PMS – Understanding your female body

The Human Body is a Microcosm of the Earth or the Macrocosm.
Just as the earth has its seasons, so does the body. Every month, as the female human body prepares itself for conception, there occurs a parallel internal seasonal change.

To maintain the health of the body, it is imperative to understand and honor its internal seasonal changes. One of the primary causes for female-related conditions such as PMS, PCOD, PCOS and even some types of cancers is the failure to do so.

The 3 seasons of the Female Cycle Explained

The Kapha Season (The Spring time) – This is the first phase of the female cycle and begins at the end of menstruation when you stop bleeding. The Spring time in the universe is marked as a time of regrowth, resurrection and rejuvenation. It is the time when the earth is wet, seeds are planted and flowers bloom. Similarly, after a menstrual cycle, the body prepares itself to receive again and sow the seeds of creation. There is a surge in hormones leading to the production of fluid filled follicles that contain the female eggs and the endometrium lining in your womb thickens. This is a time when a woman has an inherent glow and naturally feels grounded. The Kapha predominance also makes her gentler and more tolerant. But when not honored with the right foods and lifestyle, a woman may experience sluggishness and lethargy during this season of her cycle.

The Pitta Season (The Summer) – This is the time when the earth gets really warm and fruits ripen. Correspondingly, the internal summer begins with ovulation. There is yet another surge in warmer hormones leading to the maturation of the female egg and the engorgement of the endometrium. The body is ripe to receive and this is the ideal time for conception. Dominated by Pitta, the female body may release a certain smell and is naturally inviting to the opposite sex. This is the time when the mind feels sharp, decisive and can be a great time to get things achieved. When not honored with the right foods and lifestyle, agitation and excess heat may start building up.

The Vata Season (Autumn and Winter Season) – When the summer ends and the earth approaches winter, there is destruction and havoc. The animals hibernate and the earth slows down. This cycle of creation must end or become dormant before the new one begins. Likewise, when the egg fails to mature, the lining in the womb breaks and the woman begins her Raja Pravrutti or menstruation. This is dominated by Apana Vata or downward moving wind. The body must undergo this season carefully, so the next one can begin well. This is when Vata acts up and presents itself with cramps, bloating and anxiety. In order to allow the Vata work effectively in the downward direction, rest, slowing down and a Vata pacification diet is a must.

As menstruation ends, thus begins another seasonal cycle. If these cycles are followed with respect to their dominant doshas, you will not only be able to minimize your PMS symptoms but also attain a healthy body and mind.

Steps to Understanding and Honoring your Seasons

Live and Eat According to the Season – Once you understand the three dominant seasons as explained above, you can make a mindful effort to live and eat accordingly. During the Kapha phase of your cycle, follow a Kapha pacifying diet and make sure to keep active. This is a great time to make internal resolutions and commitments. During the Pitta phase, a Pitta pacifying diet of cooling foods should be introduced. Coconut water and rice can be added to your diet during this time. Even before the Vata phase begins, one must focus on slowing down and shifting to a Vata pacifying diet and lifestyle. Avoiding salads, cold and light foods is a must. Make sure to get enough sleep and consume warm, nourishing foods. As the menstruation begins, understand that a windy storm is brewing in your body. Menstrual symptoms may naturally begin to subside as you begin to live according to the internal seasons.

Understand your Dominant Dosha – Even though the actual menstruation phase itself is dominated by Vata and Pitta to a certain extent, your personal constitution will certainly contribute by displaying its own distinctive property to your menstrual flow.

Kapha – If your dosha is Kapha, your cycle may be heavier and potentially longer with premenstrual bloating, water retention, and a dull, achy pain. Emotions experienced can include sadness and depression. Emotional eating may be a tendency.
Steer away from sweets and baked goods. Herbs like ginger and black pepper may help stimulate the digestion and help Vata push downward. Even though you need rest during this time, avoid excess sleep and day time napping. Anulom Vilom Pranayam will help to regulate the doshas.

Pitta – If your constitution is Pitta, your periods are probably more regular, with yellowish or red blood. They can be intense, hot, profuse with fleshy/foul odor. Symptoms include can include burning, acne, headache, nausea, vomiting and emotions of anger and irritability. Avoid tea, coffee, spicy food, oily/greasy foods and chocolate. Focus on cooling foods and spices such as coconut water, rice, mint, basil and coriander. Sitali pranayam is recommended for internal cooling.

Vata – If your constitution is Vata, your flow may be irregular. The flow may be dry, dark, thin, frothy, clotted and lighter. Symptoms may include constipation, pain (spasmodic cramps often in the lower back and lower abdomen). Emotions experienced may be nervousness, anxiety, poor concentration and fear. A Vata pacifying diet which includes warming, grounding, cooked foods with ghee is recommended. Anulom Vilom pranayam will help to regulate the Vata significantly. Consuming celery seeds (ajwain) with black salt after meals and a 1/2 tablespoon of castor oil at night can provide dramatic relief.

3) Follow the Universal PMS Guidelines – There are certain universal guidelines to be followed a week before the expected period date. These minimize the PMS Syndrome and provide for a smooth period.
Do not consume excess sugar or caffeine as these aggravate Vata and may give rise to painful cramps and anxiety.
Avoid excessively salty foods as they can lead to water retention making the flow more sluggish.
Fried, Spicy and Junk foods should also be avoided as they aggravate Pitta making the periods more intense and hot. They can also lead to mood swings and a general feeling of anger and discontentment.

4) Upon the Start of your Menstruation – Once your period starts, the Pitta begins to settle and the Vata creates havoc.

Get plenty of sleep at night and sip on teas made from dried ginger, dandelion and gingko biloba.
Keep hydrated and avoid cold, and light foods.
Follow the Vata Internal Season guidelines mentioned above.
Avoid long walks and strenuous exercise as they interfere with the direction of Vata. You may perform gentle forward bending yoga asanas such as paschimottasan, janu sirsana.

Modern life has made it very easy for us to neglect our internal seasonal changes by popping a tablet to tune out of the events in our body. But only when we slow down and truly align our lifestyle with the needs of our body, can health be achieved.

This article was originally written for the Ayurveda Journal

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