This is the first of two articles looking at the Ayurvedic approach to menopause, which explains women don’t have to move through this stage of their life enduring the symptoms we have come to accept as normal in western culture.
When I entered what is termed the perimenopause, I looked at all the books out there and was astounded to discover they all treated this phase of my life as a disease! Menopause as a disease is not found in the ancient scripts of Ayurveda. This phase of a woman’s life is viewed as a natural transition from the pitta to the vata (explained further on) stages of life – reports of menopausal symptoms in the Indian culture from which Ayurveda comes have grown in line with urbanisation and shifting into a western style of living[i].
To understand the Ayurvedic approach to menopause, you need to understand the Ayurvedic view of the world, and how living to the natural rhythms that Ayurveda prescribes, can allow menopause to morph back into being part of the natural cycle of a woman’s life, without the symptoms we have come to associate it with.
Ayurveda recognises a basic energy from which every material thing comes into being and explains this through the theory of the gunas and the doshas – triguna theory and tridosha theory. The gunas are different expressions of this fundamental energy of the universe, which allow for the elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether to form. Tridosha theory explains that these elements come together in specific ways to create 3 distinct principles that underpin our physiology: the doshas of vata, pitta, and kapha.
For good health we need to keep the balance of the doshas we were born with, in balance. But the way we live in western culture constantly pushes the doshas out of balance. These imbalances, if not rectified, will over time lead to imbalances within the body, causing digestive issues and ill health, and any unresolved imbalances will, during the menopause, lead to the menopausal symptoms women in the west are so well-versed in.
Ayurveda recognises three stages to our lives with each stage correlating to one of the doshas and the qualities they bring. The kapha stage of life corresponds to the childhood years up to puberty. The pitta stage of life begins with puberty and lasts to around 50 years of age. The vata stage of life begins around 50 years of age and continues until death. Menopause corresponds to the time of life when we are moving from pitta dosha to vata dosha, and we will feel any imbalances in these doshas especially keenly.
The doshas are dynamic and constantly changing in response to the conditions of our lives both internally, for instance as we age, and externally: the time of day, the seasons, everything that enters our mind and body from the external environment through our senses, examples are the weather, stress, and the food we eat.
Ayurveda explains how to re-create balance in the menopausal woman and teaches younger women how to live a life in balance with their constitution (balance of the doshas), so they don’t have to deal with the symptoms of imbalance when they move through this elder stage of their life.
Ayurveda offers diet and lifestyle suggestions, along with herbal support, and appropriate Ayurvedic therapies, to support you to stay in balance and return to balance. It isn’t a quick fix, rather it is a process that can take three to six months, during which you will be creating the fundamental changes that will allow you to age well. This is a happy alternative to becoming dependent on taking a quick fix drug that has unwanted side effects.
And so, to support your menopausal journey you need to discover your constitution, whether you have any of the doshas currently out of balance, and apply the remedy. Other things that are important include establishing a consistent supportive routine, and rest.
If you re currently on HRT, I have found no research that currently says an Ayurvedic approach would interfere with this – Ayurveda is treating the ground from which the imbalance causing the symptoms comes, with food, herbal and lifestyle guidance. It’s always good to check in with your doctor about the use of herbs, if you are taking medication.
In the next article I will be sharing how to spot whether your menopausal symptoms indicate a vata, pitta or kapha imbalance, and what to do about it.