We always thought PMS was just a fact of life—about a week before our period, we’re bloated, crampy and generally blah. But Alisa Vitti, holistic health coach and best-selling author of WomanCode, has completely blown our minds. She maintains that by using a hormone-balancing technique called “seed cycling,” you can reduce the pain, bloating and overall ickiness of getting your period. Here’s how it works.
What exactly is seed cycling? Seed cycling is the holistic process of eating a rotation of different types of seeds (think pumpkin, flax, sesame and sunflower) during the different phases of your menstrual cycle.
And how does it work? According to Vitti, flaxseeds contain lignans, which bind to excess estrogen, and pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, which helps boost progesterone production. Sesame seeds also contain lignans that bind to excess estrogen, while sunflower seeds are rich in selenium to support the liver.
OK, but does it actually work? Seed cycling is a holistic practice, so most traditional doctors aren't on board with it. A few studies have been conducted about the effects of seed cycling, but none have been comprehensive or recent enough to fully convince us. But if you've tried everything and your PMS is driving you nuts, there's no harm in incorporating a few extra seeds into your diet (as long as you're not allergic to them, of course) to see if you notice any positive changes.
Sounds intriguing. How do I do it? For the first half of your menstrual cycle, your body needs more estrogen in order to build up the uterine lining. During this phase (from the first day of your period up until ovulation), consume 1 tablespoon each of raw, ground flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds daily. For the second half of your cycle, your body needs more progesterone to thicken the uterine lining and prepare it for implantation. During this phase (from just after ovulation until the day before your period begins), switch to 1 tablespoon each of raw ground sesame and sunflower seeds daily.
I'm game. Any tips before I get started? If your cycle is fairly regular, start seed cycling on the first day of your next period. If your cycle is totally unpredictable, start seed cycling on the new moon. (Fun fact: According to ancient wisdom, when a woman is totally in sync with her body and nature, she menstruates on the new moon and ovulates on the full moon—stay with us, OK?)
Seeds should be organic and raw for optimal nutrition, and should be ground to allow for proper absorption (whole seeds often pass right through our digestive systems). You can fresh-grind your own seeds using a coffee grinder, or buy them pre-ground to cut down on prep time. Throw them in a smoothie and you’re good to go.
Oh, and don’t expect a quick fix. Talk to your doctor before trying seed cycling, especially if you have very severe PMS, PCOS, fibroids or endometriosis. Plan to test out seed cycling for a minimum of three menstrual cycles before you begin to notice results. If your symptoms continue or get worse, schedule another appointment with your doc.