Denise Pines is the President of the Medical Board of California, founder of and co-author of FemAging 2020.

Menopause is a physical and emotional ride even when nothing else in the world is going on. So COVID-19 puts us at greater risk in both areas. Our stress levels already run high during menopausal years because we feel we can’t control what’s happening to our bodies. The weight of this moment is raising our stress and anxiety to new heights. Overnight we went from going to the office to working from home, college kids returning home, running to the grocery stores to stock our pantries and freezers, wearing face masks, no longer greeting someone with a hug or a handshake, washing already dry hands with obsession and worrying that you’re the prime target age for this out-of-no-where virus that has no cure.

So how do we chart a course into the unknown during our COVID 19 menopause?

Some of us are secretly happy to claim this unexpected time out. Consider the collectively exhausted older woman who hasn’t been taking care of herself—now she can. And I don’t mean getting your hair and nails done, I mean making an appointment with yourself to guarantee that the quiet time and space needed to give to ourselves is not compromised by constantly being on call for others. Other women find they are working even harder virtually, unconsciously weakening their immune systems at the very time we need our bodies to be strong.

Midlife is when nutrition and physical movement become even more important. It’s the time chronic diseases get diagnosed, maintaining healthy weight is difficult, and our value at work often diminishes. The current Covid-19 lockdown restricts aging women’s normal physical activities due to gym, park and beach closures. Our craving for Corvid-19 comforts during these increasingly stress-filed times, leads us to consciously or unconsciously increase our consumption of sugar and alcohol.

In Los Angeles, the city I live in, the Mayor announced that Angelinos will be sequestered until May 15th and even then, parks, beaches, restaurants and retail will have very limited access. So what can we do? Start today and take daily walks, challenge yourself to cook healthier meals, substitute a mocktail for a cocktail, start a journal, begin it with being grateful to be alive, move furniture around, read a novel, begin a garden, make a bucket list, clean the closets, start a hobby, finish something you’ve put off for years, sign up for a class on Udemy, listen to an inspiring TedTalk, get lost on the Internet, enroll in online yoga, meditation, or rhythmic breathing, download a new app, but don’t cut your bangs. You get my point, be creative, reconnect with yourself and make a change now not later that honors the life you’ve been given. This is the wise pause butterfly effect that will help you reap blessings for many years to come.

Becoming Wise,


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.


· 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)


· 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)


· 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!

menopause made modern

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