Seed Cycling is a practice of eating a combination of specific seeds throughout the different phases of the menstrual cycle to promote hormonal harmony. The nutritional content of which, help support, regulate, and clear our hormones (specifically Oestrogen and Progesterone) throughout the cycle.
If your cycle is out of rhythm and your hormones feel out of balance, introducing seed cycling is a way of providing your system with bi-phasic (covering both phase 1 and 2) menstrual cycle support, and is a beautiful way to help your hormones recalibrate.
If we think about it, seeds are in fact, nutrient-rich powerhouses, brimming with essential nutrients (containing all the stuff necessary for the growth of a plant). Why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of their nourishment?
An orchestra of hormones
The female endocrine system is orchestrated by an intricate composition of hormones (chemical messengers). When our hormones are in balance, this will translate to a regular, 28 day menstrual cycle that runs smoothly, with little disturbance. This would typically be characterised by an absence of (or very minimal) menstrual cycle symptoms.
Generally speaking, when oestrogen and progesterone (which act as key influencers in the menstrual cycle) are out of whack -for example, if we’re producing too little or too much of either, or having metabolic or clearance issues -our natural rhythms can go awry.
With too little oestrogen, we may find the endometrial lining is too thin, and we can wind up not actually ovulating. On the other hand, when we have oestrogen in excess, we may be prone to erratic periods, mood disorders, and conditions such as Endometriosis and Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which are all too common.
Progesterone is an antagonist of oestrogen, so it keeps oestrogen in-check. It also acts as a building block for the synthesis of other hormones. A deficiency in progesterone (often due to excess oestrogen in the system!) can lead to late and irregular cycles, infertility, PMS (especially mood disturbances and sore breasts), low libido, and more.
Our endocrine system is highly sensitive. So our stress levels, quality of sleep, physical activity, blood glucose regulation, nutrition and nutrient deficiencies or excesses, levels of toxicity, and ability to detoxify -can have either a positive and stabilising influence on our hormonal health, or a disruptive one.
When our hormones are not in balance, we can experience an array of psychological, emotional and physical symptoms. PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is a common term used to label these changes, and can typically summarise anything from: fatigue, anxiety, decreased stress tolerance, low mood/depression, irritability, food cravings, digestive disturbances, an irregular cycle or amenorrhoea (absence of menstrual period), sore/lumpy breasts, feeling “emotional” or emotionally unstable, foggy thinking, food cravings, digestive disturbances, abdominal pain, back pain, migraines, and the list goes on…
Understanding the Menstrual Cycle
Our menstrual cycle is made up of two phases.
Phase 1 (the ‘follicular’ phase): spans from the time of your last period to ovulation (approx. the first 14 days or two weeks of the month), and is when oestrogen in the system is building up to encourage the uterine lining to plump up in preparation for possible implantation.
Phase 2 (the ‘luteal’ phase): is the time between ovulation and menstruation (days 15-28, or the second half of the month), when progesterone surges to increase libido around ovulation, maintain the uterine lining (endometrium), and ultimately, to support a developing embryo.
Here’s how Seed Cycling works…
The nutrients in the seed combinations encourage oestrogen production needed for the follicular phase; promote progesterone release in the luteal phase; and support healthy hormonal metabolism and detoxification from the system.
Do allow a good 3-4 cycles or months to begin seeing and feeling results. You may find it helpful to track your hormones by taking a daily note of your symptoms, along with their severity (rating them from 1-10, for example).
In a Nutshell…
All of these seeds share common properties. Perhaps most important, is their ability to help regulate our endocrine system. They are all also rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are necessary for hormonal production and regulation, and have an anti-inflammatory influence in the body. They are a beautiful plant-source of protein, which is needed for hormonal synthesis, and also blood glucose regulation (blood glucose dysregulation is a feature of many hormonal, mood, and stress-related conditions). They are also a great source of soluble and insoluble fibre -which is important for gut health (also mood) and for the elimination of toxins and excess hormones, which can be a major driving factor in hormonal imbalances.
Linseeds + Pumpkin seeds are used to promote phase 1
· Linseeds: contain high levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs), anti-oxidants (protective) and lignans -which are fibre-like compounds that act to moderate oestogen production, and prevent oestrogen excess.
Interestingly, linseeds can also exert a phyto-oestrogenic effect, which supports oestrogen levels in the system. This is a beautiful example of how balancing wholefoods really are.
· Pumpkin seeds: are high in the mineral zinc, which amongst many other functions, promotes the release of progesterone. They also have phyto-oestrogenic properties + enzyme alpha-5 reductase, which helps to modulate androgen levels (good also inPCOS) + phytosterols.
Sunflower seeds + Sesame seeds are used to promote phase 2:
· Sunflower seeds: provide the mineral selenium, which is a potent antioxidant that helps the liver in detoxification processes and protects reproductive tissues and cells. They also contain phytosterols + fibre, and promote progesterone.
· Sesame seeds: are high in lignans + antioxidants + EFAs + phytosterols (which aid in managing cholesterol by reducing the body’s absorption of unhealthy fats, and are a good cardiovascular and brain nutrient) + nourishing minerals
Daily dosing of seeds:
· During the Follicular phase (first day of bleed – ovulation): Take 1 tbs of freshly ground Linseeds + 1 tbs of freshly ground Pumpkin seeds, daily.
· During the Luteal phase (day 15 - menses): Take 1 tbs of freshly ground Sesame seeds + 1 tbs of freshly ground Sunflower seeds, daily.
Why do I need grind the seeds fresh, daily?
The seeds need to be ground in order to ensure the bioavailablity (how readily absorbed and well-utilised) of their nutrients. Which is why having the seeds whole is not recommended therapeutically.
The nutritional content of these seeds (essential fatty acids, in particular) are vulnerable to being damaged (oxidised) when they are exposed to air, light or heat. This is why storing your seeds in airtight containers, away from light and heat (e.g. sun), and grinding them fresh each day is important.
It is also important for their digestion and absorption, to chew them well.
You can add the seeds to a daily smoothie, your breakfast bowl, coconut yoghurt (it’s good to avoid dairy where possible, in hormonal and inflammation-driven conditions)
Let the moon lead the way
The best way to begin seed cycling and find your way back to your natural rhythm, is to follow the 28 day lunar (moon) cycle. In this way, phase one is the time between the new moon and full moon; and phase two is from full moon to new moon.