Seed cycling is a dietary lifestyle habit that aims to positively improve hormonal health, specifically for women and their menstrual cycle. It is theorised that through altering the consumption of seed types during the menstrual phases, those particular phases then function in a healthier manner.
A woman’s menstrual cycle is a vital sign of health for a woman. It is a monthly indicator of hormonal health and particular irregularities are signs of potential imbalance. The Shift Podcast, Season Two goes into more detail about this, find it here.
As a brief recap, your menstrual cycle consists of four distinct phases:
- Follicular Phase (Days 1-14)
- Luteal Phase (Days 15-28)
Hormones regulate these phases. In particular, oestrogen and progesterone play a huge role in varying degrees. Your ovaries produce both oestrogen and progesterone. They produce two oestrogens known as oestrone and oestradiol. Oestrogen helps the body to develop and release the egg (ovulation), whereas progesterone thickens the lining of the uterus to prepare it to accept a fertilised egg (conception). There are many health benefits to these hormones for women including keeping your bone, hair, skin and nails healthy; preserving memory and assisting in mood regulation; and supporting a healthy immune system.
|Oestrogen||Rises during the follicular phase, and lowers during the luteal phase.|
|Progesterone||Rises during the luteal phase, and lowers during the follicular phase.|
So, back to seed cycling.
Follicular Phase – Days 1-14 (Menstruation)
Flaxseeds (Linseeds) + Pumpkin Seeds
Luteal Phase – Days 15-28 (Ovulation)
Sesame Seeds + Sunflower Seeds
How to Consume
Try adding one to two tablespoons of freshly ground seeds to your diet each day. Refrain from buying the pre-ground packaged seeds as some of the oils are very delicate and it is likely that they are rancid. This is especially true of flaxseed. You can grind up a batch and place in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for two weeks at a time.
- Smoothie ingredients. A great way to do this is by putting them in your blender container overnight with a little water, add the rest of your ingredients the next day. Blend together and enjoy!
- Add to oat or gluten-free porridge recipe.
- Mix into some coconut yogurt or chia pudding.
- Simply put the ground seeds in water and drink it down!
As seeds are very high in soluble and insoluble fibre, make sure you keep hydrated when adding them into your diet, to prevent constipation. The recommendation is at least 2L (eight glasses) of water a day, before taking into consideration exercise output, season (and if you’re sweating a lot) and coffee intake (which dehydrates the body).
For the Science Lovers! … The Evidence!
The science behind seed cycling is lacking, however, it is an age-old practice. Despite there being a lack of research on seed cycling itself, there have been studies conducted on the actual seeds. Each seed contains specific nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids.
- Flaxseeds are phytoestrogenic and have a modulatory effect on your hormones. Research has shown them to be beneficial in PCOS patients, where it can have beneficial effects on insulin and triglycerides. It has also been found to alter oestrogens in a beneficial way, helping the body to eliminate any excesses. Also, flaxseeds are a source of beneficial fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which are beneficial to hormonal health.
- Pumpkin seeds provide a source of zinc and lignans (a phytoestrogen). Research has shown that pumpkin seeds may assist in preventing breast cancer due to their effect on estradiol production and particular oestrogen and progesterone receptors that have effects on hormone-dependent tumour production. Also, it has been postulated that zinc deficiency in women may enhance period pain and cramping due to high levels of prostaglandins. From this, zinc works to inhibit the metabolism of prostaglandins, which in turn assists with blood flow to the uterus to calm uterus contractions and pain during menstruation.
- Sesame seeds provide a source of essential fatty acids, calcium, lignans and other vitamins and nutrients. They have been shown to enhance vitamin E activity, which is an antioxidant. Antioxidants assist in liver detoxification, especially for excess oestrogen. Vitamin E also assists in stimulating progesterone production.
- Sunflower seeds provide a source of vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and copper, which are all supportive of healthy hormonal processes. They also contain plant compounds known as phenolic acids and flavonoids, which are functional antioxidants that are important for liver detoxification for excess oestrogen.
In conclusion, seed cycling is postulated to be an effective way of supporting hormonal health. If you do decide to give this a go, consider buying your seeds organically. Organic food has been found to contain more nutrients than conventional, as well as remove the toxic chemical load from pesticides commonly used on crops these days. For more information on this refer to Episode 8 of the Shift Podcast, Season Two.