Ayurveda gives us an awareness and insight into the cycles through which we constantly flow. We are guided by daily, monthly, annual and lifelong cycles, all of which can influence your health and hormonal balance. The multitude of hormones constantly circulating throughout your body and they affect they have on your emotion and physical health is a very complex subject.
Ayurveda can present this is a more simple and beautiful way: hormones which nourish, build, calm, lubricate and nurture; and hormones which: activate, metabolise, energise and direct.
From puberty through to post menopause, your hormonal cycles are most evident. Even more so if our diet, lifestyle and stress levels cause imbalance.
Ayurveda is based on the principle that your constitution represents a blend of the three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Living and eating according to your dosha will promote emotional and physical wellbeing.
Habitually consuming an incompatible diet and leading a lifestyle which aggravates your dosha will ultimately lead to physical and emotional ill health. Understanding your own dosha can help you understand your own health. You can read more about the dosas here.
The dosha characteristics are also present in the hormones which guide you throughout your life cycles.
Kapha: feminine, rejuvenating, nourishing hormones, which calm, ground and slows the body down. The female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone, (oestrogen being more Kapha than progesterone) which stimulate your monthly cycle fall into this category.
Pitta: masculine, energising, invigorating, metabolising and transferring hormones motivate the body and stimulate the mind. The stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol fall into this category.
Both are opposing forces. Pitta is the organiser and processor. Kapha is the builder and nourisher. For health, the aim is to balance the invigorating with the nourishing and vice versa. It’s important to have both types of hormones, but habitually over stimulating one can lead to imbalance.
Take for example the Pitta: masculine (stress) hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. If your diet and lifestyle promotes Pitta e.g. Pitta (heating/acidic) foods, caffeine, alcohol, regularly playing competitive sports or lots of high intensity exercise, stressful job, emotional stress, lack of sleep, can all increase Pitta, therefore elevating the level of stress hormones circulating in your body.
Stress hormones are essential, but too much can lead to a multitude of inflammatory condition. Sustained high levels of cortisol can also lead to overall hormone resistance, stressing the organs and glands which produce them and diluting the effect the hormones have on our body systems. Thyroid resistance is an example of this, leading to hypo or hyperthyroidism. So to is insulin resistance, where the natural process of removing sugar from the blood is impaired, potentially leading to the 2 diabetes.
If stress becomes a way of life, we start to use some of our nourishing, calming, grounding sex hormones, to met the increased demands of cortisol. The body perceives stress as a threat to survival. The number one priority of the body is survival, so this is favoured over the need for the nourishing hormones.
Kapha: feminine (sex) hormones, oestrogen and progesterone are supported by adequate sleep, cooling and nourishing foods (alkaline), mediating, activities which induce the sense of calm, feeling emotionally balanced and stable and getting a massage. As with Pitta, too much of the Kapha promoting foods and activities in your lifestyle isn’t goos and can lead to weight gain, lethargy and general heaviness in the body.
The constant interaction between the stress and the sex hormones is the foundation of woman’s health. Habitually favouring the production and release of stress hormones can put pressure on your bodies ability to maintain balance with the sex hormones.
Prolonged, elevated levels of stress hormones will use up and deplete your natural reserve. Consistent high levels of stress in your life will also affect how you react to less stressful situations, rendering you less able to cope with them.
What we can do to maintain balance?
- Be more aware of how your diet and lifestyle makes you feel. Nourish the body according to your dosha. Eat and drink moderately throughout the day.
- Start to notice how your digestion is? it should be free of excess gas and bloating. Elimination should be daily and regular. Digestion is an early warning sign that your are out of balance.
- Notice your energy levels.
- Identify stressful situations in your life. This can be emotional and physical stress and work out strategies to reduce the stress. Look for support and talk stressful situations through with someone if you cannot see a way out of them.
- Include activities which suit your dosha in your lifestyle. Pitta and Vata tend to be more prone to over-doing it on the exercise side, whereas Kapha could generally do with a little more encouragement to get moving.
- Include some activities to relieve stress and tension from the body: gentle yoga and stretching, massage and daily self massage.
- Spend time outdoors walking and enjoying the fresh air.
- Don’t try to make too many changes at once. Try to incorporate one small thing each week. Practice doing it before introducing something new.