community is quickly evolving its understanding of menopause. Following
the abrupt, early halt to the HRT portion of the Women's Health Initiative
last July, 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."
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.
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.
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
at menopause represent imbalances in the body that were already growing
in the body and are unmasked by the stress of shifting hormones.
Menopause symptoms are Nature's wake-up call to let you know you
need to start paying more attention to your health.
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.
Can Do Now to Get "In Balance"
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:
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.
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
to Hot Temper: anger, irritability, feeling hot, hot flashes, night
sweats, heavy periods, excessive bleeding, urinary tract infections,
skin rashes and acne.
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.
to Weight Gain: sluggishness, lethargy, weight gain for no reason,
fluid retention, yeast infections, lazy, depressed, lacking motivation,
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.
that your hormonal changes at menopause will be smooth and easy if
three factors are in place.
• Your mind/body
system (consisting of three doshas) is in balance.
• Your diet
is wholesome and rich in phytoestrogens.
• Your body
is "clean" and uncluttered inside so your hormones and body can "talk"
Did you know
that your ovaries and adrenal glands continue to produce estrogens
and "pre-estrogens" after menopause, providing your body with its
own hormonal backup system? Ayurveda describes that this hormonal
production after menopause will be optimal if your mind and body
are "in balance," providing just the right amount of estrogen to
prevent hot flashes and keep your bones, skin, brain, colon and arteries
healthy without increasing the risk of breast or uterine cancer.
doshas, as discussed above, is the first approach to ensuring optimal
hormone production after menopause, but Ayurvedic herbs can also
help. Indian asparagus root (shatavari; asparagus racemosus), thick-leaved
lavender (chorak; angelica glauca- related to the Chinese female
tonic Dong Quai,) licorice root, sandalwood, pearl, red coral, rose
and others are used by skilled practitioners in balanced, synergistic
combinations to help relieve hot flashes, libido problems, irritability,
mood swings and other menopausal symptoms.
Help from Plants--It's Not Just Soy!
Diet also plays
a key role in balancing hormones during and after menopause. It is
well known that Japanese women rarely experience hot flashes, probably
because their diet contains large amounts of soy, a food rich in
certain plant estrogens called "isoflavones." Soy products are not
the only source of plant estrogens, however. Another equally healthful
source of phytoestrogens are "lignans," compounds found in a variety
of whole foods including grains and cereals, dried beans and lentils,
flaxseed, sunflower seeds and peanuts, vegetables such as asparagus,
sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic and broccoli and fruits such as pears,
plums and strawberries.
and spices such as thyme oregano, nutmeg, turmeric and licorice also
have estrogenic properties.
It turns out
that if you simply eat a varied diet high in fruits, vegetables,
whole grains and dried beans you will be ingesting a rich phytoestrogen
feast in your daily cuisine! Variety and moderation are important
because just as too much estrogen is unhealthy after menopause, too
much phytoestrogen may also be dangerous. This danger can be avoided
by getting your phytoestrogens naturally from a variety of whole
foods, rather than from supplements or concentrated tablets.
Can't Stop Flashing, Get The "Lead" Out!
symptoms, such as frequent hot flashes, continual sleep disturbance,
and moderate to severe mood swings, are signs of deeper imbalances
that, if left untreated, will persist to set the stage for later
disease. For these more troublesome symptoms to manifest, the tissues
of your body–your bones, muscles, fat, organs, skin, and blood–must
be disturbed in some way. Ayurveda describes that stubborn symptoms
are usually due to the buildup of wastes and toxins, referred to
as "ama," in your body's tissues.
hot flashes that won't go away despite herbs, diet, exercise, and
perhaps even HRT usually represent a problem with ama. One of my
Ayurvedic mentors explained it this way: When your body's channels
are clogged with wastes, the heat from metabolism builds up in your
tissues. Hot flashes result from sudden surges in blood flow as the
body tries to clear the channels and dissipate the heat buildup quickly.
A similar phenomenon occurs when you have a heater set on high in
an overheated room with all the windows and doors closed. To cool
down the room, first you must turn down the heater (see Tips for
P-Type above) but you also need to throw open the windows and doors
(as in removing the ama) so the heat can flow out.
We can understand
this analogy medically in terms of hormone receptors. No matter how
much estrogen or phytoestrogen you have floating through your bloodstream,
it does you no good unless it connects with your body's estrogen
receptors, the tiny "keyholes" on your cells. Estrogen and phytoestrogens
fit these keyholes like minuscule keys and through them gain entry
into your cells. When the receptors are clogged with debris or "ama,"
your hormones cannot get into your cells to do their work. Then bothersome
menopause symptoms may persist despite a variety of attempted therapies.
In this case,
a traditional Ayurvedic detoxification program referred to as Maharishi
Rejuvenation Therapy (MRT), or "panchakarma," may be needed to clear
the body's channels and gain relief. This internal cleansing approach
is also the treatment of choice for more serious problems such as
osteoporosis and high cholesterol.
A study published
in a recent issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine
confirmed that this ancient technology of herbalized oil massage,
heat treatments and mild internal cleansing therapies does indeed
reduce toxins in the body. Hormone disrupting PCB's and pesticides
such as DDT were reduced by approximately 50% after just 5 days of
treatment. Other studies have shown overall reduction in health symptoms,
a rise in "good cholesterol," and reduction in free radicals from
In my clinical
experience, MRT can be very transforming, eliminating symptoms while
at the same time dramatically reducing stress and fatigue. After
a week of treatment, my patients not only report feeling much better,
they radiate health and youthfulness and many experience a profound
sense of well-being and inner peace.
point to remember at midlife is that health problems don’t pop out
of nowhere when your estrogen levels start to fluctuate and fall
off. Rather it is the cumulative effects of damaging lifestyle habits--late
nights, fast food, eating on the run, lots of stress, too little
exercise--over decades that set in motion chronic disease and aging
well before menopause. Your symptoms are simply telling you just
how out of balance you are. The good news is that with a few basic
lifestyle changes, and the healing power of Maharishi Ayurveda when
needed, underlying imbalances can be resolved, paving the way for
a smooth menopause transition and great health in the years to come.
to top of menopause article >>>
M.D. received her M.D. from Johns Hopkins and did her postgraduate
training at Stanford. She has studied Ayurveda with some of the world's
most renowned Ayurvedic physicians in India, Europe and the U.S.
Dr. Lonsdorf has 17 years of clinical experience with Ayurveda and
is currently the Medical Director of The Raj Ayurveda Health Center
in Vedic City Iowa.
has authored two books on Ayurveda and women's health:
1. A Woman's
Best Medicine (Penguin/Putnam 1995 ; ISBN 0-87477-785-2) describing
the Ayurvedic approach to the major issues in women's health
2. A Woman's
Best Medicine for Menopause (Contemporary/McGraw Hill 2002; ISBN
0-8092-9335-8) describing the Ayurvedic approach to menopause
contact information is:
M.D. 1734 Jasmine Avenue Vedic City, IA 52556 641-472-8246 web site