Have you heard of seed cycling? It’s one of my absolute favourite “food as medicine” life hacks for getting your cycle back on track, balancing your hormones, and helping to reduce many of those cheeky hormonal symptoms that us ladies can often experience. PMS, bloating, tender breasts, cycle irregularities, hormonal acne, hormonal issues after coming off the pill… yep, the works! It’s something I most definitely try to incorporate into my daily food routine and something I recommend to MANY of my patients!
On the back of my last blog post about the perils of Excess Oestrogen, I had so many of you lovely ladies contacting me asking for more info and help with your hormones! So here you go, a nice easy way to help your hormones every day!
So, seed cycling you say…
What on earth is it and how does it work!?
In a ‘nut shell’, it is basically adding certain seeds in to your diet at certain times of your cycle. We’ll get into the specifics in just a moment…
The best thing about seed cycling is that it’s extremely cheap, easy and effective! Plus, it can be beneficial at any stage in a woman’s life, but I especially love it for women who are coming off any type of synthetic hormonal intervention (the pill, Implanon or Mirena/IUD), as a way to help re-balance hormones and click their wonderful natural cycles back into gear.
As a guide to get started with seed cycling, I’ll give you the run down based on an ‘average’ 28 day cycle, but as we are all glorious individuals, your cycle length may be a bit different from this, so just adapt to fit your cycle.
How to start seed cycling for better hormone balance:
Day 1 of your cycle is the first day that your period begins. In a 28 day cycle days 1-13 are generally considered your follicular phase. So, the follicular phase includes the days of bleeding, while shedding your endometrial lining, and also the following days of rebuilding your fresh lining. During this follicular phase, your oestrogen levels increase and a fresh egg is maturing to get ready for ovulation. Ovulation, which typically occurs on day 14, for women with a 28-day cycle, is when we release an egg and this is the end of the follicular phase. The day after ovulation (day 15 in this case), is the beginning of the luteal phase. In this phase, the now-empty follicle that release the egg becomes the corpus luteum, this produces progesterone and helps thicken your uterine lining to make it nice and strong and juicy prepare for possible implantation and pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilized, which is mostly the case, you will then get your period 14 days after ovulation. The lining of your uterus, also known as the endometrium, sheds during your period, and then the cycle starts again!
So how do we incorporate seed cycling to this!?
Let’s start with the Follicular phase: From days 1-14 of a 28 day cycle eat Pumpkin and Flaxseeds!!
From the first day you get your period (day one of your cycle), aim to eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds and raw pumpkin seeds each and every day until day 14 (or whichever day you ovulate in your cycle). These particular seeds help to naturally support your oestrogen while also providing fabulous fibre needed to support healthy estrogen metabolism. It’s an excellent way to create a healthy level of estrogen without leading to excess levels, known as estrogen dominance (which I talked about in my last blog). These wonderful seeds are rich in essential fatty acids and nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and selenium, all necessary to make beautiful healthy, happy and well-balanced hormones!
Flaxseeds in particular are rich in lignans and have been shown to be beneficial for improving estrogen and progesterone ratios, preventing osteoporosis and heart disease in women. Research has also shown that women with PCOS who consume flaxseeds may also experience a beneficial shift in androgens (such as testosterone and DHEAs), which can cause hair loss, acne, and hirsutism for women with PCOS.
There have also been studies showing that cyclical hormonal breast tenderness, like the kind that comes on right before your period, is improved by including flaxseeds in your diet. Some studies have also shown that the lignans found in pumpkin seeds may be beneficial in helping prevent oestrogen dependant cancers like breast ovarian cancer.
Now we move onto the Luteal Phase: From days 15-28 of a 28 day cycle eat Sesame and Sunflower seeds!!
Following ovulation, or on day 15 of your cycle, eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh ground sunflower and sesame seeds each and every day until your next period arrives. This second half of your cycle is your luteal phase, when your progesterone levels rise and peak. Progesterone is the hormone that is wonderful for reducing unwanted PMS symptoms like bloating, mood swings, and hormonal insomnia.
Sesame seeds have been shown to be extremely beneficial for supporting women’s hormones, even through menopause. Sesame and sunflower seeds also contain lignans, essential fatty acids and specific nutrients especially calcium, magnesium and zinc needed to support the hormones that carry us through the luteal phase.
It really is as easy as that!
If you are already adding nuts and seeds to your diet, tossing through salads, adding to smoothies, chia puddings or sprinkling on your breakfast, maybe you can just be a little more specific and strategic about the types of seeds you’re choosing to add in at different times of the month… this helps your body optimise hormone changes and balance throughout the changes of our cycles.
For post-partum mummas, postmenopausal women or those who are experiencing amenorrhea (no period) after coming off the pill or for any other reason, seed cycling can be done by following the moon cycle. Use the new moon as your day 1 and eat flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds. When the full moon arrives, switch to the sunflower and sesame seeds combo.
For anyone new to adding seeds to your diet, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Sprinkle them on salads
- Use fresh (untoasted) tahini as a salad dressing (sesame seeds)
- Add them to your morning oats or chia pudding
- Add them to your smoothies
- Include them into a nut bar, healthy cookie or bliss ball recipe
- Make a fresh nut & seed butter (eg. Almond, sesame and sunflower ‘butter’ with carrot stix or apple wedges as an arvo snack!)
- Make a grain free granola out of nuts and seeds
So there you have it! Seed cycling is an incredibly helpful tool for better health and one of things I love the most is that it has the added bonus of being a totally food-based approach, true “FOOD AS MEDICINE”… My kind of favourite medicine!
Yours in health and happiness.
Ps. Keep an eye out for my “seed cycling’ bliss ball recipes, we will be posting them soon!