The Ayurvedic approach to Infertility
According to Ayurveda doesn’t rely on intervention by a foreign substance to correct or replace the hormones your body has been using all of your life. Instead, it supports your health by strengthening your body’s own self-healing and balancing mechanisms. Ayurveda focuses at treatment of infertility holistically and aims at improving the overall health of the individual.
According to the Charaka Samhita, “All disease occurs due to imbalance in Agni (the power of digestion) and Agni is the single most important factor in the buildup of Ama. As a result, the treatment of Ama must always include the treatment of Agni, including the use of digestive herbs and spices, eating meals on schedule and the elimination of cold foods and drinks.” Panchakarma, the Ayurvedic deep internal cleansing procedure, can also be utilized to eliminate Ama. Healthy Agni will also contribute to healthy Ojas. Ojas can be described as the most refined and subtle essence of the physical body. When fully activated, Ojas is the “bliss factor” that goes beyond good health to keep you fully immune against all disease. Optimum Ojas is the key to perfect health, as well as to balanced emotions and to spiritual development. As a result, building Ojas is crucial and is enhanced in numerous ways including right diet, tonic herbs, control of sexual activity, control of the senses and devotion (Bhakti Yoga).
Evaluation of person’s Dosha is very significant for prescribing the treatment and any blockages and weaknesses in body parts and functions are diagnosed. The treatment includes appropriate diet, herbs, body therapies, sensory therapies, and lifestyle and yoga therapies to address infertility issues as per Dosha with emphasis on building healthy Shukra dhatu.
Diet plays a vital role in the maintenance of good health and in the prevention and cure of diseases. In ancient Indian scriptures, food has been compared with the God, (Annam Brahmam) since it is the main factor, which sustains and nourishes life. In Shrimad Bhagvad Geeta, Lord Krishna has compared himself with the digestive fire, which assimilates and digests all the four types of food in order to maintain the life. As per Ayurveda, food affects the mind also by causing either an increase or decrease in the three qualities of mind, i.e., Satva guna, Rajo guna and Tamo guna. It is said in ancient Indian literature that if dietetics is followed, medicine is not needed and if dietetics is not observed, even medicines are not useful.
Dietary management involves strict compliance and adherence to Ojas-building foods and to avoid the substances which diminish the Ojas. This is critical as it regulates ovulation and enhances fertilization. Eating whole foods not only provides fiber that influences hormonal levels but also provides all nutrients for the health of the body. Processed carbohydrates, antibiotic and hormone laden meat and milk, excess starch, and canned produce destroy fertility.
Food such as ghee, milk, nuts, dates, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, saffron, honey, and avocados help replenish and build Ojas. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein from plant sources like beans, and peas, sweet, juicy fruits such as mangoes, peaches, plums, and pears, asparagus, broccoli, spices such as ajwain powder, cumin (purifies the uterus in women and the genitourinary tract in men), turmeric (to improve the interaction between hormones and targeted tissues), and black cumin boost fertility. Root vegetables, grains, arugula, watercress, onions, garlic, chives improve circulation and nourish the blood.
Urad dhal cooked with equal parts turmeric, cumin, coriander and fennel or banana cooked in ghee, cinnamon and cardamom build Shukra Dhatu. Black sesame seeds and jaggery are both rich in Iron and seeds are rich in vitamin E and the phyto-chemicals in the seeds modulate hormones causing changes in the female body. Avoid trans-fats as they clog arteries, threaten fertility and harm the heart and blood vessels. Diet should be trans-free. Spinach, beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, and beets, boost iron and promote fertility. Keep your body well-hydrated by drinking warm water and digestive teas. Cooking and eating vegetables like Colocasia along with old-garlic improve progesterone and fertility chances in women and cooking the tuber in raw-sugar as porridge is good for men.
Diet as per Dosha to treat infertility
The following substances cause, increase and exacerbate female infertility, and must therefore be avoided- foods containing preservatives and other chemicals, such as artificial sweeteners, diet high in fat, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and other artificial flavoring and coloring (Nutra Sweet etc.), excess caffeine and alcohol, tobacco, smoking, soda, refined carbs, such as white bread, pasta and rice, and meat. It is vital to include a wide range of foods in the diet to ensure the body is getting all the nutrients it needs to aid conception. Eating regular and balanced meals builds overall health. Ayurveda recommends not to eat the same thing every day, and to try new vegetables and fruits as often as possible.
As infertility is not a disease but a manifestation of some disease, the herbs used in the treatment is directed to eradicate the underlying cause. The most commonly known and used herbs such as Shatavari (Asparagus Racemousus), Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera), Amlaki (Emblica Officinalis) and herbal formulas such as Mensu and Chyavanprash are extremely useful formulations which help create the synergistic hormonal balance between the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and the Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
Herbs as per Dosha
The following medicinal herbs increase fertility in women and also improve chances of conception.
Fertility boosting herbs
However, no individual herb alone is considered useful for promoting fertility. Rather, a combination of herbs is used in the treatment of infertility with the purpose of correcting a functional or organic problem that caused infertility. The design of the formulas has varied somewhat over the centuries, based on prevailing theories and available resources, and individual practitioners have a preference for particular herbs, thus accounting for some of the variations among formulas that are recommended. However, differences among individuals being treated and their Doshas account for the greatest variation in the selection of herbs and formulas to be used. There are some “exotic” materials that are frequently found in fertility formulas such as bhasmas but the prominent materials are derived from roots, barks, leaves, flowers, and fruits. Formulas for men and for women tend to be different, but there is considerable overlap in the ingredients used.
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Ayurvedic herbal treatment for infertility
Medicated ghees and oils such as narayana tailam, satapushpa tailam, phala sarpis, kalyana ghrita, dadimadi ghrita, kalyana gulam and commonly used. The right combination of herbs benefit in promoting fertility by regulating menstrual cycles, invigorating sperm (enhancing a man’s sperm count, morphology and motility), enhancing general health and wellness, reducing stress, controlling anxiety, enhancing sleep and increasing energy level, balancing the endocrine system, improving blood flow in pelvic cavity and also increasing the chance of pregnancy for women undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Ayurvedic body therapies such as Abhyanga, Shirodhara, marma therapy, chakra balancing, Nasya, Basti, Pinda Svedana, and Visesh help in releasing tension, impurities and trapped energy within the body. They also nourish the body, strengthen the immune system, and revitalize the mind. Rejuvenation therapies are beneficial in reducing stress, pacifying Vata and nourishing all dhatus of the body.
Panchakarma is usually prescribed for infertile couples. Rejuvenative therapies are recommended for Vata Dosha, and cooling light therapies for pitta Dosha. Shodhana chikitsa helps in uterine hostility, and non-ovulatory cycles. Basti is recommended to remove local disorders, to increase receptivity of the genital tract to the entry of the sperm, to remove obstructions in passage and to facilitate proper coitus.
Massaging the body rejuvenates the entire body, reduces stress, and pacifies the underlying Dosha. Female infertility is sometimes caused by pelvic adhesions, blocked tubes or other types of trauma or inflammation in the reproductive organs. While long believed that surgery procedures were the only way to even partially decrease these problems, massage therapists have found deep tissue work can not only decrease mechanical blockages, but also reduce pelvic pain and improve sexual arousal and orgasm for women.
Benefits of a fertility massage
A sedentary lifestyle results in stagnant lymph flow. On the contrary, if the body is too active, the body may not be able to carry away all the waste that is produced. The deep tissue massage work stimulates the flow of lymph. This bodily fluid carries wastes and impurities away from tissues and needs muscle contractions to move efficiently throughout the body. The massage can help clear blocked fallopian tubes and increase chances of conception. Reflexology involves massaging different areas of the hands and feet (to establish the tension level for the rest of the body) which correspond to those internal organs that may cause infertility. This technique is an effective means of interrupting stress and returning the body to a state of equilibrium.
Inhibitions to the flow of energy in the pelvic area may be caused by psychological issues that have not been recognized or resolved. Tubal problems and problems with fertility are centered on a woman’s ‘inner child’, while the tubes themselves are representative of unhealed childhood wounds or unused energy. The flow of eggs can be blocked because a woman’s inner being is not ‘old’ or nurtured enough, or mature or healed enough, to feel fertile. This energy pattern can underlie tubal problems. One part of a woman may remain in pre-puberty due to her unconscious indecision about her readiness to produce life if, on some level, she is not ‘out of egg’ herself. Energy field clears congestion out of the energy field. Chakra connection energizes and balances the chakras by bringing the vibration to a higher frequency.
Abdominal massage is a non-invasive and external massage technique that guides the internal abdominal organs (digestive and reproductive) into their proper position for optimum function and well-being. Massage improves organ function by releasing physical and emotional congestion from the abdomen. The technique applies anatomy, physiology, herbology and naprapathy (study of the ligaments, joints and muscles) with Ancient healing techniques to address common female and male complaints. Abdominal massage works by relieving congestion and blockages to improve the flow of prana and fluids of the circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems to prevent the progression of chronic disease symptoms.
Acupuncture is yet another option that can be done on its own or along with other assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures. Studies have proved the effectiveness of acupuncture for infertility . A 2004 study conducted by the Reproductive Medicine and Fertility Center in Colorado found that 51% of women who underwent both IVF and acupuncture treatment at the same time became pregnant, while only 36% of those who only underwent IVF did. The latter group also had higher rates of miscarriage stillbirth (20%) compared to those women who had received acupuncture (8%)
Although each of these therapies is beneficial in the treatment of infertility, it is very important that these therapies are prescribed according to the season. For example, excess Vata should be eliminated between summer and fall, excess Pitta should be eliminated in the interim between spring and summer and removal of excess of Kapha when winter has died and spring has not yet started. Also, while these therapies are in progress, the person must avoid everything, including extensive travel, loud music or extensive speaking, violent behavior, and any Vata-disturbing activities that would destroy Ojas. Meditation and mild exercise are desirable during this period.
Ayurveda emphasizes on maintaining health and preventing diseases by following proper diet and lifestyle regimen rather than treatment and cure of the diseases. The basic principle followed in the Ayurvedic system of medicine is ‘Swasthyashya Swasthya Rakshanam’, which means to maintain the health of the healthy, rather than ‘Aturashya Vikara Prashamanancha’, means to cure the diseases of the diseased. For this purpose, Dinacharya (daily routine/regimen) has been mentioned in the classical texts of Ayurveda.
Dinacharya to lead a healthy life
Typical daily schedule for each Dosha
Yogic methods cover the entire field of our existence – from the physical, sensory, emotional, and spiritual to the highest Self-realization. It includes all methods of higher evolution in humanity – physical posture, ethical disciplines, breath control, sensory methods, affirmations and visualizations, prayer and mantra, and complex meditative disciplines. Yoga understands the nature of interrelationship of the physical, subtle and formless universes into the boundless infinite beyond time and space, and shows us how these also exist within each human individual.
Fertility yoga is a type of yoga that is designed to assist couples who are having difficulty getting pregnant. Adhering to the basic principles of yoga, fertility yoga combines traditional yoga postures with postures that have been specifically developed in order to improve individual is reproductive health, thereby increasing their chances of getting pregnant. Yoga for fertility improves both female and male infertility by minimizing stress, which in turn balances the hormones of the body as well as one is mental health, thereby increasing a couple is ability to conceive.
Types of Fertility Yoga for Treatment of Female Infertility
In the practice of yoga, positions such as forward bending may be especially useful due to the association with the lower abdomen and pelvic area, the home of the second chakra. This is known as the primary energy center, and controls the flow of energy from the lower vertebrae of the lumbar spine, as well as the sexual organs. If one’s energy is blocked at the second chakra, problems manifest as physical dysfunctions within the reproductive organs.
Yoga offers limitless benefits to support us through each phase of our lives. Whether you have been practicing yoga all your life or are new to this ancient science, it matters not – one of the beautiful things about yoga is that you are able to start wherever you are, whatever your physical condition. As long as you go slowly, start with simple poses, breathe deeply, and offer your full intent, you will progress.
Aromatherapy is based on the ancient principle that optimal health is achieved by bringing the body and soul into harmony. Aromas, unlike food and herbs, work directly on the mind and subtle body. By using a subtle combination of different essential oils, aromatherapy promotes both physical health, and mental and emotional well-being. Essential oils are an amazing way to enhance healing holistically. They are used to stimulate relaxation in the muscles, aid in hormonal balance, reduce inflammation, reduce stress, promote healing, improve endocrine function, reduce pain, boost immune system function, and to relieve tension. Essential oil is highly concentrated plant substances, distilled from roots, seeds, bark and leaves.
Benefits of aromatherapy for couples trying to conceive
Essential oils are usually costly because of the tiny amounts of oil present in a plant and because of the difficulties in extracting it. Because essential oils are so concentrated, they should not be applied directly to the skin. Essential oils should be applied to the marma points of the pelvis in order to cool the flow of prana into the organs.
Essential oils that benefit fertility
Flower remedies may be taken on their own, in a prepared combination, or in a mix of the selection.
Flower Remedies for conception
Ayurveda recognizes the effect of visuals on human mind and then on the body. Ayurvedic color therapy (Chromo therapy) is based on the effects of certain colors on mind and on body.
Effect of colors
Typically, yellow, gold, orange and red are recommended for infertility. Pink and red are the most stimulating colors for female sexuality with Vata-type infertility but also have a drying effect if overused. Gold is the most nourishing color and has a mild stimulating effect on female sexuality and helps to restore Shukra Dhatu. Cooling colors should be used for Pitta-type infertility. For example, blue color is the coolest and may be used in marma treatments.
The body-mind connection
According to the Ayurvedic science of life and the Yogic science of self-realization, harmony is our natural state. Yet to maintain this condition we must know our nature and learn to live according to its real needs. This is the key to health. It is this science of self-care that teaches us to live healthily and happily until death.
The body-mind connection is crucial for conception. Alice Domar, author of Healing Mind, Healthy Woman, documents a 55% success rate for women using relaxation techniques to help them get pregnant, compared to a 20% success rate for women who used only medical fertility technologies.
Couples, especially women, who undergo continuous intense stress, guilt or other emotional issues, may have a tougher time getting pregnant. Anxiety, depression and feeling of inadequacy about infertility can only make the problem worse. On the contrary, making a conscious effort to clean up the emotional clutter helps clear fertility pathways and paves the way for the future child. A new study in the journal Child Development shows that high stress during pregnancy increases a child’s susceptibility to Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later in life.
Ways to improve chances of getting pregnant
Meditation helps increase energy levels and goes hand-in-hand with yoga, pranayama, etc. Breathing techniques, activation and clearing of chakras, and faith in the power of the mind – these practices incorporate spiritual well-being and work towards opening up energetic healing channels within the body.
For health, wealth, virility, and vitality, sexual cohabitation should occur during harmonically auspicious time. The opposite results hold true when sexual activities are performed during the poorly aspected times of year.
Auspicious time and conditions for cohabitation
Posture is also crucial for conception. The best posture for women is to lie comfortably on her back and prone position for a man during sexual activity. The key is to get the sperm as close as possible to the cervix, and to remain there for as long as possible.
Infertility has increased massively in the past decade and this is due to the result of a combination of environmental, social, psychological, and nutritional factors.
Today, the modern medicine can find out what exactly is dysfunctional in an individual through several diagnostic tests and examinations. Using these tests, the treatment focuses on correcting the dysfunction. However, modern medicine treatments are not focused to the individual but are to what the dysfunction of the body is. Also, they fail to incorporate in their therapeutic approaches, the immune, digestive, circulatory and nervous systems, all so essential for the process of fertilization. Infertility is managed only by looking at the reproductive system components. The treatments can be rather invasive, inhumane; can be disappointing and extremely expensive with no guarantee of a pregnancy and with potential side effects.
Ayurveda, on the other hand, looks at the individual constitutional types, enhances the body systems that participates in the process of fertilization in totality, and hence serves as a better alternative for reaching fertilization. Ayurveda addresses the internal balances and external influences contributing to the problem. It accomplishes that by building the Ojas, improving the overall health and virility of the individual, enhancing the hormones, stimulating the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in a way which indirectly induces the ovaries to ripen and release eggs. Managing the emotional and chemical factors utilizing an Ayurvedic understanding of the Psycho-physiological composition of the individual and creating synergic hormonal balance, are the two most significant factors in restoring fertility.
Ayurveda provides a low cost, noninvasive, and non-iatrogenic alternative and complement to modern Western medicine in the treatment of female infertility. Because Ayurveda focuses on rebalancing individuals and not just treating diseases, its treatments are tailor-made and have low potential for iatrogenesis or side effects. In addition, they tend to promote the systemic health and well-being of the individual. This being the case, it makes sense to first attempt to correct infertility through Ayurvedic treatment and then, if that fails, to subsequently employ the more forceful but also more risky treatments of modern Western medicine. It is also possible to use the high tech diagnostic tests of modern Western medicine and its pathophysiological specificity in tandem with the holistic, benign, but nonetheless effective therapies of Ayurveda. As human beings, we all have this ultimate power of healing through self-realization and Ayurveda guides us to connect to our inner wisdom and grace and heal from within.