Over the years I have worked with countless women suffering from uncomfortable and/or painful menstrual cycles. Often, these same women who experience problematic periods throughout their childbearing years also experience more symptoms during menopause.
Many of these women have been led to believe that their issues are hormonal. Birth control pills are now being prescribed for painful and/or heavy periods, and bio-identical hormones have become the Holy Grail for women during the menopausal years.
Interestingly, there is a very simple Ayurvedic protocol for many common menstrual and menopausal issues that doesn’t involve any hormones, or natural or herbal hormonal precursors. In fact, from an Ayurvedic standpoint, in many cases the problem may not be hormonal at all.
Keep reading to discover a natural therapy that may address the root of uncomfortable menstrual issues.
The Waste Removal Traffic Jam
The lymph is the largest circulatory system in the body and critically important for optimal health. Without a functional lymph system, life would end in 14 hours. The lymph channels drain waste from all parts of the body. When these drains become congested, it’s as though a traffic jam occurs in your body and it takes a toll on all of the organ systems.
At the beginning of the menstrual cycle, lymph drainage increases. According to Ayurveda, when women menstruate, much of the reproductive waste is removed through the lymph. If the lymph is congested, the menstrual cycle may become painful, irregular, overly heavy or missing.
Congested lymph may bring with it the typical PMS-associated symptoms of breast swelling or tenderness, bloating, water retention, and/or breakouts, especially around the mouth and chin. With just a basic understanding of the lymphatic drainage system, we can see why:
- Swollen/Tender Breasts
- The breasts are a concentration of lymphatic tissue and lymphatic fluid. If the lymph in the body is congested at the time of menstruation, the lymph tissue and fluid may swell, causing breast swelling and/or tenderness.
- Skin Issues
- When the lymph is congested, the skin may be employed as a back-up exit ramp for impurities. Just beneath the skin is the skin-associated-lymphatic-tissue, or SALT. This tissue functions as a defense against any toxin, bacteria, virus or parasite that tries to penetrate the skin. If the lymph is congested during menstruation, the SALT may also clog. Instead of draining the skin, it can cause eczema, acne, and other types of skin irritation.
- Diarrhea/ Constipation and other Intestinal Issues
- Just like the skin on the outside of our bodies, the epithelium “the skin that lines the intestinal tract” is drained by a massive concentration of lymph called the gut-associated-lymphatic-tissue, or GALT. This is the highest concentration of lymph in the body. Experts say that 80% of the body’s immunity is found here.
- When long-standing constipation, diarrhea, or other digestive issues occur, this will typically compromise the flow of this very important lymph fluid. During menstruation, clogged GALT can create a list of issues such as bloating, Candida, belly fat, allergies, joint issues, fatigue, headaches, skin issues, edema and reproductive issues.
- Respiratory Issues
- The respiratory tract is also lined with a type of skin that is drained by mucus-associated-lymph-tissue, or MALT. If the lymph is not moving properly during menstruation, this can result in an irritation of the respiratory mucus membranes, thus predisposing one to colds, post nasal drip, chronic sinus issues or allergies.
Your Body’s Built-In Monthly Lymphatic Function Test
The quality, duration, comfort level and timing of the menses offer a monthly opportunity to evaluate your lymphatic function. If any of the symptoms mentioned above are experienced during, or exacerbated by, menstruation, it may be a sign of a lymphatic flow issue.
Treat the Drains First
The symptoms listed above are often treated as hormonal issues. From the Ayurvedic perspective, we want to try treating the drains first. This means we evaluate the waste removal channels before manipulating the blood with something like Hormonal Replacement Therapy, or contraceptive hormones for the treatment of PMS symptoms. If treating the lymph doesn’t work and the body won’t balance naturally, then we can consider employing bio-identical HRT.
When I evaluate reproductive or menstrual problems, I look for other symptoms that are classically related to lymph to help determine if the condition is actually a hormonal issue or one based on poor lymphatic circulation. Here are some signs that may also be related to lymph congestion:
Further Signs of Lymph Congestion
- ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, and polycystic ovarian syndrome
- fibrocystic breasts
- rashes or acne
- joint pain typically worse in the morning
- weight gain and extra belly fat
- swollen glands
- frequent colds
- constipation, diarrhea and/or mucus in the stools
Here is a list of simple things you can do at home every day to improve lymphatic flow and function:
- Alkalize your diet.
- Eat more fruits and veggies and lessen the amount of meats, breads, grains, dairy, processed or junk food. Try to shoot for a diet that is 60-70% alkaline and 30-40% acid. (See my acid-alkaline shopping list here.)
- Herbal Support
- Manjistha (rubia cordifolia) is the herb that is most effective in helping de-stagnate the lymph.* I have used this herb successfully for years in support of lymph-related reproductive issues.
- Sip plain, hot water every 10-15 minutes throughout the day for two weeks.
- Drink 1/2 your ideal body weight in ounces of room temperature water a day.
- Skin Brush and Massage
- In Ayurveda, skin brushing is called Garshana. Raw silk gloves are used to exfoliate the skin. With vigorous brushing, the silk gloves also create static electricity, which is known to alkalize the blood and help move the lymph.
- Daily massage in Ayurveda is called Abyhanga. A blend of herbs cooked into sesame oil is traditionally used to massage the body daily to enhance lymphatic flow.