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Seed Cycling: Food as medicine for women’s hormone health

By Tilly Wardale
from Earth and Seed Nutrition

Choosing foods for their medicinal properties is a form of traditional medicine that has been practiced since the dawn of time. In the world that we live in today where we’re exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals and the standard Australian diet is lacking in fibre and other essential nutrients, it’s no wonder that the menstrual cycle, hormones, and fertility are being impacted. Seed cycling uses four types of seeds to support women’s hormones in each half of the menstrual cycle.

What is Seed Cycling?

Seed cycling is the practice of consuming two different pairs of seeds in each half of your menstrual cycle. In the first half of your cycle – the follicular phase – you consume 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds and 1 tablespoon of flax seeds each day for the first 2 weeks of your cycle, or until ovulation.

In the second half of your cycle – the luteal phase – you consume 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds and 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds each day, until your next bleed.

In a 28-day menstrual cycle, each phase lasts for 2 weeks, but realistically most women don’t have a perfect 28-day cycle. The follicular phase can be the most variable part of your cycle, but generally the luteal phase is roughly 14 days long.

If you have a regular cycle, or if you know when you ovulate via tracking cervical mucous or basal body temperature, continue with the phase 1 seeds until ovulation then proceed with the phase 2 seeds for the last two weeks of your cycle.

How do they work?

Each of the four seeds contain bioactive compounds which can help to maintain healthy hormone levels throughout the menstrual cycle. In the first phase, pumpkin seeds contain phytoestrogens to support oestrogen levels in the lead up to ovulation, while flax seeds contain lignans and are high in fibre which support the healthy metabolism of oestrogen. In the second phase, sunflower seeds contain vitamin E and selenium, which are both antioxidants and can help reduce pain in the premenstrual phase and prevent excess oestrogen. Sesame seeds contain zinc which is needed as a building block for progesterone, the calming hormone, in the luteal phase.

How to use the seeds?

The seeds are able to work their best when ground into a fine meal consistency. This allows for better absorption of the nutrients and constituents in the seeds, especially for flax seeds which have a hard shell and will just pass through the digestive system if left whole. You can buy flax seeds already ground up as flax meal, but for the other seeds you may need to blend them up yourself.

That being said, for pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, if you prefer to eat them whole and this is going to increase the chances of you actually having them every day, the best way to eat them is the way you enjoy the most.

You can add your ground seeds into smoothies, oatmeal, salads, on top of curries or pasta dishes with some nutritional yeast, or you can add them into baking. The options are endless when it comes to ways to incorporate you seed blends into cooking!

Seed Cycling with irregular cycles or in perimenopause

Even if you don’t have a regular cycle, whether that’s due to a condition like PCOS or amenorrhea, if you’re breastfeeding, or going through perimenopause, you can still see some benefits from seed cycling. If you fall into this camp for any reason, there’s a few options for how you can use seed cycling.

Option 1: Best for if you have irregular cycles, but know when you ovulate

  • Begin phase 1 seeds at the start of your period, and switch to phase 2 after ovulation, which you can confirm via cervical mucous or basal body temperature.

Option 2: Best for those with long, irregular cycles or post-menopause

  • Seed cycling in sync with the moon. With the new moon, start phase 1 seeds, switching to phase 2 with the full moon. This is a beautiful way to connect with the cyclical nature of the earth.

Option 3: Best for those who want a no stress option

  • Mix all 4 seeds together in a jar, and have 2tb/day, every day. There is no “wrong” way to seed cycle, and no downsides to having the seeds at different times.

If you’re struggling with hormonal imbalances or PMS, seed cycling is a great way to use food as medicine to support your hormone levels in each phase of your cycle, and to connect to your cycle on a deeper level. Seed cycling is also just one of the many tools that we nutritionists have in our belt. Natural therapies and nutritional medicine are excellent for managing hormone health and women’s health naturally.

More about the author

Tilly Wardale
Tilly Wardale
– Earth and Seed Nutrition

I’m a clinical nutritionist with a passion for helping women understand and embrace their menstrual cycles. I grew up with natural medicine as the go-to for most ailments, and wish to share my love of food as medicine with my clients and all those I meet. I see clients face to face in my clinic in Canberra, and via Telehealth Australia wide.