Women are blessed with the qualities of Love, compassion, and affection, sensitivity to emotions, courageous, and exalted with being in womanhood. Many traditions celebrate the day a girl gets her monthly cycle. It is the most important aspect of a woman’s life. This time is called the Menarche when the monthly cycle starts. In the past a woman went through menarche near the end of her teens, quickly became pregnant, nursed for 2 – 4 years after each pregnancy, during which time she would normally not menstruate. Modern women, however, go through menarche earlier (higher estrogen levels due to artificial light, chemicals and pollution, and a richer diet), they usually deliver only 1-2 children, which they nurse for a relatively short time. They therefore go through many more menstrual cycles, the hormonal swings of which can cause a wide range of imbalances and complaints
Women in our modern world work through the month, due to double-income families, high costs of living; multi-tasking, – modern women have learned to ignore their natural rhythms. Menses is a natural time of cleansing and rejuvenation, traditionally accompanied by a time of rest or light duty.
Ayurvedic recommendation is to act in accord with how one feels. Ignoring this cycle will often lead to a great number of premenstrual and menstrual complaints. If there is some desire to rest during menstruation and if that is not provided, then symptoms of some sort are sure to come. This resting is not a sign of weakness: it is a time of pulling back, recharging the batteries, so that one can later engage in more dynamic activity
Menopause is a unique experience for every woman. It is the ending of a woman’s monthly menstrual periods and ovulation. It also signals other changes to the body and mind, as the body begins producing lesser amounts of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Although menopause is one of the important physical milestones in a woman’s life, many women lack concrete information about what is taking place and what are their options. With a proper diet, nutritional supplements, exercise, and simple lifestyle changes, most of the unpleasant effects of menopause can be minimized to a great extent and with this knowledge and preparation, you can step forward with grace and embrace it!
Ayurveda links menopause with aging. Aging is a ‘Vata’ predominant stage of life. Thus, the symptoms of menopause experienced by some women are similar to the symptoms seen when the Vata dosha rises and upsets the normal balance of the body. Vata-type menopausal symptoms tend to include depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Menopause may also manifest itself as a rise in the other two doshas also.
The type of treatment depends upon the dosha in which the woman’s menopausal symptoms are manifesting.
Symptoms – Nervousness, anxiety, panic, mood swings, vaginal dryness, loss of skin tone, feeling cold, irregular periods, insomnia, mild or variable hot flashes, constipation, palpitations, bloating and joint aches and pains.
Symptoms – Prone to Hot Temper, anger, irritability, feeling hot, hot flashes, night sweats, heavy periods, excessive bleeding, urinary tract infections, skin rashes and acne.
Symptoms – Weight Gain, sluggishness, lethargy, fluid retention, yeast infections, lazy, depressed, lacking motivation, slow digestion.
Ayurveda describes that your hormonal changes at menopause will be smooth and easy if three factors are in place.
• Your mind/body system (consisting of three doshas) is in “balance.”
• Your diet is wholesome and rich in phytoestrogens.
• Your body is “clean” and uncluttered inside, so your hormones and body can “talk” effectively.
Ovaries and adrenal glands continue to produce estrogens and “pre-estrogens” after menopause, providing your body with its own hormonal backup system. Ayurveda describes that this hormonal production after menopause will be optimal if your mind and body are “in balance,” providing just the right amount of estrogen to prevent hot flashes and keep your bones, skin, brain, colon and arteries healthy without increasing the risk of breast or uterine cancer.
Balancing your doshas is the first approach to ensuring optimal hormone production after menopause. In such cases, Ayurvedic herbs can also help. Indian asparagus root Shatavari (asparagus racemosus), licorice root, sandalwood; pearl, red coral, rose and many more herbs are used in balanced, synergistic combinations to help relieve hot flashes, libido problems, irritability, mood swings, and other menopausal symptoms.
In food, a healthful source of phytoestrogens are “lignans,” compounds are found in a variety of whole foods including grains, rye, oats, wheat, barley, and cereals, dried beans and lentils, flaxseed, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, vegetables such as asparagus, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic, broccoli, and fruits such as pears, plums and strawberries. Common herbs and spices such as thyme, oregano, nutmeg, turmeric and licorice also have estrogenic properties.
If you simply eat a varied diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dried beans you will be ingesting a rich phytoestrogen feast in your daily cuisine! Variety and moderation are important because just as too much estrogen is unhealthy after menopause, too much phytoestrogen may also be dangerous. This danger can be avoided by getting your phytoestrogens naturally from a variety of whole foods, rather than from supplements or concentrated tablets.
More serious symptoms, such as frequent hot flashes, continual sleep disturbance, and moderate to severe mood swings, are signs of deeper imbalances that, if left untreated, will persist to set the stage for later disease. For these more troublesome symptoms to manifest, the tissues of your body, your bones, muscles, fat, organs, skin, and blood must be disturbed in some way. Ayurveda describes that stubborn symptoms are usually due to the buildup of wastes and toxins, referred to as “ama,” in your body’s tissues.
In such case, a traditional Ayurvedic detoxification program “panchakarma,” may be needed to clear the body’s channels and gain relief. This internal cleansing approach is also the treatment of choice for more serious problems.
It is important to know that health problems don’t pop out of nowhere at midlife, when your estrogen levels start to fluctuate and fall off. It is the cumulative effects of damaging lifestyle habits–late nights, fast food, eating on the run, lots of stress, too little exercise–over decades that set in motion chronic disease and aging well before menopause. Your symptoms are simply telling you just how out of balance you are. The good news is that with a few basic lifestyle changes, and the healing power of Ayurveda, underlying imbalances can be resolved, paving the way for a smooth menopause transition and great health in the years to come.
Dr. Beena Vesikar (M.D. Ayurveda)