Prevent the Menopause Blues: An Interview with Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf

Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D., is the former Medical Director of the Maharishi Vedic Medical Center at The Raj in Fairfield, Iowa. The author of A Woman’s Best Medicine: Health, Happiness and Long Life through Maharishi Ayurveda (Tarcher/Putnam), she has lectured extensively on Maharishi Ayurveda and appeared on The Donahue Show, Geraldo, and CNN. Total Health News recently asked her to talk about better health during menopause.

Q: Why is menopause such a difficult passage?

A: I would say that, even though menopause is often a difficult passage in America today, there are many other cultures in which menopause isn’t such a problem. In Japan, for instance, there’s not even a term for “hot flash.” This absence of hot flashes is commonly attributed to the fact that the diet of most Japanese women consists of foods which contain natural phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogens). Ayurvedic experts who have come to America have expressed amazement that there are so many more American women with menopausal, menstrual, and reproductive problems than in India.

Q: Is there a reason for this discrepancy?

A: Of course, the diet is probably an important factor. Also, possibly part of it is genetic. However, if a woman’s lifestyle, diet, and sleep habits are out of balance, it creates imbalances in the doshas — which in turn creates problems with menopause. For example, any change tends to aggravate Vata. So if a woman is already experiencing a Vata imbalance, the major hormonal and internal changes of menopause can take Vata further out of balance. And Vata can lead Pitta out of balance — and that can cause hot flashes, emotional ups and downs and other problems.

Q: So how can American women avoid those kinds of imbalances?

A: The main thing is to really slow down. Go to bed before 10:00 because after ten, Pitta dosha increases, and that creates more heat in the body. If you begin your night’s sleep in the cooler, Kapha time, then the body will be more settled. If hot flashes at night are a problem, it’s better not to eat a lot of heavy or spicy food at night. Before bed, you could drink warm cow’s milk or warm soy milk. Maharishi Ayurveda recommends boiling both types of milk first to make it more digestible. You can add a little Organic Rose Water or Organic Rose Petal Spread for a cooling, Pitta-pacifying snack. It’s also important not to work on the computer or watch violent, frightening, or emotionally intense movies before bed, as these charge up Vata and Pitta dosha.

Q: And for the daytime?

A: Get some exercise. Also, practicing the Transcendental Meditation® technique twice a day helps release stress and balance the mind, body and emotions. Eat meals on time. Favor zucchini, squashes and watery vegetables, as they have a natural cooling effect. You can start the day with a stewed apple to balance all three doshas [see recipe]. You might eat more phytoestrogens, such as tofu. Sauté the tofu with spices — such as turmeric, cumin, and coriander — to make it more digestible. Midlife for Women I helps women who are still menstruating to purify toxins, which are a complicating factor in menopause. Midlife for Women II is recommended when menstruation becomes irregular and especially in the case of hot flashes, because it's more cooling.

Q: Is there anything women can do instead of taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy) with all its risks, if these natural self-treatments aren't enough?

A: Fortunately there is. A minority of women have very resistant hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms that don’t respond to the recommended diet, herbal and lifestyle changes. Usually this is due to “ama,” or wastes and impurities blocking the tiny circulatory channels in their bodies, making it especially difficult to balance their doshas. These women often find Maharishi Rejuvenation Therapy (MRT), or "panchakarma," to be very effective in reducing their symptoms. Just today, a 60-year-old lawyer, back for her second MRT treatment, raved to me about how symptoms she had suffered from since menopause six years before disappeared within two weeks of the treatment and never returned. She was very grateful.

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