Menopause is an important as well as inevitable event in a woman’s life. Reproductive function ends at menopause which normally occurs as a part of ageing. Dr. Jeena Aravind, an expert in Stree Roga, relates to us the reasons for hot flashes and how it can be managed with Ayurveda.
Twelve months of amenorrhea as a result of cessation of ovarian function gives a retrospective diagnosis as menopause. Women may undergo menopause between 45 and 50 years; some might go through it much earlier and some may undergo it a little later. Its transition is often characterised by a variety of symptoms which may vary from individual to individual.They can at times be disabling too. In some women, the symptoms may persist even for many years after menopause.Those who undergo surgical menopause also experience these menopausal symptoms.
The phenomenon of hot flashes (also called ‘hot flushes’) is one of the most common symptoms for menopause and this is usually reported as feelings of intense warmth associated with sweating and flushing.The person may experience palpitation and weakness too at this stage. It generally lasts for just 1-5 minutes. It affects up to 75% of the peri-menopausal women. It can be seen in many women even before menstrual irregularities set in and its frequency and intensity increase as they reach menopause. More often it interrupts her routine activities. Nocturnal hot flashes disturb sleep.
Ayurveda visualize the female reproductive entity representation as solar. Normal menstrual cycle is a part of the optimal functioning of this solar element. Cyclical changes are indicative of the swings of this solar factor in the body of females at reproductive age.On attaining menopause, this solar element in association with the female fertility, has to merge up with the digestive fire generally. Owing to unhealthy lifestyle, this physiology is erred in many ways and this merging doesn’t happen smoothly in many cases. Abnormal functioning of the element Vayu along with elevated heat in the body are the usual culprits at this stage. Increased intake of pungent-salty-sour food items, constipated bowel, habit of urinary urge suppression, exposure to intense hot temperature, either hot weather or work atmosphere, and strenuous exercise may interfere with the blending of fertility fire to the digestive fire entity. Therefore, this solar element spreads to various parts of the body which may take the form of hot flashes also.
Those who take in pungent-sour food stuff regularly are likely to bleed heavily during menses. The same food habit, if followed in peri-menopausal period, may increase the intensity of the hot flashes. Those who have undergone hysterectomy due to heavy/ prolonged bleeding issues may also experience hot flashes even after the surgery. Till hysterectomy, their body finds this as a way to expel the ushna from the body in the form of excessive bleeding. After the surgery, the way has been cut off and the lady may experience more ushna in the body than before. Stress is a known trigger in majority of the menopausal symptoms. So there may be increased probability of these symptoms in women with anxiety issues. The Pitta prakrti and diabetic females are more likely to get this symptom around menopause.It is better to diagnose the thyroid function too.
Management depends on the severity of the symptom. Diet and lifestyle modifications are the essential components in the management of hot flashes. Counselling is also recommended. Intake of pungent and sour food items, egg, meat, fish, curd, pickles, horsegram, fermented items and coffee can be reduced. They can include gooseberry, pomegranate, cucumber, ash-gourd, ragi and milk in their diet. Drinking coriander water is also beneficial. Drugs like Asparagus racemosus, Tinospora cordifolia, Hemidesmus indicus, Acacia catechu etc. are widely used internally to lessen the feeling of warmth in the body. Exercises like walking, jogging etc. are advised. Exposure to hot atmosphere can be cut down. Bowel habit has to be regularised and made satisfactory.Appropriate medicines can be taken, if required. Urinary urge suppression should be avoided.Stress has to be managed well. Activities like meditation, breathing techniques, Yoga etc. can be practised to get relief from menopausal issues.Wearing breathable cotton clothes and using cotton sheets are preferable in the management of hot flashes.
When the menopausal symptoms seem to compromise the quality of life significantly, an expert consultation is recommended. Approach may differ from woman to woman.Intake of appropriate Ayurveda formulations help to decrease the intensity of hot flashes. Suitable oil can be used daily for external application on head as well as body. Bath in cold water is advisable.The oil can be selected with due consideration to prakrthi and medical history of the subject. The procedures like Sirodhara, Vasthi and Virechanam will help to improve the quality of life in menopausal syndrome. Takradhara is found to have promising results in many cases.
Peri-menopausal women should be encouraged to do the life-style modifications. It is the primary measure to be adopted in the management of menopausal syndrome.Moreover, appropriate Ayurveda medications and Panchakarma procedures will be definitely helpful in addressing the climacteric issues.
Dept. of Prasooti Streeroga
Ashtamgam Ayurveda Chikitsalayam & Vidyapeedham