One of the most common holistic nutrition tools for maintaining hormone health, but what is it exactly and how does it help?
Menstrual cycle complications such as fatigue, anxiety, bloating, breakouts, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and irregular periods are a common reason for women to seek naturopathic health care. While often frustrating, or occasionally even debilitating, many of these symptoms are often thought of as ‘normal’ characteristics of monthly hormonal changes. While in fact, they actually indicate an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone, the two main hormones responsible for regulating your cycle.
Essentially, seed cycling involves adding different seeds to your diet each day to support a healthy balance of these hormones. One of the best things about seed cycling is that it can be beneficial for a range of hormonal health complaints, but I often recommend it to women who have undergone naturopathic treatment for menstrual cycle irregularities and are at the point of coming off herbal and nutritional medicines. Seed cycling is a great way to independently maintain hormone health naturally once a regular 28-day cycle has been achieved.
A quick recap on the different phases of your menstrual cycle
The follicular phase begins on day 1 of your menstrual cycle, which is the first day that your period begins. As estrogen levels rise during the follicular phase, the egg cell matures in preparation for ovulation. Ovulation typically occurs on day 14 of the menstrual cycle, where the matured egg cell is released from the ovary, making the end of the follicular phase. Following this, on day 15 the luteal phase begins. During the next 14 days, progesterone levels rise helping the uterine lining to thicken in preparation for conception. If the egg is not fertilized the lining of the uterus will begin to shed, marking the start of the next cycle.
So how does seed cycling support this process?
Pumpkin and flax seeds during the follicular phase, from day 1 through to day 14 of your cycle
Beginning on the day your period arrives, consume 1-2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds and raw pumpkin seeds until day 14. These seeds can help to naturally support estrogen levels and promote the release of progesterone, while the fiber and lignan component of the seeds regulates estrogen metabolism. This supports the body to clear hormones and prevent excess levels from building up.
Sesame and sunflower seeds during the luteal phase, from day 15-28 of your cycle
On day 15 of your cycle, following ovulation, consume 1-2 tablespoons of freshly ground sunflower and sesame seeds. The lignans in these seeds help to prevent excess estrogen production throughout this phase, while the selenium content of the seeds supports hormone metabolism and liver detoxification.
Dosing seeds daily
The trick now, is finding a way to comfortably consume these amounts of seeds each day! A breakfast smoothie is an obvious choice, as this allows the whole seeds to the freshly ground immediately before being consumed. By grounding the seeds yourself, you increase the bioavailability of the nutrients inside, and decrease the chance of them becoming oxidized (in which case they would not have the same benefits). Some other ideas include adding the ground seeds to breakfast oats and granola, sprinkling on salads or steamed greens in place of dukkah, or as a snack with fruit and yoghurt.
The point of naturopathic medicine is to get your health to a point where you don’t need to continue to take ongoing supplements to support your health. Seed cycling is an ideal way to maintain the benefits achieved through naturopathic care, by allowing you to take the reins and support your hormone health at home with the power of nutritional medicine.
If you need help balancing your hormones and getting to a point where seed cycling is comfortably maintaining balance, book an appointment with one of our naturopaths now.