Seed Cycling for Hormone Balance, Menstrual Pain, To Get Your Period Back
Not often do we read about food helping to correct hormonal imbalances. In fact, when we hear the words “hormonal problems,” we are conditioned to think of solutions not extending much further than birth control pills, hormone creams and pallots.
Supporting the old mantra of “food is your medicine,” this article shows how innocent seeds can help regulate and support our menstrual cycle.
The technique is called “seed rotation,” and can be used to boost estrogen levels in the first part of our cycle and progesterone levels in the second part.
Who is this for?
This technique can be used by anyone who is experiencing irregular periods, heavy flows, substantial PMS, and even women going through peri-menopause and menopause.
The technique described here is based on a 30-day cycle, though most women’s cycles tend to run between 25 and 36 days. Only 10 to 15% of women have cycles that are exactly 28 to 30 days. Day 1 is counted as the first day of a period.
As an example, this article is based on a 30-day cycle.
Which seeds should be used in what part of the cycle?
Peri-menopausal and menopausal women can start any day and rotate the seeds every two weeks.
From Day 1 to Day 15 (or the middle of the cycle), we need more estrogen in order to build up our endometrium (uterus lining). This is called the follicular phase. With seeds such as flaxseed and pumpkin seeds, one tablespoon each per day can naturally increase our estrogen levels. The omega-3 fatty acids in these seeds aid the body in transmitting hormones throughout the body easily, while the high zinc content of pumpkin seeds prevent estrogen from converting to harmful forms of testosterone.
From Day 15 to Day 30, or the second part of the cycle (also known as the luteal phase), the corpus luteum begins to release progesterone. This sex hormone will help thicken the uterus lining and prepare it for implantation. Sunflower seeds and sesame seeds are consumed to raise and balance out progesterone levels. The rich source of linoleic acid in these seeds helps prevent excess estrogen from being recirculated in the body and further balances progesterone and estrogen levels.
The high contents of zinc in sesame seeds and vitamin E in sunflower seeds have also been shown to stimulate progesterone production (see references below). By adding one tablespoon of sesame seeds and one tablespoon of sunflower seeds per day in the luteal phase, we can naturally support the body to produce more progesterone, a sex hormone of which many women experience low levels. Evening Primrose oil is also suggested during this phase.
Easy ways of adding seed rotation to your diet
The easiest way to incorporate the seed combinations is by adding either two tablespoons of one seed or one tablespoon each of two different seeds to smoothies, salads or soups.
Another way to ensure regular seed consumption is by making your own seed crackers. They can easily be baked in a regular oven or prepared with a dehydrator.
Checkout Go Raw bars and crackers
How Long Will It Take the Balance My Cycle.
Seed cycling for three or more months straight is said to rebalance your menstrual cycle, lessen painful cramps, lessen heavy bleeding, improve mood, clear acne, ease PMS, and alleviate PCOS and Endometriosis symptoms.
What does a balanced cycle look like?
Of course, being regular is one important factor, but there is much more to a balanced cycle beyond that. So many of us are accustomed to feeling terrible before our period (and some women in the mid-cycle or during ovulation as well) that we assume it is normal. It is not.
High estrogen (or estrogen metabolites) can be the cause of tender breasts, mood swings, hair loss, weight gain, fibroids, endometriosis, breast and ovarian cysts, and even breast and ovarian cancer.
Low progesterone levels can manifest in ways similar to the above, along with feeling anxious, not being able to fall or stay asleep, and menstrual headaches.
Rebalancing your cycle using a simple food-based technique like seed rotation can help alleviate many of the symptoms in as little as one or two months.
In a perfectly healthy woman, the menstrual cycle and the estrogen/progesterone production will happen naturally with no help or intervention. This is, unfortunately, not the case for many women today. Excessive stress leading to excessive cortisol release, environmental toxins, poor diet, food sensitivities, digestive issues, and high coffee or alcohol consumption can all contribute to irregular or painful periods, and even infertility.
Supporting the body with food that will help produce sufficient amounts of estrogen and progesterone is not only easy and cheap, but also non-invasive. This is why this form of healing is preferred by practitioners who work with food as medicine – this method simply works, while still being gentle on the body.
Why add more estrogens to our diet?
Many women worry that they are already experiencing estrogen dominance, so why add more estrogen in the form of phytoestrogens, such as flaxseed?
For this to be fully understood, we first need to establish that not all estrogens are “bad,” and the one that tends to be high in estrogen-dominant women is estradiol, also known as E2. Excessive levels of E2 have been linked to breast and prostate cancer. Flaxseed does not only suppress estradiol production, but it also nudges estradiol metabolism in a positive direction by generating a higher ratio of the protective metabolite 2-hydroxy-estrone versus the more harmful 16-hydroxy-estrone.
The estrogen and thyroid connection
Our hormones work like an orchestra – they all need to be in synch for us to feel and look good. High estrogen levels (also known as estrogen dominance) rise thyroid binding globulin, making less thyroid hormone available for the body.
Estrogen dominance is also often cited as the cause of thyroid nodules and even thyroid cancer development.
The seed rotation method can be an easy and inexpensive way of rebalancing our estrogen levels (see the above note on the 2:16 hydroxy-estrone ratio).
CAN YOU EAT OTHER NUTS AND SEEDS WHILE SEED CYCLING?
Many of us enjoy our nut butters, seed crackers, and a handful of nuts as a snack on the go, but can you enjoy these without hampering your results? Most tree nuts are fairly hormone neutral.
Micrograms of phytoestrogens present in 100 grams (4oz) of raw nuts:
• Almonds – 112
• Brazil nuts – 887
• Cashews – 182
• Hazelnut – 80
• Macadamia nuts – I couldn’t find this information anywhere
• Peanuts – 173
• Pecans – 51
• Pistachios – 126
• Pine nuts – 103
• Walnuts – 175
Brazil nuts have a much higher phytoestrogen content than other tree nuts. If you are allergic to sunflower or sesame seeds, eating 2 brazil nuts may be an effective alternative along with taking pumpkin seeds for the zinc since we know zinc helps the body release progesterone. You would also need to take a source of linoleic acid (typically this is safflower oil) to further emulate the balance created by sunflower and sesame seeds. This linoleic acid is essential because it converts into gamma linoleic acid which is crucial for keeping estrogen and progesterone in balance.
Unless you are very hormonally sensitive, it would be alright to eat other nuts in moderation especially pecans and hazelnuts as they contain the lowest phytoestrogen content.
Seeds on the other hand can have quite a bit of phytoestrogens present and should be consumed mindfully while seed cycling. However, you would not want to eat sunflower and sesame seeds during the follicular phase of your cycle just as you would not want to eat pumpkin seeds and flax during your luteal phase.
Phytoestrogen content of popular seeds:
• Pumpkin Seeds – 539
• Sunflower seeds – 111
• Chia seeds – trace amounts
• Flax seeds – 23
• Hemp seeds – may alter hormones and should be avoided during cycling.