Problems with hormone imbalance are extremely common in our society. I see clients on a regular basis in the clinic who suffer from PMS, menstrual cramps, heavy periods, absent or irregular periods, spotting during ovulation, PCOS and infertility just to name a few. In addition to seeing clients in my practice, I am hearing about female woes from my friends. The dream of 28 day cycles that are free from emotional imbalances, pain and acne seem far fetched for many of us.
We’re all friends here right? So in the spirit of full disclosure I discovered seed cycling because of issues I was having with severe menstrual cramps and spotting during ovulation. Sorry if this is TMI for some of you, but I find as a natural health practitioner some of my most reliable medicines and treatment protocols were discovered out of having the need for them myself. Plus I prefer testing things on myself first before recommending them to clients.
After having my son my cycle was far from regular/normal. The emotional disturbances during the week before my period were extremely difficult to manage (especially when I was also suffering from postpartum depression) and the cramps were killer. In fact the menstrual cramping (and referral back ache) was so bad that I was often curled up in pain for a full 24 hours. In addition to this I began to notice my hair was thinning after my son weaned and I started spotting during ovulation. These were all clear signs that I needed to find a way to bring my hormones back into balance.
Two friends mentioned seed cycling so I decided to give it a try. After only a single cycle I was so impressed by the results that I knew I had to share with you all. I plan on using this method of hormone balancing in my clinic as well.
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Why Are our Hormones Out of Whack?
This is a great question with what is likely a very complex answer. All of the hormones in our body exist in a delicate balance with each other – meaning that the relationship between our thyroid, adrenal, stress, blood sugar and reproductive hormones is delicate and interdependent. So when one of these hormones is out of balance it throws off the rest of them too. So in simple terms; anything that disturbs any of the hormones in the body will likely have a ripple effect to your cycle. Complicated eh?
A major culprit to female productive disturbances is stress and based on what I’m hearing and seeing in clinic, our society has boat loads of stress. People are overworked, under-slept and running themselves into the ground. The challenge of holding down a job (often working very long hours at jobs that are less than satisfying), raising children, having healthy and meaningful relationships, dealing with financial worries, extracurricular activities and many other obligations leaves people feeling depleted and frazzled. This level of stress absolutely affects our hormones and not in a good way.
Sugar, caffeine and simple carbohydrates when consumed in excess can have a negative effect on the female reproductive hormones (usually by affecting the adrenals, pancreas and metabolic rate first). Unfortunately the consumption of these foods is on the rise. Convenience foods are rarely healthy (loaded with simple carbs, modified ingredients, sugars and salt) and sugar and caffeine are being used as coping mechanisms for stressful lives.
Other foods to include in this category are rancid, saturated and trans-fats as they are greatly increasing inflammation and toxicity in the body. A note about saturated fats; if you ensure you are using organic coconut oil and grass-fed organic meat/dairy products you will greatly reduce your exposure to toxins/hormones.
Exposure to Toxins
Unfortunately we are constantly being bombarded by toxins – in our food, air, water, household and personal care products. Many of these toxins are hormone mimickers meaning that they can act like estrogen in the body. This greatly tips the balance of hormones in the body and as you can imagine, not in a good way. Xenoestrogens is only one example of people-made hormone disrupters that are are found in everything from make-up and plastic products to insecticides and foods. There is literally no escaping it.
Epidemic of Other Hormonal Imbalances
The number of people who are suffering from thyroid, adrenal and blood sugar issues is on the rise. So much so that folks like Aviva Romm and Dr. Axe are coming out with healing protocols, cookbooks and courses addressing these issues. And as we learned previously, anything that affects one hormone in the body will most certainly affect the others. So if you suffer from adrenal fatigue (as an example) this will absolutely cause issues for your female reproductive cycle and the hormones that govern it.
The most dangerous culprit in this category is the birth control pill (and other hormone birth control methods like injections etc). Used by millions of women daily, this little pill is wreaking havoc on our hormones. While on the pill you may feel that your body is in balance but it’s not because your body is regulating it – the pill is. Women can often experience erratic cycles for years after coming off hormone based birth control as their bodies struggle to balance hormones on their own.
How Does Seed Cycling Work?
So now that we understand why our hormones are completely mucked up, what can we do to bring them back to a harmonious state? This is where seed cycling comes in. It’s a simple, cost effective and safe way to help bring the hormones of the female reproductive system back into balance. Let’s dive into why it works.
A woman’s reproduction cycle is maintained by two main hormones – estrogen and progesterone. A healthy, regular and “normal” reproductive cycle is 28 days long. During those 28 days an egg is released from the ovaries and the uterus prepares for the fertilization of that egg. If the egg does not get fertilized the uterus sheds it’s endometrial lining via menstruation. The first day of bleeding is Day 1 of your cycle.
During Days 1-14 of your cycle, known as the Follicular Phase, your body is producing higher levels of estrogen. This phase starts on the first day of your menstrual cycle and ends with ovulation on Day 14. During days 15-28, known as the Luteal Phase, your body is then producing higher levels of progesterone. Most woman tend to have too much estrogen in their bodies and without progesterone your body cannot ovulate. This is where the imbalance is for many of us (but not necessarily all of us).
Seed cycling involves using seeds (and specific omega fatty acids) as natural sources for both estrogen and progesterone. Taken during the appropriate phases of your menstrual cycle, they can help to bring your hormones back into balance and therefore potentially resolve and/or drastically reduce the symptoms of hormone imbalances (PMS, bloating, cramping, spotting, irregular menses etc.)
How to Seed Cycle
To start a seed cycling regime you will need the following:
- whole raw flax seeds
- raw pumpkin seeds
- high quality fish oil
- raw sunflower seeds
- raw sesame seeds
- high quality evening primrose oil
- coffee grinder, food processor, a good blender etc.
The simplest way to consume the seeds is by grinding them (a coffee grinder does work best) and adding them to smoothies, yogurt or other parts of your meal. If you have digestive issues you may want to consider soaking your seeds overnight, letting them dry and then grinding them prior to consumption. I highly recommend using freshly ground seeds daily as this will reduce rancidity. It’s also wise to store your seeds in the fridge as this will keep them fresher.
Follicular Phase: Day 1-14
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground raw flax seeds
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground raw pumpkin seeds
- high quality fish oil (1500-2000 mg of EPA/DHA daily)
- a vegan equivalent would be flax oil
A Note About Fish Oil:
Please ensure you are purchasing a high quality fish oil. You are looking for two key factors – first the fish should be processed ON the ship and not once they reach the shore. This will drastically reduce rancidity. Second, only purchase from a company that tests for mercury levels in their fish. I recommend anything from Nordic Naturals to my clients and that is what I use for my family.
Luteal Phase: Day 15-28
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground raw sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground raw sunflower seeds
- high quality evening primrose oil (1500 – 2000 mg daily)
What if I Don’t Have a 28 Day Cycle?
If your period is absent completely you can use the moon phases as your guide. Start your seed cycling on the new moon and end a complete cycle on the full moon. In fact it is believed that all women who are free from stress, toxins and all of the potential causes for disturbances would naturally fall into the rhythm of the moon cycles.
If your cycle is longer or shorter than 28 days you can still follow a 28 cycle to gently support your body back to this rhythm/schedule.
As an alternative you can download an ovulation/menstrual period tracker app or chart your cycle the good old fashioned way. This will give you a rough idea of when you are ovulating (unless you can feel when you are ovulating). So in this case you would follow the follicular protocol from Day 1 until ovulation and then switch to the luteal protocol from ovulation until menses.
Not a Magic Pill
There are no quick fixes in this world. Many of our health problems and hormonal woes developed over many years which means it will take time for them to balance. Some woman may notice benefits from seed cycling after the first cycle and others may need 3-4 months before noticing a positive outcome.
In my personal experience I noticed benefits after the first month of seed cycling (noting that I have recently completed a detox in the spring). My cycle is usually 30-31 days but it was 28 days this time around. I also experienced no cramping during my last period (which is unheard of for me). I was still spotting a bit after ovulation so I am continuing with the seed cycling protocol for at least another month.
As an interesting note there have not been any scientific studies done on seed cycling. The Herbal Academy has put together some great information regarding studies on the individual seeds and you can read that here. Much of the evidence that seed cycling works is anecdotal and from people’s personal experience. This should not be discounted though as many natural remedies I use in my clinic today have no scientific studies done (yet) but have been used for generations by the ancestors who walked this land before me. This is more than enough evidence for me to prove their effectiveness and value.
Please Note: I am a Herbalist, Not a Doctor
This post is for informational purposes only. I am not a doctor and cannot diagnose conditions nor prescribe pharmaceutical medications. If you suspect your hormones are out of balance seed cycling may help, but it is wise to check in with a qualified health care practitioner if you believe you have serious underlying health conditions. Seed cycling is not recommended during pregnancy.
In good health,
P.S. Please pin/share often to spread the hormonal balance love 😉