Ayurveda for Menopause
Menopause is a natural, biological part of every woman’s life cycle. It occurs when the ovaries reduce and stop the production of estrogen causing a cessation of menstruation. Each woman experiences menopause differently, though there are many common symptoms. These symptoms may include night sweats, cold hands and feet, insomnia, hot flashes, changes in skin tone, forgetfulness, mood swings or weight gain. Fortunately, Ayurveda is a natural treatment for these symptoms and can restore harmony to a woman.
How Can Ayurveda Help During Menopause?
To achieve a smooth transition during menopause, it is helpful for a woman to recognize her physical, nutritional and emotional imbalances while working to achieve a more balanced state of being. A core component of the practice of Ayurveda is identifying imbalances and restoring equilibrium, so Ayurvedic medicine is well suited to improve the quality of life of a woman who is going through menopause. Ayurveda treatments use herbs in cooking or teas and oils for massage or for the inhalation of their vapors. Adjustments to dietary habits are also recommended to enhance the effectiveness of treatment.
An Ayurveda course of treatment is individualized based upon the particular dosha imbalance that a woman is experiencing during menopause:
Vata Imbalances and Menopause
An imbalance within the Vata dosha will be exhibited through symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, depression or vaginal dryness. Herbs that may be used are cumin, cardamom, fennel, garlic, aloe vera or saffron. Recommended oils may be sesame, almond, or olive. It is also suggested that small meals and warm foods be eaten, preferably in the company of people who encourage relaxation.
Pitta Imbalances and Menopause
A Pitta imbalance is characterized by symptoms of irritability, short temper, hot flashes and night sweats. Calming the heat of menopause can be achieved through the use of coconut, sandalwood, and sesame oils. You can also use herbs such as aloe vera, bark of the barberry bush and motherwort. Meals should consist of cool, heavy foods often eaten raw or plain. Examples of these foods include sweet fruits like grapes, pears, mango and melons. It is also helpful to avoid alcoholic beverages and to drink adequate amounts of cool water to stay hydrated.
Kapha Imbalances and Menopause
When a woman is dominated by a Kapha imbalance, she may feel tired, heavy, sluggish, and retain water. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine recommend using mustard and linseed oil, vapors of cedar, pine and sage and avoiding heavy cooking oils. Cinnamon, myrrh and motherwort are herbs that may ease fatigue and lethargy. Meals should be light with the heaviest meal eaten in the middle of the day.
Why Use Ayurvedic Medicine to Treat Symptoms of Menopause?
Maintaining a harmonious state of being is always important; during menopause it is essential. Though menopause is the natural transition to maturity, it brings forth imbalances which can be disruptive to a woman’s well being. Ayurveda’s goal of identifying these imbalances and restoring equilibrium will bring relief from the symptoms of menopause. Following Ayurveda beliefs will also provide a foundation for continued overall health.
Adequate, appropriate nutrition is key to a woman’s re-establishing balance and harmony. The inner peace that is restored through Ayurvedic treatments will help a woman progress through this essential life stage.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda (ah-yer-vey-duh) is the ancient Hindu science of healing and prolonging life. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and continues to be used by millions of people today. Based upon the theory of balance and wholeness of the universe and the body, Ayurvedic medicine accordingly asserts that a person is comprised of body, mind and spirit with man being the holistic union of the three. Ayurveda centers on healthy living with therapeutic measures that relate to physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony.
Ayurveda teachings state that there are three bioenergetic influences, or doshas, that act upon our health. These doshas are the natural forces at work in the body. Each of these doshas is defined by two of the five natural elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. Vata, representative of space and air, resides in the spaces of the body and helps to govern the function of the nervous system. Pitta, the fire and water principle is most closely associated with the digestive system. Kapha, characterized by water and earth, governs most of our physical being and relates to the respiratory system.
What causes Menopause?
The endocrine system of the body regulates hormone production and utilization. A reproductive hormone, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) is responsible for the development of ovarian follicles and for the release of eggs during ovulation. As a woman ages, her eggs become more resistant to FSH and the ovaries dramatically reduce their production of estrogen. As estrogen levels drop, menstruation decreases and subsequently ceases. This is generally a gradual process and is referred to as perimenopause. A woman is considered to be post-menopausal once she has gone 12 months without any menstrual flow.
Some women do not undergo natural menopause, rather it is experienced due to surgical removal of her ovaries or due to damage from treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation to the pelvis. Surgical removal of ovaries results in an abrupt onset of menopause and may lead to more severe menopausal symptoms.
While menopause is normal, the decrease in hormonal levels may generate symptoms that interfere with a woman’s quality of life during this transition period. A desire to minimize these symptoms and to bring relief from them is the impetus for women to seek menopausal treatments, such as Ayurveda treatments.
Finding an Ayurvedic Practitioner
There are experienced Ayurveda practitioners throughout the world. Some practitioners provide long distance consultations, have private practices within larger medical organizations or have created clinics specifically for the practice of Ayurveda. Organizations like the National Ayurvedic Medicine Association and the Association of Ayurvedic Professionals of North America provide education and membership to practitioners of Ayurveda. Medical tourism organizations also provide an opportunity to explore Ayurveda treatments in India, within traditional Hindu culture.