Women, often being the primary caretakers of their family and home, are given special attention in Ayurveda as their health and well-being affects the whole family. Most women accumulate stress, toxins and imbalances prior to experiencing menopause and these imbalances show up during this stage in a number of ways. From hot flashes to depression; from weight gain to forgetfulness and questioning their entire existence, all are very common experiences of women undergoing menopause. While physical symptoms may be acceptable to speak of, many women find it confusing and challenging to address the emotional and mental experiences that begin to emerge.
Symptoms of menopause can include night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, weight gain, vaginal dryness, loss in libido, lack of sense of purpose, anxiety, low grade depression, relationship conflicts, mood swings, loss of memory and concentration. The marked loss of fertility can either bring a feeling of loss and resultant grief or can equally be freeing for some. The inner quest for finding a bigger purpose to their existence, the desire for fulfilling relationships, the need to pay attention to themselves in ways they were never able to before can make this quite a tumultuous time for many women making it truly a time of great healing and transformation.
Ayurveda’s holistic approach is a conscious-based approach to making dietary and lifestyle changes to help women alleviate many of the discomforts of menopause and move through this natural stage of life with grace and help them to transition into their most beautiful selves so they can fulfill their calling with ease and experience joy in their lives. It is also important to point out that menopause is a natural passage of life and is not a medical event that it has become. With Ayurveda, you can take the reigns of this transition in your own hands.
By the term “conscious-based approach,” I’m referring to consciousness, a source energy and life force. Our journey into the physical body begins with consciousness, just like a tree begins with the seed. However, it transcends the human life as we know it and beyond the earth, in other words, it does not end when our human life ends. It has no beginning and no end and is beyond the concept of time and space. It is the source of all thought, emotion and our liveliness and contains the energy, information and intelligence. Healing comes from connecting with this source and disease arises when we disconnect from the source. It’s the level of our consciousness that turns the mundane into sacred and extraordinary.
While diet is important in managing menopausal symptoms, this phase in one’s life is an invitation to all women to become more conscious so they can fulfill their heart’s quest to become more of who they are, to come home to themselves and to download more of themselves into their lives. Grounded in consciousness, dietary changes not only stick, but bring a deeper sense of wholeness and peace.
Daily meditation practices, prayer, contemplation can not only raise the level of our consciousness but it enables us to experience it directly and we can’t help but infuse it in our daily living. Menopause is a great time of finding balance between doing and being; between socialization and contemplation, between activity and rest. Maintaining regularity in meal times and sleep time will help maintain balance of all the bio-rhythms of the body.
A diet to reduce inflammation and heat in the body is the general direction to go. Adding bitter greens and herbs such as dandelion, celery, cabbage, kale, swiss chard, cilantro, zucchini and cucumber to name a few. Avoiding or reducing garlic, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, soy products, yogurt, citrus (except sweet juicy oranges), fried and spicy foods, alcohol, hot sauces and chutneys, sour foods and pickles as these create heat in the body. Reducing the quantity and noticing the effect on your symptoms will motivate you to continue to make these small adjustments in your diet.
Cooling herbs such as fenugreek and aloe are very helpful in reducing hot flashes. Soak a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in a cup of water overnight and drinking that water first thing in the morning. In addition, you may take a quarter cup of aloe juice close to bed time for 7-10 days and notice the effect on your hot flashes.
Here is a great recipe that uses bitter greens and fenugreek seeds. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Rapini and Broccoli Saag (Sarsaun Ka Saag)
Prep time: 25 minutes
A great dish anytime, this can be made with any greens of your choice. Rapini Saag is very typical in Northern India and is served with yellow corn bread. If you are cooking for one, as I often am, I will freeze part of this to be used within a week or two. You can sauté the vegetables with fresh onions, tomatoes and ginger to liven it up—it tastes yummy! This dish is best enjoyed with chapati or any other flat bread. As bitter greens can be drying, serving them with a little extra ghee is always nice (and tastes great!)
1 bunch fresh rapini (broccoli rabe), chopped coarsely
½ cup water, more if necessary
1 stalk broccoli
½ small tomato, chopped
½ small onion
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
½ small chili (optional)
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chick pea flour or arrowroot flour for binding or thickening.
3 to 4 teaspoons ghee
Place rapini in the colander and give it a good wash.
Transfer it to the pot, add 1/2 cup of water, cover the pot and put it on the stove on medium heat.
Cook for 10 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure it does not dry out. If it does, add another 1/2 cup of water.
Wash the broccoli, chop it in small pieces (include the stem and leaves) and add to the pot. Keep the pot covered.
Cook for another 10 minutes. There should be no water remaining in the pot. Turn the stove off.
Use a hand blender to blend the mixture in the pot, or put the mixture in a blender or food processor to purée.
Transfer puréed vegetables back to the pot if they were not puréed there.
Mix chick pea our or the other thickener in a little bit of water and add it to the pot.
Turn the heat to low, add salt and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a separate pan, heat ghee and then sauté onions until brown. Add tomato and ginger and cook for another 2 minutes.
Push the mix to the side and add fenugreek seeds. Cook for 15 seconds, and then add to the main pot and stir.
Garnish with ghee.