An aged woman in Manipur once told us that when she first attained menarche, part of the ritual was to consume a drop of her menstrual blood. She and her ancestors believe that menstrual blood is so powerful that it could keep us free from diseases.
And then, down South in the villages of Karnataka, majority of the women and adolescent girls expressed that the reason we women menstruate is because it is good for our health. They explained that if we didn’t menstruate, we would gain weight and have all kinds of joint aches.
Most of us urban so-called educated women think that menstruation is just about child birth. But the women in rural India attribute various health benefits to it. Could it be true that we, the children of modern science, are yet to fully comprehend what menstruation is all about?
Several myths, stories and assumptions later, we found the answers in the original texts of Ayurveda, and from the latest research on menstrual blood. What we are about to share will mostly change everything you know about menstruation. So sit back and be awed!
Women live longer because we menstruate
Ever wondered why most women experience all kinds of stomach upsets just before and during their period? Some experience loose motions, some have bloating and gas, some actually vomit, and some of us have bursts of acne. Women who observe their body closely will also notice how the discomfort suddenly disappears soon after their period – how is it that our skin clears up, stomach feels lighter and we feel more energetic after menstruating?
Trying to find the answer through modern science leads to a dead end, with the best explanation being changes in hormones. The feeling of having no control over what’s happening in our bodies is very depressing. That’s the primary reason we turned to Ayurveda to understand why exactly we experience digestive discomfort during menstruation and what can be done to prevent it.
Ayurveda considers menstruation as the reason why women tend to live longer than men. This is primarily because menstruation also results in a monthly cleansing of accumulated bodily toxins. All the junk that we eat everyday sometimes only gets partly digested. This undigested food and improper bowel movements causes accumulation of toxins. Ayurveda calls these toxins as Ama. Ama results from improper diet, poor digestion and inefficient elimination. Ayurveda says that it is this Ama which is the root cause for majority of human diseases.
So how does menstruation push the Ama out?
Apana Vayu, the internal bodily force which is responsible for menstrual flow, also happens to be responsible for passing of urine and faeces. Since menstruation is an involuntary process where Apana Vayu is in full swing, it also pushes out all the accumulated toxins from our body. These toxins find an outlet through our body causing loose motions, vomiting, acne, etc. The excessive gastric problems during menses are often the reason for the common stomach cramps, body ache and abdominal pain which so many women complain of. Even complex disorders such as Endometriosis is due to the excessive buildup of Ama. In the case of endometriosis specifically, chronic toxin accumulation in the reproductive tissue irritates the tissue into responses that result in the slow accumulation of excess tissue – See more at: Endometriosis: A comparison of the Allopathic and Ayurvedic models of the disease and its treatment (by Daya Deyhim C.A.S)
If your Apana Vayu is not functioning correctly, that too could result in various menstrual problems and pain. The Maharishi Ayurveda website has much more on this. Here is the link – Cure PMS with Ayurveda
This understanding also makes it possible for us to reduce and prevent the discomfort we feel when we menstruate. Women who have altered their diet a week or so prior to and during their period will be surprised at the ease with which they bleed. If we reduce or eliminate the Ama in our system, there will be little or no reason for us to feel the pain and discomfort during menstruation.
So our grandmother’s advise of avoiding non vegetarian food, egg, curd, anything sour, too much salt, banana, etc during our periods had good reason. While non-vegetarian food is difficult to digest, the rest mitigate Vayu and increase Pitta. Since Vayu is responsible for menstruation, it is not a good idea to tamper with it. The ideal Indian food suggested during menses is a nice warm moong dal khichidi, cooked in pure ghee with natural spices (cloves, cardamom, etc) and little or no salt. Even a simple act of drinking around a litre of warm water before bed (an hour or so after dinner) or early morning everyday will help to clear out the bowels better. If we can be a little more careful about avoiding the food that we have trouble digesting, a week before and during menstruation, and ensure our bowels are regularly cleared out, chances of having a painless or at least less painful period is greater. Yoga and Pranayama too do wonders in improving your cells ability to regularly detox, thus reducing build-up of Ama.
Once we understand what is happening to our body when we menstruate, the associated cultural practices begin to make sense. After all, can you imagine running around, going rock-climbing and pushing a car (as the Sanitary Pad ads show) while you are undergoing a detox session! The cultural practices of menstrual seclusion, rest and food restrictions have to do with facilitating your body’s natural cleansing. The elimination of toxins from the body as we menstruate is perhaps the reason why menstrual blood earned a bad reputation. While our grandmothers got the bit about elimination of toxins right, they seem to have misunderstood the channels for elimination. So although toxins are eliminated during menstruation, it is not via menstrual blood.
Most women who spend a lot of money on expensive detox diets, are usually unaware that nature offers them a free detox session every month. All it asks us is to sit still, facilitate the cleansing and allow nature to do its work.
Menstrual Blood can save you from life-threatening diseases
Research, as recent as 2007 revealed that the stem cells from menstrual blood have high regenerative properties – perhaps more than the stem cells from the umbilical cord and bone marrow. So in addition to banking the umbilical cord or bone marrow, women can now bank their menstrual blood!
Menstrual Blood banking was pioneered by Cryo-Cell in the US in 2007, and it is available in India through Life Cell since 2011. The stems cells from menstrual blood were found to be unique because they can multiple rapidly, grow into other types of cells and develop into neural, cardiac, cartilage tissue as well as fat and bone. Research is on to investigate its vast uses in treating diseases such as Alzeimer’s, Atherosclerosis, Diabettis Mellitus, Heart Diseases, Osteaoarthritis, Parkinson’s and more. It also greatly increases the chances of a successful transplant. So your menstrual blood can save your life and that of your genetically related family members such as siblings, parents and your children!
Clearly, our ancestors knew more about the health potential of menstrual blood and even thought it fit to be consumed. Modern science might be a little late in discovering the power of menstrual blood, but it is getting there.
A note to men
Often men who find out about the wonders that menstruation can do, express regret at not having this in-built feature. Please know that you too can have the equivalent detox of menstrual cleansing if you regularly practised Yoga and Pranayama, and of course by fixing your diet. Always remember to be good to women; we are likely to outlive you and you might need us to take care of you when your Ama causes diseases. And do share this with women you are genetically related to – their menstrual blood could save your life.
Oops….was that matriarchal? 😉