Category: Diet & Digestion

Diet & Digestion

Seed Cycling for Hormonal Balance

What is Seed Cycling?

Seed cycling is a natural way to gently support your hormones throughout your menstrual cycle. Certain seeds are high in particular nutrients and fatty acids that help to promote hormonal balance. The aim is to boost estrogen during the first phase of your cycle, then boost progesterone in the second phase. It is believed that seed cycling can assist conditions such as PMS, promote fertility, and even help alleviate pain from medical conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis.

Our menstrual cycles are comprised to two main phases: The follicular phase (day one to ovulation) and the luteal phase (after ovulation to menstruation).

Check out my previous post on how to live in accordance to your cycle! Seed cycling is just one of the many methods!


Follicular Phase (day 1 to ovulation)

The follicular phase begins on the first day of your menstrual cycle (when you start bleeding). The follicular phase is named so because it is the time of the cycle where the follicles in the ovary develop and mature. During menstruation, our estrogen levels build up gradually, reaching a peak around ovulation. Estrogen is primarily made by the developing follicles in the ovaries. Sometimes, our estrogen levels can be too high. Symptoms of high estrogen levels include irregular periods, bloating, breast swelling and tenderness, pre-menstrual headaches, fatigue, sluggish metabolism, PMS and much more. To boost estrogen in this part of the cycle, we eat 1 tablespoon (freshly ground) flax seeds and pumpkin seeds per day.

+ Flax seeds (linseeds)

To support our estrogen levels, we use flax seeds (which are high in plant-based estrogens: phytoestrogens). These adapt to what your body’s needs by modulating the activity of estrogen. This means that it can help to either increase or decrease estrogen activity, depending on deficiencies or excesses of estrogen in the body (4). If estrogen levels get too high, the lignans in flax seeds are able to bind to excesses to help eliminate them from the body.

 + Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Zinc is an essential mineral needed in our diet, yet many people do not eat enough of it. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, which supports progesterone production and regulates our androgen levels (male hormones) (3). Pumpkin seeds (as well as flax) are also rich in essential nutrients and fatty acids such as zinc and selenium, which are considered as the building blocks needed to produce healthy, happy hormones (1).

 

Luteal phase (day 15 to day 1)

The luteal phase begins right after ovulation. If you are unsure when you ovulate, you can start the luteal phase on Day 15 (as Day 14 is the average day of ovulation amongst women).

Estrogen drops right after ovulation and progesterone begins to rise to build up your endometrium (the lining of your uterus). Estrogen also begins to increase here to prepare for menstruation and those with high estrogen levels may experience period pain and/or PMS symptoms at this time. Progesterone is the Yin to estrogen’s Yang, meaning that they are like opposites which depend on and balance-out one another. At this time in the cycle, we need to boost progesterone to keep estrogen in check. We do this by eating 1 tablespoon each of sunflower and sesame seeds daily from the day after ovulation to day 1 of the period.

+ Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds are high in zinc, calcium, magnesium and selenium, which (with fibre) assist the Liver in detoxification and excretion of excessive hormonal build-up (5). These seeds also contain lignans, and have been found to be beneficial for balancing women’s hormones, even through menopause (6).

+ Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds contain a range of great minerals, including vitamin E, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper and selenium. They also contain essential fatty acids which can be converted in to gamma-linoleic acid, or GLA. It has been found that GLA’s provide effective relief from pre-menstrual breast tenderness (2), whilst also boosting progesterone and reducing inflammation.

We live in nature, and nature lives within us.(9)

Quality is key!

When buying your seeds to start cycling them, make sure you opt for organic, whole seeds. The best way to ensure the seeds keep all of their benefits is to grind them yourself, then keep any excess in the fridge, which preserves the essential fatty acids within them. Flax seeds in particular can be a little picky, and are sensitive to light and heat. Try to find whole flax seeds that aren’t in a clear bag or container, then store them in the fridge to keep them happy.

How can I eat these?

You’ll get bored quickly if you just eat these seeds by themselves, so get creative! Try including seeds in your diet with ideas such as:

  • Making some healthy, homemade granola (with seeds mixed in at the end- do not roast them!)
  • Blending them in to your morning smoothie or protein shake!
  • Whipping up a fresh (un-toasted) tahini (I love having this with roasted veg, salads, or carrot sticks).
  • Mixing them into your yoghurt, cereal or porridge.
  • Adding them in to some (protein and/or date) bliss balls for an easy work snack.
  • Sprinkling seeds over your salads for a bit of texture and crunch!
  • Making a fresh seed butter for spreading on toast and fruits.

Some extra things to note

Seed cycling is a natural way of helping your body’s hormonal balance through supplying it with the essential fatty acids, minerals and phytoestrogens it needs. However, because of it’s gentler nature in comparison to other methods, such as medications, seed cycling will take some time to show it’s effects. You may even need to trial a few cycles to really see some changes. In the meantime, you are still treating your body well by nourishing it with a great source of good fats, fibre and minerals!

Some of you may be sick and tired of period pain, acne, hormonal changes after coming off the pill, PMS and more, so while seed cycling might help to start balancing things out for you, you may need something a little stronger and faster. Hormonal imbalances require a holistic approach in treatment to address the multiple factors that they may arise from, such as stress, diet, inflammation and more. I’ve found that acupuncture and herbs are amazing for addressing hormonal health, and seed cycling is only one of the many techniques that I send my clients home with to work on in-between sessions.

To find out how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you out, send me an email at kiah@healthspaceclinics.com.au.

Or, click the button below to get started with making an appointment!

 

References

(1) Bedwal RS, Bahuguna A. (1994). Zinc, copper and selenium in reproduction. Experientia, 1994 Jul 15; 50(7):626-40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7386123

(2) Horrobin, D. F. (1993). The Effects of Gamma-linolenic Acid on Breast Pain and Diabetic Neuropathy: Possible Non-eicosanoid Mechanisms. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 48, 101–104.

(3) Jahan, N. A., Dourandish, N., Askary, V. R., Kamachali, A. R. K., Sabbagh, A., & Jahani, F. S. (2011). A potential medicinal importance of zinc in human health and chronic diseases. Clinical Biochemistry, 44(13), S323–S324. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2011.08.795

(4) Lephart, E. D. (2015). Modulation of Aromatase by Phytoestrogens. Enzyme Research, 2015(c), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/594656

(5) S, L. L. et al. (2011). NIH Public Access, 62(2), 208–219. https://doi.org/10.1080/01635580903305375.Dietary

(6) Wang, T.-A., Wang, N.-H., Kang, Y.-P., Jou, H.-J., & Wu, W.-H. (2018). Sesame Ingestion Affects Sex Hormones, Antioxidant Status, and Blood Lipids in Postmenopausal Women. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(5), 1270–1275. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.5.1270

Acupuncture

TCM and Acupuncture Facts

1. Chinese Medicine has been around for over 2100 years!

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) involves a range of medicine practices that were developed in China around 2000 years ago. The earliest known record of Chinese Medicine is in the Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) from the 3rd Century BCE.

2. You can fit 20-30 acupuncture needles inside a hypodermic needle/medical syringe.

Many people fear that acupuncture is a painful treatment, however, acupuncture needles are very small and often painless- some are the size of a human hair! Commonly used sizes range from 0.12-0.25mm, so you can actually fit 20-30 acupuncture needles in the opening of a medical syringe! (1)

3. Acupuncture doesn’t only help pain.

Although acupuncture has been found to be effective for pain conditions such as chronic low back pain and headache (2), acupuncture has been used for centuries for a wide range of conditions. I have seen great results in the clinic in areas of women’s health and fertility, mood disorders, sleep issues, digestive health, skin conditions and much, much more! Chinese Medicine is a holistic, complete system of medicine that focuses on providing balance to the whole body, which means TCM practitioners are trained in assisting all of your health concerns.

4. Chinese Medicine treatments are completely tailored to you and your body!

Traditional Chinese Medicine is highly individualised, meaning that two people with the same symptom may receive very different acupuncture points, physical therapies and/or herbs. A comprehensive health history and understanding of your body is needed to make a diagnosis in TCM, and treatments will differ to address what your body needs.

5. TCM Practitioners undergo extensive professional training.

To become a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner, you must complete a four to five year full-time Australian bachelor degree program in acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine. These courses provide a comprehensive knowledge of both Traditional Chinese Medical and Western Medical theory and practice. All Australian acupuncturists are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and accredited by another independent Health association.

Diet & Digestion

Tea, coffee and TCM

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Tea, coffee and TCM

In Chinese Medicine, we are all about warm drinks. As you may or may not know, this is because the body finds it easier (from a TCM perspective) to digest things that are already at a warm, body-friendly temperature. When we drink cold beverages, such as cold or icy water from the fridge, our body has to spend extra time warming this up, which uses more energy and slows digestion. Plus, drinking warm beverages is like an internal hug for your organs and their function!

But what are the benefits of different types teas? I’ve put a little list together of my personal favourites, and what I use them for with Chinese Medicine and research in mind: *
  • Peppermint tea: has a cooling effect on Heat and Phlegm conditions. I love drinking this tea in times of anxiety or stress where I feel hot and overwhelmed (with palpitations and clamminess).  I also enjoy it when my sinus is playing up, or tonsils are a bit sore and red. In modern times, peppermint tea is recognised for its antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral properties, as well as positive effect on the digestive tract.
  • Green tea: has a cooling nature, which is great for relieving Heat. I drink green tea daily as it is not only delicious, but is great for busy, mental workers like me to reduce anxiety, while also benefitting mental function and memory. Most people know that green tea is high in antioxidants and lowers cholesterol- what’s not to love?
  • Black tea: is known in Chinese Medicine for it’s gentle nature and ability to move Qi and harmonise the Stomach. This means having a cup of black tea is great when your tummy feels a little obstructed and sluggish.
  • Fresh ginger tea: one of my favourite teas! Ginger is so warming and supportive for both our Qi and Yang, and helps to reduce feelings of nausea. I love drinking ginger tea throughout winter to keep me warm and cozy! Tip: dried ginger is more powerful and warming.
  • Cinnamon tea: another lovely, strongly warming tea. It is great for those with Yang deficiency and cold in the body as it warms the channels strongly (great for cold hands and feet). It is packed full of antioxidants, has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic effects!
  • Chrysanthemum tea: is great to drink when you are feeling a cold or flu coming on, or have blurry vision and/or red eyes. This is because chrysanthemum nourishes the Yin and fights off Wind and Heat in the upper body (cold and flus in TCM). I like to add in some dried goji berries if I’m drinking this for my eyes! Research supports the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of chrysanthemum, which aligns with the above TCM thinking.
  • Licorice root tea: is a sweet little pick-me-up for when I’m feeling tired or weak and my digestive system is on the sluggish side. In TCM, licorice root is used in most herbal formulas to support digestion and strengthen the Qi. I wouldn’t recommend drinking this every day, and those with hypertension and nausea should avoid this herb.

What about coffee?

Coffee has a hot nature in Chinese Medicine, with a bitter and sweet flavour. These qualities mean that drinking coffee can provide the body with warmth, stimulate mental activity and the Heart. However, coffee is also a diuretic, which means that we will need to urinate more often. Many people with an underlying Qi or Yang deficiency, who may experience cold hands and feet, tiredness and dizziness will tend to drink coffee for it’s benefits on their energy and warmth. However, coffee begins to affect the body negatively in excess. The stimulant nature and heat of coffee, combined with its diuretic effect means that coffee can be quite drying for the body.

I usually recommend a limit of one coffee per day, followed by at least one glass of water to prevent drying out our Yin.

 

*This list is not medical advice, and teas should not replace proper medical care. This is simply a list of teas that I enjoy using, and you should consult your health care provider before adding these in to your diet excessively. Always opt for organic and pure teas!

Diet & Digestion

Top TCM tips for healthier eating

Top TCM tips for healthier eating

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Supporting the Spleen and Stomach

TCM believes that the Spleen and Stomach are majorly responsible for our digestion and the break down of food/drink. There are many ways we can support these organs so that our digestion works best.

Here are my top Traditional Chinese Medicine tips for optimal digestion:
 

1.    Eat 80% warm and cooked foods and warm/hot beverages
The body has to work harder to warm up and break down raw and cold foods and cold drinks, so eating foods that are warm and cooked ensures that your Spleen and Stomach can work faster and more efficiently to extract nutrients from what we eat.

2.   Practice moderation; eat until you are around 70-80% full.
When we overeat, our bodies are forced to work harder and faster to try and digest the excess food we eat. A lot of the time, our bodies struggle to handle this extra workload, and this leads to Qi Stagnation. Symptoms of Qi Stagnation include bloating, abdominal pain, gas, indigestion and reflux.

3.    Eat at regular intervals during the day
The Spleen and Stomach work best with a repetitive schedule. If we aim to eat our meals at similar times each day, our body is able to prepare by producing essential enzymes and other substances which help to make digestion that much easier, and run more smoothly.

4. Focus on your meal
When we eat, our minds should be relaxed and focused on our meals. Try to avoid eating when in a rush or on-the-go, stressed, angry or busy. Sit down and appreciate your meals without the distraction of mobile phones, TV, and life's stresses. This will help your organs to digest and absorb the nutrients from your food, and avoid stagnation.

5. Avoid excess greasy, oily, fried and spicy foods
In TCM, too much greasy, oily and fried foods can lead to the formation of what we call Dampness. This is excess fluid that can result in symptoms of loose bowel motions, heaviness of the limbs and bloating. Too much spicy and hot foods such as lamb, chilli and curries can lead to the formation of Heat or Fire within the body. The key is balance.