What Is Seed Cycling ? How Does It Effect Hormones ?Luke Coutinho
With the increasing number of cases of PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in young girls, menopausal symptoms in women and increasing issues of infertility due to Hormonal imbalance, women have started trying all sorts of diets and exercises. Seed cycling is one of the processes tried by many women to help with hormonal correction, regularize periods and alleviate menopausal symptoms.
When you try to find research on the benefits of seed cycling, there are not many scientific papers available. Although in my practice, I have seen many cases where seed cycling has actually worked in improving the condition of my patients. But of course it’s always an integrated approach when it comes to lifestyle along with adding the superfoods.
So what exactly is seed cycling and how does it work?
Seed cycling is a naturopathic approach of having 4 seeds – Flaxseeds, Sesame seeds, Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds on a rotational basis during the period cycle. The seeds are divided in two groups. Flaxseeds and Pumpkin seeds to be had in ground form during the follicular phase. Sunflower seeds and Sesame seeds to be had in ground form during the luteal phase.
Follicular phase :
The day 1 of your period cycle marks the start of the follicular phase which continues till day 14 when ovulation occurs. During this phase estrogen is the dominant hormone as it prepares the body for ovulation. If estrogen is less, it will inhibit ovulation. If estrogen levels are high, it can aggravate the premenstrual symptoms (PMS). When you consume flaxseeds, the phytoestrogens present in them help to regulate estrogen levels. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds which mimic estrogen hormone in the human body. Pumpkin seeds provide Zinc which helps balance out the progesterone as is needed to prepare for the next phase of the menstrual cycle.
Luteal phase :
Day 15 or post ovulation, starts the luteal phase which continues till the first day of your next period cycle. During the Luteal phase, the body needs more of progesterone and estrogen levels go low. Progesterone prepares the body for pregnancy by building up the uterine lining. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, progesterone decreases and lining sheds leading to bleeding hence marking the first day of periods. Consuming sesame seeds helps lower down the estrogen levels due to the presence of a specific polyphenol known as Lignans. Lignans convert into enterolactone in the body which binds to the estrogen receptors thus halting excess estrogen production. Vitamin E present in sunflower seeds helps to boost the progesterone levels. Balanced progesterone levels also help ease menstrual cramp pain.
Once the periods start, you switch back to flax seeds and pumpkin seeds.
For women with irregular periods, in order to keep a track of cycle days, it’s advised to follow the phases of the moon with the first day of cycle on the new moon day. Reason being our body was in sync with the Lunar cycle before the artificial light surrounded us. Women are supposed to be highly fertile around the full moon and the fertility is less around the new moon.
Apart from balancing the hormones in PCOS, research has shown that flaxseeds help to reduce androgen levels (male hormone) which are the causative factor of hirsutism (facial hair) in some females.
For the post menopausal women, seed cycling helps to reduce the symptoms of hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Sesamin, the lignan present in sesame seeds, is converted to enterolactone by the intestinal microflora. Enterolactone has estrogenic activity which suggest sesame seeds consumption helps improve the sex hormone, blood lipids and antioxidant levels in post menopausal women.
Seed cycling corrects the hormonal balance and hence help manage the hormone related clinical symptoms which include:
- Light bleeding / Heavy bleeding
- Low libido
- Painful periods
- Thyroid disorders
But you need to keep in mind that seed cycling is not a replacement of your medications, neither is it a quick fix. It all depends on how the individual body responds to it as every individual is different. Natural things always take time to work as they work on the root cause.
1tbsp of pumpkin – follicular phase
1 tbsp of flaxseeds- follicular phase
1 tbsp of sunflower – luteal phase
1tbsp of sesame – luteal phase
Seeds need to be consumed raw as adding them to a recipe which needs to be cooked will reduce its effectiveness. Also grinding the seeds increases the bioavailability of the nutrients present in them. Soaking the seeds before consumption helps to eliminate the anti nutritional factors like phytic acid and tannins. So, the seeds should be raw, ideally soaked, and ground. It’s also important for people with gut issues as soaking makes the seeds easily digestible. You can sun dry the soaked seeds, make powder and store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator in case you are not able to soak the seeds daily and grind them. But always remember, fresh is always the best.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to how to include them in your diet. You can consume the seeds in various forms apart from just eating them plain:
- Add to your Vegetable smoothies
- Add on top of your salads
- Add in your soups – sprinkle on top while serving. Do not add while cooking as it destroys the nutrients present in the seeds
- Make a seed mixture and have it post meal
Hormonal Imbalance can occur due to Hypothyroidism, PCOS, incorrect lifestyle, sleep deprivation, consumption of junk food, low water intake and chronic stress. Along with the above explained seed cycle, it’s important to work on the root cause. It all comes down to following a correct lifestyle and addressing the root cause. Always remember the hormonal imbalance did not occur overnight hence its correction will also take time. Be consistent, disciplined and have faith. You should observe improvement in your mood, cravings and cramping initially. Later the period cycle will become consistent along with less water retention, reduced breast soreness and very few breakouts.
Disclaimer: The guidelines mentioned above are not a replacement of the medical advice given to you by your doctor. Always keep your doctor in loop if you are planning to try something new.