Seed cycling is all the rage in the world of hormonal health (pardon the pun) and for good reason! It’s an inexpensive, down to earth and straight forward habit for taking control over your hormones.
In case you haven’t heard, healthy ovulation and menstruation is critical to women’s health and not just in terms of making babies! The information in this guide can be beneficial for both ovulating and menopausal women.
Seed cycling is used to maintain a regular menstrual cycle and restore balance to hormones including oestrogen and progesterone. Sex hormones such as these have specific requirements for essential fatty acids and minerals for both their structure and function!
A couple of key characters in the menstrual cycle saga are:
- is essential for maintaining healthy bones and muscles
- is involved in serotonin balance – for a happy mood and restful sleep
- is required for libido and reproduction
- is needed to promote relaxation and sleep
- helps to regulate energy and metabolism
- is important for clear skin
- is vital for pregnancy
Seed cycling works by alternating different types of seeds during the different phases of your cycle, to provide the body with a timely dose of essential fatty acids and nutrients.
Take a tablespoon of each seed and blitz in a coffee grinder to break down the seeds effectively. The ground seeds can be added to your morning smoothie, on top of oats, avocado, yoghurt or as a garnish on soups and curries. Adding the ground seeds once daily is ideal.
Day 1 – 14 (Follicular phase)
+ Flax seeds (linseeds)
Flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which combat the inflammation that can contribute to cramping pain before or during your period (Rahbar, Asgharzadeh, & Ghorbani, 2012). They’re also a great source of phyto-oestrogens which help to modulate the activity of oestrogen – increasing activity when it's deficient and competing with oestrogen when there is excessive production (Lephart, 2015).
+ Pepita seeds (Pumpkin seeds)
Another source of fatty acids, pepitas are a wonderful food source for zinc, which is required for progesterone secretion as well as for regulating androgen levels (such as testosterone) (Jahan et al., 2011).
Day 14 – 28 (Luteal phase)
+ Sesame seeds
Similar to flax seeds, sesame seeds contain lignans, which can assist with modulating hormone levels in both menstruating and menopausal women (Wang, Wang, Kang, Jou, & Wu, 2018). Sesame seeds are also mineral dense, containing magnesium, zinc, calcium and selenium. These minerals in addition to fibre are required by the liver for healthy detoxification and excretion of hormone metabolites (Maruti.S, 2011).
+ Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds not only yield minerals but contain essential fatty acids which can be converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA has been shown to be effective in alleviating pre-menstrual breast tenderness (Horrobin, 1993).
Seed cycling tips:
Buy organic, whole seeds rather than pre-ground seeds. Flax seeds, in particular, are very sensitive and the fatty acids within can oxidise quickly on exposure to too much heat or light! Once ground, store any excess in an air-tight container in the fridge to preserve the anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids and prevent them from becoming pro-inflammatory!
If you are experiencing painful periods, PMS or other symptoms whilst on the pill, chat to a health professional for advice. Balancing hormones can be a lengthy process – allow 3-4 cycles before expecting changes to occur. In addition to seed cycling, consulting a Naturopath or Nutritionist to take a look at your diet and lifestyle, identify potential causative or exacerbating factors can speed things up and get your menstrual cycle at its best.
Horrobin, D. F. (1993). The Effects of Gamma-linolenic Acid on Breast Pain and Diabetic Neuropathy: Possible Non-eicosanoid Mechanisms. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 48, 101–104.
Jahan, N. A., Dourandish, N., Askary, V. R., Kamachali, A. R. K., Sabbagh, A., & Jahani, F. S. (2011). A potential medicinal importance of zinc in human health and chronic diseases. Clinical Biochemistry, 44(13), S323–S324. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2011.08.795
Lephart, E. D. (2015). Modulation of Aromatase by Phytoestrogens. Enzyme Research, 2015(c), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/594656
Maruti.S, L. L. et al. (2011). NIH Public Access, 62(2), 208–219. https://doi.org/10.1080/01635580903305375.Dietary
Rahbar, N., Asgharzadeh, N., & Ghorbani, R. (2012). Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on intensity of primary dysmenorrhea. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 117(1), 45–47. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgo.2011.11.019
Wang, T.-A., Wang, N.-H., Kang, Y.-P., Jou, H.-J., & Wu, W.-H. (2018). Sesame Ingestion Affects Sex Hormones, Antioxidant Status, and Blood Lipids in Postmenopausal Women. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(5), 1270–1275. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.5.1270
Alexandra (Lexie) McPhee is an Endeavour College of Natural Health Alumni and qualified, practising Naturopath. Her special interests include writing, communication with the natural world, the history of medicinal plant use and creating her own herbal oils and salves.
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With roots in ancient European civilisation, naturopathy has been practised since the early 19th Century as a holistic Western medicine that encompasses traditional wisdom with modern science to treat the body naturally.