Baby Microbiome basics – Part 1

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

We are in an interesting and contradictory world today. One the one hand, the rise of Western science has taken basic hygiene to unimaginable levels. So household products can successfully wipe out every last germ in our clothes or our hands. But on the other hand, this increasingly sterile world has many fall outs. Our immunity levels are lower than what they used to be and our children are weaker, less healthy and perpetually fall sick. How do we balance this seeming contraindication? This is the first in Krya’s 3 part series on the Baby microbiome. This series will explain the current body of research on the Baby microbiome, share Ayurvedic insights on the same and leave you with solid recommendations to boost baby’s immunity and health.

Baby microbiome basics: a highly sanitised world is creating new health complications for us.

Joshua Lederberg first coined the term “Microbiota” to distinguish the bacteria that colonize, populate and symbiotically live on us. The current world view lies in seeing ourselves as separate from the “germs or bacteria” that live on us, and treat them as opportunistic parasites that feed off us and have to be therefore be removed or eradicate.

However the growing body of research is instead choosing to view human beings and indeed living beings as the “Holobiont”. The Holobiont is the host body + all the associated micro organisms that co-exist and live on the body of the host. The Holobiont is being postulated as the evolutionary edge for living organisms and species: and it is the composition of Microbiota AND host organism that presents the unique evolutionary edge and not the host body alone.

The Human Microbiota includes fungi, bacteria and archea. This does not include opportunistic micro animals like head lice which weaken the Holobiont and are purely parasitic. Research indicates that the human Holobiont is made up of 37 trillion cells: of these ¾ belong to our Human Microbiota, and only ¼ of these 37 trillion cells are contributed directly by us.

Baby Microbiome basics: Microbiota colonise us throughout the body

How a healthy colony of micro flora helps keep us strong & healthy

On a cell to cell comparison, we are more Micro flora than human. Our body is made up of cells of which the human part is only 10%. The balance 90% is our microbiome which colonizes various parts of us: our skin, nose, ears, reproductive organs and inside our body. Each area of our body has different species of micro flora. Microflora form a unique fingerprint for each of us: our colonies are not exactly the same, even for twins born and raised together.

A large portion of our microbiome lives in our gut. This colony decides many things about our health. They decide how healthy we are going to be and how much immunity we have. It defends us against invasive and predatory micro organisms. They help our body with digestion, assimilation and nutrient absorption. Our friendly Microbiota also boosts our brain function and helps mood regulation as well.

Baby microbiome basics: teh quality of your microbiota determine the nutrient absorption from your food

The human body hosts different sets of colonies in various parts of the body. Every set of microbes has its own role to play, depending on where they live. The oral microbiome acts as a gatekeeper, guarding what enters the GI tract. If the colony in your mouth is in good health and shape, they can block the entry of potentially invasive organisms into our body.

On skin, the microbiome forms a very important gatekeeper role as well. The skin micro flora prevents entry of predators into the blood and lymph. These predators if allowed, can cause huge harm as they can bypass our acid containing gut and enter the circulatory system directly , through which they can spread rapidly.

Baby microbiome basics: Skin hosts innumerable microflora that imporves immunity and protects health

The skin microbiome helps guard this, if we take care to ensure our skin microbiome population is not unnecessary washed away. The human microbiome also bring down small inflammations in the body, help produce vitamins and digestive enzymes. In short , they support and extend healthy life for us. This is an example of a symbiotic and synergistic partnership.

 

Why is a healthy microbiome critical in a baby?

Human babies are born vulnerable and helpless. Their microbial colony begins to be established during pregnancy, and continues well until they are around 3 – 4 years. The successful establishment of a healthy microbial colony depends upon many factors. These include the health of the mother, the mode of delivery of the baby, feeding choices, weaning food choices, and the availability of a healthy microbiome colony in the baby’s surroundings. Some of our choices can also destroy a healthy available microbiome , for example the choice to raise baby in over sanitary surroundings.

The GI tract of the baby is especially unformed and vulnerable in the first 6 months. For example, in the first 6 months, a baby’s intestinal tract has spaces between the intestinal cells. This gap is filled as the baby grows. But in the first 6 months, the baby’s gut flora microbiome plug these intestinal gaps themselves. If these gaps are not properly plugged, undesirable molecules and invaders can squeeze through the intestine and directly enter the baby’s bloodstream.

Baby microbiome basics: healthy microflora reduces baby's vulnerability to disease

It is safe to say that the baby’s first 3 years sets the foundation for the future health and well being of the baby. Our choices as parents can greatly impact the health and well being of our child, way into the future. This is why we are writing this series on the Krya blog this week.

Our posts this week in this series will discuss the stages of microbial colonization in the baby and some choices you can make to provide positive intervention at each stage. We will also discuss various do’s and don’t s and how Ayurveda tells us to raise baby and improve immunity. However, until the next 2 posts, here are 3 thought-starters we would like to end this post with. Each of these will impact your baby’s microbiome and therefore her health.

3 baby microbiome thought-starters:

Give baby plenty of thoughtful skin to skin contact with skin that is not over-sanitized:

Microbiome colonies spread from living organisms. So Ayurveda encourages thoughtful, selective skin to skin contact in young infants. Our microbial colonies are incredibly selective and unique. For example your right hand and left hand host a different microbial signature! For these colonies to be healthy and survive, we must ensure their surroundings are healthy as well. In an over sanitary environment, we kill off all our good bacteria – instead these environments breed super-bugs and very dangerous predators, which can thrive in this environment.

Ayurveda recommends that baby be handled and touched by the Mother and one –two selectively chosen caregivers.

Baby microbiome basics: thoughtful loving skin contact improves healthy microflora

The mother and “Dhatri” (nurse or additional caregiver or a nanny), must use the correct Ayurvedic herbs to bathe in. The Nursery must be kept well ventilated, yet cosy and facing in the right direction. Baby’s linen must be washed with Rakshoghna herbs.

Baby microbiome basics: Mother an dDhatri should bathe in rakshogha herbs and wash all linen with these. This helps spread good quality microflora

In this environment, the use of these herbs keeps down the spread of dangerous micro organisms. This gives healthy Microbiota a chance to flourish. So, when baby is touched and handled lovingly by such caregivers, the healthy Microbiota are transferred onto baby’s skin and can colonize it.

If the Mother is breastfeeding, Ayurveda recommends proper cleansing of the breasts and mother’s skin with warming, vata pacifying, Rakshoghna herbs. When this is done, the baby absorbs the right micro flora through mouth-to-skin contact during breastfeeding.

Avoid: Cleansing mother’s skin and baby’s skin with a synthetic soap or bodywash. This wipes out all the friendly colonies of bacteria, leaving baby vulnerable to infection and disease. Use a completely natural grain and herb based Ayurvedic ubtan instead.

Reduction of electronic stress and other stress around mother & baby:

One of the key impediments to the growth of friendly bacteria is stress. When we are stressed, the pitta dosha in the body increases. This creates a high heat and acidic medicum in the body. This tends to reduce our gut bacterial colony. Also, the nature of skin and scalp secretions change in high Pitta conditions. Sweat becomes much more acidic, foul smelling and the composition of sebum also changes. This again brings down growth of friendly bacteria and instead attracts unhealthy organisms.

Baby microbiome basics: high stress impacts the quality of microflora

High use of electronic devices like Mobile, Wi-Fi, I-Pads, etc, increase subtle Vata vibrations in the air. This changes the dosha balance in the body, again leading to an unhealthy condition. Subtle electronic vibrations also thrown off our sleep cycles. When sleep is disturbed, our Microbiota are also harmed.

If the Mother is stressed, her bacterial colony is affected. Which in turn affects the baby. So Ayurveda advises a time of rest, reduction in physical work and focus on the Mother at least in the first 6 months after delivery. If this is extended upto one year this is ideal.

This post is not meant to discourage working mothers or criticize them for their choices. But, we echo Ayurveda’s emphasis on the important of rest and recovery for mothers. If this period is adhered to, we can avoid many health issues that may crop up later.

Fresh, organic home made food

Ayurveda tells us that all health begins in our gut. All Disease can be traced back to overloading the digestive system, eating improper food combinations and at the wrong timing. At the time many of the original texts were written, here was no practice of chemical farming followed. So obviously we have no explicit mentions of pesticide grown food.

But from all the available research today, we know how toxic , eating chemically farmed food is. From the Microbiome perspective, this is like consuming frequent doses of poison to the system. This harms everything in the body including your Micro biota.

For a breast feeding mother, eating fresh, organic, seasonal, home made food promotes better nutrient absorption and produce better quality breast milk as well.

Baby microbiome basics: high quality organic seasonal food boosts healthy microbiota

Also, seasonally grown organic produce has a healthier colony of micro flora. So when we handle and cook this produce, we are enriching our own bacterial colony.

To sum up:

Through this post, we hoped to provide you a glimpse of the fascinating world that lies on our skin and in our bodies. It is not an exaggeration to say that without friendly Microbiota, human life would not exist.

Conserving, nurturing and protecting our friendly Microbiome becomes even more critical in babies. Babies’ microbiome is under developed and the choices we make for them in the first 3 years of their life has long lasting impact on their health and their Microbiota.

We also looked at 3 simple methods you can start with to encourage proper colonization of Micro biota in baby. In our next 2 posts, we will look at Microbiota colonization in baby stage by stage and also explore Ayurvedic interventions in each stage to strengthen baby’s micro biota. Stay tuned.

Krya Products recommended to encourage healthy skin colonization in Babies and Moms:

For Moms:

  • Strongly recommended: Krya Women’s Abhyanga system (Krya Women’s Ubtan + Krya Abhyanga oil) – helps balance vata dosha and encourages the growth of friendly Microbiota while discouraging predatory microbes

Krya Products Recommended for Baby:

  • Krya baby ubtans & bodywashes – made from organic or forest collected herbs, grains and lentils . Cleans thoroughly yet is extremely soothing and gentle on baby’s skin. Can be used everyday from the 1st day of baby’s birth.
  • Krya baby massage oils – made using authentic ayurvedic herbs, and organic cold pressed vegetable oils processed through a rigorous ayurvedic manufacturing process. Can be used from the time a baby is 1 week old
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Ayurvedic post natal care to strengthen, nourish and care for a new mother and a new born baby. Krya shares a first person account.

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Reading Time: 20 minutes

The Krya blog has been speaking these last few days about different types of vata based disorders. The last few of our posts have been speaking in particular about post partum hair fall and related vata disorders and how the root cause of this can be traced to uncontrolled vata dosha because of a lack of proper post natal care that follows Ayurvedic principles.

As we have discussed earlier, Ayurveda opines that the birth of a child causes an imbalance in the body’s doshas as a large gap is created in the womb that was once occupied by the fetus and her placenta. The process of childbirth which is physically demanding and rigorous excites Vayu. Once Vayu is aroused, it is in its nature to rush in and occupy empty spaces and childbirth gives Vayu a large empty space to occupy.

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Traditional post natal practices therefore centre around nourishing, oil and ghee based warm food and regimens like abhyangas to remove fatigue, provide strength back to the body and reduce the likelihood of vayu rushing in and upsetting the body’s dosha balance.

Our posts on post partum health have led to a lot of enquiries on how mothers should be looked after post child birth for good health. So we are fortunate today to carry a piece written by Seetha Anand Vaidyam on the traditional post natal practices that were followed in her home for both her pregnancies.

Seetha is a holistic educator, remedial therapist and an author (a longer bio follows at the end of her piece). Along with her piece, we have also included textual references to the practices described wherever relevant to clearly establish that these time honored practices flow from Ayurvedic first principles.


Old is Gold,

I was always told,

This advice I followed,

Especially when lo behold!

The most precious being in my hands I hold.”

Seetha Anand Vaidyam

 Good news! You are pregnant!” — My Gynecologist told me. I was 22 years, I had been married for 2 months, I had gone for my check up alone and I was nervous. “What should I do Doctor… In terms of how should I take care, what foods should I be eating…anything I should bear in mind… ? “, I asked her in part shyness, part embarrassment and even fear. I wanted to have children and had planned it, but now that I was pregnant, I was nervous, especially since I was in a new city away from my own relatives.

“Just act as normal as you are. You can do all what you did … just be normal.” my doctor said to me. And I did try. Surely a blanket “be normal” is not the soundest of advice and this is something I re-learned in my research and working with children of different needs in later years.

Pregnancy is the time to begin the nourishment of the baby in-utero. Seldom are first time mothers aware of the extent of influence their lifestyle can have on the baby. Stress, sadness during pregnancy can be especially detrimental. Sadness brings a kind of constriction in the abdominal region for most people, (we use terms like stomach churning feelings etc.) This constriction, tension can damage the tender nerves and muscles of the fetus in-utero. Nothing, nothing but the well being of the baby is paramount in that period and for this the pregnant mother’s wellness of body, mind and soul is imperative.

blog-post-2-pregnancy-special-period Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Putrakamiya chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Sattvaviseshakarani Punarmathapithrasvadyoganatharvarthnyah:  Shruthyaschabhikshanam

Swopachintah cha karma bhavathi Poorvabhayschethi”

 This can be roughly translated as: “ The factors that influence the mental makeup of a child are the mental traits, purity , behavior of the family, cleanliness and purity of parents, the sounds that the fetus hears, the sounds and vibrations the pregnant women hears, and the karmic effects of the past lives of the fetus”.

 

It is to be noted here that Acharya Vagbhatta says that the collective set of emotions, thoughts, feelings and the sensory stimuli offered by the external environment shapes the mental makeup of your child. In this context , a pregnant woman and her caregiver must evaluate the television she watches, songs she listens to, people she meets and books and newspapers she reads and ask herself if each of these influences are positive and useful for the growing child.

Fast forward … 9 months later I was in another city, my home city and I was now a mother of a new born! This time, both my mother and me nervously asked the doctor, what I should be fed, if we could follow our traditional post natal care at home (especially since my first delivery was a Cesarean section and my mother had no experience of that, she was very confused as to what should be done), if we could give the traditional “orai marundhu” to the new born etc. My obstetrician said something similar to my gynecologist in the other city: “Just give her normal foods, no massages, use simple baby soap for the baby, and just stick to mother’s milk and if the baby is not satisfied top feed!!!” And what was worse, she said, “Don’t come running to me if an infection develops in the baby due to use of traditional oils and powders!”

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Being from and married into a traditional family, the words of the Doctors were ignored with contempt. My mother and mother in law consulted each other and a few other elderly aunts and grandmothers and the plan for my massage and diet and that of my baby were chalked out.

My pregnancies are not something I relish writing about since till date I wish I had taken better care of my babies when they were inside me! I was in a new city, unaware, helpless and overwhelmed by so many things in my new life! But like they say no point in getting negative with regret. The post natal care that my mother lovingly provided me and my babies hopefully made up for most of my earlier shortcomings. I will share details of traditional post natal care based on my own experiences and observations.

Post natal care is extremely elaborate and specific in South India. Even in today’s times of hospital deliveries, many of the customs are followed.

 

The design of the New Mother and new born baby’s Chamber

The room where the new mother and baby are housed, is kept spic and span and fumigated with sambrani over a ‘kumiti’ or iron stove with coals. It is a well lit room but not overly bright or close to noises, the windows were closed by dusk. The room is kept very warm and cozy. The room is protected from strong sensory stimuli such a smell, sound and light.

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Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“The chamber that holds the new born baby and recovering Mother should be architecturally beautiful, equipped with all necessary materials, should not have too much wind, and should have only soft wind blowing from the east. The room should be entered only by a few elderly women and physicians and should be free from bedbugs, mice, mosquitoes and other vermin. The room should not be too dark, or too bright. The cradle, bed, and bed sheets should be clean, well washed, unwrinkled, soft and fumigated with rakshoghna drugs.

 

It is important to note again, that Acharya Vagbhatta specifies that the baby’s nursery should have restricted entry with good cleanliness and fumigation using certain drugs. This helps prevent infections as Ayurveda considers that both a new mother and the baby have low immunity and depleted strength. The mention of controlling wind in the nursery is also a point to be noted – this is because Vayu (air) is already considered high in the mother post delivery. So additional Vayu is not to be allowed in as a strong breeze. Ayurveda actually classifies wind as having different properties depending upon the direction from which it blows!

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Clothing

Both the mother and baby are given soft cottons, often used clothes. New clothes for the baby are actually discouraged. Often old cotton dhotis and saris are converted into “jablas” /tie string tops and diapers. The diapers from the first day of the baby made from old saris or dhotis are thrown away and not washed. Later they are rinsed and then soaked in hot water with herbal powders, brushed, washed and dried in the sun. Care is taken not to have them washed by unmarried, young persons who may have an aversion for tending to soiled clothes.

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Even the repulsive feelings that a person may have for the soiled clothes were considered strong enough to harm the tender baby. Such was the extent of sensitivity towards the new born! And of course the new mother was forbidden from wetting her hands or staying near moist areas. She was considered to be in a delicate physical state and vulnerable to colds and infections after the hard task of child birth. If the delivery happened during monsoons, the washed napkins were dried indoors but were further dried on top of sambrani fumes that were covered with a metal rice sieve.

Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Fumigation of the nursery and the linen and bedding of the mother and child should be done with guggulu and other rakshoghna resins which are mentioned in the prescribed texts. The child and mother should also be adorned with small bundles of herbs like Vacha, and other rakshoghna herbs to ward off the evil eye and deter krimi and germs”.

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Negative energy and the warding off this are addressed with a great deal of care across Ayurvedic texts including the Ashtanga Samgraha. The use of specific herbs, chanting of mantras and specific stotras, prayer, and restricted access to the new Mother and baby helps protect both and helps them conserve their spiritual energy.

 The mother and baby are kept warm, ears of the mother are covered with cotton, and the mother’s waist is bound by a folded sari tightly so that the sagging belly after delivery is held tightly. I went through this procedure after both my deliveries, the first being cesarean while my second was normal delivery. The baby’s head and ears are well covered, feet are protected with socks.blog-post-7-covered-ears

Ayurvedic first principles: the procedure described by Seetha above to cover the ears, feet and bind the stomach of the New mother all flow from the principle of correcting excess Vayu. The ears and feet are the seat of Vata dosha, so it is kept covered in both Mother and Baby to prevent entry of excess Vayu.  The space in the stomach is kept physically restrained in the Mother to restrict the space available for Vayu to rush in and fill the now empty womb.

 

Daily Rhythms of a post natal home

A post natal house functioned like clockwork. Sleep, wake, bath, meal, visitor timings were all strictly followed. It is considered healthy for babies to wake up early. Lactating mothers need as much rest as possible and new born babies sleep long hours and need frequent feeds. Child birth is considered to be a tiring effort sapping the mother of energy and certain essential nutrition.

Therefore apart from the special diet given, the daily rhythms or routines were sacrosanct since they also build up the etheric forces/ life forces of the mother which tend to get weak during the birthing process. The baby is tender and depends immensely on a precise rhythm to build its body clock and bio rhythms. Today modern medicine talks so much about the connection between health and bio rhythms, which traditional wisdom always believed was sacred.

 

Visitors and Outings for the Newborn and Mother

Visiting new borns and new mothers was highly restricted. Only certain inmates of the house entered the room. Relatives and friends from outside were allowed for one day on the 11th day after birth where the child is given a formal bath and placed on a cradle and the naming ceremony is carried out. After the completion of the function, restrictions continue and visitors are not encouraged.

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Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Shoorairayodhibheergupathmadrashyam nagaram paraiha

Yatha shishovarpurathdhwagatho thaovirddhibhigrahaiha”

 

“Just like a city is protected from enemies by brave men with suitable weapons, similarly the body of a child must be protected from different kinds of invaders / evil spirits using appropriate methods”

 

This is the concluding verse in the Balopacaraniya chapter which brings together the point behind all of the prescriptions of newborn and maternal care in Ayurveda. Every single ritual prescribed is done with the view of protecting the health of the child and mother – the care given post child birth to the Mother and in the first year of the child are seen as critical for establishing the lifelong health patterns of the Mother and Child.

After 30 days, a visit is made by the new born and the new mother to a nearby temple. The child is brought outside the room to sit in a place where the evening sunlight falls. By the end of the second month the child is allowed to be placed in the other rooms of the house. The mother is still not very active and is confined to feeding the baby, in some cases bathing and changing diapers, folding clothes. Physically exerting activities are not carried out by the mother.

 

Massage and Bathing Rituals

Nothing is discussed, prepared for and spoken about as much as massage rituals in a post natal household!!! In some houses a masseur is appointed these days, but traditionally the mother or grandmothers who were usually in a fit condition bathed the new mother and the new born baby.

 

Cold pressed Sesame oil or Coconut oil was used for the massage. While the baby received a full body and head oil massage every day after the 11th day of birth, the mother received an oil massage for the body everyday and head oil massage every alternate day. After the 11th day of giving birth. The mother’s body oil was mixed with generous amounts of kasturi manjal and especially rubbed well on the waist, feet, elbows and face.

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This everyday oil massage of the body helped prevent dryness and itchiness that result after delivery. In case of girl babies too turmeric was added to the body oil. Massaging around the navel area for both mothers and babies was regarded important and also on the area on top of the head where there is a slight depression, considered to be the crown / sahasrara chakra.

Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“An abhyanga with a special herb infused oil should be done every day. Medicated oil prepared, with herbs like Bala, Chandana, Kushta, Ashwagandha, Eranda, Tila and other herbs is ideal for massage. “

 There is a special emphasis on muscle and dhatu nourishment and growth and vata reduction given in Ayurveda which percolates the philosophy behind formulating abhyanga oils for babies and new Mothers. As we have discussed before herbs like Bala are extremely useful in balancing excess pitta and vata and are extremely nourishing and helpful in building muscle mass and relieving fatigue and tiredness. Ashwagandha is excellent for skin and also helps with inflammatory conditions that the Mother could face.

 blog-post-10-glowing-skin

 Tila as mentioned as the oil of choice here and this is different from what has been practiced in Seetha’s home. We must be cognizant here of regional differences and modifications in Ayurvedic practices depending upon the geography and climate. Being hot and humid, Ayurvedic practices in Kerala have traditionally adopted coconut oil as the base oil of choice. However, to control the kapha promoting nature of coconut oil, the oil is usually prepared with certain warming herbs and spices to control any kapha based excesses.

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The oil for the baby was prepared at home by my mother. She would grate enormous amounts of coconut and then extract milk from it, this was gently heated till oil emerged from it. ‘Venda Velichennai’ or virgin coconut oil thus got was carefully stored in glass bottles or ceramic ‘baranis’/’jadis’. This oil smelled like ghee and was prepared in a kind of secrecy away from the eyes of all so as to avoid any feelings of greed or lust for the oil. It is amazing how the new born was protected even from negative thoughts and feelings. Such was the reverence for a new life in the olden days. This is now considered as discrimination and blind belief. Thoughts and feelings produce energies and babies are very sensitive to energies.

The entire bath water was heated and then allowed to cool down a wee bit before being used (cold water was never added to make the hot water tolerably warm) And of course in the days of yore, copper boilers or cauldrons were used to heat water over firewood and coal.

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Ayurvedic first principles:

 Acharya Vagbhatta and Acharya Charaka recommend bathing the baby and the mother with water which has been boiled with Jivaniya herbs (restorative and vitalizing herbs). Some of these herbs include Mahameda, Kakoli, etc.

 The purpose of using Jivaniya herbs is to restore Prana to the tissues, promote the longevity and health of all the dhatus and promote deep nourishment.

 

New born mothers and babies thus massaged and bathed glowed with soft and well moisturized skin. Especially mothers and girl babies looked golden due to the application of turmeric. Hair of new born mothers under such care generally became lustrous and thick and abundant. At least for the first three months when she gets maximum personal care pampering!!

Soaps were a strict no no! A Bath powder for babies was made with moong dal/ channa dal while for mothers vasanai podi or ubtans were made at home with various herbs and lentils. Hair wash powders for the mothers were also made at home with Shikakai, karsalanganni, ponnanganni, hibiscus flowers and leaves, lime peels, fenugreek, curry leaves, many other flowers, leaves, seeds, seed pods — which were all cover dried in the sun and powdered. These powders and oils were sent with the new mother when after a period of 3 months she returned to her in laws and husband.

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After bath babies and mothers were well dried and gently warmed with sambrani fumes. Kajal or kann mai was the only cosmetic item that was allowed. This was applied even to the eyes of boy babies and their forehead marked with a dot/bindi/tilakam. In order that the bindi/ tilakam/ pottu did not smudge, a bit of vibuthi that was again home made with cow dung ash was rubbed slightly over it. Thus there was no need for any chemicals in body care. This not only ensured glowing skin but also made sure that there was adequate probiotic microbial activity in the body which is the foundation of immunity and health.

The fragrance emanating from new born babies and mothers under such a personal care regimen has to be experienced to understand the value of such homemade, pure, chemical free personal care products. My mother’s sister sent me home made kann mai made from castor oil, pachcha kalpooram, nadyaravattai flower extracts. It smelled good and brought a refreshing tingling in the eyes when applied.

Ayurvedic first principles: the use of herb enhanced collyrium

Collyrium / Kajal is an Ayurvedic medicine and is so much more than a regular cosmetic product. It has been designed to protect the eyes which are an important secondary seat of Pitta by reducing excess Pitta. As the eyes are also made up of kapha based fatty substances, the use of herb infused Kajal helps the healthy removal of fat based toxins from the eyes .

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 Rasajnana is a famous Ayurvedic extract made from Daruharidra, which is used in Ayurvedic Kajal. Rasanjana when prepared properly helps promote the dislodging of kleshma (fat based toxins) by triggering a watering reaction in the eyes.

Diet

While babies were strictly only fed mother’s milk, they got just a dash of ‘orai marundhu’ which was a mixture of a set of seeds/herbs, gold etc which were rubbed on a stone along with a drop of mother’s milk and applied to the baby’s tongue. Babies were fed in a private area and a serene silence was maintained during the baby’s feeding time.

In case baby is taking very short feeds and falling asleep only to wake again very soon for another feed, the mother is advised to caress the ear lobes gently. I was given this advice too and I found that the baby sucked for longer when I did this!!! Babies were fed with solely mother’s milk for upto 10 months and were fed mother’s milk in addition to other foods even after the first year. Some scriptures and ancient texts indicate that mother’s milk was given till the fall of, milk teeth. With changing times, consciousness changed and priorities changed.

Children lost their dreaminess, unconscious behavior and innocence prematurely. So as a result, it was considered embarrassing to feed children with mother milk once they became conscious. Mother’s milk is loaded with microbes and lauric acid. This helps the growth of beneficial gut bacteria which are the essentials of a strong immunity system in the body.

The first thing a new mother is given to eat is a ‘legyam’ again home made with so many different heat inducing herbs, spices, lemon, ginger, ghee etc. A gooseberry sized ball of this is given in empty stomach. This is a decongestant, anti inflammatory and digestive. The beneficial properties of this is passed to the baby through the mother’s milk.

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Babies and mother’s are especially hungry after a laborious bath!! So usually the mother’s were fed while the baby is being bathed so that they are not hungry while feeding the baby. Bathing soon after a meal/feed for anyone was absolutely forbidden.

Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

 “A child should not be fed with the breast milk of the women who is hungry, grief stricken, tired, exhausted, angry, whose tissues are diseased, who is pregnant, or who is indulging in unhealthy foods”.

 Ayurveda is very particular about the health of the mother as this science recognizes the deep spiritual, mental, emotional and physical connection between the Mother and her baby. By nurturing the Dauhridini (pregnant woman) from the stage of pregnancy, keeping in her in good spirits and providing her loving emotional and physical care post child birth, Ayurveda ensures the baby too is well looked after and has the chance to develop well.

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 Many of us have seen tired, exhausted and depressed or even hungry modern mothers tending to their children’s needs. This is not a healthy practice and you are not supposed to sacrifice your well being for that of your child. Ayurveda recognizes that only if you are nourished and healthy, can you give your child the right environment to be nourished and healthy as well.

Mother’s diet consisted of short frequent meals. Parboiled rice was given preference since it is easier to digest. Tuvar dal and channa dal were avoided since they induce vata or gas. Moong dal was given in limited quantities. Lots of iron rich curry leaves, drumstick leaves, bean varieties, perandai or bone setter thogayal that is rich in calcium, dried sundaikkai or thai brinjal, manathangalikkai which had properties of healing wounds and ulcers were included every day. Gourds were by and large avoided, so were brinjals, potatoes, sweet potatoes etc. In short gas producing foods were avoided. Pepper was the preferred spice and chilies were avoided or minimized.

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Betel leaves were given at the end of the meal and even in the evening to aid digestion and bring down acidity.  Ginger was another spice that was used every day. Coolants and cold foods were completely avoided. Ghee was served generously. Water was given in restricted amounts. The use of tamarind was restricted. Peanuts were avoided. Bananas especially the nendram variety was given to satiate odd time hungers. Par boiled rice gruel/ puzhungal arisi kanji with salted narthangai or salted lemon pickle were given. The baby’s stools were an indicator of whether the diet of the mother was suiting the baby. Greenish or whitish yellow stools were considered not healthy and immediately changes were made in the mother’s diet. Curds were not given.

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The practice of giving white bread, certain types of vegetables, etc might have crept in during the in-between period. What are truly traditional needs to be understood. After the entry of the Britishers in 1600 A.D., many traditional customs were modified. Cropping patterns were altered. Grains traditionally grown were discontinued and certain foreign ones introduced. Therefore even what has been practiced for 400 odd years may not be truly traditional!

 

Ayurvedic first principles – a healthy post partum diet

All the Ayurvedic texts that refer to kaumarabhrityam (gynecology, obstetrics and child care) have given special importance to the pathiyam diet that is given both to the pregnant woman and the recovering Mother.

 The purpose of the diet in each stage is different – in the pregnant woman the diet is meant to be nourishing, full of good fats and cooling. The diet is supposed to nurture the fetus at every stage of the development and not cause any ama or toxic residue in the body.

 The pathiyam post partum diet has a different purpose. The food is meant to nourish all the dhatus of the woman which may be depleted following child birth. It is also supposed to ensure that the breast milk is full of the nutrients required by the growing child. The food is sweet (madhura) and kapha promoting in nature to build the dhatus and nourish the tissues.

 The food is also cooked so that excess pitta and vata is controlled. So the vegetable and cereal selection is quite deliberate.

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The time immediately after delivery is usually an extremely restricted diet. It is high in nourishing liquids like milk cooked with galactologue herbs and ghee. Cleansing mixtures like panchakavya is also used to stimulate digestion, remove ama and toxins form the body as these may pass onto the baby through the breast milk.

 Post the first 15 days / month 1, the recovering Mother is put on a more solid diet. A very careful selection of lentils is given – if the Vaidya feels that vata is high, she may be advised a diet without any lentil except Mung dal and not lentil based vegetables like beans. Hard, difficult to digest lentils like peas, rajma, channa are usually restricted.

 Ghee is key to the pathiyam diet to promote adequate digestion, keep the body in a tridoshic state and reduce vata dosha. Warming spices like Maricha (black pepper), Sunthi (ginger) and Jiraka (Cumin) are also liberally used in the food to expel wind, promote digestion and cleanse the respiratory passages of mucous if present.

 

General atmosphere in a post-natal home

Care was taken to avoid overwhelming sensory stimuli. Noise levels were restricted. Loud noises which would startle a sleeping baby or disturb the deep sleep of a new mother whose sleep depended on her child’s sleep were consciously avoided. Very often grandmothers or elderly members of the house or the new mother would sing lullabies and other specific baby songs.

The entry of too many visitors as mentioned earlier was avoided. In some communities, the inmates of the house where a baby is born would also not go to other houses for a period of 30 days. This was like a quarantine that was observed. The close relatives of the new born could not even attend functions and festival celebrations for a period of 30 days after the birth of the child in their family.

Feeding time of the mother is considered sacrosanct. The mother is advised to be calm while feeding the baby since the babies are tender in every way and would be affected by any physical, emotional or mental disturbances around them.

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A post natal care household was full of busy activity — preparing bath oils, powders, fresh legyam, meals, fumigation, washing clothes etc. So there was no time for gossip or idleness. Today we hear so much about post natal depression and mood swings. In a traditional home, where so much activity is going on there is so much to observe and participate, to absorb and learn that one does not get the time to become depressed. Moreover the food given is so carefully chosen that it balances hormones and leads to emotional stability.

At the end of 3 months and in much earlier times after 5 months, the new mother left the luxurious pampering in her mother’s house and returned to her in-laws and husband.

Even then till the baby turned one year old, that is till the mother is lactating, she was not allowed to cook or go into the kitchen since the heat from the kitchen fires might interfere in the lactation. Mother’s milk was considered to be ‘oushadam’ or medicine and hence every measure was taken to safeguard it. New mothers were pampered, nourished and their motherhood and the baby’s childhood were cherished.

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The changing patterns of motherhood

In course of time life became fast paced and therefore roles changed and so have health and fitness. Stamina and stress do not go hand in hand. The elders in the family can no longer perform all the chores required of them during the birth of their grandchildren, mothers are not relaxed enough to lead life on a slow track for a certain period of time. Ambitiousness, restlessness, changed priorities have all resulted in the lack of reverence for the new born and the new mother.

The rise of full time working mothers with limited maternity holidays, emergence of packaged baby feeds, over exposure of children to excessive sensory stimuli prematurely — have all resulted in weakened bodies, minds and souls — of mothers and their babies!!

I hope this article helps in reviving the due reverence for the new born and the new mother. I hope at least some aspects of post natal care can be incorporated if not all.


seetha-anand-vaidyam-krya-blog-author-profileAbout the Author:

Seetha Anand Vaidyam, works through Ananda Foundation for Holistic and Healthy Learning & Living. Ananda, through its 3 wings — Learn to Move & Move to Learn; Plate to Planet and Art of the Hearts — offers hands on workshops, talks and one on one counseling sessions on Early Childhood, Remedial Therapy, Sustainable Living and Holistic Wellness across India and abroad. Seetha has authored ‘ “Good” Food — a guide to right cooking and eating’ which has 2 editions and 1 reprint to its credit. She can be reached at seethaanand@yahoo.com .

 


Krya would like to thank Seetha Anand Vaidyam for her generous, authentic and detailed piece on traditional post natal care today. This very important tradition of nourishing the mother and caring for her mental, emotional and physical well being which used be such an important part of Indian culture is fast disappearing today.

We hope that this post brought home the importance of these practices and you were able to appreciate the deep rooted Ayurvedic first principles behind these practices. Even if you are unable to recreate the exact set of rituals described by Seetha in this post, we hope you are able to incorporate atleast few parts of these rituals in your life or help out another young mother with knowledge about these practices.

 

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Losing hair after your pregnancy? Worried? Your vata dosha could be imbalanced. Krya explains.

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

We spoke last week about a common hair fall issue that we are seeing increasingly at Krya – hair loss that is traced to the post delivery period in women, or post partum hair loss. We spoke yesterday about how modern methods of treating pregnancy and child birth are at odds with what Ayurveda. These differences can lead to the severe dosha imbalance we see today and the many distressing extreme problems of hairfall that come our way.

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At Krya, it is a part of our mission to communicate just how advanced, well thought out and deeply rooted the science of Ayurveda is. Apart from what we post about, here is a gem I came across in my reading today.

 

Manasa Vikasam – Psychological development of the infant

An individual comprises of 24 tattvas (principles / realities) which comprise of the learnings their soul carries, their genetic makeup, their “aham” ego, their manas (mind), etc. The sum of these individual tattvas for each individual is called the “mahat”. As the Mahat begins to interact with environment, Ayurveda believes that psychic and psychological development begins. Unexplained talents and gifts that evolve in children are believed by Ayurveda to be gifts or talents developed in the previous cycle of birth.

The Ahamcara (loosely described as the I / Ego) is a set of unorganised drives, feeling and emotions which lies dormant within the Mahat. Depending upon the experiences that occur to the individual, both good and bad, the Ahamcara develops in later life, influenced by the positives and negatives surrounding the child.

Depending upon the experiences of the child, the Ahamcara may develop into a sattvic personality, a rajasic personality or a tamasic personality.

Herein lies the Ayurvedic genius of surrounding the foetus with good experiences and fulfilment at the antenatal stage. The pregnant woman is referred to in Ayurveda as the Dauhridini (the woman with 2 hearts). Her unexplained food preferences or wishes in the pregnancy are said to arise from the foetus who expresses his / her wishes through the mother. Ayurveda opines that as far as possible, the wishes of the Dauhridini should be fulfilled. Even in the case where her wishes are harmful to her and the foetus, she is to be treated in a loving manner and should be sweet talked or cajoled into accepting another similar fulfilment which does not harm her or the baby.

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Surrounding the foetus and her growing Ahamcara with positivity, love and fulfilment of her desires even at the foetal stage, helps develop her Ahamcara and mahat well and makes for better Manasa Vikasam in the later stage. Unfulfilled wishes of the foetus is said to lead to cognitive disorders in the pre birth stage or psychological disorders as the child grows to be an adult.

 

Increase in vata dosha post childbirth – leading cause of post partum hair fall

Our post yesterday discussed how Ayurveda views the process of childbirth and the after effects on vata dosha. We spoke about how Ayurveda traditional practices of internal oleation, controlling the diet of the pregnant women and the use of post natal abhyangas, tying of the stomach and inclusion of ghee (both as a diet supplement and in its medicated form) help control the excess vata post child birth.

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As the baby is born, there is a gap in the womb which vayu (air) attempts to occupy. If this space is not controlled and enough Sneha (fat) is not given internally to control the entry of vayu, the excess vata dosha can manifest as hair and skin disorders which can later lead to greater vata based disorders.

This then explains the common complaint of post partum hair fall. When excess vata is left unchecked and no measures of controlling vata are adopted, it dries up the body internally causing dry and brittle and weak hair, and aches and pains in the joints, a lack of enthusiasm and energy and an overall feeling of tiredness and exhaustion.

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We had mentioned how external oleation and hair oiling is a cornerstone in controlling this excess vata for post partum hair fall.

 

Excess vata – an urban malaise

Cities are considered high in vata dosha. By the nature of their design, the long distance commutes, high cell phone and device usage, and the nature of modern office jobs, all of us quickly accumulate excess vata dosha.

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By our frequent commutes, plane travel, excessive use of mobile phones, late nights, eating out and varying timings of eating, the vata dosha tends to aggravate. This leads to urban malaise disorders like lower back, joint aches, neck and shoulder aches, an inability to fall asleep easily, and a feeling of tiredness and a need for stimulants like coffee and tea to get us through our days.

When this existing urban malaise is combined with a serious vata affecting condition like what is seen after pregnancy, we see the vata disorders magnified by a massive amount leading to sudden, excessive and seemingly uncontrollable hair fall.

 

Ayurvedic herbs to control excess vata

Sneha (fats) are the key to controlling vata. Fats are thick, oily, unctuous, and smooth and are the opposite of vata dosha which is rough, dry, coarse and brittle. Most Sneha or fats are also kapha promoting because of their thick and unctuous nature. So when Ayurvedic oil is made for the purpose of balancing excess vata dosha, it is important to use a judicious base of oils and carefully chosen Ayurvedic herbs to ensure other doshas are kept in check.

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The Ayurvedic texts mention a good selection of herbs to help control vata. The texts also advise using carminative, slightly pitta increasing spices to help control vata for an important reason. The warming action of these herbs helps control the cold nature of vata and also decreases the kapha building property of the Sneha. In the next section, we will see a sample of vata reducing herbs that are used in the Krya Abhyanga oil.

 

The Krya Abhyanga skin oil with Vacha and Ashwagandha

Bala (Sida cordifolia)

Ayurvedic texts classify the herb Bala as a group of 4 herbs – “balachatustaya”. Bala is considered “brmhaniya” – promotes healthy muscle growth, “balya” – tonic and “vata samsamana” – pacifies vata dosha.

Acharya Charaka mentions that Bala is a rasayana drug (rejuvenative) for muscle tissue and muscular system. The literal translation of the Sanskrit word “Bala” is “strength” –so all the 4 Bala herbs are a tonic for the body and a rejuvenative when used in vata disorders.

As Bala is sweet in its rasa, it also helps alleviate excess pitta. It is therefore also considered valuable blood purifier helpful in rakta pitta disorders.

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Two Krya massage oils use Bala – the Krya traditional baby massage oil uses Bala to impart strength and aid healthy muscle development for babies. The Krya Abhyanga oil uses Bala to relieve excess vata, balance excess pitta and to bring relief in vata based complaints like post partum hair fall, joint aches, and other complaints associated with vata vitiation.

 

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha is a famous Ayurvedic herb known for its rasayana and kapha and vata balancing properties. The term Ashwagandha comes from the Sanskrit words “ashwa” meaning horse and “gandha” meaning odour – Ashwagandha as the texts describe is the herb that smells like a horse.

Just like the horse, the Ashwagandha herb imparts strength, speed and virility when used. Apart from these properties, it balances kapha and vata dosha, nourishes all dhatus (tissues) and has a rasayana effect on the entire body.

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Apart from these properties, Ashwagandha has a marked anti-arthritic effect and is very useful in inflammatory conditions like gout. It is also a calming herb and helps relax frazzled nerves and is a very strong rejuvenative herb to all the muscle tissues.

We use Ashwagandha in all our skin oils for adults at Krya. It goes into the Krya Abhyanga skin oil for its vata and kapha alleviating properties and its strong action to relieve muscle pain and inflammatory conditions.

Ashwagandha also goes into the Krya Moisture plus skin oil for its excellent skin regenerative and rasayana properties. This oil is meant as a frequent pre-bath moisturising product that we recommend for extremely dry skin and for very cold climates. Ashwagandha is also used in small doses in the Krya Classic Skin oil which is designed for the moisturizing needs of normal – oily skin and is to be used pre-bath as well.

 

Maricha (Piper nigrum) / Pepper / Kali Mirch / Milagu

Maricha is the Sanskrit name for black pepper which is one of the names of the Sun, referring to the hot and potent properties of black pepper. The use of black pepper is well documented in Indian cuisine for its ushna (heat), kola – taste improving sensation, Teekshana – sharp and intense flavour, krimihara – destroys insects and worms, etc.

Maricha is a spice that is revered in Indian medicine and was held n high esteem by the Ayurvedic Acharyas. Acharya Charaka classifies Maricha as a dipaniya (appetiser), sulaghna (relieves colic) and krimighna (removes intestinal worms). It is also classified as a rasayana drug for the respiratory system. Maricha is one of the 3 herbs used in “Trikatu” – three pungent spices which are used in severe colds, respiratory illnesses, and in reducing kapha accumulation.

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As Maricha is hot and virya (strong) and carminative (wind expelling), we add it in small quantities as  kashayas to the Krya abhyanga skin oil and the Krya traditional baby massage oil. This helps increase the warmth of both oils improving their vata reducing properties, helps the penetration of the oil better and also prevents kapha related side effects like coughs and colds.

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These 3 herbs are a sample of the 16 dosha balancing, skin improving and health giving herbs and  the 3 cold pressed , organic base oils we use in the Krya Abhyanga oil. As mentioned before we use the Tila paka method while making all of Krya’s oils.

 

The Ayurvedic Tila paka method – a sophisticated ancient oil manufacturing technique

The Tila paka method is one of the sophisticated oil manufacturing methods used by Ayurveda to make herb infused oils. Another method of making Ayurvedic oils is the Aditya paka method, where herbs are left to infuse in oil that is placed in the Aditya (Sun). This method is less popular compared to the Tila paka method, as there is a greater limitation on the use of watery herbs compared to the Tila paka method.

The Tila paka method helps transfer the properties of several carefully chosen herbs into base oil or a combination of base oils. Depending upon the properties of each herbs and whether they express their actives best in an oil phase or water phase, the herbs are either extracted through water or added as a paste into oil.

Ayurveda uses a combination of methods even in water extraction depending upon the woodiness, aroma and delicacy of the herb. Flowers are usually extracted as cold infusions or lukewarm teas to protect their delicate flavenoids. Thick hard, woody herbs are extracted in water separately using strong kashayams. Soft leaves are extracted as milder boiled infusions called kwathas.

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Oil based herbs and seeds are usually directly added to the oil to allow the oil based actives to percolate into the base oils. These form a part of the kalpa (herb pastes) that are added to Ayurvedic oils.

The result of this is a very deeply herb infused base oil which has used the correct medium to extract the actives from each set of herbs.

The Tila paka process is transformative in nature. The base oils we use like sesame oil, coconut oil, kokum butter etc completely transform in their stickiness, penetrative ability, colour and fragrance – the oil becomes something entirely new. The interesting change is also in how the base oils transform. Many of us may find sesame a thick, slightly difficult to use oil, for example. But we have seen time and gain, how the Tila paka process transforms the sesame oil to an oil that penetrates skin and hair very quickly, with a completely different fragrance from its original fragrance.

 

Krya products recommended to balance vata for women and men:

  1. Krya Women’s Abhyanga System (Krya Abhyanga Oil + Krya Women’s Ubtan with Lotus & Lodhra)

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  1. Krya Men’s Abhyanga System (Krya Abhyanga Oil + Krya Men’s Ubtan with Vetiver & Van Tulasi)

Depending on your hair type, we will also in addition suggest the right Krya hair system for you – Classic, Conditioning, Anti Dandruff or Damage Repair.

 

To conclude:

We have been speaking about the transformative effects of simple practices mentioned in the Ayurvedic Dinacharya (daily regime) on our health. The disorders caused by dosha imbalances can seem awful and daunting, but often the answer to helping your body lies in seemingly simple, yet deep transformative daily changes.

Can we give you a guarantee that our hair oil alone can help your post partum hair loss? No, and no one should give you one. As we have explained, any external disorder that manifests is a sign of a deep internal lack of balance, and a programme designed to correct this internal imbalance through diet, regimen changes and external application has the greatest chance of succeeding.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post and also hope you were able to appreciate the difference in approach Krya followed when treating hair and skin problems. If you too are experiencing hair and skin disorders, and would like to consult us, do call us on 075500-89090 or write to us.

Remember, beauty is achieved only when health is achieved.

 

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Is post pregnancy hairfall giving you sleepless nights? Try Ayurveda instead. From Krya

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

We have been speaking on the Krya blog on the benefits of the Abhyanga. We recommend that everyone incorporates the Abhyanga into their weekly regimen to experience the dosha balancing benefits of the practice.

In our posts on Pitta dosha yesterday and the day before, we mentioned what a vital piece of the pitta balancing puzzle the Abhyanga is. When done regularly and with the right oils, the practice of Abhyanga helps trap excess heat throughout the body and in the eyes, and releases this heat through the sweda or the sweat along with the debris, dead cells and micro organisms that are also dislodged from the skin during the practice.

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One of the most common reasons today for hair fall is the post partum loss of hair. Many of our consumers write to us in alarm having experienced a loss of volume of nearly 50% post pregnancy.

Western medical science tells us that a small amount of post partum hair loss is normal and inevitable. The rationale behind this is that oestrogen levels rise to extremely high levels during pregnancy. This drops to its normal level post partum – so the high oestrogen level contributes to thicker, fuller healthy hair growth during pregnancy. Post pregnancy as the oestrogen levels drop, there is supposed to be a temporary drop in hair growth which is supposed to adjust after a few months to the normal hair.

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You may use the pointed use of many “supposeds” in the paragraph above. This is because the reality is quite different.

A modern pregnancy and how it deviates from many of the principles proposed by Ayurveda

We will explore this subject over the course of more posts, but the modern pregnancy and the diet followed is very contrarian to the principles proposed by Ayurveda. Ayurveda treats pregnancy as a special condition, (not an illness) and proposes that the pregnancy woman be treated very differently from what is normally done as regards to the diet, herbs given, and lifestyle.

Every month as the foetus grows, Ayurveda adds herbs that are appropriate to that stage of growth.

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Here are some common contradictions in the Ayurvedic approach and a modern pregnancy. Once the pregnancy is established, Ayurveda‘s focus is on maintaining coolness and providing adequate amounts of nourishing, naturally sweet foods to sustain healthy growth. Therefore foods high in pitta like curd are considered strictly off limits. For the same reason, a pregnant woman is given copious amounts of tridoshic ghee and certain kinds of naturally cooling butters like navneetam to give the body a good amount of Sneha and maintain the right environment for the foetus to grow and thrive.

An increase in vata is not considered healthy in pregnant women. Also, as normal vata reducing measures like Abhyanga are contraindicated during pregnancy, aggravation of vata is controlled by strictly adhering to a simple, easy to digest diet and avoiding vata stimulating activities.

For example, Ayurveda would frown on air travel for pregnant women. It would consider this extremely vata stimulating. The main reason for taking this care is that normal vata reducing measures like Abhyanga, and in dire cases medicated procedures like vasti (medicated vata reducing enema) are not supposed to be done in Ayurveda.

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Vata is also carefully controlled to help the body prepare for the process of labour. For this reason, in Ayurveda, a pregnant woman is given carefully monitored medicated abhyangas towards the end of pregnancy in the 8th and 9th month. Medicated vastis (enemas) may also be added to clean out the body of any accumulated vata. We will see the reason for this emphasis on vata in the next section.

The effect of childbirth on vata dosha and Ayurvedic post partum care:

We have spoken at length about the differences between how Ayurveda treats the body and how Western science treats the body. This is evident even when we look at hair and skin disorders. As Ayurveda goes to the root cause of the disorder, it is able to be predictive and prescriptive and suggest holistic changes that tackle the problem much faster.

Nowhere is this more evident than how Ayurveda understands the action of vata dosha post child birth.

Soon after delivery, with the birth of the child and expulsion of placenta and other material in the womb, a large empty space forms in the womb. The nature of vata dosha which is made up of Vayu (wind) and Akash (space) is to rush in to fill this gap left behind by the newly born baby. This is why there is a strong Ayurvedic tradition of Sneha and Abhyanga for the post partum mother and child.

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Traditional childcare practices also follow this wisdom – the stomach of the mother is tied tightly using cloth and a trained nurse’s assistance is sought to give both the mother and the baby a daily Abhyanga and bath. Typically vata reducing herbs are used in the oil and the bath water. For the baby this helps remove the exhaustion of child birth. For the mother, this deters vata form increasing and also helps relieve her strain and tiredness post delivery.

Apart from physically reducing the space for vata dosha to rush in by tying the stomach and oleating the body, the new mother is also given plenty of ghee, and sweet, easy to digest foods like old rice, Mung dal and a careful selection of vegetables. Vata increasing vegetables and lentil preparations are avoided for some time. The emphasis is on giving galactologue foods and foods that enable the mother to recover her strength quickly without impacting dosha balance.

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The reality of modern post partum care

Conversation after conversation illustrates to us just how different the reality of having a baby in today’s world is. Most new mothers live in different cities from their parents and are usually working in high stress jobs almost right until their pregnancy. Maternity leave is usually around 3 months in many companies, after which these mothers rejoin work.

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Also, very few mothers are now having normal deliveries. A C section ensures that the much needed oleation and Abhyanga cannot be done until the stitches heal, costing the mother a lot of valuable progress in reducing vata dosha. Plus the absence of good Ayurvedic doctors or trained nurses who can help with traditional baby care in cities means that the Ayurvedic practices I have outlined remain unknown.

Of course, over and above this, modern doctors see ghee as an anathema. It is considered unhealthy and cholesterol inducing, so even regular people do not consume it. It is not seen as important for the post partum mom or the pregnant women, thus again depriving her of a valuable dosha balancing food.

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This means that when we at Krya get a call from moms who are losing hair at an alarming rate, we have already lost a valuable amount of time where we could have worked on the vata imbalance.

The connection between vata dosha imbalance and post partum hair fall:

We saw the shloka from the Charaka Samhita yesterday which talks about how aggravated pitta and vata dosha causes hairfall:

“  Tejoniladhau saha keshoboomim dagdhvashu kuryath khalitya narasya

Kinchitu dagdhva palithani kuryadhyareprabatham cha shiro roohanam”

“When high pitta combines with vata, it burns the hair from the roots very rapidly, causing baldness. If the pitta is not that high, it turns hair grey or fully white.”

So a post partum mom is already on a case of vata imbalance because of childbirth and the resultant gap in the womb. To this existing large vata imbalance, we can add an improper diet, lack of oleation, intake of food that is not conducive to her current state and we have the complete recipe for aggravated hairfall, hair thinning, premature greying and unhealthy hair.

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It is no wonder that all of our post partum Moms tell us that their entire body feels dry – their skin feels dry, rough and flaky. Their hair feels brittle, coarse and breaks easily when pulled or tugged or even when washed. They report seeing bunches of falling hair on their pillows when they wake up in the morning.

The 3 step Ayurvedic approach to post partum hair loss

We will spend a little more time tomorrow to elaborate further on this so you will have a handy reckoner of what to do to slow down your post partum hairfall. But here are the basic 3 Ayurvedic steps to establish your hair and health routine:

  1. Control the vata in your diet (and we have written several posts on the earlier)
    1. Reduce vata aggravating foods like bread, biscuits, ready to eat cereal, maida , fried food, aerated drinks
    2. Reduce vata aggravating vegetables in your diet – potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, peas
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    4. Reduce vata aggravating lentils in your diet – channa, rajma, dried peas (anything that is hard, and takes a long time to cook)
    5. Reduce water depleting drinks like tea, coffee , cola and aerated drinks
    6. Add vata controlling , nourishing foods – ghee, old rice, split mung dal, native vegetables in season like squash, gourds, carrots, beets
  2. Change some parts of your lifestyle to bring down vata
    1. Eat on time every day
    2. Eat warm, freshly cooked food
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    4. Focus on your food and eat in silence (talking while eating aggravates vata)
    5. Add a regular (twice a week) Abhyanga (head and body) to your routine which is done within the first hour of sunrise with vata controlling oils
    6. Cut down excessive travel
    7. Cut down vata aggravating practices like excessive cell phone and electronic screen usage
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  3. Add the right products to your regimen (and we will give your some recommendations below)

 

Krya’s products that can help with post partum hair fall:

As the Abhyanga is the cornerstone to reducing vata which is essential to post partum hairfall, the Krya Abhyanga system can help you in balancing your doshas. The Krya Abhyanga system comprises of our Abhyanga skin oil and a specially formulated ubtan (we have different Ubtans for men and women). The Krya Abhyanga oil with Vacha and Ashwagandha has been specially formulated with Vata reducing herbs like Bala, Sunthi, Maricha, and Jeera to keep the body warm and trap excess vata.

You can explore these products here:

  1. Krya Abhyanga skin oil with Vacha and Ashwagandha (unisex)
  2. Krya women’s Ubtan with Lotus Leaf and Lodhra
  3. Krya Men’s Ubtan 

abhyanga-bath-essential

In addition to our Abhyanga products, we have 4 different hair systems depending on your hair type and hair issues.

  1. The Classic hair system helps pitta prone prakritis (straight or wavy hair that tends to get slightly oily – pitta dosha and therefore body heat is strong)
  2. The Conditioning hair system helps vata prone prakritis (wavy or curly hair that is typically quite dry, frizzy and experiences a lot of static – vata dosha therefore inherent dryness of skin and hair is strong)
  3. The Anti dandruff system helps if you have stubborn dandruff. We usually recommend treating the dandruff and then moving to a hair system that suits your prakriti
  4. The Damage repair hair system is if your hair has been severely chemically damaged
  5. The Intense Hair Oil along with other hair products we would suggest (if the hair fall is very strong due to other issues like severe medication, complicated pregnancy / delivery etc)

A holistic solution: the key to managing health

As we have been saying in the Krya blog, it is important to seek a holistic solution to your health. Skin and hair issues arise from a lack of balance in the body and are early warning signs. If we heed these early warning signs and take corrective action, we are able to prevent much bigger complications that could arise in the future.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post and also hope you were able to appreciate the difference in approach Krya follows when treating hair and skin problems. If you too are alarmed at your post partum hair fall and would like to consult us, do call us on 075500-89090 or write to us.

Remember, where there is health, there is beauty.

 

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