Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med)
Seed cycling is, in a nutshell (excuse the pun), a method of using certain seeds to support female hormones during the different phases of their menstrual cycle. Seed cycling has been used to support women suffering from absent periods, PMS, infertility and perimenopause symptoms as well as providing healing support for chronic conditions like PCOS and endometriosis. Seed cycling harnesses ‘food as medicine’ to support the intricate hormonal dance that occurs in a woman’s body in a delightfully inexpensive and non-invasive way.
• 1 Tbs Flaxseeds
• 1 Tbs Pumpkin seeds
• 1 Tbs Sesame seeds
• 1 Tbs Sunflower seeds
How this works
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. Its recommended that you have the seeds ground fresh before consuming. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to do this is to add them to a morning smoothie. This way they are blitzed to a finely ground liquid gold that’s easy to get into my diet.
The First Phase (Days 1-14)
Day one of the follicular phase is your first day of bleeding with your period. During the follicular phase, estrogen should rise. Estrogen is needed to stimulate the endometrial lining to thicken in preparation for a fertilised egg to embed. Without fertilisation this lining will shed, you will bleed, 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. Ideally day 14.
Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens, phytoestrogens are a plant-based source of estrogen that adapt to the body’s estrogen levels. They increase estrogen levels where needed, yet they also can decrease excess estrogen in the body. This is thanks to the lignans they contain, which bind to estrogen receptors and help to modulate estrogen production. Flaxseeds are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the body.
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, and so then you will enter into the luteal phase. The luteal phase should last at least ten days, any less may indicate low progesterone levels and possible concerns with fertility. During this phase, estrogen should drop and progesterone will rise. Progesterone is needed to enhance the uterine lining (endometrium) 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 act on modulating estrogen and progesterone levels within the body. They are also a great source of omega 6 to be converted into GLA in the body. GLA is anti-inflammatory and helps to balance out female hormones.
Sunflower seeds are rich in selenium, an antioxidant mineral that supports liver function and the elimination of excess hormones. Without the appropriate detoxification of hormones, they can be reabsorbed and enter back into the bloodstream, creating imbalances. Sunflower seeds also contain omega 6’s to convert to GLA.
Things to Remember
With anything relating to hormones, it's important to know that to see results and improvements it takes time. You won't see the results within a day, or a week, but rather over 2-3 months or more. The time it takes will depend greatly on your current hormonal health and health history. For women who have been on hormonal birth control for some time it’s expected to take longer than someone who has had only minor hormonal imbalances.
Additional considerations to seed cycling are addressing lifestyle factors that may be affecting hormones. Stress is a huge factor to address. Cortisol, our main stress hormone uses the same precursor that’s needed to create progesterone and estrogen, so under stress, the body will focus more on making cortisol at the expense of those hormones. Over-exercising, undereating or other underlying pathology also have a part to play, and for these conditions I strongly encourage you to work with a trained practitioner such as a Nutritionist (like myself!).
Got questions or need more information? Get in touch and let’s chat!