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The Ayurvedic approach to the menopause

Ayurveda is a medicine form developed in India and Sri-lanka over 5000 years ago. Ayurveda looks at all parts of the body and mind and our connection with the natural and social environment.

In Ayurveda menopause is not seen as a ‘disease’ or imbalance but as a natural stage of life that in the past has not usually caused too many adverse affects. In fact, it was always viewed as a right of passage as we enter the last phase of life, we retire from difficult, challenging work and our energy involved in our reproductive system is redeposited to our mental function, allowing development of the emotional wisdom and insight we might need to take an advisory and supportive role within our family/communities.

In modern times we tend to work a lot longer and in to our old age and because of this some issues with our natural rhythms and cycles have emerged. These can show up as imbalances in our body, which can affect our hormones, immunity and our general mental and physical health. This is why women now often struggle with menopause, experiencing a lot of challenging symptoms that may stop them living a comfortable life.

The stages of life according to Ayurveda

· Bāla (child stage)- Kapha dominant

o During this phase we use kapha (earth and water) for building and growing, as kapha corresponds with the plasma, muscle, fat and skin tissue.

· Rajomathi (adolescent) – Pitta dominant

o During this phase pitta helps the menstrual cycle start and the mental capacity engage and develop. Pitta is associated with transformation, metabolism and heat.

· Yuwthi (adult)- Pitta dominant

o Pitta continues to dominate into adulthood and helps us find the drive, ambition and motivation needed to look after ourselves and our families, making an appropriate home and finding security and fulfilment.

· Pravdā (post menopausal)- Vata dominant

o The menopause signifies the end of this pitta phase as by this time we have done our reproducing and are able to further the ageing process. During this phase vata qualities start to come in to the body and we might experience more dryness, coldness, roughness and weakness/dryness in the bones and joints. It is common to get bone disorders at the time as well as a weakening of some of the mental capacities such as memory. However if we come to this stage with balance and if we support ourselves appropriately we can enjoy a greater level of creativity, communication, emotional wisdom and playfulness as we start to lessen our work loads and find new avenues of expression.

Although pitta and vata are the main doshas involved in the menopause these will likely be worsened if we have a vata or pitta imbalance as we approach this transition. Here are some common symptoms that may come up depending on your birth dosha and current state (vikruti).

Vata imbalance during menopause

If you experience the following you likely have a vata imbalance and/or a predominant vata birth dosha:

· Poor temperature regulation

· Dry skin and mucus membranes (including the external and internal reproductive organs)

· Bloating

· Constipation

· Anxiety/overwhelm

· Weakness and dryness in bones and joints (osteoporosis)

· Light bleeding in peri-menopause

· Variable hunger

· Weight loss

Pitta imbalance during menopause

If you experience the following you likely have a pita imbalance and/or a predominant pitta dosha:

· Hot flushes

· Rashes, itchiness, acne and irritable skin and internal/external reproductive organs

· Heavy bleeding in peri-menopause

· Anger, jealousy, judgment and irritability

· Loose stool/IBS symptoms

· Excessive thirst

· Strong hunger and cravings for sugary, salty, sour, pungent and oily foods, caffeine, chocolate and alcohol.

· Acid reflux

· Headaches

· Inflammation and pain in joints

Kapha imbalance during menopause

If you experience the following you likely have a kapha imbalance. We may receive these symptoms if kapha is very high in the body due to the blockages kapha can cause but we are also likely to experience some pitta and vata imbalance along with this because as the pitta moves in the system the kpaha blockages can cause stagnation and lead to pitta and vata build ups.

· Water retention particularly near and around reproductive organs

· Depression/feeling low/numb/unmotivated

· Increase in cravings for sweet, sour and salty food and food with a heavy quality

· Weight gain

· Tiredness/lethargy

· Slow digestion

What is the best diet for menopause?

As mentioned above we are mainly working to reduce pitta and balance vata during this time and the first easy way to start this process is to look at supportive and unsupportive foods.

Different flavours in food show us their different doshic qualities so this is the first easy method of understanding the appropriate dietary changes: