menopause made modern

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I’ve been seed cycling for about two months now and have made some interesting and noteworthy observations. Overall, I’ve been doing pretty well…that is to say, that after a two-month cycle (which was really more like 6 ½ weeks given my particular flow…pun intended), I only missed five (non-consecutive) days. This included a couple of overnight business trips, so I think I deserve some grace there. Even so, that leads me into my first key takeaway…


Takeaway #1: Don’t let perfect be enemy of the good…


I was able to find all of my seeds (i.e., flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame) pretty easily at my local Whole Foods. The first three, I was able to get from the bulk bin section, while the sesame seeds (you want raw, not toasted) were in a prepackaged shaker in the seasoning’s aisle, where you find the salt and pepper. I already had a cheap coffee grinder at home (which hadn’t actually been used to grind coffee in about three years, thanks to the wondrous blessing that is the Nespresso® coffee maker – VertuoLine – but I digress…).


The naturopathic recommendation is to consume freshly ground seeds every day, because ground seeds contain lignans, which bind more efficiently to excess hormones. Going into it, I knew that the grinding everyday thing was going to be a problem for me, so I decided I would grind my seeds every 2-3 days and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. For the most part, this has been working just fine (see “cons” later in this post).


Takeaway #2: Think ahead and make a plan!


It may not sound like it, but making sure you get in your two tablespoons of freshly ground seeds everyday takes some forethought. Especially if you’re not a daily smoothie or green salad consumer, which I’m not. Because I’m also intermittent fasting on a 16:8 cycle (more on that in a future blog post), I had to be extra thoughtful about when and how I was going to consume my seeds within a limited 8-hour feeding period (typically Noon-8PM).



I work outside of my home and there have been a few days that I’ve forgotten my seeds at home (argh!). This means that I’m limited to consuming my seeds with my last meal of the day, which, depending on the meal, could be a disaster (think Lean Cuisine and Pizza night). Apart from these unfortunate “brain fog” days, most days I do okay with the seamless integration of seeds into my lunch time salad or late afternoon Greek Yogurt snack (coconut preferred).


Takeaway #3: Shed embarrassmentPeople are going to judge…get over it!


My job is pretty relational, which means I find myself in professional social settings, like business lunches and dinners about once or twice a week. Though we’re well beyond it now, the lunch and dinner circuit is pretty amplified during the holiday season, which is of course when I decided to start my seed cycling experiment. During this time, there were several evenings that I had work dinners outside of the house, and because I either forgot or hadn’t planned accordingly throughout the day, dinner was my last chance of the day to get my seeds in.


While I tried to be stealth with it, sidling out two Ziploc bags of seeds to sprinkle over my surf and turf dinners, (understandably) elicited some quizzical glances and a few raised eyebrows. On one occasion, an inquisitive soul had the gumption to ask me about it, which surprisingly led to a very lively and impassioned discussion about the need for more research and options for managing women’s hormonal health. Hear! Hear!


As for the other speculating, yet less inquisitive observers, I’ll just have to be resigned to being dubbed the “seed lady” – a not so-loving moniker given to me by 15 year-old son. About a week into my process, during dinner one night he blurted out, “That’s disgusting. It looks like you dropped your dinner in the sand.” He wasn’t wrong. Even so, his words were dripping with the judgement of repulsion, a sentiment which pops up in my insecure thought bubble whenever I have to pull out my seeds in public (the horror!).


Two Months In: The Pros and Cons


Naturopaths advise that it can take up to three to four months before you realize the full benefits of seed cycling. After two months (and as early as three weeks in), I’ve already experienced some pretty significant benefits that have made the process worth the effort.


Pros:

· No premenstrual acne (AWESOME)

· Fewer chin hairs (THANK GOD)

· Shorter period with lighter flow, i.e., four days w/light spotting from five days w/significant spotting) (ALWAYS A GOOD THING)

· Noticeably less hostile during tail end of period – just about everyone in my orbit has noticed to the point of commenting (THE BEST)


Cons:

· Thinking about and planning for when you’re going to have your seeds everyday (ONE MORE THING TO REMEMBER TO DO)

· They sometimes ruin/detract from your meal (SAND IN YOUR FOOD CAN BE UNPLEASANT)

· Grinding seeds is messy (FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE LIVED THROUGH A RENOVATION, THINK “SAWDUST”)

· Cleaning the grinder is a pain (FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS)

· Absolutely NO effect on my night sweats (ARGH! THE SEARCH CONTINUES)


I’ve Got the Need -- the Need for Seeds


In terms of the actual seeds, I definitely prefer the weeks of pumpkin and flax seeds – mostly because they taste better – or more specifically, their flavor profiles are subtler and better integrate with a wide range of food. Unlike sesame and sunflower seeds, both of which have a pretty distinct taste (and can be pasty), whether alone or integrated with other foods. On the upside, because I’m on a 25-day cycle, I really only have to eat the sunflower and sesame seeds for about three weeks, give or take a day or two.


Not long into the process, I accepted that if I was going to have any chance of successfully integrating this natural approach to balancing my hormones into my lifestyle, then I couldn’t be fanatical about it, or I’d likely buckle under the pressure of precision. I realized that there were days that I might not get my seeds in, and that my kitchen was going to be covered in seed dust because I wouldn’t have the energy to sweep it up, or some aloof stranger was going to judge my odd and unseemly dietary practices. WHATEVER.


After two months, I’ve definitely experienced some benefits of seed cycling that make it all worthwhile. But honestly, when I think about the fact that I could be in perimenopause for another five years (or more), it seems like it would be a lot easier to take a pill or two, rather than grinding and sprinkling my food with seeds Every. Single. Day. Even so, I’m committed for now, because it’s working. Now, on to the night sweats…


Another year come and gone, and another year of my peri odyssey completed! Yay! Now, if I only knew how long this witch is planning to stay around…


Since it seems like she plans to stay awhile, I was encouraged to see several new entrants and voices emerge in the menopause community last year, like the National Menopause Foundation, Perimenopause Hub, and perry., an online community that “wants to unf*ck perimenopause…” (you already know that I’m down with that). And the impressive growth of some more established players like MegsMenopause and Gennev (which has raised more than $5M on VC circuit), is a positive sign for the future of women’s wellness and menopausal health.


While these are all different resources with different value propositions, they’re ALL GOOD FOR THE CAUSE because it means that the conversation is growing and awareness – and support for those of us who need it -- are on the rise. The more attention and light we can bring to the topic, the better, and I’m excited to see what new contributors will emerge in 2020.


Speaking of 2020, while I tend to reject New Year’s resolutions (it’s really just to be counter), the first of the year is inarguably a time of reflection for most – and of course, I’m no different.

So, while they’re not resolutions per se, I have been thinking on a list of things I’m absolutely going to do more of -- and at the top of the list: continuing to be proactive in managing my own experience with perimenopause, and trying new solutions that address my symptoms and improve my overall quality of life. This includes experimenting with things like, seed cycling (look for an update to my 11/17 post in the weeks ahead), intermittent fasting (bloat be gone!), and CBD oil (sleep is possible!), while still struggling to conquer some pretty vicious night sweats and bouts of rage (though, noticeably less frequent…thanks to the seeds).


Anyway, I wanted to wish a Happy New Year to all (five) of you that have been tracking with me on my journey. It’s been an interesting ride… Here’s to a better menopause in 2020!




Admittedly, I’ve been pretty good about venting about what’s going on with me, but not so great at actually doing something about it. Honestly, that’s my life M.O. – so, not so unique to this whole perimenopause thing. But when I think about what’s keeping me from doing something, anything, to feel even moderately better, I keep coming back to fear. Yeah, the ghastly and dreaded “F” word that holds so many of us captive from the well-being and happiness we deserve. Even so, with his familiar and seductive hold – it’s getting pretty old.

It’s the tail end (I think) of my menstrual cycle, and pretty much like clockwork, I’m feeling inappropriately hostile. Things were going along pretty well on days one through three…but then, day four hits and oh boy, WTF?!?! EVERYTHING IRRITATES ME…and I’m over it. So, while I think I’m ready to do something about it, the question I’ve been wrestling with, is what???


On my last visit to the OB-GYN (seven months ago), I talked to him about the hostility and the night sweats. He assured me this was normal “for [my] age” and probed about the extent to which these things were affecting my everyday quality of life. I told him that I was concerned about the intensity and consistency of them both – the hostility was affecting my engagements at work and the relationships in my personal life. And the night sweats, well, the night sweats were keeping me from getting a restful night’s sleep (along with a full bladder), and on the worst nights actually break my sleep altogether, because I have to get up and change the sheets…


He offered that EstrovenTM might be a good option for me, or some other OTC drugs that include estrogen and progesterone. I ask him about supplements next, and it’s pretty clear he has a strong bias against them -- although his reasoning about “the countless number of unregulated supplements that lend themselves to counterfeit,” made pretty good sense to me. I then asked him about low-dose birth control pills. And he paused for a minute, and said that he hadn’t recommended them before because of my history with fibroids (I’ve had two myomectomies in the past five years). But he quickly follows up with, “you’re older now” so the propensity for fibroids lessens with age…”Let’s try it. And if the fibroids grow, we’ll address it then.”


So, I’ve had the pills for six months now…in fact, they auto renew every three months and for some reason, I recently picked them up when the pharmacy called to let me know that my next 90-day supply was ready for pick up. And now I have a six-month supply of low-dose birth control pills, which I’m scared to take (ah! My old friend, Fear), because the notion of ANOTHER myomectomy or worse, a HYSTERECTOMY, completely stifles me.


Well, last month I attended a women’s summit in Northern California (an "un-conference conference") where I was introduced to the concept of seed cycling by a naturopath during a workshop on women’s hormonal health. Basically, it entails adding seeds – pumpkin and flax during the first 14 days of menstrual cycle and sesame and sunflower during the second half of the month -- to balance your hormones.


I was intrigued by the concept and have decided that, despite the fact the discipline this practice requires (it can take up to 3 months to recognize the benefits) just adds another thing for me to think about and do EVERYDAY. Even so, I’m going to give it a try... “Do or do not! There is no try!” – Well okay inner Yoda! I’m going to do it for at least 90 days. If nothing else, it’ll be an action I’m taking and something to write about along the way. I’ll also reap a range benefits of adding “healthy” seeds to my diet…YUM! And, if, at the end of three months I feel the same as I always have, I have a stockpile of low-dose BCPs to try next. Will keep you posted.