Menstrual Cycle Strategies by Body Type

Menstrual Cycle Strategies by Body Type

In This Article

Yonivyapad

Menstruation falls under the general Ayurvedic heading of Yonivyapad. Ayurveda uses the word Yoni to describe the female genitalia and reproductive organs, and vyapad to describe disorders or diseases.

The Charaka Samhita, a comprehensive text on the ancient Indian medicinal system of Ayurveda, describes around 20 different gynecological disorders.

The premise of Ayurveda is not based on the removal of menstrual symptoms such as mood swings, nervous tension, emotional disturbances and physical pain. Rather, the focus is on identifying and addressing the initial cause of menses-related concerns, and the appropriate treatments.

Charaka and other Ayurvedic authorities stated that the suppression of natural urges, such as resisting the urge to go to the bathroom, doing things in excess like sex or exercise, along with an unhealthy lifestyle and improper diet, are linked to female reproductive issues. (1-5)

Here in the West, the average female strays from following some of the major feminine health guidelines that are a mainstay in India’s Ayurvedic culture.

The causes of some of our modern health concerns, which did not exist as such in Vedic times, have to be re-investigated from a modern perspective to focus on lifestyle.

Understanding the Cleansing Menstrual Cycle

There is a general consensus among Ayurvedic practitioners from India who visit our country as to why the excessive amount of female concerns plague the West and not the East, and they say it has much to do with honoring the female body’s cycle itself.

In India, the menstrual cycle is a highly respected cycle that is an expression of the female connectedness to the cycles of the moon. This moon cycle regulates the tides, migrations, mating times, and, of course, the 28-day cycle of menstruation. (1-5)

Menses is a time when the female body is providing extra energy to ensure an effective and complete sloughing of waste products. It is a natural time of cleansing and rejuvenation, traditionally accompanied by a time of rest or light duty. In traditional cultures, family members would provide support to women during their monthly cycle and through menstruation.

Here in the West, this is clearly not common practice. However, this does not mean that modern working women cannot respect this time of the month by listening to their bodies and perhaps taking a lighter load or scheduling activities around their time of the month. (1-5)

Basically, the Ayurvedic recommendation is to act in accordance with how one feels. Ignoring this is often at the root of menstrual concerns. If there is a natural desire to rest during menstruation and rest is not provided, the body will be forced to strain to both deliver mental and physical energy as well as maintain a healthy menstrual flow.

Resting is not a sign of weakness – it is a natural behavior linked to natural cycles. In fact, it is more a time of pulling the arrow back on the bow so that one can later engage in more dynamic activity with the start of the new cycle. Some Ayurvedic practitioners comment that the menstrual cycle itself is one of the factors that lead to the generally longer lifespan of women (versus men). (1-5)

The Apana and Prana Vatas

The controlling dosha (or elemental energy) in premenstrual syndrome is vata (or air). More specifically, it is the Apana vata (the downward force of energy aka adrenal energy) that governs the flow of Prana (life force) into the reproductive organs; this Apana vata provides the energy for the birthing process and the monthly cycle of menstruation. For the Apana vata to do its job effectively, it is necessary for the downward-moving Apana to do so without distractions.

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If the lifestyle of the woman is such that there is no change in one’s hectic lifestyle, particularly during the menstrual cycle, then the Apana will not have available all of the energy necessary to perform complete menstruation. Oftentimes, the physical and mental workload during this time is so great that the Apana vata downward flow of energy turns upwards in an attempt to support the Prana vata (upward flow of energy or mental energy) in accomplishing the task at hand.

This lifestyle stress, on a monthly basis for 10-20 years, can create a formidable depletion of adrenal energy and the integrity of the Apana vata. (1-5)

The next stage in this picture happens when the depleted Apana vata is called upon to menstruate and there is not enough vitality available to support this process. Now it is the Prana vata that is called upon to support the Apana vata in order to complete menses. The Prana vata is the main vital, upward-moving force of energy that stabilizes moods, emotions, and energy. When Prana vata is imbalanced and moves downward, tiredness and moodiness (PMS) may result. (1-5)

Menstrual Health According to the Doshas

Vata Menstrual Health

woman with menstrual pain

Symptoms of menstrual cycle vata imbalance include:

Premenstrual

  • Nervous tension
  • Mood swings
  • Worry/sadness
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Forgetfulness/confusion
  • Occasional constipation
  • Light amount of flow

Menstrual

  • Mild to moderate pain/cramps/backache
  • Extended length of period with dark, clotted flow
  • Irregularity of periods or flow

Recommendations for Vata-Type Imbalances

Diet:

  • Eat a vata-pacifying diet. Eat more foods off of my Winter Grocery List and join my 3-Season Diet Challenge where I provide monthly guides to eating with the seasons.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, tobacco, drugs, and extremely spicy foods.
  • Favor foods that are warm, heavy, and oily.
  • Minimize foods that are cold, dry, and light.

Specific Food Supplements:

  • Eat 1 teaspoon of gheecoconut oil or olive oil every night for one month. Take less if there is a laxative effect.
  • Drink 2 tablespoons of pure (no preservative) aloe vera juice (Aloe barbadensis) after meals twice per day, but not within 3 days of the end of the menstrual flow.
  • Drink fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) tea, as desired.

Specific Herbal Supplements:

For Apana vata, take:

For Prana vata, combine equal parts:

Suggested Activities:

  • Emphasize the importance of maintaining the proper balance of rest and activity throughout the month.
  • Rest during the period.
  • Practice daily abhyanga (Ayurvedic massage) and exercise.

Specific Home Treatments:

  • Daily abhyanga (see below) with sesame oil.
  • For mild discomfort experienced during the period, application of heat externally to the lower abdomen is advised. This may be accomplished by rubbing ripened sesame oil on the abdomen followed by the application of a hot water bottle directly to the oiled skin or placed on top of a cotton cloth soaked in fresh ginger juice or on top of a paste made from ginger powder and warm water.

Pitta Menstrual Health

Symptoms of menstrual cycle pitta imbalance include:

hot summer

Premenstrual and menopausal

  • Irritability/anger
  • Increased appetite
  • Headache
  • Body heat or sweating
  • Loose or increased bowel movements
  • Mild skin irritation/acne

 Menstrual

  • Heavier than usual bleeding
  • Increased frequency of periods
  • Bright red flow

Recommendations for Pitta-Type Imbalances

Diet:

  • Eat a pitta-pacifying diet. Eat more foods off of my Summer Grocery List and join my 3-Season Diet Challenge where I provide monthly guides to eating with the seasons.
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, chocolate, cheese, yogurt, and animal products.
  • Avoid delaying or skipping meals when you are hungry.
  • Avoid sour, salty, and pungent foods.
  • Favor foods that are cool and liquid. Minimize foods that are hot.
  • Favor foods that are sweet, bitter, or astringent. Minimize foods that are spicy, salty or sour.

Specific Food Supplements:

  • Drink fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and/or coriander (Coriandrum sativum) tea
  • Drink 2 tablespoons of pure (no preservative) aloe vera juice (Aloe barbadensis) after meals twice per day, but not within 3 days of the end of the menstrual flow.

Specific Herbal Supplements:

For both Prana and Apana vata, consider:

To decrease pitta and Apana vata:

Suggested Activities:

  • Those experiencing pitta-type menstrual concerns should be encouraged to stay active and focused during the premenstrual phase. Overheating, however, should be carefully avoided.

Specific Home Treatments:

  • Daily abhyanga (see below) with coconut oil.
  • Each day for seven days before the period begins, perform abhyanga with coconut oil, followed by a hot bath one hour later. Massage the abdomen in a clockwise motion during the bath.

Other Specific Recommendations:

  • Apply coconut oil to the head and feet at bedtime for more restful sleep and headache prevention.
  • Sniff ghee daily for one week before the period.
  • Avoid overheating, hot water on the head, and overexposure to sunlight.
  • When irritable or out of sorts, it is important to ensure that you are getting adequate rest. Also, try to stay focused on specific projects.
  • Be sure not to take long hot showers or hot baths during your heavy flow days, as these tend to increase flow. Take a short shower or sponge bath instead.

Kapha Menstrual Health

Symptoms of menstrual cycle kapha imbalance include:

zipping jeans

Premenstrual

  • Mild weight gain
  • Fluid retention
  • Breast enlargement
  • Mild to moderate abdominal bloating
  • Temporary skin congestion

Menstrual

  • Mild to moderate stiffness in back, joints, etc.
  • Pale, mucus-like menstrual flow

Recommendations for Kapha-Type Imbalances

Diet:

  • Eat a kapha-pacifying diet. Eat more foods off of my Spring Grocery List and join my 3-Season Diet Challenge where I provide monthly guides to eating with the seasons.
  • Avoid salt, cheese, yogurt, chocolate, and refined sugars and flours for one week before and during the period.

Specific Food Supplements:

Specific Herbal Supplements:

For Apana vata, combine equal parts:

  • Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
  • Trikatu (Zingiber officinalis, Piper longum, Piper nigrum)
  • Dashamula (ten roots)

For Prana vata:


General Recommendations for All Body Types

Exercise

It is especially important to get daily exercise. A brisk walk for 30 minutes is the minimum exercise required. Perform deep nose breathing during exercise.

Rest

Do not sleep during the day unless illness or unusual circumstances cause exhaustion. Always try to avoid sleeping within 2 hours after a meal. Try to have a lighter schedule or do not take on any extra tasks during the days of the menstrual flow.

Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Daily Oil Massage

Our skin is the largest organ of our body. It weighs about 6 to 10 pounds and is about 16% of our body weight. (6-8)

Biologically, it is a very active organ: it is alive, it breathes, it self-repairs, and it gets rid of toxins. (8) But most importantly, what scientists are finding out is that the skin is the largest endocrine organ and one of the richest sources of hormones that we can find anywhere in the body. (9)

When we stimulate the skin, we can literally cause a shower of beneficial chemicals into our bloodstream. (10-12) The most important of these are growth factors or growth hormones. Our skin is a rich source of growth factors, (13) and we can encourage these growth factors to be released into our bloodstream by simply stimulating the skin. (10-12,14)

It is important to realize that touch is about ten times stronger than verbal or emotional contact. (15) Like the other organs, the skin is also the seat of our body’s emotions. We can influence emotions, feelings, and desires through our skin as a result of the release of these hormones. (16-19)

From an Ayurvedic perspective, a 10-20 minute oil massage from head to toe harmonizes the mind and body and creates a sense of energy and buoyancy throughout the day. This practice is said to strengthen and balance the whole physiology, improve circulation and vitality, and rejuvenate the skin.

References

  1. Sharma, P.V. Cakradatta, Chaukhambha Orientalia. New Delhi, India. 1994.
  2. Atha Vale, V.B. Basic Principles of Ayurveda. Bombay, India Town Pinery. 1980.
  3. Bhishagratna, K.L. Shushruta Samhita, Vol 1 and 2. Varanasi, India. Chowkhamba Sanscrit series. 1981.
  4. Sharma, P.V. Caraka Samhita, Vols. 1 and 2. Varanasi, India. Chaukhanbha. 1981.
  5. Devaraj, T.L. The Panchakarma Treatment of Ayurveda. Dwanwantari Orientalia Publications, Bangalore India. 1986.
  6. https://cme.dannemiller.com/scope/articles/activity?id=440
  7. http://faculty.mu.edu.sa/public/uploads/1392463091.3606CAMS%20231%20Unit%202%20Integumentary%20System.ppt%20[Compatibility%20Mode].pdf
  8. http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-body/skin-article/
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16982574
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25628581
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15834840
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23251939
  13. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022480485711602
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4354898/
  15. Field, Tiffany. Touch. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press: 2001. P. 57
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2989371
  17. Pert, Candace. Molecules of Emotion. Simon and Schuster, 1997. P. 144, 187, 208, 293, 297.
  18. http://candacepert.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Psychosomatic-network-peptides-receptors-Pert-JI85-Pert-820-6.pdf
  19. http://candacepert.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Advances-v8-1988-Wisdom-of-the-Receptors1.pdf

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Dr. John

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