Can Seed Cycling Improve Your Cycle?
Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market
A woman’s monthly cycle is a complicated process that not many women truly pay attention to, with the exception of women with chronic disease, women who are trying to get pregnant, or women who have hormonal complications like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
It’s crazy to think that this happens, for most women, every month for about 40 years and the average woman cannot tell you how her hormone levels are changing, and the difference between the luteal and follicular phase.
This is really a disadvantage for all women because the more you understand your cycle, the better you can move and fuel your body to support this process. Eating and moving right can be the difference between having painful PMS and just slightly uncomfortable PMS symptoms.
The title of this article suggests that something known as seed cycling can make a woman’s monthly cycle “better”. To each woman that will mean something different, so it is important to say that seed cycling will have varying effects on women, and that the effects of seed cycling are targeting the hormonal changes during a typical 28-day cycle.
So what is seed cycling? Read more to find out!
The Root of Seed CyclingIn nutrition science it is well known that some foods like flax and soy are high in compounds known as phytoestrogens. In last week’s article we briefly mentioned that consuming phytoestrogenic foods can have protective effects on a woman. In one study they looked at the effects of these phytoestrogenic foods (specifically flax seeds) within the different phases of a woman’s cycle. What they discovered was a slight increase in testosterone during the mid-follicular phase, and a higher progesterone/estragen ratio in the luteal phase (you can refer to the image below to understand this a little better).
Higher testosterone levels typically presents itself as a higher sex-drive in women (hence the slightly bump around ovulation to give women a little extra encouragement).
The higher progesterone/estragen ratio is also significant. When women have a low progesterone/estradiol ratio in the latter phase of their cycle, this could be an indication of estrogen dominance, which is a risk factor for developing breast cancer, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, infertility, and miscarriages.
By consuming flax seeds and pumpkin seeds during the follicular phase of your cycle, you support healthy production of estrogen and encourage healthier levels of progesterone in the luteal phase.
What About the Luteal Phase?
So if phytoestrogens support the first half of the cycle, then what supports progesterone production for the second half of the cycle?
With seed cycling, it is less-so about directly targeting progesterone, and more so about estrogen. For the luteal phase when women want to have that high progesterone-estradiol ratio, they should aim to consume foods that keep estrogen levels normal (not high), and help to detox the body as it naturally begins to prepare for a new cycle (a detox-ing in its own right).
Sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are the perfect options for this part of the cycle. Sesame seeds have been shown to have a controlling effect on estrogen, blocking excess production of the hormone. Sunflower seeds fill out the other part of this as they are high in the micronutrient selenium, which is important for liver detoxification.
So How and Why Should You Start?
It’s very simple to begin seed cycling. On the first day of a woman’s period she will begin by adding 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed and ground pumpkin seed to a morning shake, or simply have by the spoonful. At day 14, or halfway through her normal cycle, she will switch to 1 tablespoon of ground sesame seeds and ground sunflower seeds.
If you don’t have a regular cycle, or no cycle at all (common with women with PCOS), you can actually use the moon cycles. The new moon to full moon is the follicular phase, and then the full moon to the next new moon is the luteal phase.
As with all new health protocols, the best results will be achieved if a woman in also practicing other hormone-supportive choices. This includes consuming a diet low in processed sugars, high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Exercise is also a major component to any healthy life, but in women it can be especially helpful in balancing hormones.
Seed-cycling can be especially helpful to women who decide to take themselves off of the pill after many years of being on the pill. This is because there is an androgen-rebound that occurs when a woman comes off the pill. This puts her testosterone at a much higher level, and throws the estrogen and progesterone levels way off leading to acne, severe mood swings, and weight gain (to name a few symptoms).
Should Every Woman and Her Tribe Try It?
As with all protocols, exercise regimes, and diets mentioned on the FFF blog, it is entirely up to you to decide if this is something you want to try.
If you do decide to try this out, give it a few cycles to really make up your mind about the effectiveness of it. This is also something that doesn’t need to be followed for your whole life. A woman’s hormones could just need a quick jolt of balancing action to get back to normal levels and then the body can take care of it itself.