Menopause is the natural process of the end of monthly menstruation. Usually this change is associated with a set of miserable symptoms lasting from six months to more than five years. As you approach menopause, the production of female hormones; estrogens and progesterone by ovaries vary bringing about changes in the menstruation. Your cycles may get longer, shorter or irregular with lighter, heavier or unpredictable bleeding, gradually leading to complete cessation of bleeding. You are clinically said to have menopause, if you had no bleeding in last 12 months (if you are after the age of 50). Before 50, to confirm menopause you need to have absence of menstruation for last 24 months. Assessing your hormones via blood tests usually helps to have an early understanding.
Menstruation marks the end of reproductive years. Usually women reach menopause between the ages of 45 to 55, age of 51 being the most common age around the world. If it occurs before 45, it is called early menopause, and before 40 as premature menopause. According to Ayurveda, traditional medicine of India and a way of living; childhood is dominated by kapha (the water factor, read more about doshas here), adulthood by pitta/ fire factor and old age by vata/air factor. Menopause is nothing but progress from pitta ages to vata years. This transition occurs both in men and women. But for women the change is abrupt and sometimes body expresses some symptoms.
These symptoms become prominent -which is very common lately -if you have unhealthy lifestyle, physical imbalance, diseases and/or stress. Many experience some hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. There may be other symptoms like drying out and thinning of skin, thinning of hairs, aches and pains, insomnia, migraine, anxiety, depression, mental fogginess and short term memory loss. An increase in the vata/air factor which is depleting for the body, can lead into thinning of bones (osteoporosis) which can easily cause fractures; and an increase in the risk of heart diseases and stroke.
Even though menopause usually occurs around the age of 50, the process begins slowly after the peak age of womanhood at 35. If we have taken proper care of the body before 35, we can prepare our body to surpass this transformation smoothly. Ayurveda has been helping women to combat these issues effectively for many centuries. With its unique understanding of body, individual differences and our beautiful relation with Mother Nature, Ayurveda can help us to prepare for menopause and to reduce the intensity and duration of peri- menopausal symptoms (symptoms around menopause).
Ayurveda being a holistic system; assesses the individual as a whole. Considering individual body type, state of mind/emotions and the level of imbalance of body factors (doshas); Ayurveda offers a range of herbal products which can correct metabolism, balance doshas and improve hormones. Shirodhara-streaming of warm liquids at forehead (Shirodhara) is particularly useful as it relaxes mind, provides tranquillity and controls vata. Body therapies like hot herbalized oil massage, herbal pouch massage (kizhi), gentle scrub and so on with individually tailored herbal oils, powders or herbs help to improve metabolism, hormonal balance and health of skin, bones, joints and circulation. Ayurvedic detox known as Panchakarma helps to eliminate toxins that are primarily affecting your metabolism and in turn your hormones and other tissues. All these treatments if administered properly will rejuvenate you and slow down aging as well.
Diet and lifestyle:
Eat a balanced meal when hungry. Remember to include required amount of proteins, carbohydrates, fibres and healthy fat. Yes, you need carbs as well but never beyond the limit. A piece of toast, small cup rice or other grains twice a day would be enough. Eat lots of veggies and 1-2 fruits per day. Include green leafy veggies, sesame seeds, asparagus, finger millet and butter milk in your diet.
Watching your calories and keeping an eye on your body weight is good for any age but crucial step after the age of 35 years for the future less flexible years.
Self massage with warm sesame or coconut oil is good to balance your body and improve sleep.
Make sure you have a good sleep, prefer to go to bed before 10.30 if you have any difficulty with sleeping.
Exercise regularly within your limits. An outdoor activity with your friends or partner or in a group is much better. Never jump into something strenuous and hurt yourself. Begin with something you are used to, increase the duration to 30-40 minutes and then you may try to improve your stamina. Yoga is particularly helpful as it helps to manage stress and maintain stamina without undue stress to joints and heart.
Make sure you are relaxed. Practicing meditation and mindfulness will help you to calm yourself.
Change is the inevitable law of nature. Instead of facing menopause with discontent, understand, prepare for and embrace menopause as the new chapter of life and be happy in these wise years. More beautiful is yet to come!!!
Things to remember:
- Proper care of body during early years can reduce the intensity and duration of the symptoms.
- If you are having heavy bleeding you have to seek immediate medical care.
- Adopting healthy eating and maintaining an optimum level of physical activity can reduce the risk of heart diseases and stroke and also reduce the peri-menopausal symptoms. (Remember to seek advice from a professional if you have specific health issues.)
- Balance your doshas by daily and seasonal regimes advised by Ayurveda.
(Please tag daily regimes, seasonal regimes and balancing your doshas here)
- Ayurveda offers many herbal products and treatments to effectively reduce the intensity and duration of symptoms.