If you have an irregular menstrual cycle, you understand the strain that it can take on your health. For those of you who suffer with Catamenial Epilepsy (seizures related to the changes in the menstrual cycle), the focus on your menstrual cycle becomes all consuming. Although naturally balancing your hormones and restoring a regular menstrual cycle is key for good health, it is especially important for those working toward seizure recovery. Finding things that you can easily incorporate into your day and diet is like adding more arrows to your quiver in your fight to get your menstrual cycle balanced and working as it should. Because real food is best for real healing, it is important to understand how something as simple as adding flaxseed to your diet can make a huge difference in balancing your period, thus balancing your hormones, thus helping to recover Catamenial seizures! That’s why this information is so exciting – there is now evidence that flaxseed can be beneficial to your menstrual cycle!
Balancing Your Hormones For A Healthy Menstrual Cycle
Because of the changes in hormones throughout the month, all kinds of things can affect your menstrual cycle. Unbalanced estrogen to progesterone ratios, estrogen dominance, stress, inflammation, toxicity and many other factors can play a part in your hormone health and how those hormones affect your menstrual cycle. In working with women from all over the world to re-balance and restore a proper menstrual cycle, I continue to find more and more information to aid them in taking their health into their own hands. Step away from the synthetic birth control pills to balance hormones (not the way to go for a whole host of reasons), and learn tips that are beneficial your menstrual cycle.
In the world of balancing hormones naturally, one of the biggest concerns is the huge amount of people (both men and women) suffering with estrogen dominance. In the simplest of terms, estrogen dominance occurs when a person’s estrogen is too high (yes, this can happen in males – think ‘man boobs’), progesterone is too low, or the balance/ratio between estrogen and progesterone is not healthy. For quite some time, those worried about their estrogen levels have been told to avoid flaxseed as it may add to their estrogen load. That has always been sad news to me, because as we have continued to keep my daughter seizure free she has always avoided flaxseed and has missed out on its many benefits. When you are trying to maintain a seizure free lifestyle (3 years now!), you don’t rock the boat with something new when things are going well as you are managing them!
Now, however, a growing body of evidence suggests that the metabolites in flaxseed may provide health benefits due to their weak oestrogenic or anti-oestrogenic effects.
Flaxseed Can Be Beneficial To Your Menstrual Cycle
In one clinical trial, hormone levels and menstrual cycle parameters in women consuming 10g flax seed per day were examined for the duration of three menstrual cycles (comparing with three menstrual cycles in the same women where no flax was consumed but diet remained otherwise the same). For each woman, the second and third cycles were examined.
There were two important findings:
1) There were no anovulatory cycles (0/36 cycles in 18 women) in women consuming flax seed compared with three anovulatory cycles during the control phase (3/36 cycles in 18 women, anovulation occurred in three different women). Anovulatory cycles are a big issue in relation to catamenial epilepsy, so having this information to avoid missing a period is huge!
2) The those who consumed flaxseed found that their luteal phase (after ovulation when your ovaries release an egg and before your period starts) was 1.2 days longer than with no flax seed consumption. According to the study, 1 woman had a shorter LP by 1 day, five women had no change, one had half a day longer LP, five had a 1-day longer LP, two had a 1.5-day longer LP, and one each had 2, 2.5, 3.5, and 4.5 day longer LPs! These results suggest that consuming flax seed daily might be the perfect thing for women trying to regulate periods, lengthen their luteal phases (another tool to add to the short LP ‘quiver’), and recover catamenial seizures!
When hormone levels were examined, there were no significant changes in any hormones, which is great when you are concerned about adding to an estrogen load: estradiol (E2) in the early or mid-follicular phase, or progesterone or estradiol during the luteal phase. Testosterone levels during the mid-follicular phase were about 10% higher, a significant difference. The researchers speculated this might affect the luteal phase length. There was also a 25% higher progesterone to estradiol ratios during the luteal phase (non-significant 10% higher progesterone and ~15% lower estradiol combined to give a significantly higher P/E2 ratio under flax seed consumption). This could potentially explain the longer luteal phases. Raising the progesterone to estrogen ratio is also a must for catamenial seizure recovery!
Because studies show flax alone has the potential to reduce stress hormones (which negatively affect seizure thresholds) as well as having a positive effect both on the follicular phase (including ovulation) and the luteal phase (after ovulation to day 1 of bleeding) of the menstrual cycle. With the reduction of stress hormones and perceived stress, along with other health benefits and no seemingly adverse consequences, in my humble opinion, it seems that there is no reason to avoid adding flaxseed to your regimen as you work on restoring a missing menstrual cycle and to aid in normalizing irregular menstrual cycles.
This is different from the ‘seed cycling’ recommendations that are so popular right now, because instead of making yourself crazy trying to figure out what seeds to take when, just eating ground flaxseed every day (the other seeds could be added as you like) might be beneficial. Buying flaxseeds and grinding them yourself right before consumption will yield the most benefit in that you are receiving the fresh oil from the flaxseeds as it is released during the grinding process.