The medical community is quickly evolving its understanding of menopause. Following the abrupt, early halt to the HRT portion of the Women's Health Initiative July 2003, due to findings that Hormone Replacement Therapy's risks outweighed its benefits, headlines now read "Menopause is not a disease, but a normal part of life." Hormone "replacement" therapy (HRT) has become simply hormone "therapy" (HT) in recognition of the fact that replacing estrogen is not natural and brings dangerous side-effects, rather than the fountain of youth once touted.
Shocking and novel as these concepts may be to today's medical community, they are nothing new to Maharishi Ayurveda, a consciousness-based natural medical system from ancient India. For over 5000 years, Ayurveda has acknowledged menopause as a natural transition, not a mistake of Mother Nature's that requires hormone replacement therapy. Maharishi Ayurveda reassures us that menopause can be health-promoting, spiritually-transforming and free of troublesome symptoms.
Experts today are affirming this positive view of menopause, stating that it is not natural to get weak bones, heart disease and rapid aging after menopause. Rather, osteoporosis, heart disease and other chronic health problems develop over a lifetime, resulting largely from poor diet, stress and lack of physical exercise. And hormone replacement therapy (HRT,) once heavily promoted as the medical solution to these problems, is no longer recommended for their treatment or prevention.
Menopause: A "Balance Deficiency"What is recommended for the prevention of major health problems after menopause is a healthy lifestyle. And, according to Ayurveda, healthy living is also the best way to ease symptoms of the menopause transition itself. How balanced, or overall healthy you and your lifestyle are when you reach menopause largely determines how smooth your transition will be. If you are "burning the candle at both ends" in your 30's and early 40's, you are more likely to have mood swings, sleep problems and troublesome hot flashes when your hormones start to change. Whereas if you are have healthy lifestyle habits and are managing your stress effectively, you are likely to breeze through menopause without any major problems.
Age forty-five to fifty-five is a critical decade, according to Ayurveda. It provides the foundation on which your later health is laid. Just like putting money in your IRA, timely investing in your health can dramatically increase your "yield" of healthy years at midlife and beyond. Particularly if you have not been taking care of yourself in your 30's and 40's, making lifestyle changes now is critical to ensuring that you age gracefully without the burden of chronic health problems.
What You Can Do Now to Get "In Balance"While eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise provides the foundation of good health for everyone, each woman's menopause experience is unique. Symptoms vary from woman to woman. Knowing precisely how your body is out of balance can guide you in selecting the key lifestyle changes you should make to relieve your symptoms. Ayurveda describes that the type of symptoms you have depends upon which bodily principle or dosha is "out of balance" in your mind/body system.
There are three bodily principles: movement and flow (vata or airy), heat and metabolism (pitta or firey), and bodily substance (kapha or earthy.) And there are three basic types of imbalances relating to each of the three doshas. Easing your menopause transition can be as simple as "reading" your dosha symptoms and taking measures to get your doshas back in balance. The following symptoms and lifestyle prescriptions are indicated for each of the three dosha imbalances:
- Vata Type: Prone To Nervousness: anxiety, panic, mood swings, vaginal dryness, loss of skin tone, feeling cold, irregular periods, insomnia, mild or variable hot flashes, constipation, palpitations, bloating and joints aches and pains.
Ayurvedic Tips: Increase warm food and drinks, regular meals, early bedtime, oil massage, meditation, yoga, walking and spices such as fennel and cumin. Decrease caffeine and other stimulants, refined sugar, cold drinks, salads.
- Pitta Type: Prone to Hot Temper: anger, irritability, feeling hot, hot flashes, night sweats, heavy periods, excessive bleeding, urinary tract infections, skin rashes and acne.
Ayurvedic Tips: Increase cooling foods, water intake, sweet juicy fruits (grapes, pears, plums, mango, melons, apples,) zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, organic foods. Go to bed before 10 PM and try to wind down earlier in the evening. Decrease excessive sun and overheating, hot spicy foods, hot drinks and alcohol.
- Kapha Type: Prone to Weight Gain: sluggishness, lethargy, weight gain for no reason, fluid retention, yeast infections, lazy, depressed, lacking motivation, slow digestion.
Ayurvedic Tips: Increase exercise, fruits, whole grains, legumes, vegetables, spices such as black pepper, turmeric and ginger. Get up early (by 6AM). Decrease meat, cheese, sugar, cold foods and drinks.