Seed Cycling to Balance Hormones
Seed cycling is a gentle but effective tool to balance hormones with the use of different seeds during the phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. This dietary intervention is for women of all ages and all reproductive stages of life, including pre-menopause and post-menopause. The benefits of seed cycling can help to regulate the menstrual cycle for those with irregular periods. It can also decrease PMS symptoms, such as acne, menstrual cramps, tender breasts, sleep disturbances, headaches, mood swings, heavy bleeding and more. In addition, seed cycling has been shown clinically to help with infertility. This dietary intervention is a great example of how food is medicine.
The menstrual cycle is regulated by two main hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Both act as chemical messengers giving directions to the female reproductive organs on how they should behave. As a result, these hormones are responsible for the changes that female bodies go through on a monthly basis; a female body’s hormonal composition will change throughout the month in order to prepare the body for pregnancy. Estrogen is the main hormone during the first half of the menstrual cycle. It is responsible for regenerating the uterine lining after menstruation; it will spike half-way through the menstrual cycle (around Day 15), triggering the release of an egg, which is known as ovulation. After ovulation, estrogen levels decrease. As estrogen levels decrease, progesterone levels increase to become the dominant hormone during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone is responsible for preparing the uterus to provide the perfect environment to implant and nourish a fertilized egg. As a result, progesterone is needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy. It is important that both estrogen and progesterone are balanced during their correct phases of the menstrual cycle. Hormonal imbalance can lead to infertility, miscarriages, irregular menstrual cycles, low libido and more. Luckily, a woman can implement seed cycling into her daily routine as a powerful way to modify and balance hormones. The most effective results are seen after three months of seed cycling.
How to Seed Cycle
From Day 1 (first day of bleeding) to Day 15, it is advised that a woman consume two tablespoons of ground flax seeds and/or ground pumpkin seeds daily. Both of these seeds increase estrogen levels. Flax seeds and pumpkin seeds contain polyphenols known as lignans. Lignans are able to be converted by the bacteria found in our gastrointestinal tract into compounds with active estrogenic properties. Therefore, the consumption of these seeds can increase estrogen activity in the body to help regulate estrogen levels during the first half of the menstrual cycle. In addition, these seeds are sources of essential fatty acids that increase antispasmatic/relaxing prostaglandins, which can be used for pain management associated with menstrual cramps. Studies have shown that dietary consumption of flaxseeds can improve menopausal symptoms, insulin resistance, glucose levels, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease; it can also help prevent hormone-associated cancers. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of dietary zinc, which is helpful for proper immune system functioning.
From Day 16 until Day 1 (first day of bleeding), it is recommended that a woman consume two tablespoons of ground sunflower seeds and/or ground sesame seeds. Both of these seeds support this half of the menstrual cycle by providing omega 6 essential fatty acids to support progesterone production. In addition, these seeds are a source of protein. Studies have shown that higher protein and lower carbohydrate intake is associated with higher progesterone levels.
Implementing a seed cycling schedule based on the lunar phases of the moon is an option for women who do not have monthly menstrual cycles as a way to regulate their cycles. Menstrual cycles following the lunar phases are based on a 28-day cycle: menstruating (Day 1) on the new moon and ovulating (Day 14) on the full moon.
Please note that it is best to grind the seeds on a daily basis instead of purchasing them pre-ground. Pre-ground seeds are subject to oxidization, which can diminish their potency. A coffee grinder is a useful appliance for grinding seeds. Also, the consumption of the seeds can be spread out throughout the day by sprinkling them in smoothies, yogurt, salads, toast and sandwiches.
Dr. Lindsey Wells is a naturopathic physician at the Center for Integrative Health in Wilton, CT. Her practice focuses on pediatric and primary care and consultative care for autism spectrum disorder, PANDAS/PANS and various chronic illnesses. For more information, visit IHealthNow.org.