Traditional dietary habits and reproductive health care practices for women are set to make a comeback in Kerala. The Ayushmathi Mission, a joint venture of the Centre for Gender Studies and Farm Entrepreneurship Development (CGSAFED) of Kerala Agricultural University and the women’s wing of the Ayurveda Medical Association of India, is planning a project to address the flagging health profile of women in the State by reviving traditional practices based on locally available plants.

The project follows a study conducted by the mission. “The research showed that iron deficiency, anaemia, and osteoporosis are widely prevalent among the young and middle-aged women in Kerala, irrespective of income status, age, and education background,” says KAU Vice Chancellor P. Rajendran.

Anaemia and osteoporosis also have an adverse impact on the reproductive life of women, says P.S. Geethakutty, head, CGSAFED. The mission is planning a pilot campaign in Thrissur to educate women about the need to include iron and calcium-rich food like green leafy vegetables and tubers in their diet.

The project also seeks to revive the traditional practice of preparing and consuming nutraceuticals (food items of medicinal value) for women’s reproductive health care.

Sheela Karalam and Sabnalal, Ayurveda practitioners and leaders of the research team, say Ayurveda tradition in Kerala and plant-based health care practices recognised the medicinal value of banana, amla, turmeric, sesame, ginger, drumstick, dioscoria, and elephant foot yam.

“Women in Kerala used to follow the Ayurvedic system of pre- and post-pregnancy treatment. They also consumed traditional nutraceuticals during the reproductive phases like puberty, lactation, post-natal care, and menopause. Changes in lifestyle and urbanisationhave led to the neglect of these practices,” they say.