Periods are a fact of life for women. They are the essential part of a woman’s reproductive cycle.
When your hormones are well balanced, periods should be manageable, without cramping, heavy bleeding, or surprise appearances. The days leading up to your period should have minimal PMS or premenstrual symptoms.
Simple Strategy for Happy, Healthy, and Regular Periods
Many women have been recommended birth control pills for various period issues and will come to me seeking alternatives to birth control for their hormone regulation. Birth control is for just that – preventing pregnancy! You don’t always have to resort to birth control to fix your period issues.
My blog today will discuss a simple method – diet – to give your cycles a tune up that supports the whole cycle, from premenstrual to menstrual concerns. This method is called Seed Cycling.
Your Menstrual Cycle
Your cycle is tightly regulated by a complex system of signaling factors and hormones. At a basic level, you need to have enough estrogen and progesterone at various parts of your cycle in order to signal menstruation and ovulation.
On average, monthly cycles are 28 days long, with 5-7 days of bleeding, and ovulation occurring on day 14. However, not everyone’s body follows this schedule. Your cycle is still considered normal give or take a few days.
The first 14 days are considered the Follicular Phase, where a follicle within your ovary produces an egg and requires proper amounts of estrogen. Ovulation marks the end of this phase by releasing the egg from its follicle through the fallopian tubes and into uterus to be fertilized.
The second phase of your cycle is called the Luteal Phase and requires proper amounts of progesterone. The phase is named for the progesterone-secreting corpus luteum, the structure which develops into the placenta that supports a healthy pregnancy. When a non-fertilized egg is released from the body, the corpus luteum dissolves, sending feedback signals that prepare the uterus for menstruation. And then the cycle begins again!
The Seed Cycling Method
Now to the method. I speak a lot about Seed Cycling in my practice. Seed Cycling is a dietary technique to support healthy menstrual cycles. It provides cyclic guidance and routine for your body to produce the right hormones at the right time.
Seed Cycling uses a biphasic approach, meaning that you switch what you are eating midway through your cycle.
Day 1 in this approach is the first day of heavy bleeding, indicating the beginning of your period. You can begin seed cycling on any day of your cycle, so long as you follow the biphasic guidelines below:
Day 1-14: 2 Tbsp. ground flax or pumpkin seeds
Day 15-28: 2 Tbsp. ground sunflower or sesame seeds
Flax and pumpkin seeds support production of estrogen, follicle stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone during the Follicular Phase.
Sunflower and sesame seeds support progesterone production during the Luteal Phase.
Note: During each phase, you can eat either scheduled seed option, or you can just stick to your favorite. You do not have to consume both types of seeds.
Grinding the flax seeds is important. The grinding process releases fats and phytonutrients that provide the necessary building blocks and cofactors of the hormones in the corresponding phase of your menstrual cycle. I generally recommend either grinding your flax seeds daily or keeping pre-ground seeds in the refrigerator to prevent the healthy fats from turning rancid.
Pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds should be raw, and can be chewed thoroughly instead of ground. Some recipe options include sprinkling seeds on salads or mixing in smoothies. For days 15-28, consider sunflower butter or tahini.
The Oil Cycling Method
An alternative to Seed Cycling is Oil Cycling. The biphasic strategy is the same, using 2 tablespoons of fish oil during the first half of the cycle and switching to 2 tablespoons of evening primrose oil during the second half.
If you are considering this strategy, it is important to use high quality oils that are third-party tested for contaminants, heavy metals, impurities, and rancidity which can be pro-oxidative and inflammatory. Look for keywords such as cold pressed and organic on the label. My favorite brands are Nordic Naturals and Carlson Labs.
Menstrual irregularities can occur from time to time. They can be caused by a number of factors. Sometimes your cycle can be disrupted due to stress or illness, resulting in missed ovulation or a delayed period.
If you notice consistent irregularities, consider some at-home period maintenance like Seed Cycling for a few months to get your cycles back on track.
If birth control has been recommended to balance your hormones, consider working with a Naturopathic Physician to discuss options such as Seed Cycling or other strategies to support healthy periods.
If you are on birth control for other reasons, such as for pregnancy prevention, watch for my next blog on how to make the most of your birth control pill!