I first heard about seed cycling a couple years ago on a natural health podcast and found it very intriguing.
The basic principle of seed cycling is that it is possible to use the primary micronutrients in a few seeds to help balance female sex hormones.
Infertility, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, PMS, acne, fatigue and other problems that have links with the menstrual cycle and female sex hormones are becoming more common. Some of this is due to lifestyle and diet choices, which for some women can cause sub-clinical deficiencies in zinc, selenium and B vitamins – some of the key micronutrients that help build female sex hormones. Adding these micronutrients back in systematically can help restore balance.
What are the female sex hormones and why are they important?
If you think back to your biology classes in high school, there are four phases to a woman’s monthly reproductive cycle. At each phase in her cycle, a woman’s body produces different hormones to support the different activities that are happening in her uterus and ovaries.
- Menstrual phase: Follicle Stimulating Hormone
- Pre-ovulatory phase: Estrogen, Testosterone and Luteinising Hormone
- Ovulation: Luteining Hormone
- Post-ovulatory phase: Progesterone, Estrogen
Good, balanced hormone production is important not only for regular menstrual cycles, but only for stress management. Too much estrogen (known as estrogen dominance) and too little estrogen can both be problematic in their own way.
Some doctors will prescribe the oral contraceptive hormone as a means of hormone balancing. Before going down that route, there are some natural methods, like seed cycling, to consider.
The nitty gritty of seed cycling
You’ll be using flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, all of which have different micronutrients that support hormone production at different phases of the menstrual cycle.
Flaxseeds and sesame seeds: Both seeds contain lignans, a polyphenol phytonutrient which can block excess estrogen production in the body.
Pumpkin seeds: The zinc in this seed supports progesterone release, which is important for having normal, low pain periods. Zinc also ensures that excess estrogen doesn’t convert to testosterone, which can be very problematic, particularly in PCOS sufferers.
Sunflower seeds: The selenium in this seed supports phase 1 liver detoxification (where your liver begins to clear excess estrogen from the body). Selenium also helps produce glutathione peroxidase, a very powerful antioxidant.
How to do it
This can take between 1 and 4 cycles to see an effect, so bear with it. If your cycle is longer or shorter than 28 days, just start the second phase the day you ovulate. Day 1 starts the first day of your period. If you aren’t tracking your cycles already with an app or notebook, I strongly urge you to do so. It’s interesting to look back and see how different events can affect the length and strength of your cycle.
Day 1 – 14 (follicular phase): 1 tbsp flax seeds, 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds – these seeds help your liver clear the extra estrogen that can occur during this time of your cycle and the zinc in pumpkin seeds prevent excess testosterone production.
Day 15 – 28 (luteal phase): 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp sesame seeds – these seeds are rich in zinc and selenium which help progesterone production during this phase of your cycle. They are also high in essential fatty acids, which help balance progesterone and estrogen and support the cell membrane (outer layer) of your eggs.
Take the seeds in the morning if possible, try to get organic seeds and with the flax, try to grind them fresh because the oils in the seeds can go rancid if they’re ground and kept out for too long.
There are so many different ways to have the seeds in the morning.
- Add them to a morning smoothie
- Mix them up with some organic full fat Greek yoghurt
- Make an omelette and then sprinkle them over the top
- Mix them into a morning salad
- Date balls! Try this recipe and add in the relevant seeds for the respective time in your cycle
- Or simply take them with some water
Have you tried seed cycling? Did it work for you?