Seed cycling is a method of using certain seeds to support female hormones during the different phases of their menstrual cycle. Seed cycling supports women suffering from absent periods, PMS, infertility, cramping, heavy flows and perimenopause symptoms as well as providing healing support for chronic conditions like amenorrhea, PCOS and endometriosis. Seed cycling embodies ‘food as medicine’ to support the intricate hormonal dance that occurs in a woman’s body in a wonderfully inexpensive, non-invasive and easy way.
During the first stage of your cycle, the follicular phase, you consume 1 tablespoon each of both flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds and continue this every day for 14 days. After this, you will switch over to 1 tablespoon each of sesame and sunflower seeds, again every day for 14 days during your luteal phase. If its possible to consume the seeds ground fresh, this is the best way to get all the goodness from them. The way I love to do my seed cycling is in my morning smoothie. This is the easiest way to get them into my diet and get a nutrient dense delicious smoothie too, after all food IS medicine!
THE FIRST PHASE (DAYS 1-14)
Day one of the follicular phase is your first day of bleeding in your cycle. During the follicular phase, estrogen should rise. Estrogen is needed to stimulate the endometrial lining to thicken in preparation for a fertilised egg to implant. Without fertilisation this lining will shed, bleeding will occur and that is what is a woman’s period. Estrogen is also needed to peak for ovulation to occur, and this should ideally happen between days 12-15.
Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens, phytoestrogens are a plant-based source of estrogen that adapt to the body’s own estrogen levels and help to balance them accordingly. They increase estrogen levels where needed, yet they also can decrease excess estrogen. This is thanks to the lignans they contain, which bind to estrogen receptors and help to modulate estrogen production.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, zinc nourishes the ovarian follicles (the eggs) and promotes ovulation to occur. Ovulation is important as it establishes regular cycles and provides a balanced supply of estrogen and progesterone.
THE SECOND PHASE (DAYS 15-28)
Around day 14 ovulation should occur, this is when you will enter the luteal phase. The luteal phase should last at least ten days, any less may indicate low progesterone levels and possible issues with fertility. During this phase, estrogen should drop and progesterone will rise. Progesterone is needed to enhance the endometrium (uterine lining) and to facilitate egg implantation. Estrogen levels may increase again during this phase but when they rise too high they can trigger symptoms of PMS, so the key here is balance. Ideally, progesterone and estrogen should be within a specific ratio. So during this phase, to keep progesterone levels high and maintain hormonal balance the focus is on seeds rich in omega 6 fatty acids that convert over to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) within the body.
Sesame seeds are rich in lignans which effectively balance estrogen and progesterone levels within the body. They are also abundant in omega 6, which is converted to GLA in the body. GLA is anti-inflammatory and helps modulate female reproductive hormones.
Sunflower seeds are rich in the mineral selenium and antioxidant Vitamin E, which both support liver function and the detoxification of hormones. Without the appropriate elimination of hormones, they can be reabsorbed and enter back into the bloodstream, creating toxicities imbalances.
As with anything hormone related, its important to keep in mind that to see change and improvements it takes time. You most likely won't see results with a day, or a week, but rather over a 2-3 month period. Don't be disheartened by this, the endocrine (hormonal) system is complex and delicate. The time it takes will also be influenced by your current hormonal health and general health history. For those who have been on hormonal birth control for some time it will take a little longer than someone who may have only had minor hormonal imbalances. Seek out guidance from a practitioner (like myself) if you need support navigating the complexities of the hormonal system x