Tag: acupuncturist

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

General Health

Understanding and helping stress with Chinese Medicine

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How stress affects the body

In biomedicine:

Life is stressful, and stress is almost unavoidable in the fast-paced, demanding lifestyle of today. The body naturally responds to stressful situations through releasing the hormone cortisol, and initiating the ‘fight or flight’ response, which helps us to make decisions in these situations. However, when stress occurs for long periods of time, and our bodies are constantly in this state of ‘fight or flight’, this can develop in to other conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, headaches, digestive issues, anxiety and depression.

In Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine, stress slows and disrupts the circulation of substances through the body, namely Qi and Blood*. The Liver* is responsible for maintaining the smooth flow of Qi, which is why Liver Qi Stagnation is one of the most common diagnoses we make when we see patients with stress. Common physical symptoms we will see for Liver Qi Stagnation include muscular tension (especially of the neck and shoulders), headaches, discomfort in the sides of the ribs and chest tightness. Other symptoms occur as a result of secondary damage to other body systems, which all become affected when our Qi is not circulating as it should. Digestive symptoms such as loose or hard bowel motions, as well as sleep problems, a lack of energy, depression, anxiety and feelings of heat may also occur with excessive stress.

The relationship between stress and these other symptoms is through the organ-channel relationships and interconnectedness of the body’s systems that is seen throughout Chinese Medical theory. This ancient, holistic view of the body only makes more sense as stress and mood disorders become more prevalent in modern society. Many are beginning to opt for natural relief alternatives such as acupuncture and herbs to relieve symptoms of stress and relax the body and mind.

How can Chinese Medicine help?

Scientific research has been performed to investigate the calming effect that many people experience with acupuncture. It has been suggested that acupuncture stimulates the release of and alters the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which assists in emotional regulation. A study performed in 2015 by Bosch et al. found that acupuncture is effective for improving quality of life, sleep and mood in people suffering from depression. In my treatments, I work with my patients using a combination of acupuncture, herbs, auricular acupressure and lifestyle advice to help them through the hard times and back on their feet.

 

*Note- Organs and substances mentioned in this report relate to the Chinese Medicine understanding of Blood or organ-channel system function, not the Western biomedical concepts. As such, unless there is a Western Medical problem, the organs mentioned in this report are unlikely to show up in blood tests or ultra sounds showing dysfunction.

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The mind is just as important as the body in health.

Acupuncture

What to expect from an appointment with me

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Yay! You've decided that Chinese Medicine is for you and maybe you've even booked your initial appointment with me. Now what?
1. Making your appointment and arriving at the clinic

If you haven't already made an appointment, send me an email at kiah@healthspaceclinics.com.au or call one of the clinics that you'd prefer, and our lovely receptionist will book you in!

On the day of your first appointment, eat a good breakfast and don't brush your tongue (I'll explain this in the next part!) in the morning. Please arrive 15 minutes early to fill out a 'New Client Form' (unless you have done so online), which can be quite comprehensive and long, but helps me to understand the full picture of your health and you as a person.  After this is completed, I'll greet you and bring you through to our treatment room. We will then sit down and the interview process will begin.

2. The interview process

Now one thing that you should know about Chinese Medicine- our initial interviews are long. We are holistic- and this means that we consider the whole body to make a diagnosis and design a treatment plan that addresses the root of your disease- rather than just one symptom. TCM sees the human body as a system, and when one part of that system is affected, many others become affected too! Together, we will go through your New Client Form, your main complaints, and then a general questioning is performed. These questions include pain, fever or chills, urination, bowel motions, sleep, mental health, gynaecology, digestion, thirst, diet and more.

You may think "Why are you asking me about all of this, if I'm just here for one thing?". Well, we see everything as interconnected, and many times two completely different symptoms may have a deep connection that makes sense to us. All factors of your health help us reach our diagnosis.

3. The tongue, pulse and palpation

In TCM, we use the tongue and pulse diagnostically. The tongue is an interior indicator that we are able to view from the exterior- it tells us about things like heat and the state of your Qi and Blood in your body. The pulse is similar, and we study many  aspects of it to help our diagnosis: the strength, tautness of the artery, beats per minute (BPM), and more. We will also touch (palpate) areas of concern, for reasons such as identifying masses, tightness or other textures.

4. Treatment

After the interview, I will ask you to get ready on the bed while I wait outside, and then cover you with towels. I'll put a few drops of a lovely essential oil in the diffuser, and may heat up a heat pack for you if it's cold. Maybe I'll perform a little Chinese massage, gua sha, or cupping to prepare the area for acupuncture if I think you're needing it. Then, once you're all ready, I'll pop some acupuncture needles into a special selection of points chosen just for your condition.

Acupuncture can feel a little strange for first timers. Upon insertion, you may feel a little pinch or pain that will go away in a few minutes. I'll manipulate your needles gently to achieve a De Qi sensation that may be like tingling, pressure, warmth, pulling or achiness. You may feel emotionally vulnerable or sensitive- this is normal as the needles release physical and emotional stress. You're meant to feel relaxed and comfortable, so let me know if I need to adjust anything before leaving you to relax alone for around 20-30 minutes. When the needles are in, try to relax your mind, meditate, or even take a nap!

5. After your treatment

After checking in with you, I will take out the needles and dispose of them. There may be a little bruise or bleeding, which is normal as we have penetrated the skin, but these will go away.  You may feel a little sleepy or spacey after treatment. Take it easy and don't do any vigorous exercise for the day, acupuncture can be draining and we don't want to overload your body. Also, don't take a shower or swim for at least 3 hours after, as we've opened up your pores and left you vulnerable, so stay cozy!

Acupuncture works best cumulatively- that is, when treatments are regular and results build-up upon one another with each session. We will design a treatment plan that outlines what you want to achieve, how we are going to achieve it, and how long we will aim for to reach your goals. Your next appointment is a review of these findings and our plan. Chronic conditions can take a while to tackle, but with long-lasting results. Usually 6-8 treatments is a good place to start. After six treatments, we will review your progress. At this stage, if you're not completely finished with your healing journey, we will continue and try new approaches. If we both agree that you have healed well, we will plan for (usually monthly or bi-monthly) preventative treatments to keep you on track.

Make an appointment today!

Still unsure? Have any questions?