In my previous posts, I have shared lifestyle tips and nutrients you need to conquer PMS naturally. I also shared that the root cause of menstrual discomforts lies in unbalanced hormones and have discussed how the rise and fall of the two major female hormones shapes our physique and emotions. Click here to read more.
Today I’m introducing you a simple and delicious way to tame the horrible PMS monster and get your menstrual cycle back on track.
You might ask “why should I try seed cycling?”
I remember I was also perplexed by this concept when the naturopathic physician first introduced this concept to me during my training. The practice of using seeds to support women’s reproductive health comes from ancient times, and this practice has been widely recommended by naturopathic doctors to:
reduce PMS symptoms: cramps, bloating, mood swings
get back your natural cycles after stop taking birth control pills
regain missing menstrual cycles
ease menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, mood swings
In my personal experience, I can also vouch for the side effect of happy, balanced hormones: good-bye acne and hello smooth skin!
I often hear people who incorporate seeds into their diet notice improvements within the first three month. Here’s my story with seed cycling: two years after I stop taking birth control pills, my period has been irregular. PMS often kills my productivity and motivation completely before my periods. I often get attacked by hormonal acne (around my chin and jaw line). After following the protocol for a month, I noticed my PMS became less severe and my period was regulated after three months.
What is seed cycling?
Pumpkin, flax, sunflower and sesame seeds are rotated throughout the month. The concept behind the protocol is that the seed hulls contain lignan, which is a nutrient that binds with excess hormones and help the body to detoxify it out of our system. The seed oils and pulp contain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that support the production of hormones at different phases of your cycle.
Phase 1 (see chart: Day 1-14): from the first day of your period to ovulation, also known as the Follicular Phase
Consume 1 tablespoon each raw pumpkin seeds and flax seeds daily, freshly grounded or finely-chewed
Phase 2 (see chart: Day 14-28): from ovulation until the first day of your period, also known as the Luteal Phase
Consume 1 tablespoon each raw sunflower seeds and sesame seeds daily, freshly grounded or finely-chewed
(Note: every woman has her own hormone rhythm so not everyone ovulates exactly on Day 14. Talk to your nutritionist to explore your unique pattern)
What does the current research tell us about seed cycling?
In 2012, a population-based case-control study has revealed that high pumpkin and sunflower seeds consumption has been related to lowered breast cancer risk.
In a recent research in 2013, phytoestrogen extracts isolated from pumpkin seeds has been observed to have a regulating effects on estrogen and progesterone (the two major female hormones that governs the menstrual cycle) points to the potential role of pumpkin seeds in breast cancer prevention/treatment.
In another study in 2013, women who consistently consume flax seed for 3 cycles have less anovulatory cycles (cycles without ovulation) and longer luteal phases, suggesting its role in regulating hormone production.
Earlier studies, as quoted by the Herbal Academy of New England , have demonstrated symptomatic relieves of hormone-related symptoms using seeds and seed oils:
Pumpkin seed oil has been shown to improve HDL (the good cholesterol level) in postmenopausal women and decreased in hot flashes, headaches, depressive symptoms and joint pains
Women who consumed 25g of flax seeds for three month have experienced less PMS related breast pain
You know I wouldn’t give up until I find supporting evidence. Let’s dig a little deeper:
I shared the 5 key nutrients to conquer PMS symptoms naturally, which many of these nutrients are found rich in the seeds in the seed cycling protocol. I pulled up the USDA database and other resources and found the four seeds used in the protocol are perfectly timed to support healthy menstrual cycles:
Rich in manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and zinc. These minerals are used as precursors to build hormones, regulate mood and appetite
Rich in Isoflavones which help to modulate female hormones depending on the body’s need
A good source of iron, which build up the body’s supply for menstruation
Rich in calcium, which work together with magnesium to reduce irregular spasm of the uterus
Rich in omega 3 fatty acid, an essential fatty acid required by the liver to safely detoxify excess estrogen out of the body system
Regulate blood sugar and continuous consumption for 12 weeks has been related to a thinner waist line.
Used as an aid to help with perimenopausal and post menopausal symptoms
Rich in magnesium, which has a calming effect on your mood and work together with calcium to reduce cramps
A good source of vitamin B6, which help to reduce joint pain, bloating and breast pain related to water rentention.
Contribute vitamin E and selenium, two anti-oxidant nutrients that support the liver to rid of excess hormones and toxins.
Rich in calcium, which help to reduce cramps, headaches, protect bone loss (in menopausal women), and reduce PMS related discomforts in the luteal phase (second half of the cycle)
Rich in omega 6 fatty acid, an essential fatty acid required for progesterone production in the luteal phase.
Rich in zinc, which help to reduce acne.
This is why the seed cycling concept has been incorporated in many of my recipes. This is a delicious way to make sure the body is getting the nutrients it needs to support balanced hormones. Whether you want to sprinkle a handful of seeds onto your breakfast, bake them into your morning pastry, or add them in your snack throughout the day, the possibilities are endless. Here are some of my favourites: