Honoring the natural process of menstruation and the female cycle is honoring our long-term health and our Shakti (creative feminine power). If you have painful cycles, irregular cycles, or debilitating PMS symptoms, this is a clear sign your body, and more specifically your hormones, are out of balance.
If we choose to ignore these symptoms, “toughen up”, and press through life; you will be in for an unpleasant surprise. Irregular cycles of any kind need to be addressed as soon as possible to ensure a healthy transition into menopause and a healthy transition into the next phase of a woman’s life. If you have painful, irregular cycles it is likely that there is a strong imbalance in the female reproductive system that will only worsen during menopause – manifesting as hot flashes, hair loss, weight gain, migraines, bone loss, sleep issues, fibroids, and cysts among many other common factors related with menopause (which are NOT inevitable).
With Ayurveda, the first step in the treatment of menstrual imbalances is to find out if the symptoms involved are of a Vata, Pitta or Kapha nature. Once you figure out the nature of the imbalance, you can begin to incorporate a treatment protocol to nourish your system back into balance.
The other essential part of an Ayurvedic treatment program is to find the root cause of the imbalance and remove it. This is vital for the treatment to be effective and long-lasting. If the root cause remains (e.g. poor diet, stress, etc) then the disorder will always remain. Since the root cause will vary for each individual, it is important to find this out through self-exploration or by seeing a knowledgeable Ayurvedic practitioner.
Treatment for a Vata-Type Menstrual Imbalance
Since Vata is cold, constricted, and irregular by nature, a Vata-reducing regimen will be focused on warming, releasing, and regulating. Here are some simple ways to balance the Vata in the reproductive system throughout the entire month.
1. Keep the diet simple before and during menstruation.
About 1 week before the cycle begins eat mainly warm, easy-to-digest, well-cooked meals such as kitchari, porridge, oatmeal, soups, stews, steamed veggies and warm, cooked grains. Continue this diet until day 3 or 4 of menstruation.
2. Add healthy oils to every meal.
Vata is prone to getting dried out, so it is important to add healthy oils to every meal to lubricate and nourish the body and the GI tract. The best oils for Vata will be sesame oil and ghee. Apply this recommendation throughout the entire month.
3. Increase iron in the diet.
Vata types can be prone to depletion and malabsorption of of essential vitamins and minerals, including the number one female necessity- iron. Eat a diet rich in iron throughout the entire month, with a special focus on it during the menstruation itself. Some great options for Vata include steamed beets, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, cooked spinach, steamed broccoli, soaked raisins, quinoa and red lentils. Red meat is alright in moderation, but avoid heavy meats before and during the cycle, as this can be hard to digest during this time.
4. Increase Ojas-rich foods in the diet.
Scanty cycles, infertility and other female reproductive Vata imbalances are typically a sign of low Ojas in the system. Some food choices to boost Ojas and nourish the reproductive system include mangos, dates, raisins, healthy dairy, ghee, coconut, almonds, tahini, sesame seeds, soaked almonds, sweet potatoes and rice pudding.
5. Drink 1 cup of bone broth soup each day.
The benefits of drinking bone broth soup are quite extensive. Vata types do great with this age-old remedy, as this soup nourishes and lubricates the GI tract and offers easy-to-absorb vitamins and minerals.
1. Daily Abhyanga Oil Massage on the lower abdomen.
Perform a warm self-oil massage each night before bed, focusing on the lower abdomen. Rub in a circular motion on the abdomen going up on the right and down on the left. Use either warm Vata Oil or organic sesame oil, if Vata Oil is not available. At least one time each week perform a full-body oil massage to help reduce stress and tension and heal the nervous system.
2. Keep activity low before and during menstruation.
Menstruation is naturally a time of low energy and slowing down, and this holds especially true for sensitive Vata types. A couple days before the menstruation all the way until day 3-4 of bleeding, activity should be kept low. Exercise, Yoga, excessive working, excessive talking, jumping, jogging and any other strenuous activities should be completely avoided at this time and the energy should be focused inward.
3. Increase the inhale.
Vata types are prone to excessive exhaling accompanied by reduced, shallow inhales. During menstruation the exhale is further increased due to the active energy of Apana Vayu (the downward wind). A great way to focus on increasing the inhales is to practice supported, supine Yoga postures such as Supta Badhakonasana and Supta Padmasana during menstruation. Make sure to cover yourself with a blanket to keep the abdomen and the body warm and comfortable. In these positions, place the hands gently on the lower abdomen and focus on softly breathing into this area. This activity will also increase the Prana (life force) into the lower abdomen, decreasing cramping and removing stagnant, constricted energy in the uterus.
4. Reduce stress.
Stress is a universal factor in many Vata menstrual disorders as it causes constriction in the lower abdomen potentially leading to scanty bleeding, cramps and irregular cycles. In order to balance the cycle, the stress should be reduced during the entire month and not just during menstruation. Make sure you have healthy outlets to process your stress (Yoga, art, music, journaling, nature…), get plenty of rest, keep a healthy consistent routine, and practice regular self-care techniques each week.
5. Keep to a regular and consistent daily routine.
Vata is irregular by nature and therefore becomes balanced by maintaining a healthy and consistent sleep, meal, and daily activity schedule. If you are skipping meals, staying up too late, not sleeping well, or not keeping up with routine self-care practices (Yoga, meditation, baths, etc), your system becomes stressed out and homeostasis becomes imbalanced. By establishing a healthy and appropriate daily routine, you can begin to find balance in your mind, body, and menstrual cycle!
1. Vata Massage Oil.
Use a Vata-reducing formula to massage the lower abdomen, as well as for a weekly full body oil massage. If a specific Vata Massage Oil is not available, then you can replace this with Ashwagandha Bala Tailam (Oil), or simply a warm sesame oil.
2. Dashamula and Sesame Oil Basti.
Make a cup of Dashamula decoction, adding a 1/2 cup of organic sesame oil during the preparation process. Perform this Basti 1 time each week, except when bleeding. Basti should never be practiced during menstruation!
3. General herbs that may be used to treat Vata menstrual imbalances include:
Treatment for a Pitta-Type Menstrual Imbalance
A Pitta menstrual disorder is typically associated with too much heat and inflammation in the uterus, the blood and in the body. Therefore, a Pitta reducing regimen will be needed to reduce this heat and inflammation, cooling to blood and soothing the reproductive system.
1. Avoid spicy foods.
It’s no surprise that spicy foods will increase Pitta, as they are both fiery by nature (remember, like increases like). This should be a regular practice through the entire month, but especially the week before and the week of menstruation. This includes hot peppers, hot sauces and hot, pungent spices like cayenne pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, dry ginger and fenugreek.
2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
These substance are extremely hot and penetrating (tikshna), and are bound to increase the heat and inflammation that is already prevalent with Pitta disorders. This will be beneficial anytime of the month, but make sure this becomes a regular practice the week before and week of the cycle. Replace these heating beverages with healthier options including lime water, pomegranate juice, or coconut water.
3. Avoid heating foods.
A great way to balance Pitta can be through our dietary choices. Heating foods to be avoided (besides the substances listed above) include red meat, fermented foods, vinegar, nightshades, fatty-fried foods, sesame oil, sour foods, salty foods and spicy foods. This recommendation should be kept in mind all month, but strictly followed several days before the cycle and into the 3rd to 4th day of bleeding.
4. Increase cooling foods in the diet.
It is important to not only avoid the heating foods, but to also include cooling foods to help reduce the heat and inflammation in the body. Some great options are coconut, lime, cilantro, ghee, coconut oil, pomegranate, sweet juicy fruits, ripe mango, dates and cooling spices such as fennel, coriander, cardamon and pippali.
1. Daily Abhyanga Oil Massage on the forehead, scalp, lower abdomen and feet.
Perform a warm self-oil massage each night before bed, focusing on the these areas mentioned. Move from the top of the body and end at the feet to bring the energy downwards for the night. Rub in a circular motion on the abdomen going up on the right and down on the left. Use either warm Pitta Oil, Brahmi Oil, or warm coconut oil. At least one time each week perform a full-body oil massage to help reduce stress and tension and cool the system.
2. Keep activity low before and during menstruation.
Menstruation is naturally a time of low energy and slowing down. A couple days before the menstruation all the way until day 3-4 of bleeding, activity should be kept low. Exercise, Yoga, excessive working, excessive talking, jumping, jogging and any other strenuous activities should be completely avoided at this time and the energy should be focused inward.
3. Practice Supta Badhakonasana (reclined butterfly) before and during menstruation.
This nourishing supine posture should be practiced supported with pillows or a bolster each day before and during menstruation. This restorative posture not only allows space and movement in the lower abdomen area, but also works on the liver and spleen channels which are usually disrupted and depleted during a Pitta menstrual imbalance. Practice this posture for a minimum of 5-10 minutes daily, or as often as needed.
4. Wear white during menstruation.
Color therapy can be a powerful tool. White is a cooling color by nature. Wearing white during menstruation will reduce the heat in the body during this time of increased fire. In contrary, one should avoid heating colors such as red, orange and yellow before and during menstruation.
5. Reduce stress.
Stress is a universal factor in many Pitta menstrual disorders, as it causes the heat to rise in the blood, the liver and throughout the body; potentially leading to inflammation, headaches, acne, anger, irritation, heavy bleeding and sharp, penetrating cramps. In order to balance the cycle, the stress should be reduced during the entire month and not just during menstruation. Make sure you have healthy outlets to process your stress (Yoga, art, music, journaling, nature…), avoid over-working, avoid heated conversations, get plenty of rest, keep a healthy consistent routine and practice regular Self-care techniques each week.
1. Tikta Ghrita.
This bitter ghee is a traditional Ayurvedic medicine that is great for cooling the liver and the blood, reducing inflammation, clearing the skin and balancing the hormones. Take 1 tsp melted in 1/2 cup of hot water. Take this first thing each morning on an empty stomach throughout the entire month.
2. Aloe Vera Juice.
Aloe is a well known cooling agent that has specific affinity for the liver, the digestion, the skin and the female reproductive system. Take 1 Tbsp of Aloe, 3 times daily before meals. Add a pinch of pippali for extra benefits.
3. General herbs that may be used to treat Pitta menstrual imbalances include:
Treatment for a Kapha-Type Menstrual Imbalance
Kapha menstrual disorders usually involve the qualities of heavy, slow and viscous and are accompanied by congestion. Therefore, in order to create balance we must enhance the light, stimulating and clearing qualities with our treatment protocol. Here are some simple techniques to add to your daily regimen to treat a Kapha menstrual disorder.
1. Avoid heavy foods in the diet.
Since Kapha is heavy by nature, heavy foods tend to provoke this quality and slow down the metabolism and digestive force. Menstruation can further weaken the digestive fire and is typically accompanied by weight gain and water retention. This recommendation should be administered throughout the entire month, with special focus before and during menstruation. Heavy foods to avoid include meat (especially red meat and pork), dairy, gluten, wheat, refined foods, fatty-fried foods, sugar (especially white or cane sugar) and salty foods.
2. Add heating spices to each meal.
Adding spices to each meal each day will help to increase the digestive fire, stimulate the circulation and remove congestion throughout the body (including the breasts and uterus). Kapha disorders typically involve congestion and stagnation, and therefore daily intake of these stimulating spices will help to remove these issues. The best options include Agni Churna, Kapha Masala, turmeric, dry ginger, black pepper, ajwain, cinnamon, krishna jirak (black cumin seed), cayenne pepper (in moderation), cumin, and fenugreek.
1. Apply castor oil packs to the lower abdomen 3 times each week.
Castor oil packs are a powerful remedy for penetrating through the tissues, removing congestion and treating issues such as fibroids and cysts. For any Kapha congestive issue in the uterus, apply the castor oil pack with a warm water bottle at least 3 times each week (use nightly for extreme cases of fibroids, etc) between menstruation. Castor Oil Packs should be avoided during menstruation as they may increase bleeding.
2. Massage the breasts with a Castor, Corn and Flax Seed oil mix each night.
Kapha menstrual disorders are often accompanied by breast tenderness (typically a sign of estrogen dominance) and fibrocystic breast changes. Applying this unique oil mixture to the breasts each night will help to treat these issues, removing cellular build up and stagnant energy. *Please do not do this if there is the possibility of breast cancer, as the massaging may promote metastasis (spreading) of the cancer.
3. Avoid day sleep.
Although a woman of any body type should take it easy before and during menstruation; Kapha types should always avoid day sleeping, even during this time of the month. Napping is a well-known instigator of Kapha dosha and therefore will increase any Kapha menstrual disorder, as it leads to increases stagnation and congestion while decreasing the digestion and metabolism.
4. Perform 5 to 10 Sun Salutations every morning upon awakening, except during menstruation.
Performing this heating, stimulating Yoga sequence each morning (except when menstruating) will help to decrease the Kapha imbalance, getting things moving. Adding this simple practice to your morning routine will make a huge difference to your menstrual cycle, as the Prana (life force) which tends toward blockages in menstrual disorders, will be able to flow more freely with this stimulating ritual. Remember all Yoga should be avoided just before the menstruation begins and up until day 3 or 4 of bleeding.
5. Perform 108 repetitions of Kapala Bhati Pranayama each morning, except during menstruation.
This “shining skull” breathing technique is an amazing way to decrease Kapha disorders especially in the abdominal region. This breath work can be practiced each morning to stimulate the energy in the uterus, removing congestion and stagnation. This technique will naturally increase the digestion and metabolism as well. Once again, Kapalabhati should be avoided during menstruation.
Ashoka means no pain, and this female specific herb, is great for just that. This herb is wonderful for alleviating painful cycles, congestion in the uterus, and heavy or excessive bleeding. It has also been shown to reduce fibroids or cysts (and their related symptoms).
2. Drink 1 to 3 cups of Tulsi-Ginger tea everyday.
Ginger and tulsi leaf are healing in countless ways, especially when it come to imbalanced Kapha. Taking tulsi-ginger tea everyday will help to treat Kapha menstrual disorders by increasing the digestion/metabolism, stimulating the circulation, nourishing Rasa Dhatu, removing congestion in the uterus and reducing water retention (natural diuretic). Drink 1-3 cups each day, staying consistent for best results.
4. General herbs that may be used to treat Kapha menstrual imbalances include: