Acne, PMS, irregular periods, weight gain, fatigue, cravings, mood swings, cramps, bloating—they’re all common side effects during that time of the month for many women. But these annoying and sometimes painful symptoms aren’t necessarily normal. In fact, they’re a pretty good indicator of hormonal dysfunction. Any number of things can throw the two main hormones that control your period—estrogen and progesterone—out of whack. Everyday issues like stress, lack of sleep, or poor diet can cause your body to over- or underproduce hormones. And more serious conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or peri-menopause can also cause period problems. Here’s the good news: There’s a natural, simple way to slowly get your body back into a regular rhythm and balance your hormones without prescription birth control. All you need to do is pull up your iCal and grab some flaxseeds, pepitas, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds next time you grocery shop. Ladies, we’re digging into seed cycling.
How seed cycling works
The premise is simple: Eat different seeds during different times of your cycle to encourage your body to produce the right amount and type of hormones. Some seeds contain more lignans, which regulate estrogen levels, while others contain more omega-6 fatty acids and encourage hormonal detoxification. By giving your bod the nutritional support it needs, you should be able to tame PMS, hormonal acne, and the horrible mood swings (and chocolate cravings) you’re afflicted with once a month.
Track follicular and luteal phases
First, you’ll need to track your period to figure out when your follicular and luteal phases fall during the calendar month. A regular menstrual cycle lasts around 28 days; the first two weeks (days 1-14) are considered the follicular phase. Day one is the first day of your period, and during these two weeks estrogen levels are higher. As estrogen levels begin to drop, progesterone levels increase—these last two weeks (days 15-28) are the luteal phase.
Follicular phase: Flaxseeds and pepitas
During the follicular phase, it’s so important to support healthy estrogen levels. For the first two weeks of your cycle eat one tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseeds and one tablespoon of pepitas (pumpkin seeds) daily. Throw them into your morning smoothies, mix into trail mix, or whip them into a creamy pesto—the possibilities are endless!
As the body moves into the luteal phase, you’ll use seed cycling to encourage estrogen detoxification and to boost progesterone levels. Try eating one tablespoon of sunflower seeds and a tablespoon of sesame seeds daily (you can also try both in nut butter form!).
Keep it up
It can take a few months to really begin to see the benefits of seed cycling, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t immediately notice results. Give your body at least three months to adjust to seed cycling. Have you ever tried seed cycling or hormone balancing treatments before? Tell us about it in the comments below! Photo credit: iStock