbalance within your body. As per Ayurveda, if the Doshas are all in balance, your periods won’t feel unpleasant, painful or negatively impact your life in any way! This is why Ayurveda focuses on getting to the root cause of the imbalance and not just treating the symptoms of painful menstruation. In fact, our menstrual cycle can provide a unique insight in to our health. Just like we can identify which Dosha is off balance by looking at our digestion & elimination, or using tongue analysis, we can look at our menstrual cycle as well which can give us a good clue of doshic imbalances within our body!
To find out which Dosha is out of balance within your body, start tracking your periods and also note the recurring symptoms and patterns throughout the month.
According to Ayurveda, a healthy menstruation lasts 3 to 5 days and occurs every 24 to 32 days. Every woman is unique, so whether your cycle is 24 days or 32 days long, as long as its regular and consistent, it is considered a normal cycle. If your cycle is irregular or inconsistent then it is seriously the time to investigate your doshic imbalances!
First, let’s see what does a healthy menstrual cycle look like according to Ayurveda.
A healthy cycle has the following characteristics:
- It’s regular and on time!
- The blood flow is bright red in color.
- Menstrual blood doesn’t have an unpleasant odor.
- The flow is neither too scanty nor too heavy.
- It doesn’t stain your clothes (stubborn blood stains are an indication of Ama, or toxin, in the system)
The menstrual cycle is thought to go with the lunar cycle, as the moon represents the feminine energy. The lunar cycle is approximately 29.5 days, coinciding with the average length of the menstrual cycle for most ovulating women. The healthiest flow, that is most in tune with the lunar phases, will start on a new moon with ovulation occurring around the time of the full moon. When the moon is full, it is at its peak energy, pulling the egg from its home in the ovary.
Just like anything in Ayurveda, menstrual cycle also has a kapha stage, pitta stage & a vata stage.
- Kapha stage– Kapha dominates the first half of the cycle, i.e the day after bleeding stops until the day ovulation occurs. This is the time when the endometrium thickens. At this stage, there is that glow on a woman’s face, there is a sense of peace and she seems to be settled within herself.
- Pitta stage – Ovulation marks the beginning of the pitta phase. In this phase, the endometrium becomes more engorged with blood vessels in preparation for the potentially fertilized egg.
- Vata stage – If the egg is not fertilized, the last phase arrives. It is a sudden rise in Vata that begins the menstrual period, and it acts as a moving force, enabling the flow of menstruation.
As long as the doshas are in perfect balance as per our prakruti, the menstrual cycle functions optimally.
Now….Let’s look at how to identify doshic imbalances leading to difficult menstruation: –
If vata is vitiated in the body, it’s cold, dry and rough qualities bring a sense of tightening. Blood vessels constrict. Dryness depletes all bodily tissues and can eventually lead to cessation of menstrual flow (Amenorrhea). Repeatedly missing periods and amenorrhea are a clear indication of a deeper Vata imbalance. The process begins with a decrease in the plasma and blood tissues, decreasing nourishment to the lining of the uterus, thereby decreasing overall flow and discharge of the menstrual flow. In general, a scantier flow is a sign of Vata in your system. It can show up as irregular periods, spotting between your period, longer cycles and pain that is mobile and erratic.
If you are experiencing vata vikruti (imbalance), you are most likely to experience abdominal spasms, sharp piercing pain in the lower abdomen, feelings of fear, worry, anxiety & nervousness. Menstrual flow will be light, dry and dark in color.
If you have been reading my blogs, you know by now that to balance a dosha you need to bring in the opposite qualities. Thus, for a vata menstrual cycle, draw in qualities of heaviness, warmth, stability, oiliness, and unctuousness. Follow a Vata-pacifying diet and lifestyle. Eat warm foods cooked with warm spices and plenty of ghee, especially if your menstrual cycle seems to be decreasing in flow or appears to be drier. Avoid caffeine. Instead of coffee try calming herbal tea like chamomile tea. Slow down and bring awareness to every moment. Drink more water! Don’t be scared of fat. Bring in more Ghee into your diet! Focus on yoga poses specific for the vata prakruti. Do not indulge in intense exercise. Practice “anulom vilom” – alternate nostril breathing as the breathing exercise for balancing vata. Practice Abhyanga (warm self-oil massage) with sesame oil. If you like turmeric lattes (golden milk), you may add some Ashwagandha to it, that will strengthen and support your adrenal glands, but always check with an ayurvedic practitioner before using any Ayurvedic herbs for long term!
Pitta is hot and sharp & loves to reside in the blood. It brings heat to the blood. Hence pitta menstrual flow is usually heavy, hot, profuse, foul smelling. You might experience mild fever, swelling in the body, headache, breast tenderness, acne and sometimes even diarrhea, nausea & vomiting. With the heat comes anger, irritation & frustration! Pitta can show up in the skin as excessive sweating with a foul odor, hot flashes, excess heat and rashes.
To bring balance to the pitta flow, we must balance the hot quality with coolness and the sharp quality with dullness and softness. Bring calmness and softness to life, without too much competition, anger or frustration. Follow a Pitta-pacifying diet and lifestyle. Think cooling, sweet and calming in terms of food and lifestyle. Avoid spicy and oily foods. Follow a pitta friendly yoga routine. Do some light, slow moving yoga or Tai Chi. Practice Abhyanga with coconut oil. Sheetali pranayama is ideal for bringing coolness to the pitta prakruti/vikruti. Aloe vera juice or gel, consumed twice daily, cools and cleanses the blood. Shatavari, guduchi, aloe vera, and brahmi are some of the beneficial herbs for pitta but I would recommend that you consult an ayurvedic practitioner for proper guidance before taking these herbs for yourself. Avoid stimulants like caffeine. Instead of coffee, you could go for herbal teas made with lavender, fennel, and rose petal. Practice meditation and avoid excess stimulation through TV, social media or strenuous exercise.
We know that Kapha is dense, heavy, dull, sticky and cool. Kapha menstrual flow starts slow and is moderate throughout. If your Kapha is out of balance it will manifest as symptoms such as fluid retention, breast tenderness, weight gain, tiredness, back ache, large clots with the menstrual flow, extra mucous and general sense of heaviness. Other symptoms might include bloating, puffiness, slow digestion and emotional eating. You might notice cravings for heavy and sweet foods during or before your period.
To balance excess kapha, think light and warming in terms of food and lifestyle. We need to stimulate Agni (the metabolic and transformative fire within us). The warmth of agni will counteract all of the qualities of kapha and melt it to its healthy state. Stimulate agni with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper. Follow a Kapha-pacifying diet and lifestyle. Wake up early with the sun and avoid daytime napping. Stay active! Go for regular walks daily. By exercising, we are stimulating the movement of blood and lymph throughout the body. Practice breathing exercises such as bhastrika and kapalbhati that directly activate muscles that massage the lower abdomen and pelvis and also bring warmth and help relieve stagnation. Ginger and tulsi tea would be really beneficial for kapha women. Practice Abhyanga with warm almond oil. If possible, try dry brushing every morning to stimulate blood circulation and the lymphatic system.
It takes some time to rebalance our Doshas. It is good to remember that while we are trying to handle our cramps and PMS symptoms, we need to also look into our daily lifestyle and food choices throughout the month to really get to the root of what’s causing our symptoms. Ayurveda focuses at healing from a holistic point of view and we need to create habits that support a healthy digestive fire and a balanced lifestyle.
I know so many women suffer from menstrual imbalances. Menstruation is such a huge part of a woman’s life, coming monthly, it can be frustrating, and even debilitating for some. Not only does Ayurveda give us alternative solutions that really work at the root level, but it also gives us the opportunity to balance our internal ecology before more difficult conditions arise by being able to use our menstrual cycle as a valuable tool for identifying our doshic imbalances!
If you need help in this area, please CONNECT with us for a personalized ayurvedic diet and lifestyle regime for your unique prakruti (mind body type) or vikruti (any current imbalance) so that you may live a healthier and gratifying life!
You deserve to live your life to the fullest & experience the joy of being a happy soul!
If you are new to Ayurveda and want to know if Ayurveda is right for you, do take our short introductory course on What’s your Dosha?
Learn the basics of Ayurveda through our self paced online course “Health & Wellness with Ayurveda”
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The content provided in my blogs are for knowledge sharing purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.