Menstruation is a process that is both universal and deeply personal. No two experiences are ever quite the same, from the length of menstruation to how regularly it occurs to when menopause begins. Despite the uniquely individual nature of our relationship to our menstrual cycles, it can be difficult to find information about our reproductive health outside of broad topics like puberty, fertility, pregnancy and menopause.
By contrast, Ayurveda recognizes our menstrual cycles as a central part of our daily lives and overall health. Our reproductive health is informed by our diet, circulation, digestion and more. When we experience doshic imbalances, our menstrual cycles are also impacted. We can learn more about our own bodily imbalances by paying attention to our menstrual cycles. In this way, Ayurveda can empower us to approach our reproductive health with intentionality and care, and to target certain ailments more effectively.
HOW AYURVEDA VIEWS THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE
In Ayurveda, different doshas become dominant during different parts of our menstrual cycle. Viewing its stages in terms of the doshas can help us better understand the body’s natural developments and how our symptoms change throughout our cycle.
After a period, the menstrual cycle becomes dominated by Kapha. During this time, an increase in estrogen causes the endometrium to thicken, and follicles begin to grow in preparation for ovulation. In a healthy cycle, Kapha’s qualities of stability and security can lead one to feel more peaceful and secure than during other parts of the cycle.
Pitta dominates from the beginning of ovulation until a few days before menstruation starts. During this period, an increase in luteinizing hormone causes the ovary to release an egg, which has been formed from one of the follicles during the Kapha period. The endometrium thickens during this time in order to prepare for the potential fertilization of the egg, marking Pitta’s dominance over the blood tissue layer.
If the egg does not get fertilized, then menstruation begins. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop, and the uterus sheds its menstrual lining. Vata’s qualities of mobility and flow mean that it dominates one’s menstrual flow. A balanced Vata leads to healthy, regular menstruation.
SYMPTOMS OF A DOSHIC IMBALANCE DURING THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE
For some women, menstruation is a process that is uncomfortable or even painful. Furthermore, a lack of familiarity with how the menstrual cycle operates can make redressing imbalances seem difficult or opaque. However, Ayurveda teaches us that it doesn’t have to be this way—when we recognize our symptoms as a sign of deeper imbalance, we can learn how to remedy them.
SIGNS OF A KAPHA IMBALANCE
A Kapha imbalance can manifest from the end of menstruation to mid-cycle as congestion, thick discharge, swelling, lethargy and drowsiness. One might also feel emotionally tense or blocked-up if stress and other negative emotions have not been have not been appropriately mediated. Given Kapha’s associations with heaviness and stagnation, a Kapha imbalance can also lead to a thicker, heavier and longer menstrual flow.
How to Remedy a Kapha Imbalance?
If you think you may be experiencing a Kapha imbalance, it’s important to combat these symptoms with movement, moderated eating and a regular schedule.
To balance Kapha, eat light, pungent, astringent and spicy foods that will stimulate agni. These include ginger, pepper, cayenne, seafood, eggs and chicken. Avoid foods that are fatty, oily or overly sweet.
Kapha tends toward an overindulgence in sleep, so it’s also crucial to maintain a regular routine, and do get an adequate amount of sleep without oversleeping. Try to go to bed at the same time every day. In addition, Kapha benefits the most from waking up before 6am. Be sure to eat your meals at a regular time, too.
However, this doesn’t mean that you have to set a strict, limiting schedule; Kapha also benefits from spontaneity, so while it’s good to follow a loose regular daily framework, you should also leave room for fun activities, socialization and self-care.
Given Kapha’s tendency toward stagnation and stillness, it’s important to prioritize movement and regular exercise. You can start off with activities as simple as a daily walk or jog. Since Kaphas tend to have a stronger and sturdier constitution, they can actually handle more strenuous exercise than the other doshas. Some recommended exercises for Kapha include running or jogging, dancing, cycling and yoga.
SIGNS OF A PITTA IMBALANCE
Pitta is characterized by heat, sharpness and oiliness. When out of balance, Pitta can provoke an influx of heat and irritation that manifests as a heavier menstrual flow, and premenstrual symptoms can include swelling, tenderness, nausea, sharp abdominal discomfort and an increased body temperature. Furthermore, a Pitta imbalance can exacerbate emotions like irritation, anger and frustration.
How to Remedy a pitta Imbalance?
An excess of Pitta is best balanced by slowing down, cooling down the body and giving oneself time and space to rest.
A Pitta-balancing diet includes cooling, soft and soothing foods like leafy greens, sweeter fruits (such as grapes, melon, mango, etc.), wheat, oats, turkey and chicken. Avoid hot, spicy and oily foods, beef, eggs, seafood and pungent or sour vegetables (such as tomato, pepper, radish and onion)
Since Pitta tends toward overexertion and intensity, it’s important to make time every day for relaxation, stillness and meditation. One helpful exercise is to write in a daily journal in order to reflect and mediate the emotions.
In addition, especially during the premenstrual period, you can undergo a daily self-massage to calm swelling and irritation.
To balance Pitta, one should engage in exercises that are calming and cooling. Avoid exercises that take place in hot conditions. Beneficial exercises include swimming, casual tennis or basketball, pilates and kayaking.
SIGNS OF A VATA IMBALANCE
Vata is thin, rough, light and mobile. Given that Vata dominates during the period of menstruation, a Vata imbalance can lead to a dryness and thinness that impedes menstrual flow, resulting in a thin, darkened, dry and shortened flow. During the premenstrual period and menstruation itself, you might experience dull and achey cramping, bloating, constipation and back pain. Emotionally, a Vata imbalance can also lead to feelings of anxiety, unease, nervousness and fear.
How to Remedy a Vata Imbalance?
To combat a Vata imbalance, it’s important to prioritize warmth, stability, oiliness and moisture.
Avoid drying, cold and overstimulating foods like popcorn, chips, cold beverages, frozen food, grains, coffee and alcohol. Instead, eat foods that are oily, moist, warm and smooth, like soup, eggs, nuts, cheese, cooked vegetables and avocado. In addition, it’s important to stay well-hydrated throughout the day to provide the body with much-needed moisture.
Given Vata’s tendency toward stress, anxiety and overstimulation, prioritize activities that are calming, grounding and consistent. Try journaling every day, drinking a warming cup of tea in the morning instead of coffee and practicing yoga.
You can also do a self-massage targeting areas that feel achey. For example, since Vata imbalances tend to cause abdominal cramps, you can try out our UMA Body Balancing Navel Therapy Oil for pain and bloating relief.
Vata’s fast-paced, mobile tendencies should be mediated with exercises that are steady, gentle, grounding and regular. Vata-balancing exercises include yoga, walking, running, bare, lunges and squats.
MORE RESOURCES ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH & BRINGING THE DOSHAS INTO BALANCE
The above comprise just a few tips for bringing the doshas into balance, which will in turn promote a healthier, more regular menstrual cycle. For more information on how to combat doshic imbalances in the body and boost reproductive health, check out the related blogs below:
- Doshas Decoded: Determining Your Dosha + Dos and Donts for Balancing Your Doshas
- Everything You Need to Know about the Pitta Dosha & Balancing It
- Eat for Your Dosha to Optimize Health, Mood, Weight & More!
- Here’s How to Exercise According to Your Dosha
- How Ayurveda Can Help You Regulate Your Period
- Ayurveda for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Relief
- What Is PCOS, & How Can Ayurveda Help Treat It?