Women’s health specialist, Ayurvedic practitioner and clinical pharmacist, Lara Ecroyd, breaks down the so often undiagnosed uterine condition that is endometriosis and how Ayurveda can help manage the intense impact it can have on one’s health and day-to-day well-being.
March 7th 2022 is endometriosis awareness week, and as the conversation surrounding the condition continues to grow, it is essential to keep on spreading awareness and decreasing the time in which one receives a diagnosis and the necessary physical and emotional support.
So, what is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a life-altering, chronic inflammatory condition where tissue similar to the uterus lining (the endometrium) is found outside the uterus. The condition is often characterised by intense cycle pain, heavy bleeding, fertility problems, digestive symptoms, and fatigue.
In the ancient Ayurvedic texts, no singular disease describes the pathology and symptoms of endometriosis. Despite this, endometriosis is most commonly considered a condition of imbalanced vata, although symptoms also correlate to imbalances in pitta and kapha. Pain is a symptom of imbalanced vata. The purest form of vata is prana, our vital breath or life force energy. The opposite of this life-giving quality is pain. Therefore, when treating this condition, much attention is given to restoring the proper function of vata. In addition, as always in Ayurveda, treatment will focus on correcting agni (digestive strength).
Although endometriosis is much more than painful periods alone, it is often the symptom my clients wish to focus on first. So here are some simple dietary and lifestyle considerations that set the foundations for reducing pain and creating a healing environment.
Nutrition and Supplements
Focus on food that is easy to digest. When there is pain and inflammation, the body is under stress. During this time, energy is diverted away from the digestion system. This is why we often lose our appetite when experiencing pain. At this time, food should be warm, well-cooked, simple, and nourishing. Daal, rice, cooked and spiced vegetables, and stewed fruit are some great options. When it comes to self-healing, nothing beats a fresh, home-cooked meal.
Ensure adequate intake of good quality oils such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and ghee. Oil is one of the best ways to reduce the dry and rough qualities of vata. In an environment where vata is in excess, imbalanced pitta (heat and inflammation) spreads rapidly through the body, contributing to the wide-ranging symptoms seen in endometriosis.
Drink herbal teas with balancing digestive spices such as CCFF tea (cumin, coriander, fennel, and fenugreek). Cumin and fenugreek have a particular affinity for the uterus, reducing pain and inflammation.
Natural Pain Management
Performing abhyanga massage with warm oil also has a profound effect on balancing vata. This practice soothes and stabilises the nervous system and provides the body with a feeling of calm and safety. It is in this state that the body's innate desire to self-heal is activated. Read more about abhyanga massage here or learn more our vata balancing massage oil here.
Incorporate stress-relieving practices. Stress is inevitable, but its impact on our body depends on whether we have appropriate tools to manage and digest it. I like to use the breathing exercise nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing). This is a simple yet very effective way to reduce stress and improve mental clarity.
Create a routine. Our bodies thrive when we live in balance with our natural circadian rhythm. Time spent in nature, consistent mealtimes, and a grounding bedtime routine away from screens all help to balance vata.
Menstrual cycle awareness
Lastly, an area that is rapidly gaining attention is menstrual cycle awareness. According to Ayurveda, we should make small adjustment to our diet and lifestyle about a week before menstruation. During this time we should eat lighter meals and favour more gentle, grounding exercise such as yin yoga. We should try to avoid dry, cold, sour, and fermented foods. Red meat, lemon water, chilies, caffeine, and refined sugars are a few examples of things to steer clear of the week prior to menstruation. Cycle tracking apps such as Clue and Natural Cycles can be helpful to allow you to predict menstruation timings.
Over time, simple dietary and lifestyle changes such as those listed in this article can profoundly affect painful periods and symptoms of endometriosis. As always, seek the advice of your Ayurvedic practitioner and/ or doctor before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related program. This article is for educational purposes only.
To find out more about Lara Ecroyd or to book a consultation, visit her website here.