Categories in Reproductive HealthMale Reproductive HealthBreastsFertilityMenstruationVaginal HealthSTDs
IntroductionThe reproductive tissues (Shukra/artava dhatu) are the last of the seven tissues layers to receive nutrients, according to Ayurveda. Your body prioritizes survival over reproduction, so it will nourish your respiratory and circulatory systems over reproduction. All the systems and channels in the body must be working efficiently before your body will give energy & nourishment to reproductive tissues. In one sense, the reproductive tissues are a culmination of the health of all the other tissue layers, and a reflection of the health of body as a whole. This means that reproductive health is closely correlated wit the health of your body as a whole.
Reproductive health also correlates to the generation of new cells within the body. When the reproductive system is strong, the whole body is strong and capable of regeneration. That's why it is important to keep the reproductive tissues healthy and vital, not just for reasons of fertility and reproduction. When there is an imbalance or weakness in the reproductive system, overall health can suffer. On an esoteric level, the concept of reproduction also captures all that you create in this life, both internally and externally.
The Role of the Reproductive SystemThe fundamental role of the reproductive system is to create new life. This system is comprised of a group of glands and organs, both internal and external, that work together to fulfill the role of creating a new individual. Unlike most systems in the body, the male and female reproductive organs are completely different. This difference is crucial to allow for a combination of genetic material. On a mental level, the reproductive organs express attraction and aversion on its most base level - sexual selection, including lifestyle choices that express personal preferences and taste. Culturally, the physical uniqueness and differentiation in one's preferences is one reason why issues of identity are often intimately coupled with sexuality.
The main role of the male reproductive system (shukra dhatu) is to create and transport sperm. Coiled structures located in the testes, known as seminiferous tubules, are the site of sperm production. The sperm mature in the epididymis and are ejaculated as a result of muscular contractions through the vas deferens and then the ureter. The vaginal canal (yoni) receives the sperm, which then travels through the cervix, swimming towards the fallopian tubes. Here, the sperm are looking for an egg that has been produced by the ovaries (anda). If an egg is present and successfully fertilized, it remains in the fallopian tube for a few days until it implants itself in the uterus (garbhasaya). Here, the embryo will develop over a period of nine months of pregnancy, provided conditions are right.
For the sperm to successfully make this journey, find an egg and fertilize it, the sperm must be strong enough, numerous enough and surrounded by enough protective fluid to survive the harsh environment of the vagina. The female must have released the egg at the proper time so that it is ready to be fertilized. For successful fertilization to occur, the timing must be right and both the male and female reproductive organs must be strong with clear, unobstructed channels. The uterine lining must also be favorable for implantation of the newly formed embryo. And, the woman must be capable of nourishing the embryo to term.
The Ayurvedic ApproachFor both male (shukra dhatu) and female (artava dhatu) reproductive tissues to be functioning at their best, Ayurveda encourages a strong routine be implemented. Excess travel, strong career ambitions, mounting stress, and other daily irregularities strain reproductive health. Digestive toxins (ama) should be minimized by eating an appropriate diet according to individual body type. These toxins can circulate in the blood stream and disrupt hormone production and transportation. It is also important to look at correcting any other lingering imbalances in the body, including stimulating digestive strength (agni) and balancing blood chemistry. Remember, the health of the reproductive system reflects the health of the whole organism.
Once digestion is strong, the ama is cleared from the blood and other imbalances are rectified, the reproductive tissues have a better chance to receive proper nourishment. All tissues must be in excellent condition to ensure optimal health of the reproductive system. Ojas is the term Ayurveda uses to describe the "quality of the flesh." It is the most refined product of digestion and contributes to strength, vitality and vigor. A person must have good ojas to reproduce. This is accomplished by eating nutrient rich foods appropriate for one's body type (prakruti). Some foods can actually build ojas, including milk (used to feed a growing baby), almonds (nuts and seeds in general as they are produced by plant reproductive organs), ghee, and most fruits (the reproductive organ itself of the plant).
Many people weaken their reproductive organs through sexual encounters outside of true, total, self-sacrificial love - often for many years.The essence of chastity is waiting for what you truly want. Chastity is not celibacy. Celibacy is abstinence from sex. But chastity means only having sex with the partner you are truly meant to be with. Chastity is a passion for what is perfect. Creativity takes tremendous energy, and is often wasted by time and energy spent in half hearted endeavors. To be chaste means to invest in something (a person or any endeavor really) with a full heart, completely and totally. A person who is chaste guards their creative energy until it can be fully expressed and thereby preserves their vigor.
What Causes a Reproductive ImbalanceThe body, especially the reproductive system, works on a clock - it loves regularity and routine. When diet and lifestyle are irregular, the body is confused and always trying to figure out what is going to happen next. This can disrupt homeostasis and, in turn, disrupt the health of the reproductive tissues. Lack of proper nutrition, stress and excessive exercise can all contribute to a reproductive imbalance. As can excessive sex, or sex with inappropriate partners.
As mentioned previously, weak digestive strength, agni, will lead to the formation of digestive toxins, ama, in the blood stream. This can irritate the reproductive tissues, affect reproductive hormones and clog the reproductive channels. The reproductive system also has to contend with environmental and chemical toxins that are in the blood. In Ayurveda, the health of the mind also impacts the health of the body. An imbalance in the mind, such as repressed emotions, fear and lack of confidence can all affect the quality of the reproductive tissues.
Menstrual IrregularityMenstrual imbalances can come in many different forms, including amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), menorrhagia (excessive bleeding) and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Vata, Pitta and Kapha all affect the menstrual cycle in a different way, and each condition requires its own assessment unique to the individual. While all three doshas play an important role in menstruation, Vata (apana vayu) is the governing force and needs to be balanced in all cases. To bring the menstrual cycle back into balance, regularity and routine is key. Each day, set the same time for waking, eating and sleeping, and ensure to get regular exercise. A Vata pacifying diet and lifestyle also calm the nervous system and help the body return to its natural cycle. In cases of painful menstruation, an external pack with castor oil can be applied to the lower abdomen. Regular cups of fresh ginger tea is also useful for pacifying Vata in lower abdomen, reducing cramps and nourishing the whole reproductive system.
InfertilityInfertility is a disorder that can affect both the male and female reproductive tissues. In Ayurveda, the first step to increasing fertility is to clear ama from the body. Triphala and CCF tea both gently cleanse and clear the body of ama. A digestive stimulant, like ginger, salt & lime appetizer, can be used to stimulate agni and reduce the likelihood of further ama accumulation.
Once ama is cleared, the next step is to eat a diet rich in foods that support and nourish the reproductive tissues. Juicy, sweet and dense food, like coconut, mango, dates, almonds and ghee, all nourish reproductive tissues and build ojas. It is also crucial to avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes. Along with eating foods supportive to the reproductive system, a rejuvenative tonic can help strengthen the tissues and support fertility. Kapikacchu can be used to increase fertility in both men and women. It increases sexual vitality. Ayurveda recommends it to reduce infertility, impotence, and premature ejaculation. Read on the learn what tonic is most suitable for Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
If sperm count is low, ojas building foods such as almonds, other nuts and seeds, and whole organic milk should be included in the diet. Ashwagandha benefits sperm count and male fertility. It can be mixed with a glass of warm milk as a rejuvenating drink. A self massage with ashwagandha/bala oil also imparts strength on the whole body. Avoid food that is very bitter or spicy, as excessive intake of these tastes can affect sperm count.
Low libidoLow libido can be a result of a physical or mental imbalance, Physically, poor health or irregular hormone production, may affect sex drive. Mentally, stress or concerns you are with the wrong partner can affect libido levels. Aphrodisiacs are not one size fits all. You may read online that such and such a food is an aphrodisiac, but what stimulates one person can reduce sexual performance in another. Kapha needs stimulation. They are too tired for sex, and may not have an erection without stimulating herbs or topical ointments. Pitta needs beauty, to be soothed. They also need to be in an agreeable mood. Vata needs calm, rest and relaxation. They are too hyperactive.
To stimulate libido, ama first needs to be cleared. Again, triphala and CCF tea can be used. Any stagnation in the body should be cleared and circulation improved. Regular exercise and a daily stimulating dry brushing massage can help Kapha dominant people in particular, while gentle self massage is more appropriate for Vata. Proper hydration levels and electrolyte balance must be restored by sipping warm water throughout the day, or room temperature coconut water. Emotional issues, such as low self-confidence, should also be addressed. Building confidence depends upon numerous mental health factors including past traumas. A personal must be humble to be truly confident, as pride creates shame, and a false confidence easily shattered.
VataA Vata type's reproductive system can be dry, deficient and irregular. It benefits from heavy, nutrient rich tonics that impart strength on the reproductive tissues, such as chyavanprash. This nutrient jam can be used as a tonic for all three doshas, but its sweet, heavy and warming qualities make it particularly beneficial for Vata, especially in cases of infertility and low libido. Ashwagandha is another rejuvenative tonic that benefits Vata. It has a particular affinity for the male reproductive system, but is also suitable for females. This rejuvenating root nourishes and strengthens the reproductive tissues, increases sperm count and sexual performance. It can also be used as a uterine tonic and is indicated in cases of deficiency, weakness or high Vata in the reproductive system.
PittaA Pitta's reproductive system tends to be hot and sharp and needs some soothing. Shatavari has a particular affinity for the female reproductive system, and works as a uterine tonic in cases of dysmenorrhoea (painful menstruation) and irregular menstruation. It benefits both Vata and Pitta, but its cooling effect makes it a useful tonic for Pitta. It is also valuable in menopause as it can reduce symptoms like hot flashes and irritability associated with aggravated Pitta. Shatavari can increase estrogen levels in some cases so is not appropriate where there is an estrogen sensitivity or history of estrogen sensitive growths or tumors. Aloe vera gel cleanses the blood and cools a hot digestive tract. It also soothes reproductive tissues, relieves excess bleeding in the menstrual cycle, acts as a rejuvenative for the female reproductive system and is useful for treating hot symptoms in menopause, similar to shatavari.
KaphaKapha types are strong and stable, and usually have strong reproductive tissues too. However, they are prone to congestion, stagnation and ama accumulation. One of the world's most expensive herbs (but you only need just a pinch!), saffron, is a useful tonic in cases of congestion or stagnation in the blood as it stimulates circulation. It can be used in cases of impotence and low libido. Pippali is light, penetrating and warm, and helps clear Kapha stagnation. However, it boasts a sweet post digestive effect (vipaka) which gives it tonifying properties. It can be useful in some cases of infertility and premature ejaculation.
ConclusionThe basis of human life is reproduction. Without the functioning of this system, the human species could not survive. The differences between the male and female reproductive systems are designed to perfectly provide all the essential ingredients for a new being. However, these ingredients, the sperm and egg, can face complications and imbalances due to a number of causes. Even those who do not have reproduction as a goal can benefit from strengthening the reproductive tissues. The health of this system relates to the health of the whole body. With healthy reproductive tissues, one is energetic, confident, vibrant and has a radiant glow. Many imbalances in the reproductive system can be improved and corrected through Ayurvedic adjustments to diet and lifestyle.
Herbal Actions Affecting Reproductive Health
HOW AYURVEDA WORKSARE YOU WONDERING HOW AYURVEDA CAN HELP YOU?
WHY IS AYURVEDA THE RIGHT SOLUTION?Ayurveda strengthens the body while opposing disorders. It takes a holistic, systemic approach that looks at the whole body. Ayurveda shows how to interpret signs and symptoms of imbalance, and how to address them using diet, lifestyle adjustments, and herbs. It shows a person how to optimize their health on a continual basis. You can't take the doctor home with you, but you can take Ayurveda home with you. Ayurveda is the most advanced and easy to use home system for self healing.
HOW DOES AYURVEDA WORK?Ayurveda starts by identifying your body type, which identifies certain tendencies in your body to get sick (as well as identifying your strengths). It uses body type to determine the likely root causes of your disorders. Next, Ayurveda analyzes the nature of your disorder. It fits all your signs and symptoms into a pattern, expressed as a combination of biocharaceristics (gunas). For example, you may have a heat disorder, a cold disorder, or an oily disorder, etc. This simple categorical approach shows you how to correct systemic imbalances and strengthen your body as a whole.
On Joyful Belly, we've created an extensive categorization of food so you can easily match food to your imbalanced biocharacteristics. By eating an optimal diet that balances your biocharacteristics, your whole body is strengthened and the conditions that created the disorder are removed. Once the root causes of the disease are removed, the disease lessens in strength or disappears altogether. Additional remedies - such as herbs and lifestyle practices - focused on the specific disorder, can greatly enhance your healing.
GET STARTEDTo get started on your Ayurvedic journey, we first recommend that your find your body type by taking our free quiz. In Ayurveda, every solution is based on your unique body type, so by taking this quiz, you’ll get the best results.