Ayurvedic Tips To Restore Hormonal Imbalance
Modern science first described the word hormones in 1905, when Ernest Starling the British physiologist proposed that the human body produced secretion molecules which he termed as hormones. A new biological subject was introduced in the field of medicine which came to be known as endocrinology.
What are hormones and what do they do?
In layman’s terms hormones are the body’s chemical messengers that are directly secreted in the bloodstream and travel to various tissues and organs, affecting the functioning of bodily processes such as metabolism, growth, blood sugar, energy levels, reproduction, mood & stress levels, response to anxiety, trauma as well as environmental factors.
Hormones play a vital role in how the body functions and stimulate life processes such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, sexual characteristics, emotions & personality etc. In short, hormones control the physical as well as mental aspects of a person (how they personally think, feel and act).
These are the main types of hormones that can affect the health of an individual in various ways.
- Estrogen – regulates the growth, development, and physiology of the human reproductive system
- Progesterone – regulates menstruation and supports pregnancy in females
- Testosterone – regulates sexual development, muscle mass, and red blood cell production
- Insulin – controls the body’s blood sugar level and metabolism
- Cortisol – responsible for regulating the body’s stress response/li>
- Growth Hormone – regulates the fat, muscle, tissue and bone in our bodies
- Adrenaline – triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response and also activates the blood vessels to contract in order to re-direct blood toward the heart and lungs
- Thyroid – regulates the body’s metabolism by controlling heart, muscles, digestive function, brain development and bone maintenance
What is hormonal imbalance?
Hormonal imbalance occurs when there is excess or very little of a hormone in the bloodstream. Even a slight imbalance can cause side effects throughout the body. Hormonal imbalance affects both men and women. Insulin, steroids, adrenaline and growth hormone imbalance can have an effect on both men and women. Imbalance in the estrogen or progesterone levels affect women while men are more likely to experience imbalance in their testosterone levels.
Hormonal imbalance and Ayurveda
Acharya Sushrut states in the Sushrut Samhita
Sama dosha sama agnicha sama dhatu mala kriyaaha| Prasanna atma indriya manaha swastha iti abhidheeyate
Meaning, the fundamental belief of Ayurveda is that good health is all about balancing the tridoshas (energies), dhatus (tissues), agni (metabolism) and malas (waste) as well as keeping one’s mind (manaha), senses (indriya) and spiritual self (atma) in a state of wellbeing.
Hormones do not find a mention directly in the ancient Ayurvedic texts but are correlated to Prakriti and tridoshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha). Just as hormones experience an ebb and flow and impact the body processes, so do the tridoshas which has a corresponding effect on the physical & mental health of an individual. Ayurveda associates dhatu agni (digestive fire of tissues) with hormones. Hormones are considered a pitta dosha component as they are transported via the bloodstream (rakta pitta).
Hormones may be considered primarily a pitta dosha element, but all the tridoshas play an important role in the one’s hormonal health.
Vata dosha & hormonal imbalance
Pitta dosha & hormonal imbalance
Kapha dosha & hormonal imbalance
Vata dosha (contains the elements of vayu/air + akash/space) is the most important energy as it controls all the movement across our nervous system, blood circulation, respiration, metabolism as well as waste disposal. As vata dosha controls the nervous system, it also controls the stress levels.
Stress is one of the most vital causes of hormonal imbalance. As such the vata dosha and the nervous system play a vital role with the adrenals (fight or flight is mainly a vata dosha response). Incorrect lifestyle choices, hectic work lives, relationship problems, health issues etc. can pile up stress and aggravate the vata dosha which can have a detrimental effect on the other doshas too (pitta & kapha).
As stated earlier, due to their nature of traveling through the bloodstream, hormones primarily fall under the pitta category. Pitta (combination of agni/fire) and jal/water elements) controls the digestive fire or agni, and in turn digestion, metabolism and assimilation processes which convert food into energy.
Pitta governs the liver (which regulates the sex hormones thyroid hormones, cortisone and other adrenal hormones) and blood (through which the hormones travel), so factors that aggravate pitta (spicy/katu, amla/sour, lavan/salty foods, alcohol etc.) must be avoided as they will affect the hormonal balance.
Kapha dosha, a combination of water (jal) and earth (Prithvi) elements, is dominant in the chest area and is responsible for development of various tissues, joint lubrication, cells and skin hydration, boosting immunity and protecting the tissues. Inactive lifestyle and excess eating can cause Kapha accumulation leading to slowed digestion and blocked flow of nutrient absorption and waste disposal. This can result in heaviness in the body, leading to slow thyroid and eventually hormonal imbalance.
Causes of hormonal imbalance
Stress (sahasa as per Ayurveda ) is the main cause of hormonal imbalance. Stress adversely affects the body and vitiates the tridoshas, causes ojahksaya or loss of immunity and makes the body more susceptible to hormonal imbalances.
When a person gets stressed, the body mainly releases cortisol, the survival hormone, as a part of its fight or flight response or the adrenal response. When cortisol is released in excess quantity, the body utilizes all its energy into supporting cortisol while depleting all the other hormones (thyroid stimulating hormone, insulin, and sex hormones) which can trigger a range of mental and physical health issues.
This compromises the bodily processes and can result in increased blood flow, faster heartbeat, dilated pupils, increased sweating, slower metabolism and in cases of long term stress even shut down gastrointestinal and reproductive systems.
Apart from stress, excessive workouts (ativyayama), inadequate sleep or staying awake late in the night (jagran), improper/unwholesome diet (viruddh ahara), thyroid imbalance (Vishuddi Chakra), diabetes (Prameha), liver dysfunction (Yakrit roga), alcohol, extra fast schedules, lack of proper rest, environmental pollutants etc. can all be causes of hormonal imbalances.
Ayurvedic tips to restore hormonal imbalance
Ayurveda applies a holistic and natural approach to prevent, decrease and cure hormonal imbalances. As it believes that tridosha disharmony is at the root of all diseases, Ayurvedic treatments for hormonal imbalance treatment are aimed at balancing Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Build a strong agni
Manage stress via Yoga & meditation
Hormonal imbalance is a pitta dosha vyadhi and pitta governs the agni or the digestive fire that controls digestion, metabolism and assimilation. So strengthening the agni is the most important to restore the hormonal imbalance.
Kindling the Agni (Deepana or balancing the digestive fire) and reducing ama (Pachana or improving digestion by eliminating toxins from the body) using Ayurvedic herbs such as adrak/ginger, kali miri/black pepper, haldi/turmeric, jeera/cumin, methi/fenugreek, laung/cloves, dalchini/cinnamon, elaichi/cardamom etc.
Stress triggers excess release of the cortisol hormone that activates the fight or flight response in the body and depletes the release of other hormones, thus affecting the natural functioning of other bodily processes. Managing stress is one of the main ways to overcome hormonal imbalance.
Yoga positions help to pressurize and depressurize certain glands as well as stimulate and balance endocrine function. Asanas can prove very useful for hormonal imbalance
- Bhujangasana – stimulates the ovary function
- Shalabhasana – helps with uterine and ovary issues, toning abdominal muscles and strengthening lower back muscles
- Setu-bandhanasana – improves thyroid function
- Ustrasana – helps regulate hormonal imbalances, menstrual cycles
- Prasarita Padottanasana – useful for PCOS and hormonal imbalance as it helps increase blood flow to the ovaries and relieves stress in lower back and hips
- Ardha chandrasana – strengthens the abdomen and relieves back pain
- Baddha konasana – eases the pelvic muscles, helps prevent PCOS
Ayurvedic herbal remedies
Ayurvedic herbal medicines have long been known to restore hormonal imbalance in a holistic and natural manner.
- Shatavari – especially useful in female reproductive health, it helps treat a variety of hormonal symptoms such as PMS, menstrual cramps, mood swings and hot flushes during menopause. It also increases fertility and balances female hormones
- Vidarikand – used as an aphrodisiac, it helps restore energy and health. It is useful in cases of amenorrhea, perimenopause, infertility as well as lactation problems
- Ashok – beneficial for female reproductive health, it helps in cases of heavy menstrual bleeding, anemia and dysmenorrhea. The herb has kashaya/astringent qualities that help balance pitta and Kapha dosha
- Manjishtha – helps balance pitta and kapha dosha. Beneficial in the treatment of amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menopause, and bleeding disorders
- Aloe vera – useful for all doshas, restores energy, a great tonic for the female reproductive system, balances he menstrual cycle
- Kappikachu – a known fertility tonic that helps increase libido, balances the Kapha and vata dosha
- Ashwagandha – helps normalize cortisol levels and thyroid hormones
- Black cohosh – has estrogen like effects, supports the female reproductive health, helps treat side effects of menopause
Following the natural movement of dinacharya (daily schedule) and ritucharya (seasonal routine) as well as adhering to the three pillars of Ayurvedic health including nidra or enough sleep, aahar (eating as per your prakriti & dosha & ritu) and vihar (healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, no alcohol, less intake of caffeine etc.).
- Consuming well cooked meals that include all the six rasas (katu/pungent, tikta/bitter, kashaya /astringent, madhur/sweet, amla/sour and lavana/salty) to help balance the tridoshas
- Eat organically grown fresh fruits & vegetables as organic foods are largely free of chemicals (endocrine disruptors or certain chemicals in foods can mimic the body’s hormones and interfere with other hormones, causing developmental, reproductive, brain, immune and other problems)
- Eat wholesome foods (avoid refined foods) like dals with skin, brown rice, dalia, channa, etc.
- Keep the body well hydrated by drinking enough water (drink only when you feel thirsty) etc.
- Sleep deprivation can affect hormone levels. If the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, is affected then it can have an adverse impact on the body’s circadian rhythm and can cause hormonal imbalance
- Daily exercise for at least 30 minutes, especially those that increase the heart rate, can help boost estrogen levels. Exercises that combine strength training and cardio workouts (squats, lunges, pull ups, crunches, push ups etc.) are very useful for releasing a healthy flow of hormones in the bloodstream
Nuts (walnut, almond, pine nuts), seeds (flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, watermelon seeds) are sources of good oils which are essential for the body to restore hormonal balance
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The ancient Ayurvedic medical wisdom teaches to listen to not just the physical form but also the mental state in order to better understand the signals that the hormones (the messengers between mind & body) send and act upon those signs to restore hormonal balance. Ayurvedic practices focus on a holistic manner of restoring hormonal imbalances by making subtle changes to diet, lifestyle and habits.
Book an online ayurvedic doctor consultation and get expert medical advice for hormonal imbalance, PCOS and other health issues.