How can Ayurveda help in
with menstrual problems?
Dr Lipsa Shah suggests healthy ways to deal with pre-menstrual
syndrome and poly cystic ovarian disease/syndome.
Menstrual issues and hormonal changes are common concerning the physiological phases of a woman’s lifespan, i.e. Menarche — Onset of Menstruation, Reproduction – Onset of ovulation, and Menopause – Cease of menstruation. These phases come with their own set of characteristics, impacting hormonal changes.
In most cases, hormonal changes are the cause. These changes generally occur around or during the menstrual cycle. But the actual cause is improper secretion in the ductless glands. If someone experiences such issues, there can be long-term gynaecological problems like PMS-related symptoms and PCOS, among others, which can adversely impact the reproductive system.
While artificial hormones are available to address the above, they can have specific side effects like weight gain, stomach ulcers, and more. Fortunately, Ayurveda has proven to be a single point solution for various physical ailments for many years now. With its range of herbal medicines and therapies, hormonal imbalance can be taken care of, to deal with menstrual issues effectively.
Pre-menstrual syndrome is a condition characterised by behavioural, somatic, and affective symptoms appearing 2-14days before the menstrual cycle, are usually resolved with the onset of menstruation. Studies have found that it affects 10-30% of menstruating women. The common symptoms include irritability, anxiety, mood swings, aggression, lower coping ability, breast swelling and tenderness, headaches, cramps, lower libido, bloating around the abdomen, and depression.
Normally, PMS can be diagnosed via procedures that involve analysing one’s medical history, blood tests (for measuring hormone levels), and pelvic ultrasound i.e. sonography. Ayurvedic treatments, exercise, and a good diet are highly recommended to manage it.
Some of the other ways are: eating healthy and fresh food, engaging in frequent yoga and deep breathing, having a sound sleep, reducing caffeine intake, avoiding smoking, alcohol, and high fat or sugar, taking supplements (calcium, vitamins, minerals), using ginger in food preparations, consuming leafy vegetables, and eating 5–6 small meals a day.
Effective Ayurvedic treatments include — ayurvedic medicines (prescribed by an expert), herbs like Shatavari and ashwagandha powders with milk (1 tsp each). Home remedies like wheat-flour porridge, juice made of bottle gourd, beetroot, tomato, and ginger, and Panchkarma treatment, Shirodhara, Nasyam, and Basti, i.e. Ayurvedic enema).
Polycystic Ovarian Disease/Syndrome (PCOD/PCOS)
PCOS is a commonly found issue amongst women in their reproductive age. A study has found that 22–23% of women suffer from it, thereby implying that their ovaries tend to develop follicles quicker than usual, each month. Close to 5 follicles generally begin to mature amidst every menstrual cycle, with one egg-containing follicle (at minimum) releasing a mature egg at ovulation. However, a polycystic ovary often develops twice as many follicles as compared to normal, which causes them to enlarge, without releasing an egg. The condition increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart and liver problems, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and high cholesterol.
While the real cause of the same remains unknown, it has been proven that resistance to insulin has an impact on other hormones. It causes an imbalance, and further leads to irregular or rare ovulation and menstrual cycle, wherein the follicle fails to attain maturity.
PCOS has also been found to be hereditary, wherein women with a family history of polycystic ovaries are 50% more prone to developing the condition. Common symptoms include irregular or no periods, very light or heavy bleeding during periods, abnormal hair growth on the face, chest and lower abdomen, acne, mild to moderate abdominal discomfort, weight gain, and infertility. It can be diagnosed via the same procedures that are used for diagnosing PMS.
To cope with PCOS better, changes in one’s diet and lifestyle — brisk walking for about half an hour at least five days a week, indulging in regular yoga, sleeping well, avoiding alcohol and smoking, reducing caffeine and sugar, and instead, consuming fibre–rich foods (fresh fruits and vegetables) can help to a large extent.
Recommended Ayurvedic treatments are: home remedies like dashamoolkadha, black sesame seeds, juice made of bottle gourd, basil leaves and black pepper, medicines prescribed by a consultant, and Panchkarma treatment.
(Dr Shah is an Ayurveda consultant at Saifee Hospital, Mumbai; Image by Irina Ilina from Pixabay)