Feb 24, 2007

The stuff of bodies

In catching up on my Usenet reading, I came across a comment about how Gila Monster Spit [sic] in synthetic form was helping a woman with her diabetes. I thought it was some kind of inside joke, but no. It's real. One article I came across about it, tells how the endocrinologist who discovered the helpful ingredient (exenatide), made his discovery, and then finally got to see the animal itself.

One quote from the article: "[W]e talk about how infrequently Gila monsters eat, and how this chemical helps them digest meals slowly over time." The article's a fascinating read.

I'm not quoting the WebMD article, because it starts off with "You wouldn't want to meet a Gila monster in a dark alley […]". Not only is it a cliché but it is cliché that misleads the reader. Gila monsters are out in the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as the southwestern desert. You meet them in dark crevaces in rocks (well, that's where I saw the one I saw). Not that that's desirable, either. They are poisonous.


This week I've been re-reading about doshas. Fun word to say, dosha, but what does it mean? I usually use the word "constitution" but I see "humor" used. In ayurvedic medicine, there are three doshas governing body type, bodily functions and attendant thinking and emotions (personality): Vata, Pitta and Kapha. We are all a mix of these three, with one or two usually dominant. Vata is the most common in purest form, Kapha the least common. Vata is the dosha that reacts first to stress, which explains feeling scattered, tummy upsets, and poor sleep.

I've been re-reading about this because recently, after a friend of mine used ayurveda and yoga in the same sentence. That is, her yoga instructor did. I hadn't thought about those in combination before and got curious. And had a lightbulb moment.

I loved the power yoga class I took last fall though it seemed not to matter to my health. I just liked the moving, the working of muscles, and feeling muscles I didn't know I had. A week after the course ended, trouble started. I was under a bit of pressure (because I can worry myself into a knot) trying to plan a trip during Christmas. I noticed a bit of something in my chest the day after the Christmas dinner with my co-workers, but it didn't seem significant. Then it was my birthday, and I noticed the tickle in my chest more, but it wasn't until halfway through the following day, at work, that I realized I was sick. And I was out sick for almost two weeks, with a pulmonary virus infection that was (and still is) going around.

When I started to feel better, I then pulled a muscle in my ribs and so didn't feel up to doing any yoga yet. Being home sick didn't do my weight any good (that time of life, and it's not without advantages[1]), and so I thought about getting back into the yoga. A new course was supposed to start in February, but by then, I had read about the yoga-ayurveda connection, and had learned that power yoga was good for Kapha types.

I am not a Kapha type. I vacillate between being Vata and Vata-Pitta - and today, Pitta-Vata according to YAT (yet another test) - but I have never had a predominance of Kapha in my make-up. So that type of yoga was all wrong for me. Funny thing is, lung infections are connected to a Kapha imbalance.

OK, I'll turn the lightbulb off now. No, not yet; there's more. The best exercise for a Vata? Walking. What have I been doing all February? Walking. Haven't lost weight, haven't gotten a nice bubble-butt from climbing five flights of stairs several times a day at work yet, but I am less out of breath when I get to the top landing. The best part, which is also Vata: Enjoying the walk around the pond every day. Even though it feels like a chore when I set out, the experience itself is so lovely and so interesting, that it cheers me up.

So, I'm going to go through my collection of New Age books, and see if I still don't have that one on ayurveda for women, which brings me to my footnote [1]: I am experiencing what is known as perimenopause, that time in life when the body sort of acts like my hairdresser's salon did yesterday: There was a flurry of different activities as everyone prepared to close shop at 4:30 pm and be ready for a photo shoot the next day. Floors were wetmopped and shelves tidied while customers were getting haircuts, and I found myself having to actually wait in line for a sink. It was quite noisy and even crowded.

My hormones are doing something similar: My ovaries are dialling back on the estrogen in preparation for menopause (ETA unknown), which causes some other hormones to have to change their behavior, which influences the estrogen in turn, but this apparant chaos is normalcy. It's supposed to do this. The weight gain? Shores up estrogen so the body doesn't shock itself (is my theory; it is a known fact that fat cells store estrogen). I've found that I have to order clothes in size "large" at my favorite mail order company (I was an XS past my mid-30's). Haven't had a regular period since 2001, but the irregularity has been regular (anywhere from 22 to 27 days is typical now). Less flow, too, so I'm saving money.

And this has to do with ayurveda, you are wondering? I'm looking for balance. Hormones, life, food. Some of the more annoying symptoms of perimenopause (skin sensitivies, excess sweating, for example) seem to suggest dosha imbalance. I figure if I can somehow figure out how to work with my body, this change-of-life thingy will be a breeze.

5 comments:

Paula said...

I'm waiting for the hot flashes cuz I've been colder than ever. Still symptom-free at almost 46. I had an endometrial ablation back in 2004 to stop my insanely heavy periods, and it was the best thing I ever did. Still on the same 25-27 day cycle though, but hardly any flow or cramps, which is great. I'm mostly the vayu type, and have been doing around 6 miles/week on the ellipticals. No bubble butt here yet either!

Keera Ann Fox said...

In all my reading today, I came across info that suggests that any troublesome symptoms during perimenopause are due to imbalances in the doshas created in earlier years due to lifestyle choices. Sort of like you don't know about weaknesses until you put some pressure on.

Cold flashes are a known symptom, BTW. Having any fun yet? ;-)

Mark said...

Nothing to see here, guys. Just move along...

m said...

I'm looking for balance. Hormones, life, food. Some of the more annoying symptoms of perimenopause (skin sensitivies, excess sweating, for example) seem to suggest dosha imbalance. I figure if I can somehow figure out how to work with my body, this change-of-life thingy will be a breeze.

It's a nice thought, but some things just aren't going to be 'balanced' and easy, like birth. I'm not arguing for not minimizing unpleasantness, I'm just thinking that there may well be no magic bullet.

m, so no fretting, eh?

Keera Ann Fox said...

Heh. You ain't a woman going through perimenopause.

I'm not one to look for magic bullets, but I do like to know as much as possible so I can avoid problems. (Moon in 6th, Mercury in Scorpio ruling, y'know. Information is power.)