Are you a woman who has struggled with acne, irregular menstrual cycles, PMS symptoms, or a general lack of vitality? If so, this following protocol is for you. Seed cycling is a safe and effective way to help your body balance hormones so as to even out the extreme ups and extreme downs that many of us deal with on a monthly basis. Estrogen and Progesterone are the primary hormones that dance in balance throughout the 28 days of your cycle and it is normal that you will feel subtle differences when the hormones spike and drop. However, it is all too common for these hormones to be in either excess or deficiency, which leads to symptoms that have caused women to dread one week out of every month. Rather than dread the one week a month (or for some, even more) seed cycling will help support your body in it's normal processes so that you can honor and respect what your gorgeous, feminine body is capable of.
Seed cycling was shared with me by a naturopathic doctor and has since been a core part of regulating my cycles and preventing cystic acne breakouts. I have seen it help countless women and I always come back to it when I find my hormones have "lost their way". As with any condition, we always recommend talking with your primary care physician about your symptoms and all the modalities you are using, or wish to use to help your body thrive.
What is Seed Cycling?
Seed cycling is a daily practice of eating specific seeds to help balance hormones and reduce symptoms commonly associated with PMS. It is recommended by natural and complementary practitioners whom view food as medicine. The goal with seed cycling is to support the natural balance of the hormones that govern menstruation. Estrogen naturally rises during the first half (14 or so days) of a woman’s cycle and slowly falls during the second half. Progesterone is released after ovulation and is maintained by the follicle left behind so as to support a potential pregnancy. If too low or too high, either of these hormones can cause the undesirable PMS symptoms that many women are familiar with. Eating the appropriate seeds on a daily basis can support your body to balance estrogen and progesterone so that symptoms such as acne, bloating, irritability, gnawing hunger, low libido, tender breasts and water retention don’t occur.
What seeds are used and why?
Flax - high in lignans which block excess estrogens and promote healthy cell membranes
Pumpkin - high in zinc. Zinc supports progesterone release
Sunflower - high in selenium, a mineral that is essentail for liver detoxification
Sesame - contains lignans (not quite as potent at flax seeds) to help block excess estrogen
All seeds should be freshly ground and stored in the refrigerator. Store for no longer than 5 days to avoid rancidity.
How-To Seed Cycle:
Use the chart below to match the seeds you consume with the day of your menstrual cycle. Remember, day 1 of your menstrual cycle is the first day of bleeding and day 14 is typically ovulation. However, if you have cycles that are shorter or longer than 28 days, match the seeds you consume to the follicular phase. Incorporating seed cycling into your routine will allow you to begin to pay attention to your bodies natural rhythms. If you are currently not menstruating, begin the seeds for the follicular phase on the next full moon and switch to the luteal phase seeds after 14 days. Continue this pattern for atleast 3 months to notice the changes that may occur. Note that oil is also part of the protocol. Adding in Fish and Evening primrose oil provides your body with the necessary fats to make sex hormones.
Follicular Phase - Day 1-14 (first day of bleeding until ovulation)
1T Flax seed
1T Pumpkin seed
1500-2000 mg Fish oil
Luteal Phase - Day 15-28 (post-ovulation through pre-menstruation)
1T Sunflower seed
1T sesamee seed
1500-2000mg Evening primrose oil
We recommend that you track your symptoms along with your Basal Body Temperature so that you can tune into the progress you are making and the subtle changes that accompany seed cycling. Sharing this information with your acupuncturist will allow them to have greater insight into the balance of your bodies yin (estrogen) and yang (progesterone) which will enable them to provide the best possible treatment to help your hormones find their optimal balance.
Andrea is a licensed Acupuncturist, Massage Therapist and Chinese Herbalist living and practicing in the beautiful city of Missoula, Montana.