Nutrition and Seed Cycling for Healthy Hormones

Seed cycling is an all-natural technique that combines the best of nutritional and naturopathic practices to restore hormonal balance for women. Think of seed cycling as a form of menstrual biohacking (a way to optimise our health using nature and science). 

The concept behind seed cycling is that these particular seeds carry important oils, vitamins and minerals to support the production and elimination of key hormones – these being estrogen and progesterone. There is an extensive body of research that demonstrate the benefits of specific seeds for women’s hormone health and health conditions. We are thrilled to see new research conducted on seed cycling as a practice including a promising review published in January 2021 on seed cycling for PCOS. 

For the purposes of seed cycling, we break it down into two phases or check out my videos to deepen your understanding. Phase 1 Menstrual-Follicular Phase   During Phase 1 you are consuming pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds which are briming with healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and essential nutrients including zinc and selenium. 

Phase 2 Ovulation-Luteal Phase  During Phase 2 you are consuming sesame seeds and sunflower seeds which have healthy Omega 6 fatty acids & Vitamin E (which plays a big role in balancing our nervous and endocrine system). They work together to keep estrogen levels in check. 

Here are some of the specific benefits of seed cycling seeds:  Lignans  Flax seeds and sesame seeds are sources of lignans, which are precursors to phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens can help regulate estrogen levels in humans, and in particular they may inhibit estrogen levels from getting too high in the luteal phase.  

Omega-3 Fatty Acids  Flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are also sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory, and important for liver function, muscle function, mental health, brain function, eye health, and heart health.  

Magnesium  Flax, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds are all good sources of magnesium, which is needed for breaking down estrogen for elimination, gut function, muscle function, sleep, and mood.  

The anti-inflammatory nature of both omega-3 and magnesium, and their role in muscle health make them important for improving period pain. 

Zinc  Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are sources of zinc, which increases production of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which triggers ovulation and the production of progesterone - so zinc is naturally progesterone-boosting.  

Iron  Pumpkin and sesame seeds are sources of iron which is important for energy and nervous system health, and as it’s lost in menstrual blood it’s important to replenish your iron store each cycle. 

Manganese  A strong antioxidant that’s essential for bone health and thyroid function, manganese is found in all seeds but pumpkin seeds are a particularly good source. 

Vitamin E  Pumpkin and sunflower are sources of this powerful antioxidant that boosts progesterone and corrects progesterone-estrogen imbalances.  

Selenium  Sunflower seeds are one of the best food sources of selenium, which is important for cognitive function, heart health, thyroid health, and is a powerful antioxidant. Selenium is also found in sesame seeds. 

Calcium  Sesame seeds are a good source of calcium, which is needed for bone health, muscle function, nervous system function, and the release of hormones. Getting enough calcium can reduce period pain, because of its role in muscle function. 

Fibre  All seeds are about 10% fibre (except chia seeds which are about 34% fibre!) We need fibre for proper digestion, and to feed beneficial gut bacteria for gut health.  

Because the gut removes excess estrogen, a healthy gut and digestion is important for hormone balance. Fibre is especially important in the luteal phase because that’s when the body is removing excess estrogen. And, the progesterone peak in the luteal phase can cause constipation, so fibre is important to counteract this as well. 

Fibre also keeps us feeling full for longer, and slows down digestion so we get longer lasting energy from our food - this keeps our blood sugar balanced which is good for hormone balance. 

Healthy Fats 

Seeds are a rich source of heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, in addition to the omega-3 fatty acids we talked about earlier. The fat in seeds also helps to make them filling and keep blood sugar balanced. 

What are some other ways to support healthy hormones? 

Nutritionally there are other beautiful foods you can use to support the phases of the menstrual cycle. 

Let’s run through the phases of the menstrual cycle and foods that can support hormone health during this time: 

Menstrual Phase - As we bleed, we want to support iron levels. I like to incorporate seaweed, kidney beans and my absolute favourite is liver pate. Raw cacao is also amazing as it is a natural antioxidant which is great for blood sugar levels & it is one of the best plant-based sources of magnesium. (The Seed Cycle Brownie Mix has raw cacao, just one of the reasons we love it so much!) 

Follicular Phase - Focus on proteins such as eggs or tofu whilst incorporating healthy fats such as olive oil & avocado. 

Ovulation -To optimise the detoxification of estrogen from your liver, focus on fiber rich vegetables dark leafy greens such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, kale & brussels sprouts. 

Luteal Phase – Add complex carbohydrates such as rice, buckwheat & sweet potato. This is important as complex carbs create an amino acid called tryptophan which is a building block to serotonin our happy hormone. 

Doctors and Hormone Experts on Seed Cycling 

“Seed cycling has long been used to support women's hormones by supplying them with the nutrients they need at specific phases of their cycle. I recommend seed cycling for hormone balance in both my clinic and book, Beyond the Pill, because it is an effective and gentle way to support women's hormones. 

Seed cycling provides the specific nutrients to help build your hormones. As you'll read in my book, Beyond the Pill, I recommend seed cycling at any stage in a woman's life and find it especially helpful for women coming off of birth control or struggling with post-birth control syndrome symptoms like acne, irregular periods, or new onset of PMS. 

To use seed cycling you need to know a few things. You’ll be tracking your menstrual cycle and changing your seeds to match the phase you are in. Day one is the first day you experience your period (there is a flow). That will be the day you begin the follicular phase seeds and you’ll continue through ovulation or day 14.” 

– Dr Jolene Brighten, Functional Medicine Naturopathic Physician, published January 9, 2019. 

“Here at The Natural Nutritionist (TNN) we use seed cycling as a natural technique to stimulate and balance the sex hormones required for menstruation, through consumption of different types of seeds throughout the month.” - The Natural Nutritionist, published June 25, 2019. 

"Try seed cycling, Some women have experienced reduction in hormonal symptoms by consuming certain seeds as part of their cyclical routine.” - Alisa Vitti In The Flow, published in 2020

By Melissa Kovacevic

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