The menstrual cycle is a necessary peril for female health. It brings a monthly change in her body that is often accompanied by discomforts such as pain, cramps, headaches, bloating, lack of energy and interest. While these symptoms are frequently associated with menstruation, it is quite interesting to know that Ayurveda considers any symptoms as indications of hidden health disorders that need your attention.
Menstrual Cycle – Monthly cleansing of female body
Regularity and onset of Menstrual cycles, also known as Menarche begin the fertile phase of a girl’s life. In Ayurveda, menstruation is considered as a time to cleanse and rejuvenate. It provides the female body an opportunity to flush out the toxins and impurities on a regular basis. Along with toxins, some amount of Ojas – purest form of energy is also lost during the menstrual cycle.
Due to the cleanse, loss of blood and energy, the female body is rendered weak. This effect is visible on body systems and body functions such as the digestive system and immunity. As the whole energy of the body is channelized towards the cleanse, menstruation requires ample of rest and a nourishing diet to help the body and senses rejuvenate.
Three Dosha for three stages of Menstrual Cycle
Each Dosha, and hence the respective energies play an important role in different phases of the monthly cycle. The dynamic forces of growth (Kapha), transformation (Pitta), and movement (Vata) guide the three stages of Menstruation.
- Kapha dominates the first phase before the release of the egg – The Follicular or Proliferative phase. This phase starts after menstruation and lasts just before Ovulation, and is the growth phase. In this stage, the endometrium in the uterus thickens and becomes glandular. Any imbalance in Kapha would lead to the formation of clots and mucusy layer that is not capable of performing its required function.
- Pitta dominates the next part of egg release – The Ovulatory phase. This phase starts with Ovulation and lasts just before Menstruation. In this stage, Pitta Dosha acts through the blood tissues and the endometrium becomes more engorged with blood vessels. This prepares the uterus to nurture the fertilized egg, should it come. Any imbalance in Pitta would lead to excessive growth of the layer, and hence more than usual bleeding.
- Vata is the leading Dosha for the last phase of the menstrual cycle, the secretary or the luteal phase after the egg release. In this stage, the uterus gets rid of the endometrium layer via the downward force of Apana Vayu – Vata Dosha, and menstrual flow is established. Any imbalance of Vata Dosha would lead to restricted or painful flow, bloating, and PMS symptoms.
Ayurveda – A healthy Menstrual cycle is Regular and pain-free
- Once a female has attained menarche, she will undergo monthly menstrual uterine bleeding for which average duration lies between 3-5 days.
- The average age of menarche is 12 to 15 years. The first day of menstrual bleeding is the date used for the last menstrual period (LMP).
- As Pitta Dosha governs the Plasma and Blood tissues, girls that have Pitta dominant Prakriti usually have an early Menarche ranging anywhere in between 9 to 12 years.
- Additionally, girls that have Kapha dominant Prakriti usually have Late Menarche, ranging between 13to 16 years.
- Length of the cycle (days between the first day of the last period and the first day of the upcoming period) is longer at the beginning such as 21 to 45 days. However, this shortens down to 21 to 31 days once the menarche is established. The average length of the cycle in adult females is considered to be 28 days.
- Following are considered to be the characteristics of healthy menstrual flow. If any of the above characteristics are missing, it is interpreted to be a sign of imbalance in Dosha.
- Bright red in color, similar to a red lotus.
- Does not stain clothing. If the flow stains clothes, it indicates the presence of toxins and blocked channels.
- Is odorless – does not have any foul smell.
- On average, the amount of the flow is four anjalees – a cup formed by closing fingers of your one hand.
- Does not lead to any kind of pain, body dysfunction, and discomfort.
Ayurvedic Tips for a Healthy and Happy Menstruation
In Ayurveda, Menstrual flow is considered to be made up of Plasma and Blood tissues. These tissues are also the first ones to be exposed to any imbalance in Dosha and hence they get vitiated, leading to health issues such as cramps, anxiety, burning sensation, headaches, pain in back and abdomen, constipation, and bloating, etc. Here are the tips and regimen for a healthy and pain-free menstrual cycle:
- Since the digestive system weakens down during menstruation, one needs to avoid cold, heavy, sour, and hot foods. Do not consume processed foods, extremely oily, burnt or grilled foods. Avoid chili altogether.
- A light diet that consists of easily digestible vegetables, grain forms, and fruits should be consumed. It should be lightly spiced up with digestion promoting spices and herbs such as cinnamon, black pepper, mint, carom seeds, ginger, and cardamom.
- Do not overeat. Consume food in small portions such that they are easy to digest and do not overload the digestive system.
- One needs to avoid excessive physical work. Since the body lacks energy, slow down during menstruation, take rest, and indulge in nil or relaxing activities such as slow walks, balancing yoga, and pranayama. Too much physical activity vitiates Vata Dosha and is often the reason behind delayed and painful periods for athletes.
- Avoid excessive talking, loud noises, and loud laughter. The primary reason behind this is again to keep the Vata Dosha in balance and also not to stress the sensory system. Mentally relaxing activities would support your rejuvenation process and allow you to get recharged after menstruation.
- Avoid or do not indulge in sexual intercourse. Reason for this is to avoid vitiation of Vata Dosha, hence painful periods.
- Do not sleep during the day time as it leads to vitiation of Kapha Dosha and hence makes you prone to allergies. While resting is recommended, sleeping is prohibited during the day time. This is emphasized even more for Kapha dominant females.
- Hydrate the body well with herbal teas and concoctions during menstruation. This will nurture your body and mind and also balance the Vata Dosha. Use herbs such as Cardamom, Ginger, Fennel, Saffron, and Cinnamon. This will also kindle your digestive fire.
- Use healthy fats such as ghee, mustard oil, sesame oil, and coconut oil during menstruation to prepare your meals.
- Follow a balanced routine that includes sleeping early (before 10 PM) and getting up early (before 6 AM). This will your natural Circadian rhythm to be in balance and also keep your Dosha in check.
- Do not suppress natural urges such as urination, defecation, and sneezing. This is to avoid change in the direction flow of Vata Dosha from downward to upward.
- Eat at consistent times during menstruation (although this holds true for most the days, but more during periods). Do not suppress hunger and do not overeat.
- Stop or reduce caffeine during menstruation. Caffeine increases Vata Dosha and Pitta Dosha. It also reduces sleep.
- Reduce your salt and sugar intake. For sugar, replace it with natural sweeteners such as molasses, jaggery, and honey.
- No alcohol should be consumed during menstruation. Alcohol increases both Vata and Pitta Dosha, leading to excessive dryness, pain, excessive bleeding, and burning sensation.
List of Herbs and Spices to ensure a healthy menstrual flow
Herbs and Spices are an integral part of the Ayurvedic Diet. They promote digestion, provide one with essential nutrients and antioxidants, and relax your senses. Following herbs and spices would support a healthy flow and pain-free menstrual cycle. They should be included in the diet during and after the menstruation, some on a regular basis and the rest during the periods.
- Tulsi or Holy Basil
- Black Pepper
- Aloe Vera
- Kachnar Guggulu
- Carom Seeds or Leaves
- Curry Leaves
List of foods for a nourishing diet during Menstruation
Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food! This is a popular saying and one of the basic pillars of Ayurveda. A healthy and balanced diet nourishes your body and supports the vital energy of life. Since the digestive fire is weak during periods, one needs to consume warm, unctuous, easily digestible, and lightly spiced foods. Here is the list of some foods that you should include in your diet to stay energetic and calm.
- Winter Melon
- Snake Gourd
- Pointed Gourd
- Ridge Gourd
- Bottle Gourd
- Sweet Potato
- Curry Leaves
- Raw Papaya and Ripe Papaya
- Raw Banana and Ripe Banana
- Milk and milk products – in moderation
- Green Beans
- Nuts and Seeds in moderation
- Lentils and Beans – Mung Beans, Pigeon Peas, Horse Gram
- Fruits as dates, apricots, peaches, mango, melon, pineapple, banana, papaya, jackfruit etc