Bliss! Yes, I am talking about those four days of the month in which the better half part of the human race literally feels like going into hibernation. Yes, the monthly period! Well this might not be true with everybody but 70-80 percent of female populace in any region suffers from some or the other form of menstrual disorder for sure. Some find solace in hiding it; some just consider it to be normal. In any case everybody takes it as the way of life. But hang on, your monthly periods are supposed to be smooth and easy. Sounds unreal? Well, that’s how it is!We are conditioned to believe since we start bleeding, that this is supposed to be a hush-hush affair. Furthermore, in the rigmarole of cultural impositions, emotional turbulences that follow after menarche and lack of proper awareness about menstrual periods, young girls develop an aversion towards this natural process right from the start and it becomes an rather an imposition. The recent wave of feminism is further doing more harm than good as women are made to believe that periods need not be a hurdle in any thing we desire to do which can be anything from working for endless hours, slogging in the gym or partying die hard! There isn’t any harm in doing so, but the actual feminism lies in accepting your body the way it is designed,respecting the way it functions and not denying it.
Going against nature has its effects. As a combined effect of today’s hectic lifestyle, erratic schedules, unjust food habits, increased pollution levels, improper sleep or increase in stress levels we see ever increasing number of gynaecological disorders on a rise today. And often it all starts from that very difficult period. Difficult in being regular, painful, heavy, scanty, associated with headaches, cramps, nausea or vomiting, giddiness, swelling or anorexia; ideally if you suffer from any of this during your period. It is not normal and needs to be corrected.
But to know what is abnormal we first need to know what normal is. The first milestone that marks a girl child different from a boy child probably is the development of breasts and then the is the onset of menstruation or menarche approximately after two years; along with it are corresponding changes in the physical as well mental aspect of the girl child.
Ayurved has explained the complete phenomenon of MENSTRUAL CYCLE in details explaining the features of a normal flow, change in the nature of flow based on ones constitution, diet and lifestyle guidelines to be followed during the flow and later the various disorders which again are according to the DOSH (viz. VATA, PITTA and KAPHA) imbalance.
Menstrual blood or RAJAH is said to be a by-product of RASA dhatu. Rasa dhatu is the first among the 7 dhatus(building blocks of the body). So its normalcy or abnormality depends on the health of the rasa dhatu, roughly the plasma which nourishes the blood and other tissues. Menstruation or menstrual cycle is termed RAJA PRAVRITTI. Having a closer look at the RAJAHKAL, we will see many things at play. Even the age at which we begin menstruating tells us about the dominant doshas in our being. For instance, while menarche occurs on average around the age of 14, those with strong pitta in their constitution can begin menstruating as early as 9 years old. This is consistent with findings that females in a more pitta dominant, urban society enter into menarche earlier than those in a rural society. On the other hand, kapha tends to slow things down and stabilize what exists, such that menarche can occur as late as 16 years of age. Without the kapha, there would not be enough tissues for menstruation, and without sufficient pitta and rasa and rakta, the flow would be weak.
When a baby girl is born, she has all the eggs her body will ever useand many more, perhaps as many as 450,000. They are stored in her ovaries, each inside its own sac called a follicle. As she matures into puberty, her body begins producing various hormones that cause the eggs to mature. This is the beginning of her first cycle; it’s a cycle that will repeat throughout her life until the end of menopause.
RUTUCHAKRA or the menstrual cycle expands on an average for 28 days although it may vary. It is divided in 3 phases which can be summarised as pre-flow, flow and fertile phase or in terms of Ayurved as below. The 3 doshas are said to play significant roles in all the three phases.
- Rutukala(fertile period)– This phase is mainly influenced by Kapha. According to Ayurved for regeneration and growth Kaphais essential. It is a period of resembling proliferative phase which starts after menstrual flow ceases. The endometrium thickens and becomes more and more glandular. A woman gains the essence of kapha- the juiciness, the glow, the sense of peace and being settled within herself. Rutukāla culminates in ovulation which happens approximately on the 14th So this phase is ideally 6th to 18th day of the cycle of which 12th to 18th day is the fertile period.
- Rutuvyatitakala(post ovulatory and pre menstrual phase)– Ovulation marks the beginning of the next phase. This phase is influenced mainly by Pitta. According to AyurvedPitta is essential for various secretions in the body. Therefore this phase resembles the secretory phase. Pitta mainly acts through the blood tissue layer, and as such, the endometrium becomes more engorged with blood vessels, in preparation for the potentially fertilized egg.
- Rajahsravakal(menstrual phase)– If the egg is not fertilized, the last phase, rajahkāla, arrives. This phase is mainly influenced by Vataalways act through Dhamanees or blood vessels which cause a spasm in the straight stem arterioles as a causative phenomenon of bleeding. This process is eloquently described as “the weeping cry of the vagina for the deceased ovum.” It is a sudden rise in vata that begins the menstrual period, and it acts as a moving force, enabling the flow of menstruation.
Characteristics of normal menstrual blood– Bright red in colour, does not stain clothing, has an odour that is not foul, has an amount that is on average, four anjalees. A single anjalee is the amount of liquid that would fit into one of your cupped hands. Hence, there is no set amount; it depends on the person, their constitution and their size. (35 ml- 50 ml.)As long as the doshas function optimally and aren’t depleted or overshadowed by another dosha, the menstrual cycle functions optimally.
IMBALANCED MENSTRUAL CYCLE–
Vata plays a significant role in any imbalance here along with pitta and kapha. Vata has a multitude of directional flows and without a fine balance; the downward flow of menstruation can be compromised by strong, upward functions in the body. APANA VATA a type of VATA, which governs downward flow, particularly in the pelvis, is the vehicle for continuous and easy outlet of wastes, such as faeces and urine, in addition to menstruation. Without normalcy of this vata subtype, many imbalances happen in the pelvis, creating a variety of disorders. Generally it is the upward flow of energy caused by activities, like too much speaking, thinking, laughing, and running, that pull apana up out of its normal directional flow. Other causes are exercising, biking, swimming, jumping, jogging, excessive talking or laughing, sleep skips, sexual intercourse,exposure to heat andradiations, heavy work, weight lifting etc activities during or immediately before periods precipitate the abnormalities by deranging vata.
Menstrual disorders are displayed as irregular periods, scanty or heavy bleeding, missed periods or delayed periods, clotted flow, pre-menstrual syndrome or extremely painful periods. All these manifestations can be explained in terms of dosha dominance.
The following guidelines will help us in knowing which dosha is deranged and the proper line of treatment to be taken.
|Characteristics of the menstrual bleeding||Frothy, thin, dry (absence of mucous), dark in color, lightening of the flow, clotted.||Yellowish tinge or red, hot, profuse, fleshy smelling or foul smelling, heavier flow||mucoid, unctuous, a heavier, yet longer flow|
|Associated symptoms||Pain Prickling, sharp, spasmodic, often in lower abdomen or back
Emotions like Anxiety, nervousness, fear,Stiffness, sensation of creeping ants.
|Pain with Burning sensation
Emotions like Anger, irritability, Inflammation, increased body temperature, headache, tender breast, acne, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
|Dull pain and itching
Emotions like Depression, emotional eating, swelling, water retention, bloating, yeast infections, increased sleep
Balancing the flow without medical intervention is necessary because female reproduction system is sensitive and totally in sync with rhythm of the hormonal system. Any slight derangement upsets the total body’s mechanism and most often if not always the cause lies in our faulty diet or lifestyle.
- Eat a simple diet and reserve all of your body’s digestive fire for the purpose of themenstrual cleanse. Two to three days before menses and onwards eat krushara or Khichadi of rice and green gram and other warm, thoroughly cooked meals will do just that. Try adding spices, such as ginger, cardamom, saffron, cumin, coriander, fennel and cinnamon. Food should be light, warm and satiating. Include soups, gruels, stews etc. During a menstrual cleanse, hydrate with warm teas, such as ginger tea, lemon tea, cumin, coriander, liquorice or fennel tea based on your constitution. Eating according to the constitution is very important and also the deranged dosha needs to be balanced.
- Ayurved has also given mode of living in menstruation. Right from the beginning of menstrual flow, Woman should observe Brahamacharya(abstinence),should avoid head bath during the flow, avoid day sleep, should avoid exertion, exposure to heat(cooking,etc). The female is also advised to live in a happy calm mood.
- Rest is a must at least during the premenstrual and menstrual phase. One can avoid rigorous physical activities during this time. Cleansing involves the movement of wastes down and out of the body and we want to be sure that that directional flow is not counteracted by upward movements so avoid them as discussed above. Don’t suppress urges, like urination, defecation and sneezing. Doing so promotes apana-vata to go opposite of its normal downward flow.
- Cleansing– in case of severe derangement consult a physician for internal medications but in severe imbalances abetter way to balance the doshais detoxifying treatments or panchakarma specifically basti(through rectal route) or nasyam. Seasonal cleansing or detox is a highly effective way to balance and rejuvenate all bodily tissues so that they function optimally.
- Abhyanga– or self massage regularly with sesame oil helps in reducing vata and useful in painful periods and promotes proper blood circulation so alleviates swelling or lethargy.
- Regular abdominal packs– with warm oils like sesame, castor or coconut oil according to the constitution. Help in reducing pain, back ache, constipation which is common in vataPrakriti individualsand balance the amount of bleeding. Should not be done during periods.
- Yoga and breathing practices– is a must as it helps a lot in achieving balance both physically and emotionally and strengthens the reproductive system. This is a must in PMS associated with irritability, anxiety or anger where pitta and vata are at work. Also useful in pain and swelling. Poses particularly great for the female reproductive system are child’s pose (balasana), butterfly’s pose (baddhakonasana), bridge pose (setubandhasana), plow pose (halasana) and reclining hero pose (suptavirasana). Pranayama helps in thinking clearly and also removes fatigue due to blood loss along with the other benefits.Yog postures should also be according to the dosha dominance and also the pranayam. Eg. Bhastrika or kapalbhati shouldn’t be practiced by vataPrakriti people but a must for kaphaPrakriti individuals.
- Useful herbs- according to the constitution one can use these simple herbs but only after consultation. Shatavari, ashoka, guduchi, ashwagandha, manjishtha, turmeric, nimba, triphala, aloevera are extremely useful.
Let us accept the uniqueness of our bodies and not subject them to unnecessary hardships in the name of modern life, women empowerment, superwoman status or whatever as at the end we are harming ourselves. In today’s competitive world this statement may overwhelm you but then remember – HEALTH IS WEALTH! Period.
Dr. Sujal Patil Torgal