Non-stop crying jags. Uncontainable ecstasy. Piercing headaches. Uncontrollable food cravings. Unexplainable rage flares. Irritable breasts syndrome. Insatiable loins. If this sounds like you on your period, you are not alone.
According to the nonprofit Healthy Women, premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) occurs in up to 75 percent of females that are at a reproductive age. As most of us know form firsthand experience, “females at reproductive age experience dynamic changes in levels of sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and progesterone) every menstrual cycle.” The cycle is a wild monthly ride of fluctuations in mood, thoughts and physical sensations.
Typically, it goes something like this: During the middle of their cycle, women experience their highest levels of well-being and self-esteem. As estrogen and progesterone decline, women become more restless, irritable, fatigued, fearful and depressed during the pre-menstrual period than other phases of the menstrual cycle.
What is seed cycling?
But rather than let hormones have their way with us, willy-nilly, why not take back our hormone power and use if for the greater good? Enter seed cycling, the concept of supporting hormonal shifts through the daily consumption of certain seeds.
According to Jolene Brighten NMD, a functional naturopathic medical doctor and nutritional biochemist with a focus in women’s endocrine health, “the seeds’ hulls contain lignans, which are chemicals that help bind up excess hormones, while the seed oils contain essential fatty acids that provide the building blocks for making hormones.”
If eating for your period sounds to woo-woo, remember this: Adjusting your lifestyle habits to accommodate your cycle has been around for millennia, predating modern medicine. Despite the fact that the research on seed cycling remains scant, many integrative and holistic women’s health practitioners recommend the practice.
Who does seed cycling benefit?
Anyone from women who just started menstruating to women who are post-menopausal. If you suffer from PCOS, struggle with your weight, feel overly fatigued, or are trying to conceive, tracking your period and implementing seed cycling may be a huge help. A subculture of women swears by using seed cycling to regulate their menstrual cycles, reduce their symptoms of PMS, get their absent periods to come back and get rid of painful periods.
First off, it helps to familiarize yourself with your own cycle (of course, there are apps for that).
Most seed cycling guides reference a 28-day cycle, but that doesn’t mean your cycle is that length. (Only a small percentage of women have 28-day cycles.) Just adapt the cycle to fit your cycle.
Brighten suggests: For postpartum moms, postmenopausal women or those who are experiencing amenorrhea (no periods), seed cycling can be done by following the moon cycle. Use the new moon as your day 1 and eat flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. When the full moon arrives, switch to the sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.
Menstrual (part of follicular phase) (Days 1-5)
Day 1 is the first day of bright red bleeding. Estrogen and progesterone are low.
Follicular Phase (Days 1-15)
This phase of the menstrual cycle occurs from approximately day 1-14 and the first day of ovulation marks the end of this phase. While menstrual bleeding does happen in the early part of this phase, the ovaries are simultaneously preparing to ovulate again. During the second week of this phase, estrogen and progesterone are on the rise.
Ovulatory Phase (Day 15-17)
The release of the mature egg happens on about day 15. Estrogen peaks. Testosterone and progesterone rise.
Luteal Phase (Days 15-28)
Estrogen and progesterone levels are high. If the egg isn’t fertilized, then hormones decrease and the menstrual cycle starts again.
How do I get started?
When your period arrives, eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds and raw pumpkin seeds through day 14.
The two phases that matter the most with seed cycling are the follicular and luteal phases. In the follicular phase, the theory goes, to build up our endometrium (uterus lining) we need more estrogen. Seeds such as flaxseed and pumpkin seeds can naturally increase our estrogen levels. They contain phytoestrogens called lignans, the plant chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body.
Following ovulation, or on day 15 of your cycle, eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh ground sunflower and sesame seeds. During the second half of your progesterone levels rise, peak and taper. Many PMS symptoms such as bloating, mood swings, and insomnia can be eased by raising your progesterone levels. Studies show the high contents of zinc in sesame seeds and vitamin E in sunflower seeds can boost progesterone production.
How do I include more seeds in my diet?
Smoothies offer a perfect vehicle for seeds, as do seed crackers. Brighten says “the seeds should be raw and the flax and sesame seeds need to be fresh ground” to ensure against rancidity.