Definition of Stree (woman):
The definition of Stree as given by Raja Nighantu is “Stree cha artava bhavati sravati ithi stree.” That means, Stree is one who discharges Artava or menstrual tissue. The importance of menstruation can be assessed from this statement as Artava or menstrual tissue is regarded as very important for the maintenance of generations.
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What is PMS?
Menstruation, the monthly cycle is an essential part of almost every woman’s life during her reproductive years. Many women experience PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) related changes in their bodies before their period begins. Although the severity of these symptoms varies across women, PMS does have an impact.
It’s important to understand the nature of the PMS and manage it actively to maintain a physically and emotionally healthy menstrual cycle month over month. Ayurveda has got very practical suggestions to handle PMS.
From Ayurveda perspective, PMS can be classified into 3 types. Vata PMS, Pitta PMS and Kapha PMS.
May I remind the readers that Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are tri-doshas in a human body and the objective is to keep these doshas in balance for a healthy living. When any one of the doshas dominates, then we call it the diseased state. When these 3 doshas are in balance, it’s called Tri-Dhatu. When they’re out of balance they’re called Tri-Doshas.
How to manage PMS?
To ease PMS symptoms, the first step is to identify the type of the PMS we’re experiencing. Then follow the corresponding suggestions to manage the same.
General Guidelines for All Women
Hot castor oil packs, when applied regularly to the lower abdominal region, will help to get rid of Ama and is also very beneficial in women suffering from fibroids, polycystic ovarian disease, hypothyroidism etc.
Castor oil packs are also helpful for women suffering from digestive tract problems especially ailments like IBS or chronic constipation etc.
A hot sesame seed oil application followed by a bath: It is advisable to do this at least once a month. Apply hot/warm sesame seed oil to the whole body including hair. Go for a bath or shower but do not apply soap. The warm/hot water acts towards the steaming therapy and helps open up blocked channels.
All types of PMS
Irrespective of the type of PMS, some generic suggestions to handle menstruation-related symptoms are given below.
Free your body of ‘ama’, i.e. undigested food that gets accumulated in the body, which blocks the channels and results in many diseases. This ama tends to worsen PMS symptoms also. Ama is a result of improper diet, poor digestion, and inefficient elimination. So the first step is to eliminate toxins from the body. For that a) we should avoid pumping toxins into the body. Avoid junk food, tinned and canned food, preservatives, alcohol, smoking, and coffee. b) To eliminate the toxins that are already there in the body, use ginger, lemon, and turmeric in your diet. The easy way is to drink a cup of warm water with ginger, lemon and turmeric first thing in the morning. You can also take Triphala tablets under the guidance of your Ayurveda practitioner for ama removal.
During menstruation, take it easy. Don’t push yourself too hard mentally or physically. Take rest. Eat light, warm and preferably liquid foods. Your digestive fire is weaker during that time, so try not to put an extra burden on your digestive system by eating fries and pickles. Avoid strenuous exercises during your periods. Pads help with managing bleeding, but they don’t give extra strength or anything. Sometimes pads advertisements can be misleading. There is nothing to feel shy about taking it easy physically during periods, nor will it damage women’s rights in any way. For working women, it’s not easy, but try your level best to relax a bit during those days.
Prepare throughout the month to have a comfortable period. Have a balanced diet and balanced routine.
Vata Type of PMS
As Vata can be thought of as primarily consisting of Akasha and Vayu, we can expect symptoms related to Vata Dosha.
A quick reminder: Vata dosha is primarily made of Akasha (space) and Vayu (air). So when Vata dosha dominates in the body, the input (nutrient) to each cell is pushed out as output with very little going towards storage (muscle, fat) etc. Vata dosha dominant people tend to be thin and their thoughts run around. They’re like air. For example, Autumn is a Vata season. Leaves fall. Approximately in tropical weathers, 2 am to 6 am and 2 pm to 6 pm is Vata dominant time in a day. Similarly in a human body old age is Vata dominant where cells get wasted away. Keep this in mind when you read the symptoms of Vata PMS in the following section.
Vata type PMS Symptoms
Premenstrual phase: Loss of sleep, insomnia, constipation, excess dryness, nervous tension, depression, mood swings, bloating of abdomen, cramps in abdomen, tiredness etc
Menstrual phase: severe pains, cramps, lower backache, constipation, light bleeding, irregular periods, spotting between periods etc.
How to Pacify Vata PMS symptoms
Follow a Vata pacifying diet: As a general guideline, consume Sweet, Salty and Sour tasting foods. Avoid bitter, astringent and pungent tasting foods.
Vata pacifying tea which includes fennel, orange, lemon, cloves etc.
Warm sesame seed oil massage followed by steaming therapy
Hot castor oil packs to the lower abdomen will help relieve symptoms.
Pitta type PMS:
Pitta dosha is dominated by Agni and Jala. Accordingly, the PMS symptoms show up.
Pitta Type PMS Symptoms:
A quick reminder: Pitta dosha is primarily made of Agni (fire) and Jala (water/liquid). So when Pitta dosha dominates in the body, we experience high metabolism. Pitta dosha dominant people have high heat in their body. They tend to be medium built, like to eat small meals more often, are prone to ulcers and they like to participate in political debates. They’re like fire. Burning with the passion for something. Summer is Pitta dominant season. Dominated by heat. 10 am to 2 pm and 10 pm to 2 am is Pitta time in a day. Similarly, in a human life, reproductive years tend to be pitta dominant phase. Here we’re dominated by high metabolic rate relatively speaking. (A Vata dominant individual also experiences Kapha dominant phase, pitta dominant phase and Vata dominant phase in their lives. They can observe the relative differences during different phases of their life. Same goes for other doshas as well).
Premenstrual phase: Increased body temperature, irritability, anger, dizziness, increased appetite, diarrhea, excess sweating, increased acidity, burning headache, acne etc.
Menstrual phase: burning abdominal pain, cramps during bleeding increased bleeding.
How to Pacify Pitta type PMS Symptoms
Follow Pitta pacifying diet: As a general guideline, consume Sweet, Bitter, and Astringent foods. Avoid fermented foods and chilies. Also, avoid sour and salty foods. For ex: You can consume sweet grapes, but not sour grapes.
Warm oil foot massage is very beneficial especially with ghee (clarified butter)
Herbs like Triphala along with Shatavari daily are very helpful
Cooling breathing exercises like left nostril breathing or Shitali Pranayama will be effective
Body massages with oil containing Sandalwood or rose.
Application of lepa or masks with sandalwood and rose helps to relieve excess heat from the body.
Kapha type PMS:
Kapha dosha is dominated by Prithvi and Jala. So regular Kapha individual type of symptoms can be experienced.
A quick reminder: Kapha dosha is made of Jala and Prithvi. Kapha dominant people tend to store more in their cells. So they are likely to put on weight and sleep more. They happen to be more compassionate and sympathetic and also stable in their views. They’re like earth. Late winters are Kapha dominant. Similarly, in a day, 6 pm to 10 pm and 6 am to 10 am are Kapha dominant times. Also, early childhood is Kapha dominant in human life. Make a note of this when analyzing Kapha type PMS.
Kapha type PMS Symptoms:
Premenstrual phase: Increased weight, fluid retentions, enlargement of breasts, tiredness, low digestion, sluggishness, heaviness etc.
Menstrual phase: mucus along with bleeding, heavy joints, clots in bleeding, cold feeling in the body.
How to Pacify Kapha type PMS Symptoms
Follow Kapha pacifying diet: Consume Spicy, Bitter, and Astringent foods. Please note: Spicy does not mean only chilies. Spices like black pepper, cardamom, dhania powder, cloves etc. are good. Avoid Sweet, sour and salty foods.
Application of sesame seed oil to the body and receiving steaming therapies will work wonders to get rid of excess Kapha from the body.
Triphala along with Guggulu will help to get rid of excess fluid retention and excess Kapha.
Regular sun salutations followed by cleansing breath exercises and right nostril breathing is effective.
Other herbs like Pippali are also beneficial.
PMS is quite manageable provided a) We follow a balanced diet and balanced routine throughout the month. And b) We understand the type of the PMS that we experience and take corrective measures accordingly.
Disclaimer: The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. The suggested dietary guidelines here should be cross verified by an Ayurveda practitioner. They will further customize the guidelines based on other diseases and imbalances you may have.
Coming up in the following articles: Managing Menopause