Did you know that seeds may contain hormone balancing compounds that may help regulate and balance your menstrual cycle?
While I'm the first to admit that there is no 'one size fits all' and no short cuts to health, I do believe what Hippocrates said: 'Let food be thy medicine'. I believe it is always wise to first use food as a way to health. So, I've written about seed cycling here because seeds are amazingly healthy, and even if they don't magically cure your menstrual issues, you'll be eating more of these little nutritional powerhouses.
Seed rotation may be useful for many hormonal challenges like PCOS, acne, abnormal bleeding (very heavy or very light), infertility, PMS, irregular periods and sleep issues. Of course best results are experienced when your lifestyle is balanced in a holistic way.
The modern seed rotation protocol comes from Lindsey Jesswein, a graduate of the National College of Natural Medicine. According to Jesswein, it’s because seed hulls contain lignans, a polyphenol found in plants. These, she writes “help modulate the hormonal pathways of the body.” So let's take a closer look at the interesting protocol of seed cycling.
The two classic phases of our menstrual cycle
For the purpose of seed cycling or rotation, we'll divide your menstrual cycle into the two classic menstrual phases.
Then we'll have a look at the four seeds and how to cycle them.
The first half of your cycle is called the follicular phase. It typically runs from days 1-14 or until ovulation. Day one is the day you start menstruating. In the follicular phase you shed the lining of your uterus and start growing a new layer. You also are prepping an egg in your ovary to be released at ovulation. At this time, estrogen is rising and is supposed to be its highest at ovulation, so here's where we'll eat seeds that boost estrogen.
The second half of your menstrual cycle is called the luteal Phase. This is from ovulation until the day before you start your next bleed. Our rhythm and cycles can be different, and typically ovulation takes place 11-14 days (and up to 16 days) before menstruation depending on the length of your cycle. In this phase we want to boost progesterone, because this is what the egg needs to be fertilized and implanted. When you are low in progesterone during your luteal phase, your body may show up with signs that are consistent with estrogen dominance and you may experience PMS, breast tenderness, mood swings and a heavy flow.
What if you don't have a regular menstrual cycle or you are on something like the merina? Well then you can use other methods to determine where in your cycle your body actually is by monitoring your temperature and cervical mucous. You can then start to cycle your seeds at the appropriate time.
Menopausal women and anyone with an absent or very irregular cycle can start the follicular phase at new moon and continue for about two weeks, switching then around full moon to the luteal phase. Once your cycle become more regular, you can start cycling according to your own cycle.
The seeds used in seed cycling
The hulls of seeds contain lignans which are said to help modulate the hormonal pathways. The oils in seeds are called essential fatty acids and they may provide the building blocks for steroid hormone synthesis.
As each seed contains different quantities and variation of lignans and essential fatty acids (EFA), we can use these seeds to provide the body with a variety of precursors it needs to create 'normal' hormonal cycles.
During the follicular phase, you'll eat 1 tablespoon per day each of flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. During your luteal phase, you'll rotate your seeds to 1 tablespoon per day of sunflower and sesame seeds.Once you've got the hang of seed cycling you can even add EPA, DHA and GLA (other healthy fats) for added benefit. Remember always consult your health practitioner before radically changing your food intake.
I recommend seed cycling for at least 3-4 cycles as his is typically when you start to see some changes and benefits.
Follicular Phase Seeds
Flax seeds (also known as linseeds) have been consumed for over 6000 years, making them the world's first cultivated superfood. Their benefits include dietary fibre, one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids, Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), anti-oxidants, lignans, and alpha-linolenic acids. They help to improve digestion, and may decrease menopausal symptoms and hormonal imbalances. Because they are the number one source of ALA, they promote a clearer skin and help to reduce sugar cravings. They have even been said to reduce cholesterol by increasing the amount of fat in bowel movements.
Flax seeds must be ground to break their shell so that you can utilize the nutrients, otherwise they form a gel like texture on their surface and they just pass through your system and you poop them out whole.
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and also in lignans and have been known to promote breast health. They are high in fiber, manganese, magnesium, copper, thiamine and vitamin E. They are also rich in anti-oxidants, and delicious!
During your follicular phase eat 1 tablespoon of (ground) flax seeds and one tablespoon of pumpkin seeds per day. It's super easy and there are so many simple recipes for health balls and snacks available. You can simply grind the flax and use it in your morning porridge, yogurt, salads and smoothies. You can toast the pumpkin seeds and add them to salads, stir frys or eat as is.
Luteal Phase Seeds
Sunflower seeds are especially high in vitamin E and selenium as well as phenolic acid. These are great anti-oxidants. Sprouted sunflower seeds increases their protein content. Sunflower seeds are said to help with reducing inflammation, manage blood sugar and assist with heart health.
The lignans and vitamin E are both thought to help to manage estrogen and boost progesterone and are therefore most useful during the second half of your cycle, the luteal phase.
I love making sunflower milk and when soaked and blended well you don't need to strain it and can use this in smoothies and to make chia pudding.
Sesame seeds have been linked to athletic recovery and reduction of inflammation. Who doesn't love a good tahini? Sesame seeds are so easy to sprinkle on just about everything and add a lovely earthy taste.
They are high in selenium and vitamin E which is super useful for supporting progesterone production.
How to get started
* Find yourself some fresh raw and preferable organic seeds from a reliable source. Store them in a cool dry pantry or even the fridge. This will ensure they don't go rancid.
* When grinding, try to do this every couple of days and store the unused ground seeds in the fridge. They should keep for 2-3 days.
* Look for some recipes of your favourite kinds of foods so that you can creatively and easily add these into your daily meals and snacks.
* Consider making your own seed butter, seed milk, hummus and tahini recipe, and bulk prep items for the week if you need to so that you know they are always on hand.
* Seeds, like nuts are best eaten raw instead of roasted, buy hey, you may jut toast them sometimes and add them to your favourite foods.
* Be consistent. If you want to make a real go at seed cycling, consistency is key. And really, they are inexpensive, healthy and delicious so once you get started it's really quite fun!
So, who's going to start seed cycling with me?
Tomorrow I'll share 5 recipes to get you started.