Experience Menopause Naturally
Menopause is often accompanied by debilitating symptoms, hot flushes, mood swings, insomnia, weight gain, lethargy and depression. Fear of osteoporosis and perceived loss of strength are also prevalent in our culture. In our western, youth idealizing society, for many women menopause carries with it the dread of growing old, of loss of respect as they move further from the perceived ideal of superficial perfection and closer to the stereotypical doddery, little old lady. In other cultures, postmenopausal women are revered for their wisdom, intuition and life experience. In the traditional culture of India, they become the teachers of the young and the keepers of knowledge of life.
A woman’s physiology is a finely tuned instrument capable of creating, maintaining and sustaining life. Hormonal cycles maintain a delicate balance preparing for monthly ovulation, menstruation, and then, when the physiology is over child bearing years, menopause. When balanced, a women’s physiology can experience these changes without discomfort or emotional distress. Pain, moodiness, fluctuations in weight and low energy are just symptomatic of imbalance.
Modern Medicine tends to treat menopause as a disease of estrogen deficiency, offering women the magic bullet approach of Hormone Replacement Therapy. Nature is intelligent. Menopause is a natural change in the physiology and occurs for a good reason. Cessation of periods occurs to prevent childbirth at a time when the body can no longer comfortably cope with it. The loss of iron, blood and protein, associated with menstruation, is curtailed at a time when your body needs to work harder to get adequate nutrition.
The body adjusts its hormone levels accordingly and continues to produce estrogen after menopause. The combination of hormones is different but adequate to support the physiology during the transition. The body produces different types of estrogen to suit the time of life. Estradiol, the most potent, is predominant in our reproductive years. Estriol, produced mainly by the placenta, is highest during pregnancy while estrone is more abundant after menopause. Introducing high levels of estrogen upsets the physiology’s natural hormonal backup system.
Many symptoms attributed to lessoning levels of estrogen can also be found in men of a similar age. Loss of muscle tone, skin firmness, changes in complexion and figure can be better understood as signs of ageing, stress and poor lifestyle. A study of more than 1500 men and women in rural England showed little difference between the genders for midlife symptoms. The only exception was for hot flushes and vaginal dryness.
Cultural differences further highlights the effects of lifestyle on women’s health as opposed to making the estrogen decline the scapegoat. In tribal and rural India, women living low stress, simple lives pass through menopause without the myriad of symptoms experienced by western women. Physical activity and a diet of wholegrains and fresh fruit and have a balancing effect on fluctuating hormone levels. There is no word for hot flushes in the Japanese language as they are so rare due to the Japanese diet of soy and phytoestrogens, which mimics the effects of estrogen in the body. Even in our culture 20% of women do not experience hot flushes and debilitating menopausal symptoms.
How easily a woman passes through menopause is a reflection of her overall state of health. Symptoms are the body’s way of crying out for health. Suppressing them with painkillers does not solve the problem and only serves to create side effects further down the track. To experience a natural, balanced menopause it is necessary to understand and adjust the lifestyle and dietary habits, which are causing the symptoms.
Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health does this by:
Treating the physiology as a whole
Treating each woman according to her unique physiology
Enlivening the physiology’s healing intelligence
Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health (MVAH) utilizes the understanding of the dosha theory. Everything in the universe is made up of the three controlling principles in nature called doshas. Vata dosha, expressed as space and air, is like the wind and is responsible for all movement in the universe. It is quick, light, dry, cold and changeable by nature. In the physiology, Vata governs thinking, talking, breathing, circulation and the menstrual cycle. Anything that requires movement has a predominance of Vata dosha.
Pitta is like the fire and is found in all transformation and metabolizing processes. It is hot, sharp, intense and exhibits the red, orange, yellow colours of the fire. Pitta governs the processing that takes place in the intellect and visual apparatus as well as digestion, cellular metabolism and body temperature.
Kapha, expressed as earth and water, governs all cohesion and structure in the environment. By nature Kapha is slow, heavy, sweet, stable, cold and sticky. It is responsible for all lubrication and matter in the physiology and therefore governs digestive juices, mucous and tears.
Everything we do, see, hear, feel, touch, taste or smell will increase or decrease the doshas. This effect can either create balance or imbalance depending on the unique state of our physiology.
Walking in the wind, excessive exercise, travel, irregular meals and going with out sleep all increase the windy, spacey qualities of Vata. Hot weather, intense activity, spicy food and skipping meals increase Pitta’s fiery qualities. While heavy food, damp weather and inactivity will increase the slow, sticky qualities of Kapha.
Understanding the influences upon us is the key to good health. A truly holistic approach provides the knowledge of life not just of diet, or only about exercise. You may have a purely organic, vegetarian diet free of processed foods and additives but if your digestive system is weak or your emotional state unstable, you will not be able to transform the food into the nutrients that you need. Similarly you may religiously follow a strenuous exercise program with the best of intentions only to find that is actually putting you further out of balance.
Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health not only looks at all the aspects of your life, it looks at you as a unique individual. Each of us is made up of a different proportion of doshas. Someone who has a lot of the wind like qualities of Vata tends to have a lighter build, is quick in their speech and actions, enjoys change and travel and when balanced is enthusiastic and full of ideas. Due to their light airy nature their digestion, sleep and menstrual cycle can be easily disturbed by stress, travel and emotional upheaval.
Someone with more Pitta in their constitution has a medium build. Their intellect is sharp; they make good managers and organizers and tend to be perfectionists. The colours of the fire can be seen in their ruddy complexion or freckly skin, in their red or blonde hair. Pitta brings strength to the digestive system and warmth to the body’s temperature. Balanced Pitta brings passion however if Pitta’s warmth becomes too much it can give rise to hot tempers and frustration.
A predominance of Kapha in one’s nature gives a bigger build. Not necessarily fatter but bigger bone structure, thicker hair, larger eyes and good endurance. People with more Kapha display more earthy, nurturing qualities than the other types. They are good with people and you often find then in the caring or teaching professions. They are slower to speak, act and change, preferring routines and regularity in their lives. The slower, stable sticky qualities of Kapha, when in excess, can create lethargy, weight gain and even depression.
Each of us has a different combination of doshas and therefore needs different advice to suit our unique physiology. A woman with a predominance of Kapha may need to keep up her regular exercise program as she goes through menopause while for a woman with more Vata in her nature, rest may be the key to maintaining balance. Appropriate diet differs also depending on our doshas. Spicy, sour or acidic food will aggravate Pitta dosha increasing the tendency towards hot flushes. The amount of such foods that can be tolerated again depends on your unique constitutional type. Small amounts of spice can be useful in stimulating the sluggishness of Kapha while the sour taste of lemon or yogurt can be quite soothing when Vata is out of balance.
Menopausal symptoms indicate which dosha is out of balance. It is important to note here that anyone can have any dosha out of balance due to the effects of lifestyle and diet, regardless of their nature. Excess Vata gives vaginal dryness, anxiety, mood swings, dry skin, constipation, forgetfulness and insomnia. Too much Pitta results in hot flushes, heavy bleeding, irritability, increased bowel movements and skin problems. Kapha out of balance causes excessive weight gain, fluid retention, breast swelling and lethargy. It is possible to have more than one dosha out of balance and this may change due to the season or even the time of day. Pulse diagnosis is used to determine your constitutional type and which doshas are out of balance.
Knowledge of the doshas brings simplicity to the myriad of menopausal symptoms. By pacifying the dosha that is out of balance, you are treating many of the problems at once and actually getting to the underlying core. To soothe the dry, spacey qualities of Vata, follow a regular routine, get adequate rest and have an oil massage. Vata is pacified by warm, cooked foods with sweet sour and salty tastes. To cool down Pitta’s fire take time out for relaxation and being in nature. Avoid skipping meals and favour bitter, sweet and astringent tastes. Getting up early, exercising and reducing rich creamy foods offsets the heaviness of Kapha. To balance Kapha eat whole grains and cooked vegetables with a predominance of bitter, astringent and pungent flavours.
Nature has provided a smorgasbord of medicines to balance and maintain our health that exists outside of the pharmaceutical industry. We are surrounded by an abundance naturally occurring foods, herbs and spices, yet many reach towards the synthesised bottled version. In many cases the western medical model of extracting the active ingredient from a plant has been found to both create side effects and also be less effective. Many apparently inactive ingredients have turned out to play significant health giving roles. Researchers initially dismissed Bioflavanoids, a class of molecules found in plants. They have now been found to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-ulcerogenic and hepato-proctective agents.
Phytoestrogen found in vegetables, cereals, grains and legumes, are similar in structure to human estrogen and affect hormonal balance in a woman’s body. When they are naturally occurring in food they do not create side effects. Your body is used to them as your genes have naturally evolved with them over millions of years. In food they occur in a wide variety so no hormonal signal can overwhelm your body’s delicate hormonal balance.
Phytoestrogen is not just a replacement for estrogen. It acts intelligently. In some organs it will act like estrogen while blocking its effect in others. The total effect is one of balancing your hormones and supporting your body rather than over stimulating and causing side effects. Overtime imbalances due to excess can lead to further problems. There is evidence to show that naturally occurring vitamins found in food are a more powerful and safer option.
One study showed a 50-70% reduction in heart attack risk in postmenopausal women taking Vitamin E naturally occurring in their diet while only a 35-40% reduction was found in those taking vitamin E as a supplement. Some members of the group taking the supplement were found to have increases in strokes and bleeding. Another study showed that those with a high Vitamin intake from diet and supplements had less benefit than those with a healthy diet.
Randomly adding hormones and sythesised ingredients to the physiology can upset its natural balance and create problems worse than the one initially being treated. Hormone Replacement Therapy has been found to elevate risks of gall bladder disease and blood clots both in the legs and lungs. The risk of developing breast cancer is shown to increase by up to 40% in women on the HRT program. Taking doses of estrogen alone has been found to increase the possibility of uterine cancer. However estrogen and progestin together nearly doubles the risk of breast cancer after ten years.
MVAH supports your overall health during menopause by strengthening your physiology’s own healing intelligence and balancing mechanisms. A state of relative stability is maintained in the body by homeostatic feedback loops. When the weather is hot our body perspires and our veins and arteries expand to cool us down. This balancing device allows us to maintain a body temperature of about 37 degrees regardless of the surrounding environment.
Homeostatic feedback loops and our internal hormonal production systems are better able to do their job when stress, irregularity of meals, sleep and exercise is limited. If the physiology is constantly trying to adapt to external changes it expends a lot of energy just trying to keep up. Long term irregularities in the internal biorhythms such as cycles of hormones, sleep, digestion, elimination and other cyclical functions can influence the timing of your hormonal secretions. If your body is clogged with impurities due to poor diet and lifestyle, the delivery of hormones to your body’s tissues will be obstructed even if your hormone supply is adequate.
By bringing balance to your internal cycles and clearing away wastes and impurities, your body can best absorb the decreasing estrogen available. Fatigue, weight gain, depression and hot flushes are reduced when your physiology is acting at its most efficient.
Judy, a 53 year old consultant in human resources, turned to MVAH when HRT failed to relieve her of her menopausal symptoms. For five years she had experienced hot flushes, sleep disorder depression and a declining libido. She had tried two gynecologists, both of whom had treated her with HRT and then given up when she failed to find improvement. First one and then the other dealt with her continued complaints by increasing her estrogen dose until she was taking nearly four times the usual dosage. Such a high dosage was putting her at a serious risk for side effects yet not providing her with relief.
Her MVAH consultation revealed that accumulated wastes and toxins were blocking the channels in her tissues preventing her hormones from reaching the target sites. She was advised to undergo a series of deep internal cleansing procedures and adjust her diet. On following the procedures and altering her diet, Judy experienced significant relief. Her hot flushes and sleep problems improved and her libido and energy normalised. Over three months she was able to gradually reduce her HRT dose to a low-normal range with no increase in the menopausal symptoms.
Judy’s experience shows that adding excess estrogen to the body is not the answer. When the channels are blocked the hormones cannot get through regardless of the quantities administered. Even if you are taking HRT, cleansing the body and improving the diet can support the absorption of the extra hormones and you may be able to reduce the dosage of estrogen.
Menopause need not be a time of fear and discomfort. By taking a holistic look at your life and making some health promoting adjustments it can be a time to purify and balance your self. Doshic imbalances are just a result of inappropriate diet and lifestyle choices and can be rectified as easily as they were created. Drinking warm water that has been boiled first and getting regular gentle exercise helps to eliminating blockages in the physiology. Support your physiology’s healing mechanisms by regular routines and stress reduction. Indulge in nature’s supermarket of phytoestrogens and vitamins naturally occurring in food. Most importantly enjoy menopause as a transition to an era of greater wisdom, respect and good health.
The author, Wendy Rosenfeldt BA DipHealth(MAVHEC), is a Maharishi Vedic Health educator. She is based in Melbourne but travels regularly to the Gold Coast. For further information on seminars, consultations or any aspect of Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health call 03 9846 5294 or 0438 507 188.