In our lives today there are a plethora of hormone mimicking chemicals. These chemicals most often affect how we respond to estrogen, and can profoundly affect your body. In order to help create natural balanced hormone levels in your body, seed cycling is a simple option.
Essentially what seed cycling is, is introducing certain seeds into your diet which help balance the amount of estrogen and progesterone in your body. This helps alleviate the symptoms of PMS, menopause, perimenopause, as well as period irregularity, and infertility.
There are two phases when seed cycling:
1) Follicular Phase (starts at the point of menstruation, if you no longer have a period starting at the first full moon is recommended).
2) Luteal Phase (should last at least 10 days, if it is shorter than 10 days it is a sign your progesterone is low).
What is the Follicular Phase?
This begins on the first day of menstruation and usually lasts an average of 14 days. This depends on the length of your cycle and when you ovulate.
The most common time for a woman to ovulate is 14 days after the first day of menstruation.
When your follicular starts your body begins to increase the levels of estrogen steadily in preparation for ovulation. As estrogen levels rise, so do the luteinizing hormones (LH).
A small decrease in estrogen is sensed by nerve cells in the hypothalamus ultimately resulting in the pituitary gland releasing the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Once the follicle has produced enough estrogen a spike in LH releases the egg out into the fallopian tube for potential fertilization.
During this phase introducing phytoestrogens (plant-estrogens) helps keep estrogen levels balanced.
You may be producing normal estrogen levels, but many compounds are actually able to fit into our estrogen receptor sites. These compounds are acquired through unnatural substances in our diet, water and air.
Flax (a phytoestrogen) has the ability to bind to estrogen receptor sites and has a weaker estrogenic effect than other more dominant estrogen sources. Why would you want a weaker estrogen molecule? Think of drinking an energy drink versus drinking a cup of caffeinated tea. Strong estrogenic molecules jolt your body and crash you leaving you feeling a roller coaster of emotions. A weaker estrogen molecule will keep you level.
Estrogen dominance causes a host of issues including:
- Irregular periods
- Heavy flow
- Terrible PMS (bloating, moods, pain, energy, headaches)
- Breast lumps
- Thyroid Nodules
- Fibrocystic and painful breasts
- Low thyroid issues
- Hair loss and brittle hair
- Weight gain around the hip and thighs
- Water retention
The seeds used during the Follicular Phase contain lignans which bind to estrogen receptors helping modulate estrogen levels.
Also, increasing the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet during this phase will help reduce inflammation and regulate FSH levels.
Ingredients to add during Follicular Phase:
- High in Lignans
- High in Omega 3s
- Contains important Omega 3s
- High in Lignans
- Rich in Zinc (prepares the body for progesterone secretion)
- High in Omega 3s
The second phase is the Luteal Phase which begins at ovulation (on average around day 14 of your cycle) and ends at the onset of menstruation. In total both of the phases take in 28 days, which is the average length of a woman's cycle.
If your luteal phase is less than 10 days long, this is a sign that you have low progesterone. Low progesterone has been linked to fertility issues.
Progesterone is in part responsible for enhancing your uterine lining in preparation of egg implantation and fertilization. Ten days allows for enough time to create this perfect environment.
After ovulation progesterone becomes the star of the show and begins to steadily rise. If you have too much estrogen in your system (potentially as a result of an overworked liver) this can cause problems resulting in PMS symptoms.
Your liver in involved in inactivating various hormones including estrogen. Sometimes a detox is needed if you eat a surplus of processed foods.
Traditional liver tonics include dandelion, meadowsweet, fringe tree bark, and goldenseal. Just remember to drink plenty of water to help aid your body in flushing out the excess chemicals and hormones that naturally have accumulated over time.
Adding Omega 6 fatty acids can be helpful as well. Omega 6 fatty acids contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) this fatty acid is unique in how the body metabolizes it. It supports progesterone and reduces inflammation in the body.
Seeds to incorporate during the Luteal Phase are:
- High in lignans
- High in Omega 6
- High in selenium (supporting liver function)
- High in Omega 6
Raw seeds are perishable. The best way to keep them fresh and maintain their dense nutrition is to grind just before using as well as storing the seeds in a cool dark place. If you cannot grind them at home at least store the seeds in the freezer. Also, if you are wanting to incorporate into a dish, use it as a garnish after the meal has been prepared otherwise the heat may destroy the nutrients you are seeking to benefit from. As always, go organic when possible.
Additional herbs that may be helpful:
Chasteberry - Normalizes estrogen and progesterone, very helpful with women experience menopause symptoms
Cramp Bark - For PMS related cramping
Dandelion - for water retention and PMS cramping
*Of course, seeking out an experienced professional if you are struggling with infertility, amenorrhea, or debilitating PMS symptoms is recommended.
- The Complete Herbs Sourcebook by David Hoffmann