“Are you menstruating right now?” Many of us have already grown up with such or similarly inappropriate comments. Menstruation is bloody, painful for many and still a stigmatized topic worldwide. What women don’t do to hide their menstruation and the accompanying cyclical hormonal changes from the public. After all, we always want to be the best version of ourselves and function as consistently as possible, whether as a mother, wife or in a successful business. Unfortunately, in the long run, this way of life can cause us to lose touch with our cyclical nature and lead to hormonal imbalances. With its holistic approach, Ayurveda is perfectly suited to support us women in leading a happy and healthy life despite the increasing stresses – and in harmony with our inner and outer cycles.
Why we have a menstrual cycle
Although the obvious reason for the female cycle is fertility, menstruation also has other beneficial effects and provides information about the state of a woman’s dosha and dhatu (tissues), agni (digestive fire) and shrota (circulation channels). If these are in balance, she has healthy, moderate blood flow and regular cycles. If they are out of balance, women may suffer from painful, heavy, weak, as well as irregular to absent periods, pain, skin disorders, or extreme emotions that accompany her cycle. Thus, a woman’s menstrual cycle is a good indicator of her holistic state of health. Furthermore, from an Ayurvedic point of view, a healthy menstrual period purifies a woman’s body and contributes to an overall physical and mental well-being.
The menstrual cycle ayurvedically considered
Ayurveda describes that menstrual blood is formed from Rasa Dhatu, the nutritive juice. When the nutritive juices (Ahara Rasa) produced by the digestion of food in the stomach reach Rasa Dhatu, one part nourishes the tissue itself and the other part helps in the formation of Rakta Dhatu, the red blood tissue. Menstrual blood is formed from this as secondary tissue. This blood reaches the uterus and is secreted in women every month ideally for 3-5 days. It is hot in nature and belongs to the fire element. Excess Pitta is also expelled at the same time as bleeding.
During the menstrual cycle we go through different phases in which, regardless of our constitution, the doshas are pronounced differently:
|Menstruation (The bleeding itself)||Vata|
|Follicular phase and ovulation (After bleeding until ovulation)||Kapha|
|Luteal phase (From ovulation to bleeding)||Pitta|
If we want to ensure that our menstruation runs harmoniously, it is helpful if we adapt our lifestyle to these subtle changes within us. However, permanent pressure to perform, too little rest and a diet that is not in line with our constitution additionally increase the doshas and can lead to various types of cycle disorders, in addition to other factors.
© Simone / Stocksy United
What does a healthy cycle look like in Ayurveda?
Ayurvedic texts describe very specifically what the optimal cycle of a woman looks like:
- Cycle duration of about 28 days
- 3-5 days of painless bleeding in a regular monthly cycle
- The menstrual blood should be bright red and fluid, neither lumpy, too strong nor too weak, and should not show any other abnormalities.
For many of us, the cycle does not always correspond exactly to this ideal. This should not cause us any immediate concern, but it is helpful to know that our menstruation can also be completely free of complaints and uncomplicated.
Doshaspecific characteristics and tendency to disorders
If this is not the case, it may be that certain doshas are elevated in us. The following characteristics can be assigned to the three doshas:
Vata: Short, irregular menstrual cycle, back pain. Is often associated with dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). When Vata is elevated due to stress and other factors, it can lead to hypomenorrhea (weak, short menstruation) to amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) or even dry vagina. With increased Vata, the blood shows a dark coloration, is thin and low in quantity.
Pitta: regular cycles, heavy and long bleeding, emotional irritability, susceptibility to urinary tract infections. When Pitta is elevated, it can lead to menorrhagia (increased and prolonged bleeding), pelvic infections, inflammation, and anemia. The blood may then be cherry red, strong smelling, and accompanied by a feeling of heat.
Kapha: Regular, moderate menstruation without pain, tendency to fibroids and cysts and in PMS to water retention, heaviness and breast pain. Blood may be thick and sticky with increased Kapha.
Vata-Pitta: Irregular, low or heavy and painful menstruation. Tendency to metrorrhagia (acyclic bleeding outside the normal menstrual cycle) and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Vata-Kapha: scanty, irregular bleeding, deep and wandering pain, PMS, negative emotions.
Pitta-Vata: Heavy but rather regular bleeding, tendency to infections, emotional irritability.
Of the three doshas, Vata is most often instrumental in causing imbalances in the female reproductive system.
Ayurvedic therapy of menstrual disorders
In the following we will take a closer look at some of the most common disorders. We focus less on the conventional medical classifications and etiological explanations and more on the classification and treatment in Ayurveda.
Basically, self-medication and self-therapy is strictly not recommended, since Ayurvedic remedies and treatments can have undesirable side effects if used incorrectly.
Weak to absent menstruation
Although pitta and kapha can also play a causal role, such as in PCOS or PID, weak, short or absent menstruation in young, slim women with previously normal menstrual cycles is usually related to increased vata. Then the focus is placed on measures that are santarpana and brmhana, i.e. nourishing, strengthening and uplifting.
Since in these cases not only a lot of wind, but usually also little fire and a weakened Agni can be found, which can lead to the development of Ama (undigested food components) and blocked Shrota with resulting, insufficient digestion, Agni is often strengthened first in the context of a Panchakarma cure and then the harmful substances are discharged. In some cases, a cleansing cure alone, performed under qualified, medical supervision, leads to the return of menstruation. Since women with weak to absent menstruation often suffer from underweight, this process should only be done under professional guidance. This is then followed by nourishing, restorative and soothing measures and preparations.
Possible causes: Chronic stress, worry and anxiety, excessive exercise, underweight, restrictive and Vata increasing diet and lifestyle, weak Agni.
Panchakarma: Virechana (laxative therapy) and/or anal and vaginal cleansing and nourishing basti (medicated enemas). In addition, medicated nasya are used to stimulate the hypothalamus, among other things. In some cases, simple applications such as anally inserted oil basti or vaginal yoni pichu (performed in a cyclic manner) as well as nasya (e.g., two drops of Ksheerabala Taila per nostril) can also be continued thereafter in self-application at home for a period of time.
Manual procedures: Shirodhara (forehead oil casts) and oil massages (Abhyanga), among others, are recommended for calming and strengthening.
Phytotherapy: Shatavari, Shatapushpa, Ashoka, Hingvashtaka, Aloe Vera, Bala, Yastimadhu, Gokshura and Ghee preparations such as Shatavari Ghrita, Phalaghrita or Sukumara Ghrita.
Diet: Vata reducing diet that is warm, nourishing and not too difficult to digest. Strengthening and sweet foods and high quality fats such as cold pressed organic olive oil, ghee or almonds and other seeds may be consumed more after purging. Special foods such as black sesame, jaggery, milk and dates are recommended.
Lifestyle: Individual stress reduction and management measures, sufficient sleep, meditation and breathing exercises provide additional support.
Heavy and painful menstruation
Many women are affected by heavy and painful menstrual bleeding. Often there are no endometriosis, fibroids or other causes that can be identified with conventional medical diagnostic tests, and yet long, painful periods are the normal state for many women. For some, the discomfort is so severe that they are unable to go about their normal daily lives for a few days each month. Ayurveda, however, teaches us that no woman need suffer from such an unpleasant menstrual cycle and points out various causes and treatment strategies.
Often the fire element is overly present here and should be reduced. Likewise, Vata often plays a role and needs attention. Here, too, it is important to look at the problem in a differentiated and individual way in order to be able to treat the disorder successfully. In the following we show how Ayurveda treats those imbalances where no endometrial disorders or similar can be diagnosed.
Possible causes: diet and lifestyle provoking Pitta, Vata and Rakta Dhatu, too much spicy, salty, acidic and fatty food, chronic stress and permanent tension.
Panchakarma: Virechana (laxative therapy) reduces Pitta and regulates Vata. Medicated vaginal enemas and nasya may also be used.
Manual procedures: Cooling, soothing, and restorative treatments are used.
Phytotherapy: Primarily astringent herbs and preparations known for their hemostatic effects are used, e.g. Lodhra, Gokshuradi Guggulu. Ashoka, Shatavari and Amla are also commonly used in various dosage forms.
Diet: Mild, sweet, cooling, bitter and astringent foods and spices (e.g. turmeric), avoidance of coffee and alcohol. Ensure adequate supply of iron and magnesium. Infusions of hibiscus, raspberry leaves and rose petals.
Lifestyle: practices to regulate tension and reduce stress, yoga, cooling breathing exercises, sufficient sleep.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS):
Shortly before menstruation with increasing Pitta accumulation and slow increase of Vata in the organism unfortunately many women suffer from the well-known premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS refers to a series of cyclically recurring physical and emotional symptoms that occur particularly during the luteal phase and can be very distressing for many women. Although such problems may be common, this does not mean they are necessary. The more we sense and respond to the subtle differences and changes of each cycle phase, and the more mindful we are of our energy balance, the higher the chances are that we will be able to manage the symptoms. If symptoms are severe, it should be ruled out that there are no other diseases underlying the pain.
Possible causes: Mostly Vata or Pitta increasing diet and lifestyle, chronic stress, suppression of natural needs such as fatigue, exhaustion or hunger, inner personal conflicts.
In case of pronounced PMS, a Panchakarma can be performed. The choice of treatments is customized. Popular herbs include Shatavari and Ashoka. But above all, it is our constitutionally appropriate lifestyle with which we can contribute daily to alleviate discomfort.
|Dosha-specific symptoms||What supports now|
|Vata||Irritability, anxiety, constipation, insomnia, lower back pain, mood swings||Slowing down, getting enough sleep, eating warm, regular and nourishing foods with ginger, asafoetida, ajwain and nutmeg|
|Pitta||Diarrhea, feeling of heat, acne, skin blemishes, irritability||Schedule regular rest periods, mild foods with lots of green vegetables and reduction in acidic, salty, spicy and fatty foods as well as alcohol and coffee|
|Kapha||Feeling of heaviness, weight gain, edema, chest pain, constipation, sadness||Exercise in the fresh air, light soups, lots of cooked vegetables with stimulating herbs like pippali. Avoidance of dairy products|
Balanced through all phases of life with Ayurveda
If we take a closer look at the most common factors that negatively influence female well-being, it’s no wonder that so many women have gynecological complaints of various kinds. Too much stress, permanent tension, juggling between job, family or partnership – real rest and deep regeneration simply come too short. But where to find the time, you ask? With its holistic and individual approach, Ayurveda offers help for each of us, no matter in which phase and situation of life – pragmatic, loving and realizable. Many small changes can make a big difference.
Checklist for your path to hormone balance
- What can I do concretely to improve my nutrition and my relationship with food? Do I feel daily what is good for me today and do I usually listen to it? 2.
Are my body, mind and senses getting too much or too little nutrition? Are they getting good quality food? What can I change?
- Am I getting enough time to rest and regenerate? What can I do to foster my relationship with stillness and doing nothing?
- How can I support healthy sleep?
- Is there something in my life that causes me permanent stress and restlessness that I can remove from my life?
- Is there anything in my daily routine that I can change or eliminate that might promote balance?
- Am I getting enough exercise in my life? What type and intensity of exercise and movement is really good for me?
- Am I getting enough positive physical, mental, sensory, emotional and spiritual stimulation in my life? What feels good and how can I integrate more of it?
- Is there something in my life that is at odds with my innermost core and keeps causing suffering? How can I put an end to that?
- Am I living the life I sincerely want to live? What can I do today to align myself even better with that?