Not often do we read about food helping to correct hormonal imbalances. In fact, when we hear the words “hormonal problems,” we are conditioned to think of solutions not extending much further than birth control pills, hormone creams and pellets.
Supporting the old mantra of “food is your medicine,” this article shows how innocent seeds can help regulate and support our menstrual cycle.
The technique is called “seed rotation,” and can be used to boost estrogen levels in the first part of our cycle and progesterone levels in the second part.
Who is this for?
This technique can be used by anyone who is experiencing irregular periods, heavy flows, substantial PMS, and even women going through peri-menopause and menopause.
The technique described here is based on a 30-day cycle.
Which seeds should be used in what part of the cycle?
Peri-menopausal and menopausal women can start any day and rotate the seeds every two weeks.
Pre-menopausal women who are still menstruating have different needs: From Day 1 to Day 15 (or the middle of the cycle), we need more estrogen in order to build up our endometrium (uterine lining). This is called the follicular phase. Seeds such as flaxseed and pumpkin seeds, one tablespoon each per day, can naturally increase your estrogen levels.
From Day 15 to Day 30, or the second part of the cycle (also known as the luteal phase), the corpus luteum begins to release progesterone. This sex hormone will help thicken the uterine lining and prepare it for implantation.
The high content of zinc in sesame seeds and vitamin E in sunflower seeds have been shown to stimulate progesterone production (see references below). By adding one tablespoon of sesame seeds and one tablespoon of sunflower seeds per day in the luteal phase, we can naturally support the body to produce more progesterone, a sex hormone of which many women experience low levels.
Learn how to rebalance your hormones with food in my book, Cooking for Hormone Balance.
What about women who do not menstruate or who are menopausal and postmenopausal?
If you do not have a cycle either because you are not menstruating or because you have entered perimenopause, menopause and you are in postmenopause, seed rotation can still help.
If you are pre-menopausal and not cycling, start the seed rotation any time you like and do two weeks of each seed rotation, as shown in the below chart.
If you have already entered menopause, you can start applying seed rotation any time you like and keep each seed combination (like flax seed and pumpkin) for one to two weeks, then switch to the other (like sunflower and sesame seeds).
What does a balanced cycle look like?
Of course, being regular is one important factor, but there is much more to a balanced cycle beyond that. So many of us are accustomed to feeling terrible before our period (and some women in the mid-cycle or during ovulation as well) that we assume it is normal. It is not.
High estrogen (or estrogen metabolites) can be the cause of tender breasts, mood swings, hair loss, weight gain, fibroids, endometriosis, breast and ovarian cysts, and even breast and ovarian cancer.
Low progesterone levels can manifest in ways similar to the above, along with feeling anxious, not being able to fall or stay asleep, and menstrual headaches.Infertility and miscarriages can also be due to low progesterone levels.
Rebalancing your cycle using a simple food-based technique like seed rotation can help alleviate many of the symptoms in as little as one or two months.
In a perfectly healthy woman, the menstrual cycle and the estrogen/progesterone production will happen naturally with no help or intervention. This is, unfortunately, not the case for many women today. Excessive stress leading to excessive cortisol release, environmental toxins, poor diet, food sensitivities, digestive issues, and high coffee or alcohol consumption can all contribute to irregular or painful periods and even infertility.
Supporting the body with food that will help produce sufficient amounts of estrogen and progesterone is not only easy and cheap but also non-invasive. This is why this form of healing is preferred by practitioners who work with food as medicine – this method simply works, while still being gentle on the body.
Learn how to rebalance your hormones with food in my book, Cooking for Hormone Balance.
Why add more estrogens to our diet?
Many women worry that they are already experiencing estrogen dominance, so why add more estrogen in the form of phytoestrogens, such as flaxseed?
For this to be fully understood, we first need to establish that not all estrogens are “bad,” and the one that tends to be high in estrogen-dominant women is estradiol, also known as E2. Excessive levels of E2 have been linked to breast and prostate cancer. Flaxseed does not only suppress estradiol production, but it also nudges estradiol metabolism into a positive direction by generating a higher ratio of the protective metabolite 2-hydroxy-estrone versus the more harmful 16-hydroxy-estrone.
Easy ways of adding seed rotation to your diet
The easiest way to incorporate the seed combinations is by adding:
- In the Follicular Phase: adding ONE tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed (do not use the pre-ground flax meal, it has little potency) and ONE tablespoon of pumpkin seeds. You can add them to salads, smoothies or just have it in water.
- In the Luteal Phase: adding ONE tablespoon of sesame seeds and ONE tablespoon of sunflower seeds. You can add them to salads, smoothies or just have it in water.
Women in perimenopause and menopause: Start any day and do each seed rotation for 2 weeks.
Women with no periods: Start the flaxseed and pumpkin combo during the new moon (or crescent moon), this is when you should be getting your period. Or, start the sesame and sunflower combo during the full moon, this is when you should be ovulating, if tuned into the moon cycle.
Storage and potency
This food is medicinal in nature. It’s best to either freshly grind it daily, or pre-grind a batch for a week’s worth and keep it in a air-tight container, in the fridge.
Recipes using seed rotation
Another way to ensure regular seed consumption is by making your own seed crackers. They can easily be baked in a regular oven or prepared with a dehydrator.
RECIPE: Estrogen-boosting crackers [oven method]
Two tablespoons of flaxseed or pumpkin seeds per day have shown to help boost estrogen production. Pumpkin seeds are also known to be phytoestrogenic.
This can be equally valuable for menstruating women in the first part of the cycle (day 1 to 15, refer to the chart) as well as women going through peri- and menopause who would benefit from an estrogen boost.
This recipe is using an oven. If you have a dehydrator, feel free too use it and set it to 115F for 8 hours.
- 1 cup almonds
- 1 cup flaxseed
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup dried apples, roughly chopped
- 1 cup roasted coconut flakes
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Soak almonds for 12 hours.
- Soak flaxseed and pumpkin seeds in 3 cups of water for 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 150F or the lowest temperature your oven allows. The trick to keeping the temperature low (ideally in the range of 120 to 150F) is to leave the oven door ajar. This will prevent the crackers from burning and will create air circulation to dry the crackers.
- Strain all the excess water from the almonds and combine with all the remaining ingredients. Toss to mix them well.
- Line the baking tray with parchment paper and spread the mixture evenly.
- Bake for 6 hours or until fully dried. It’s recommended to check your crackers regularly using the thermometer to be sure they are getting dried but not burned. If the oven gets too hot, just open the oven door slightly wider. I use a metal tool (like a can opener) to keep the oven door ajar. The second batch will be easier to make as you will know how to keep the oven temperature in the 120-150F range.
- These crackers store well for two weeks in an air-tight container.
More hormone-balancing Recipes
To get more hormone-balancing recipes including Breakfasts, Snacks and Quick Meals, head over to Cooking for Hormone Balance.
“Zinc-induced changes in the progesterone binding properties of the human endometrium,” European Society of Endocrinology
“Effect of dl-α-tocopherol acetate on progesterone metabolism,” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
“Effect of dietary components, including lignans and phytoestrogens, on enterohepatic circulation and liver metabolism of estrogens and on sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG),” Journal of Steroid Biochemistry
“Effects of phytoestrogen extracts isolated from pumpkin seeds on estradiol production and ER/PR expression in breast cancer and trophoblast tumor cells,” Nutrition and Cancer, Taylor Francis Group.
“Phytoestrogens: the “natural” selective estrogen receptor modulators?” European Journal of Gynecology and Reproductive Biology