There are many hormonal issues related to women entering their late 40’s. Many symptoms which have been associated with the hormonal imbalance are hot flushes, mood swings, lack of sound sleep, constant fatigue, depression, low sex drive, forgetfulness, weight gain, frequent urine infections and erratic eating pattern. Menopause is one of a fearsome issue for lots of women, as it’s a phase when women’s system stop ovulating. This doesn’t mean that female body stop producing hormones at all. Like adrenal glands continue producing androgens, though, it’s rate drops down. Hormonal fluctuation effects the brain chemistry. The two major and most potent chemical signals among the women’s hormones are estrogen and progesterone. They have certain influence on the neuro transmitters, which also effect the mood. Menopause can also emerge as a premature menopause below the age of 40. This type of menopause mostly occurs in females who smoke heavily, are chronic drug dependent or live at high altitudes. Another type of menopause is the surgical one - where the ovaries are removed surgically. However, in Ayurveda, menopause is not considered as a disease but as a transitional imbalance. It is a fairly natural process, from the pitta stage of life to the vata stage of life. So, it can be dealt happily looking behind at the colourful and more developed phases of life; from puberty to reproductive phase to a relieved, ovarian stress free phase; where there is no more shedding of the uterus during mentruation and we step onto a new path ahead and become more self-aware, exploring ways to attain spiritual contentment and discovering the inner peace. See your life at large! In Ayurveda, the menopausal symptoms are mostly seen vata (air) dominant in nature. Vata dominance is linked with aging as well. However, all the three doshas gets imbalanced during menopause. Hence, pitta (fire) associated symptoms and kapha (water) associated symptoms may also be experienced.
Vata type menopausal symptoms – mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, bone loss.
Pitta type menopausal symptoms – hot flushes, anger or irritability, night sweating, high blood pressure.
Kapha type menopausal symptoms – weight gain, physical heaviness, constant lethargy, fluid retention, high cholesterol and depression.
As the periodic cleansing process comes to the stop, it is therefore, very important to detoxify and clean the body from within.
One must eat a vata pacifying diet as the vata is considered to be the dominant vitiated dosha during menopause. Eating a light, easy to digest diet, warm and well cooked food with spices that aids in digestion like fennel, turmeric, cumin, saffron, would really help to subside the related symptoms.
Eat healthy kapha foods, such as flaxseed oil, which also have an anti-inflammatory effect.
For dryness, include pure ghee and seed oils in the daily diet.
Herbal teas like jasmine tea, tulsi tea and lemon ginger tea are calming and hydrating in nature.
Reduce tobacco, caffeine and alcohol intake. Rather prefer taking hot milk with nutmeg to improve sleep quality.
Drinking cooling drinks such as orange juice, mint and cucumber juice, lemon juice, are best for detoxifying body and pacifying pitta. Also sweet buttermilk, rice, astringent and bitter food products are pitta pacifying.
Tomato juice is extremely helpful in uplifting mood as it’s rich in lycopene which prevents the formation of inflammatory compounds that are associated with depression. Also vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) which produces good mood regulating transmitters is present in good amount in tomatoes.
Capsicum peppers again are menopause friendly, as they contain fat-soluble molecule called capsaicin. It helps in releasing endorphins that have a calming effect on the brain.
Garlic and onion are the source of chromium, prevents the bone loss by slowing the loss of calcium.
Choose fresh, organic food over canned, processed, frozen foods.
Over eating of sugary products may worsen the menopausal symptoms.
Nevertheless, having plenty of fluids daily is always a better way to flush the toxins.
Magnesium aids in bone formation and thus, helpful in the prevention of osteoporosis.
Calcium again is most vital for the bone development.
Vitamin E may reduce hot flushes. The best sources are: wheat germ , sunflower seeds and almond oil.
Bioflavonoids help to reduce the menopausal symptoms.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help maintaining hormonal balance and helps in losing weight.
Also, one should increase the consumption of soya foods, such as tofu, tempeh, soybean, soy milk. Soya foods contain plant oestrogens that supplement the oestrogens made by ovaries. Also there should be a cut down on fats (especially saturated fats, trans fats) in the diet, that would help to decrease the risk of heart diseases, which is a common health problem after menopause.
Some lifestyle practises:
- Set your biological clock! Try eating on fixed timings and never skip any meal as it slows down the digestive fire.
- Sleeping early and waking up early will improve the quality of sleep.
- Meditation is always one of the best way out to keep all the tridoshas in balance. It is the epicentre of health which keeps in check the overall well-being.
- Massaging the body is an effective method of easing anxiety and stress as it calms the vata dosha.
- Taking adequate rest during pre-menopausal phase eases out later complications of menopause as it keeps the Apan vayu in balance.
- Pranayama and yoga, the art of breathing slowly and deeply relieves the stress and calms the mind.
Dosha’s Specified guidelines:
For VATA DOSHA, slow walking for 30 minutes is good. Favourable time is between 2-6pm. Simple balancing and static postures should be practised in yoga.
For PITTA DOSHA, medium pace walk for 30-40 minutes is good. Favorable times are dusk or dawn. Avoid headstand and sun salutations while practising yoga.
For KAPHA DOSHA, medium to fast walk for 40 minute plus is recommended. Best time is after a meal. Early morning yoga practise is favourable. Also sun salutations are beneficial.
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Dr. Shruti Bharadwaj
BAMS / Therapeutic Nutritionist