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Understanding your Ayurvedic menstrual cycle

Much of a woman’s life is lead and guided by hormonal cycles, from puberty all the way through to post-menopause.

Maintaining a healthy cycle and hormonal balance will impact upon a woman’s whole body health, vitality, and general wellbeing.

We are all familiar with the term ‘PMT’ or pre-menstrual tension; this is just one indicator of how a woman can feel when hormones become even slightly tipped out of balance.

For women to maintain a healthy hormonal balance determines a woman’s ability to endure a pain-free, hassle-free menstrual cycle, to conceive and give birth successfully and to experience a stress-free menopause. Essentially, it is vital to a woman's core wellbeing.

In Ayurveda (the ancient Indian system of medicine), understanding your own personal health concerns is centred around recognising your ‘dosha, or constitution. Think of your ‘dosha’ as being a little like your ‘health star sign’.

Understanding your dosha will help you to understand how your body works and, therefore, how you can help it.

There are three core Ayurvedic dosha, vata, pitta and kapha. Put simply, we all have a little bit of all three, but there is often one that is more dominant.

You’ll probably be able to recognise which one you might be as you read the following, or take our dosha quiz if you’re still left wondering:

  • Vata types are highly creative and are a whirlwind of ideas 
  • Kapha types are your steady, strong and grounded individuals that often hold everything together 
  • Your pitta types are fiery, passionate, competitive and determined 

But, how does this relate back women’s health, specifically the menstrual cycle?

Well, interestingly, in Ayurveda, the menstrual cycle has its very own vata, pitta and kapha stage. How can this help? If you can recognise which phase affects you most, then you can understand the different way of supporting yourself through your period.

Here’s how the Ayurvedic menstrual cycle works:

  • The vata phase lasts from approximately day 1-5 (from the first day of bleeding)
  • The kapha phase lasts From the end of bleeding until ovulation (approx. days 4-14)
  • The pitta phase lasts from ovulation until your period starts (days 14-18).

And, here is how each phase is characterised with tips on what you can do to help:

The vata phase

Vata is the force that regulates all downward movements in the body, pushing the menstruum (the blood lost during a period) down and out of the body. Vata, therefore predominates during the period itself.

If your vata is out of balance, it will cause:

  • Digestive upset
  • Constipation
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety and/or insomnia

How do we balance vata?

This is a time to keep warm, rested and safe. Manage your diary so that you have some calm space during this time to recharge and keep life on your terms. This is an opportunity for some extended me-time. 

Calming, nourishing herbs that will strengthen and support your adrenal glands are key here. For example, licorice and ashwagandha. Steer clear of anxiety inducing stimulants like caffeine, and create space for mindfulness and meditation.


Pukka teas and supplements to try:
 

Find out more about the vata dosha.

The kapha phase

Kapha types naturally nourish and strengthen others - these are your mother-earth types. 

So, the kapha stage of the cycle is all about building the endometrium (the mucous membrane that lines the inside of the uterus). Oestrogen is the hormone that builds and increases at this time. It is the phase of restoring strength to the body and preparing for conception.

If your kapha is out of balance it may appear at this time as imbalances such as: 

  • Fluid retention
  • Breast distention (lumps on the breast)
  • Weight gain
  • Discharge
  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Back ache and general ‘heaviness’

Kapha types also store not just energy, but memory and emotion. If you notice you feel teary and a little low, it could be an indicator of imbalanced kapha.

How do we balance kapha?

This is a time so often filled with energy and vitality when you can rebuild your nutritive strength. Don’t hibernate, keep yourself energised and warm by getting outdoors and walking amongst nature. 

Herbs that support oestrogen balance are also key here. Oestrogen dominant conditions are characteristic of a kapha imbalance. Shatavari is your primary herbal remedy alongside cleansing, decongesting herbs such as aloe vera

 

Also, try increasing your intake of warming and invigorating spices like turmeric and ginger, to keep your digestion warm. Read more on natural ways to support your digestion.

Pukka teas and supplements to try:

Find out more about the Kapha dosha.

The pitta phase

Pitta types are naturally hot and fiery. Fire is transformative and this is the stage where the body prepares itself for new life; the endometrium for implantation of the fertilized egg and the breasts for milk production. Essentially, pitta fires our body in readiness for conception.

It is the hormone progesterone (a key sex hormone in women, like oestrogen, involved in the menstrual cycles and fertility) that peaks during this phase. Severe PMS is a classic sign of imbalanced pitta, due to hot pitta accumulating in the blood and liver. As the blood channels and menstruation are connected, there can be extra heat in the system, leading to: 

  • Skin irritations
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feelings of irritation and emotional overload

This is when pitta types can really manifest as fire!

How do we balance pitta?

This is an important time to help the liver metabolise the high hormone levels. The liver is a hive of activity, it is where almost everything from hormones to alcohol is processed and broken down. This creates a lot of energy and heat, so if you’re pitta your liver might be prone to getting a little over heated.

A good way to support this organ is by introducing cooling, detoxifying herbs such as spirulina and aloe vera. Also, including dark green leafy veg packed with the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chlorophyll (the bright green pigment in plants) will help.

 
Pukka teas and supplements to try: 

Find out more about the pitta dosha.