How do you feel during your period? Are you plagued by mood swings and stomach cramps, that make you dread the event every month? Or are you suffering from troubled skin and a bad mood for already days beforehand? For many women, menstruation is no fun. Maybe you experience the same symptoms every month, which are difficult to get a grip on. And so you take them for granted, as something that’s “just part of the job”. But by nature, your period shouldn’t be something unpleasant. When your body and mind are balanced, any woman can have a trouble-free cycle. And Ayurveda can help you to achieve that!
Ayurveda has its own unique view of the menstrual cycle, giving us a great deal of insight into what happens in your body throughout the month and what it needs. This makes it easier to tune into your own cycle and get a grip on recurring symptoms. And did you know that a difficult cycle can speak volumes about how the rest of your body is doing? In this blog, I tell you all about it. I also give you 11 self-care tips to optimally support and balance your body & mind throughout your cycle.
Menstruation and the 3 doshas
In order to explain the Ayurvedic view of your period, let’s go back for a moment to the 3 doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are three energies that we find everywhere, including in our bodies. We are all made up of a unique combination of the three doshas, which are present in each person in different proportions.
But we also find the doshas in the rhythms of nature. For example, each day can be divided into periods of Vata, Pitta and Kapha time, hours in which one of those three energies is most dominant. The same thing happens on a larger scale, with the passing of the seasons. Right now, we are in the Pitta season, summer. This is followed by the Vata season, autumn and early winter, and the Kapha season, late winter and spring.
The presence of those cycles, everywhere in nature and on different levels, is a beautiful reminder of the fact that everything is connected. And your menstrual cycle is no exception. Just like the days and seasons, your menstrual cycle follows the rhythm of the doshas. Your monthly cycle can be divided into three stages, each of which is dominated by Vata, Kapha or Pitta.
What your cycle tells you
By becoming aware of those stages, when which dosha is dominant and what that entails, you’ll gain more insight into your cycle and how to best support this process. Do you suffer from (vague) recurring symptoms, during your period or at other times of the month? That too has to do with the doshas. If the doshas function optimally and are in harmony with each other, you can speak of an optimal menstrual cycle without issues. If, on the other hand, you experience symptoms at certain times during your period, this is caused by the doshas in your body not being completely balanced. Do you suffer from bad complexion around your ovulation (the Pitta phase), for instance? This could mean that Pitta is elevated in your body.
In that regard, the course of your cycle says a great deal about how your body is doing in a broader sense. It is therefore definitely worth listening to your body and paying attention to any symptoms, as this allows you to boost your overall health and prevent deeper imbalances.
The Ayurvedic menstrual cycle
Time for the Ayurvedic menstrual cycle! Below I explain what the different phases of the menstrual cycle are, as well as what symptoms you may suffer from at what time. I also give you 11 self-care tips for a balanced cycle. The days mentioned are a guideline—depending on your own cycle, certain phases may last a few days shorter or longer. An optimal menstrual cycle lasts 28 days.
Day 5 to 13: Kapha phase
It may not seem logical to start with day 5, but in Ayurveda, the Kapha phase is considered the first of your menstrual cycle. This phase begins at the end of your period, when bleeding stops, and runs until ovulation. During this phase, estrogen levels in the body rise, which causes the egg to begin to mature and the endometrium to thicken. Your body is preparing for possible fertilization. If you experience symptoms during this time of month, this may indicate a Kapha imbalance. You may notice symptoms such as fluid retention, painful breasts, fatigue and a heavy, lethargic feeling.
3 self-care tips
Do the symptoms above sound familiar? Focus on creating warmth and movement, to counteract Kapha’s cold and heavy qualities. Here are 3 self-care tips.
1. Opt for stimulating herbs. Use warming, stimulating herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and cardamom. These will boost your body & mind and help drain excess fluids.
2. Get plenty of exercise. Get moving to counteract feelings of lethargy and to stimulate circulation. Get up early and do a nice uplifting workout. Avoid daytime naps.
3. Choose light foods. Avoid heavy and greasy foods and opt for light foods instead. Leave out dairy and sugar as much as possible. Green leafy vegetables in particular are a great choice. Go easy on salt, to prevent your body from retaining even more fluids.
Day 13 to 18: Pitta phase
This is the phase around your ovulation, the time of the month when you are most fertile. Your endometrium is now at its peak and ready for fertilization. We tend to feel at our best during this phase. Thanks to Pitta’s energy, we feel extroverted, energetic, productive and sociable. But if Pitta is elevated, your system might get overheated, so to speak. You may experience symptoms such as troubled skin, headaches, irritability, diarrhea and increased sweating.
3 self-care tips
Pitta is fiery and sharp, which means that balance can be restored with softness and coolness. Here are 3 tips!
1. Choose cooling herbs. Balance Pitta’s fierceness with coolness. Aloe vera and turmeric are great herbs for this phase of your cycle.
2. Ensure relaxation and calmness. Give yourself enough time to rest. Be kind to yourself, switch to a lower gear and let go of (strict) judgments and expectations about yourself. Avoid stress as much as possible and make sure to get sufficient sleep.
3. Opt for proper nutrition. Avoid spicy and greasy foods, which enhance Pitta’s qualities. Instead, opt for the tastes sweet, bitter and astringent. In addition to leafy vegetables, broccoli and cauliflower are good choices. Also, make sure you get enough hydration.
Day 18 to 4: Vata phase
This phase begins after your ovulation and continues throughout your period, until bleeding stops. In the Vata phase, many things happen in your body; unsurprisingly, this is the period in which many women experience the most symptoms. In the week before your period, your estrogen and progesterone levels reach their lowest point. This causes dryness, lower body temperature, constipation and flatulence—all typical Vata complaints.
These symptoms tend to disappear when menstruation starts. Vata is the power of movement. This energy is responsible for all downward movements in the body, and pushes out the blood and mucus. This same energy can also cause you to visit the bathroom more often during your period. Your bowels are extra stimulated during this period. Because of the dip in your hormone levels, your body is now releasing the retained fluid, which may require you to urinate more often. But when Vata is out of balance and this downward movement is disrupted, you may experience abdominal pain and stomach cramps. Moreover, some women experience constipation or irregular menstruation. You may also suffer from other Vata symptoms during this phase, such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia and feelings of anxiety.
5 self-care tips
Vata is characterized by cold, dryness movement. If you experience some of the above symptoms, you should focus on creating warmth and grounding during your period, as this will balance Vata. Here are 3 + 2 additional self-care tips for this phase of the month.
1. Go for calming & warming herbs. Herbs such as ginger, chamomile, liquorice and ashwagandha have a warming and calming effect. A great way to take these herbs is to use them for making tea. Proper hydration is very important as well during your period, so you’ll gain double rewards.
2. Focus on warm, nutritious food. Avoid cold food and drinks as much as possible, as they reinforce Vata’s cold qualitites and block the natural flow of blood. Rather, opt for warm and cooked foods such as soups, oatmeal and stews. Also, make sure to eat plenty of whole grains and root vegetables, which will provide you with a sense of stability and balance your blood sugar levels.
3. Take plenty of rest. Your body is hard at work right now. Give it the space to do this job and slow down. Take the time to become extra aware of your body, to feel what it needs and where your limits are. Also make sure to get a good night’s sleep.
4. Avoid coffee and caffeine. These substances stimulate your body, but not in a positive way. They can exacerbate abdominal pain and cramps and can also cause feelings of restlessness, sensations that Vata is prone to anyway. You’d do well to avoid these while on your period.
5. Choose foods rich in iron. During your period you lose a lot of blood, which your body has to rebuild. Give your body a helping hand by eating some extra iron, an important mineral for the production of red blood cells. Good (vegetarian) sources of iron include green vegetables (such as spinach), chickpeas, kidney beans, dried fruit and cashew nuts.
Hopefully, these insights and tips will help you get a better grip on your cycle. Are you experience plenty of symptoms related to your menstrual cycle, or are you suffering from other health complaints? This could indicate that your imbalance is located fairly deep in the body. In that case, it would be advisable to contact an Ayurvedic doctor who can help get back in balance. Please send me a message if you have any questions!