If you’re like most women, you've suffered from PMS, PCOS, irregular periods, and other hormone-related issues. And you’ll really benefit from seed cycling. Seed cycling is an all-natural, effective method of syncing your nutrients to your hormone cycle so that you can get it back on track. It’s been gaining a lot of momentum in the natural and integrative medicine fields lately.
As a woman, your hormone balance is the cornerstone of your health and wellbeing. Nothing affects a woman’s health, energy, mood, and vitality as much. And because we’ve been working with so many women with estrogen dominance, we’re always on the lookout for natural remedies and protocols that can help.
Estrogen dominance is a very common condition, with almost 50% of women over the age of 35 affected. It’s a relative dominance of estrogen over progesterone, the two main female reproductive hormones. The antagonist balance of these two hormones is pivotal to maintain optimal health. For example, estrogen increases fluid retention, and progesterone is a natural diuretic. Estrogen proliferates the endometrium and progesterone limits it.
As you get older, both of these hormones decline. But progesterone tends to decline at a faster rate, causing the ratio between the two hormones to get out of balance. This imbalance is further exacerbated by unhealthy lifestyle choices and exposure to toxicity and certain xenoestrogens.
Estrogen dominance symptoms include PMS, PCOS, breast cysts, bloating, irritability, clots in period blood, fatigue, sore and swollen breasts, and amenorrhea. And if it's not addressed, it can lead to more serious issues, such as endometriosis and fibrocystic breast disease.
All the conditions we listed above are not the cause of the problem, they are a symptom. So addressing hormone imbalance at the root is what will solve such issues. And one way to do that is through seed cycling.
Here’s how to do it in two easy steps…
Although every woman’s cycle is slightly different, for the sake of simplicity we’ll use a 28-day cycle. Once you know the pattern of your own cycle, you’ll know how to adjust the seed cycling to it.
Day 1 is the first day of your period. From day 1 to day 14 is when your body is preparing an egg for release. This is the follicular phase, and it’s when your estrogen levels increase and the chosen egg is matured.
As the egg matures and is ready for release, your cycle enters the ovulation phase. That’s usually around day 14. The ovulation phase is one day, and on day 15 you enter the luteal phase. This is when your body starts preparing for the possibility of your egg being fertilized, and it does that by thickening the wall of your uterus. To do that, the follicle that released your egg turns into the corpus luteum and starts releasing progesterone.
This phase lasts until your egg gets fertilized or your cycle begins again with your period.
In order to support the follicular phase, you should eat foods that naturally increase your estrogen levels without going into estrogen dominance. These include flax seeds and pumpkin seeds.
The best way to consume flax is by freshly grinding whole seeds. If you buy already ground flax, make sure to keep it in the fridge. For pumpkin seeds, the best way to consume those is raw and soaked. Eat around one tablespoon of each daily during the follicular phase.
For your luteal phase, starting around day 15 until your next cycle begins, eat around one tablespoon of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds each. The best is to grind them fresh. They will help increase your progesterone levels, which will then improve a lot of the symptoms you may be experiencing from estrogen dominance.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to consume these tablespoons of ground or whole seeds on their own. You can sprinkle them on your vegetables and salads. Or you can add them to your smoothie. Tahini dip is made of ground sesame seeds, so that's another option. And you can make many different kinds of sauces and salad dressings with seeds. There are tons of great recipes online that you can try.
The important thing to understand about estrogen dominance is that it’s not the same thing as a natural, healthy increase, through natural, healthy means. For example, even though estrogenic seeds (flax and pumpkin) may increase the estrogen level that is needed for a strong follicular phase, they also promote the balance between the two hormones.
The reason for that is because most types of phytoestrogens, which are plant-based estrogenic foods, are good for your estrogen-progesterone balance. Phytoestrogens actually compete for the uptake at your body’s estrogen receptors, thereby lessening the amount of free estrogen, while keeping the estrogen needed during the follicular phase available.
On the other hand, when it’s time for your progesterone to rise, eating the luteal phase seeds will help do that naturally too. In that sense, the estrogen-progesterone imbalance is almost always due to unhealthy habits and exposure to chemicals that disrupt your system.
But, of course, it’s important for us to give a fair warning that, although the above is true, some people tend to overdo a good thing until it becomes unhealthy. So please don’t think that taking four times the recommended amount will somehow improve your symptoms by fourfold. You want to do seed cycling in moderation, and make sure you keep track of any changes.
Also, if you have adrenal fatigue or another chronic issue, you will have to be extra careful with any changes you make to your diet, in case you end up with a paradoxical reaction or more inflammation.
Your adrenal glands are hormone-producing machines. They are part of your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response’s Hormone Circuit, along with your thyroid and ovaries. Your NEM is your body’s global response to stress. And your adrenals are its first responders, producing your body’s most important stress-fighter, cortisol.
Your other NEM circuits are the Bioenergetics, the Cardionomic, the Neuroaffect, the Inflammation, and the Detoxification circuits. But for seed cycling, the circuit we’re most concerned with is the Hormone Circuit.
The way the Hormone Circuit works is that it’s regulated by the control center in the brain. This control center - made up of your hypothalamus and pituitary gland - coordinates with the different hormone-producing glands. Each gland is part of an axis that acts as a hormone cascade.
For example, your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is what controls the levels of cortisol in your body. While your Ovarian Adrenal Thyroid (OAT) axis has across-the-board effects on your hormones.
If any component of the Hormone Circuit isn’t working properly, the other two will be affected. And one thing that affects the Hormone Circuit and the entire NEM is stress, whether physical or psychological.
For example, when you’re facing chronic stress, your adrenals will work overtime to produce more cortisol. But after a while, they become exhausted and their cortisol output drops. The result is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), and its symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, weight gain, anxiety, mild depression, dry skin, hair loss, PMS, loss of libido, infertility, hypoglycemia, salt and sugar cravings, frequent colds and flu, prolonged recovery time, food and drug sensitivities, and heart palpitations.
As mentioned before, depending on which part of the OAT axis is most affected, you’ll get a different set of symptoms. If it’s your thyroid, the most obvious symptoms will be weight gain, low energy, and mild depression. When it’s your adrenals, the main symptoms will be fatigue, anxiety, and irritability. And if it’s your ovaries, they will be PMS, brain fog, and estrogen dominance.
But just because one component is affected more than the others doesn’t mean the other two are spared. More often than not, they all affect each other. So you’ll see many people have adrenal fatigue because of the stress the estrogen dominance is putting on their system. You will also see the opposite, with a worsening in estrogen dominance due to adrenal fatigue. This could be an endless cycle that continues to drain the body.
The good news is that by addressing one issue, or one component of the OAT axis, you will improve the rest. So by following seed cycling, the stress of the hormone imbalance will lessen, and so will give your adrenals a break. On the other hand, if you address adrenal fatigue, you will automatically start seeing a huge improvement in your hormone balance. It is important to have a guide in your adrenal recovery as it takes an experienced provider to walk between hormone balance and adrenal fatigue as they both go hand in hand.
The best course of action here would be to combine the different modalities together in a holistic way. A possible protocol could look like this:
This includes things like:
The adrenal fatigue diet is an excellent foundation for recovery. You can then add to it the different types of seeds for your seed cycling program. You can also add fermented foods if you have microbiome issues.
It’s best to make dietary changes under the supervision and to take it one step at a time. That's because big changes can actually add more stress on your adrenals. With the right kind of guidance, you will customize your diet to fit your needs and condition. You will also be able to adjust your diet as you go along to ensure your recovery is on track.
Fat cells produce estrogen. Therefore losing any extra weight would be very beneficial for hormone balance.
Certain types of nutritional deficiencies can cause or aggravate hormone imbalance. For example, your liver needs sufficient B6 and magnesium in order to neutralize excess estrogen. Many people are deficient in magnesium and don’t know it.
For adrenal fatigue, we have found that, other than diet, using gentle nutrients has the biggest impact on recovery. That’s because they can help replenish the nutritional stores that have been depleted from the stress response. But at the same time, this is another recovery step that should be done under supervision in order to avoid paradoxical reactions or adrenal crashes.
We believe that, whenever possible, the natural approach to recovery is best. First of all, it’s less likely to cause negative side-effects. Secondly, it’s more sustainable. And finally, you can eventually take over your recovery completely and become an expert on your own health without needing constant supervision.
Seed cycling is one way to approach hormone imbalance naturally. It’s also beneficial in other ways, providing nutrients for many other systems in your body. Seeds are some of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. They are rich in fatty acids, fiber, and ligands, as well as minerals such as zinc and selenium. Flax seeds have been shown to help with osteoporosis and heart disease in women, for example.
But if you have AFS, you should always make dietary changes under supervision, as your body is under a lot of stress already, and you may inadvertently add more stress to it by making big changes. And, when you address your AFS, you’ll find your hormones starting to balance as well.
If you have questions about seed cycling, hormone balance, and adrenal fatigue recovery, you can contact the Dr. Lam Coaching team. We can offer you a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and what your options are. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.
© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Seed cycling is a food-based approach to balancing your hormones. It consists of eating specific kinds of seeds during specific phases of your menstrual cycle. It’s a new trend based on the ancient wisdom of using food as medicine, and it’s become very popular. Here’s how to do it.