Seed cycling is a wellness practice which involves consuming specific seeds during the two main phases of your menstrual cycle (follicular and luteal) to help promote the healthy balance of sex hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone. Sex hormones require specific nutrients for their structure and function, and by alternating the type of seeds consumed according to the phases of the menstrual cycle, the body is provided with the vital nutrients it needs to synthesise the relevant sex hormones.
Seed cycling is a gentle, natural way to support the restoration or maintenance of a regular menstrual cycle, reduce PMS symptoms, improve fertility and alleviate other symptoms that arise because of hormone imbalance. Seed cycling can be used at any stage of a woman’s life (including post-menopause); however, it is particularly beneficial when coming off hormonal birth control or when struggling with post-birth-control symptoms including acne, irregular or missing periods and PMS.
To better understand the practice of seed cycling, you first need to understand the two main phases of your menstrual cycle. The first half of your menstrual cycle (menstruation to ovulation) makes up the follicular phase, while the second half of your cycle (ovulation to menstruation) makes up the luteal phase. The lengths of these two phases can vary between individuals. When your hormone levels are well-balanced, oestrogen levels rise during the follicular phase and slowly decline during the luteal phase, while progesterone rises during the luteal phase.
FOLLICULAR PHASE (MENSTRUATION TO OVULATION)
Flax seeds – ground, 1–2 tbsp/day
Flax seeds are a great source of phytoestrogens and lignans which help to regulate oestrogen levels by increasing oestrogen activity where deficient (phytoestrogens) and competing with oestrogen activity where there is an excess (lignans).
Pumpkin seeds – ground 1–2 tbsp/day
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc which is required for the formation of the corpus luteum, responsible for the synthesis and secretion of progesterone as we move towards the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Zinc is also important for regulating androgen levels, including testosterone.
LUTEAL PHASE (OVULATION TO MENSTRUATION)
Sunflower seeds – ground, 1–2 tbsp/day
Sunflower seeds are high in the trace mineral selenium which supports the detoxification and elimination of oestrogen via the liver. This helps to reduce excess oestrogen during the luteal phase, while progesterone rises.
Sesame seeds – ground, 1–2 tbsp/day
Sesame seeds are another rich source of zinc which helps increase the synthesis and secretion of progesterone. However, they also contain lignans which help to block excess oestrogen while progesterone rises.
Additionally, flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds are all very rich sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids which combat the inflammation that can be associated with pain and cramping during ovulation and menstruation.
SEED CYCLING TIPS AND TRICKS
- It is recommended that you consume 1–2 tbsp/day of the specific seed in a ground form.
- Raw organic ground seeds really are best. Buy organic, whole seeds rather than pre-ground seeds and grind them yourself using a coffee or spice grinder as this helps your body to digest them better. Being raw organic seeds, they are more likely to have retained their nutrients and haven’t been exposed to chemicals and pesticides which can be disruptive to hormone levels.
- If you are unable to grind the seeds, incorporate them whole. Whole seeds are better than no seeds, with the exception of flax seeds which cannot be broken down or absorbed if consumed whole.
- Once ground, store any excess in an air-tight glass container in the fridge to preserve the omega-3 essential fatty acids and prevent them from becoming oxidised.
- Track your cycle. It is best to rotate seed consumption with your unique menstrual cycle and to do this you need to track your cycle.
Some creative ways to incorporate seeds into your diet include:
- adding seeds to smoothies, yogurt, oats/porridge, muesli, granola etc
- making your own muesli or granola with seeds
- sprinkling seeds on top of toast, nourish bowls, salads or soups
- making your own seed butter
- adding seeds to homemade dips.
Balancing hormones can be a lengthy process. You need to allow a minimum of 3–4 cycles of consistent seed cycling before expecting changes to occur. Hormone balance is also a delicate and complex process. While seed cycling is very effective, it can often be beneficial to work with a naturopath, who can determine exact hormone imbalances and prescribe additional treatment to further optimise hormonal balance.
Would you like help balancing your hormones? Get in touch with us by making a booking with one of our naturopaths today!
Written by Perri Baldwin BHSc