#AskMythri – Over the years, many of you have written to us, sharing your experiences and your questions. With every email we receive, a new perspective on menstruation is put forth which could lead to a collective change in the conversations around menstruation. In order to share these conversations with a global audience, we have initiated the #AskMythri series of weekly write-ups. Send us your questions about menstrual practices, menstrual disorders, or simply new menstrual experiences, and we will be happy to include them in our series, and answer your questions. Here is this week’s #AskMythri post.
Reader’s Comment: Thank you so much for explaining the Ayurvedic knowledge behind the menstrual cycle.
Amazing truth. I have been following the raw vegan women who also experience a lessening of menstrual blood because they eat only very pure food that would never kill an animal. Because dairy products today kill the baby buffalo (or cow calf in the west) dairy products are unsuitable for pure vegans. Luckily, this has the benefit of lessening the menstrual blood, or in some cases even stopping it altogether. Raw vegans experience the end of period blood loss because raw fruit and vegetables and nuts and seeds are so easy for the body to digest and cleanse, that there is nothing left to cleanse or expel in the period! The concept of considering the blood unclean can be seen to be linked to the consumption of meat. Because to kill an animal is violence (Adharma)- unethical, and also causes heavy periods, we can connect why the cultural language may have evolved to call women with heavy periods unclean….. it meant they were killing many animals!!
Our Response: The menstrual experience of women who turned to raw food is very interesting and throws several new perspectives on our understanding of menstruation. We once met a woman suffering from Heavy Menstrual Bleeding whose gynaecologist simply put her on a raw diet with plenty of water, and her cycle normalized in a few weeks’ time. In this blog, we will elaborate on why raw food might eventually cause a decreased menstrual flow and prevent menstrual pain.
Ayurveda’s concept of Ama
Ayurveda attributes disease to the presence of Ama in the body. The more the Ama, the more chances of disease occurring. Ama is the term used in Ayurveda for the accumulated toxins in the body, as a result of improper digestion of food, and also due to environmental toxins. For women in the reproductive age, it is essential that their body be cleansed of Ama, in order to conceive. One of the major reasons for the rise in infertility is excess Ama, and that is the reason why Panchakarma treatment in Ayurveda and Detox diets in the West are popular remedies for couples trying to conceive.
Ayurveda refers to the monthly menstrual flow as a cleansing process, since it helps the body eliminate Ama, thereby creating a conducive environment for conception. The more the Ama, the more painful the period. Women who experience menstrual pain have been known to benefit from shifting their diet to eliminate non-vegetarian food and other difficult-to-digest food items, since these cause Ama to accumulate. Research indicates that the occurrence of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding among Indian women is between 1% to 23%, while it is 52% among women in England!
In the villages in India, even though certain sects have non-vegetarian food, the elders follow a strict process of avoiding the next meal, to allow the body enough time to digest the meat consumed. So while everyone may not be able to shift to a fully raw diet (and it not recommended to do so without proper guidance), following the cultural restrictions around the food we eat will go a long way in ensuring proper digestion.
So shifting to a vegan diet, as the reader mentioned, reduces Ama and eventually the menstrual flow will also reduce to a healthy quantity. Similarly, Yoga and Pranayama greatly help to improve the body’s digestive abilities, thereby decreasing Ama, and easing the menstrual flow.
The notion of Impurity
When women accumulate excess Ama, it causes them to eliminate it through visible methods such as vomiting, acne bursts and loose bowel movements, on the days when they menstruate. In other women, there is a subtle elimination of Ama through the skin pores, sweat and menstrual blood which is not visible to the naked eye. This continuous Ama elimination during menstruation, is probably the reason why menstruating women were termed impure in many cultures, and it had nothing to do with them being unholy in the religious sense of the term.
A note about Period Pain
The food we take and the way it digests plays a crucial role in accumulation of Ama, and corresponding period pain as the body desperately tries to push out the toxins when we menstruate. However, it is important to note that our menstrual experience is not just about the days when we bleed, but about the manner in which we have been treating our body all through the month and days leading up to the period. A stressful month with all the right diet could also lead to a painful period. Which is why in Ayurveda and in cultural practices in India, a lot of stress is laid on right diet along with the practice of menstrual rest.