The word Ayurveda means “knowledge of life,” and to know Ayurveda is to comprehend the dynamic relationship between our body, mind, and spirit and how each of these aspects of the self relates to the world around us. While we will always know our own bodies better than anyone else ever could, there are times in a woman’s life, such as menopause, when the changes in our bodies confound us. At such times, talking with an experienced practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine can be helpful. Many women have found not just relief during menopause, but improved overall health and longevity by integrating conventional medical approaches with alternative practices such as Ayurvedic medicine.
There are many Ayurvedic approaches to nurturing well-being during menopause. First we must understand the doshic system, which serves as a central guide to the origin of menopausal symptoms. Each of us is born with a fundamental constitution, or prakriti, that persists throughout life. Acting on our constitution and influencing our health are the three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. These three doshas are responsible for the manifestations of the natural forces at work in the body’s systems. Each dosha is defined or represented by two of the five natural elements: ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth.
Vata, formed by the interaction of space and air, resides in the hollows and channels of our body and helps govern the function of the nervous system.
Pitta, composed of fire and water, exists within our body mainly as bile and acid and is most closely associated with the digestive and excretory systems.
Kapha, which combines the properties of water and earth, relates to the respiratory system and mucous membranes and forms the structures of our body.
In Ayurvedic medicine, a course of action is always individualized and will generally be based on the individual’s imbalances (also known as vikṛti). If you have an imbalance or excess in one of the doshas during menopause, that imbalance tends to produce certain symptoms that are characteristic of that dosha. Recognizing which dosha dominates your system in menopause will help to identify which Ayurvedic guidelines would best ease your symptoms. Below are signs or expressions of which dosha is predominant.
Mild hot flashes
Poor skin tone
Hot flashes and night sweats
Urinary tract infections
As a general rule, the first step to restoring balanced wellness during menopause is to adopt a dietary and lifestyle regimen that’s specifically designed to pacify the dosha that dominates your constitution at this time of life. Here are some guidelines for addressing menopausal symptoms with a dosha-specific self-care program.*
*To obtain the best results from the Ayurvedic herbs and formulas recommended for your symptoms, take them under the supervision of an experienced Ayurvedic medical practitioner.
Ayurvedic advice for vata-dominated menopause:To nurture stability, establish a routine in all that you do from the time you get up in the morning to mealtimes to the time you go to bed. Going to bed early can also help balance excess vata.
Consume herbs such as cardamom, fennel, cumin, and ginseng in warm teas and in your food. A daily self-massage with a blend of sesame and almond oil is often one of the best vata-pacifying actions. The use of essential oils such as sandalwood, frankincense, cinnamon and myrrh as vapor or in massage oil is also effective.
Dietary habits that decrease vata include frequent small meals, freshly cooked, warm, and mildly spiced with herbs. Warm drinks and foods build strength, and it is good to try to avoid eating when you are nervous or worried.
Some gentle Ayurvedic herbs that could be used would include ashwaganda, licorice, haritaki, and tulsi.
Ayurvedic advice for pitta-dominated menopause: According to Ayurvedic wisdom, one of the best ways to calm your fiery pitta-dominant menopause is with the application of coconut and sesame oils. Ghee (clarified butter) used as a massage oil or taken internally is another soothing option. You may also find the pitta-balancing essential oils of gardenia, honeysuckle, geranium, lotus, and peppermint quite relaxing.
The pitta-pacifying diet consists of lots of heavy, cooling foods that are cooked or small amounts of raw foods. The taste should be relatively plain, and the food shouldn’t be cooked in a lot of oil or heavily laden with hot spices. It’s important for these women to eat three regular meals a day around the same time each day. Eating sweet, juicy fruits like grapes, pears, plums, mango, melons, and apples between meals can also help. It’s best to avoid alcohol. Drink generous amounts of cool water to stay refreshed and hydrated.
Ayurvedic practitioners encourage women with pitta-related symptoms to avoid pungent, sour, salty, and hot spicy tastes, and hot drinks and to consume foods and teas that incorporate herbs such as coriander, cilantro, and cardamom. Daily topical application of pitta-pacifying Ayurvedic herbs such as amalaki, aloe vera, shatavari, and brahmi is also recommended.
Ayurvedic advice for kapha-dominated menopause: During menopause, it’s particularly important for women with a kapha-related symptoms to stimulate the mind and body. According to Ayurvedic dietary principles, reversing the lethargy and stagnation induced by excess kapha requires eating light, dry, and warm foods, so it’s best to avoid sweet and cold foods, as well as oily or heavy foods like meats and cheeses. Instead, women with kapha dominance should eat mild-tasting fruits as opposed to very sweet or sour ones; warm and drying whole grains, such as millet and buckwheat, rather than wheat; smaller legumes, such as mung beans and red lentils; and pungent and bitter vegetables, such as greens.
Any and all spices (except salt) are fine, including black pepper, turmeric, and ginger. Kapha-dominant women often find they feel best when they avoid big meals, eat a light breakfast and dinner, and make lunch the most substantial meal of the day. Avoid most cooking oils, using light to none if possible.
Essential oils such as basil, cedar, frankincense, and black pepper can be used as a vapor or directly applied to the body. Try adding spices such as cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper ginger, and turmeric to warm teas and sip them throughout the day. Ayurvedic herbs such as guggul, bibhitaki, and pippali can be taken in moderation.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease.