Fairfield County Edition

Seed Cycling for Hormonal Health

A Gentle Dietary Option for Women of All Ages

Seed cycling is a gentle but effective tool to balance hormones with the use of different seeds during the phases of the woman’s menstrual cycle. This dietary intervention may be useful for women of all ages and all reproductive stages of life, including pre-menopause and post-menopause. 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. 

Why Does it Work?

The menstrual cycle is regulated by two main hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Both act as chemical messengers giving directions to the female reproductive organs about how they should behave. As a result, these hormones are responsible for the changes that our bodies go through on a monthly basis. A female’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. 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 will 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 be able 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. If they are not balanced, it 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. Flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds contain polyphenols known as lignans. They 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 that a woman may experience in beginning of each cycle. Studies have shown that dietary consumption of flax seeds can be as effective as oral bioidentical hormone therapy to 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 progesterone production, which needs to be in high concentrations during this part of the menstrual cycle to potentially support a fertilized egg. Sesame and sunflower 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 wish to regulate their cycle but do not have monthly menstrual 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 ourselves on a daily basis instead of purchasing them in the ground form. Pre-ground seeds are subject to oxidization so their potency will be diminished. 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. Her practice focuses on pediatric and primary care and consultative care for autism spectrum disorder, PANDAS/PANS and various chronic illnesses. Connect at 203-834-2813 and IHealthNow.org.

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