Let food by thy medicine – Hippocrates
PMS is so common that it is perceived as normal. Many of us experience some form of discomfort and bodily changes prior to our cycle, including bloating, breakouts, sugar cravings, fatigue, and mood swings. These symptoms can vary in severity and are partly controlled by two important hormones – Oestrogen and Progesterone. These two hormones are part of the endocrine system and are constantly present, however they rotate dominance in alignment with your cycle. They also play an important role with androgens (testosterone), which can cause certain symptoms (e.g. breakouts).
A regular cycle is between 21 – 35 days, where Oestrogen and Progesterone rotate dominance. During the Follicular phase (day 1 – 14), Oestrogen levels increase and start to decrease at the beginning of the Luteal phase (day 15-28), where progesterone levels rise.
The imbalance of these hormones can be the reason behind some of the discomforts and bodily symptoms.
So what is seed cycling?
There are 4 seeds that contain specific nutrients that support balancing this hormonal process.
Flax seeds – contain lignans that block excess oestrogen. Recommend grounding.
Pumpkin seeds – extremely high in zinc and supports progesterone production.
Sunflower seeds – high in selenium for hormone metabolism and liver detoxification.
Sesame seeds – contain lignans that block excess oestrogen.
These nutrient-dense seeds can have powerful effects on regulating your hormones. A clinical evaluation, where the effect of ingested flax seed powder on 18 women, suggests a significant specific role for lignans in the relationship between diet and sex steroid action (Phipps, Martini, Lampe, Slavin & Kurzer, 1993).
The recommended guide for incorporating these into your diet is:
Follicular phase (day 1-14)
- 1 Tbsp of flax seeds Note: it is recommended to ground the flax seeds or buy LSA.
- 1 Tbsp of pumpkin seeds.
Luteal phase (day 15-28)
- 1 Tbsp of sunflower seeds
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds.
Now, not everyone enjoys eating 1Tbsp of seeds on their own…I know – I gave it a go and felt like a bird. Here are some suggestions for incorporating these into your diet:
- Chia pudding
- Homemade protein bars
I also like to buy good quality seeds and divide them into small jars, that way they are easily accessible.
Using the diet to address concerns and imbalances is a traditional holistic method and is cost effective, however changes will take time (roughly 3 months/3 cycles). If you are looking for a natural method to balance and control menstrual discomforts, than this is certainly worth a try.
Phipps, W., Martini, M., Lampe, J., Slavin, J., & Kurzer, M. (1993). Effect of flax seed ingestion on the menstrual cycle. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-abstract/77/5/1215/2649961