Balancing hormones can be an incredibly tricky task. It takes a lot of time, and it requires addressing many different aspects of our lives. It seems like almost everyone I talk to is interested in balancing out their hormones, and it’s something that I am personally working on as well. Balancing hormones can help with a number of different symptoms, including acne, irregular menstrual cycles, amenorrhea, infertility, post-menopausal depression, PCOS…the list goes on. With the widespread use of hormonal birth control, our overly stressful lifestyles, the large number of hormone disruptors present in our personal care products, and a number of other hormone disruptors found in everyday life, hormonal imbalances are incredibly common.
Recently, my friend Meg Doll has been seed cycling to help balance her own hormones and work on getting her period back, which she talked a lot about on this week’s episode of Straight Up Paleo podcast (you can listen on iTunes or at this link). Since I am also dealing with amenorrhea right now, I was incredibly intrigued. Getting your period back can be a very long process that requires many different lifestyle changes, so any natural method of getting hormones back on track interests me.
I went to Dallas a few days after recording that podcast episode to visit my co-host, Kara, and I found out that her step-mom has been seed cycling as well. She noticed improvements within only a month of starting – her horrible migraines disappeared. Meanwhile, I found out that even more of my friends have started seed cycling, as well!
With all of this seed cycling talk, Kara and I decided to look into it a bit more. It’s incredibly simple, and it’s a totally natural, whole-foods based approach to balancing hormones. There doesn’t seem to be much scientific data on its efficacy, but why not give it a shot? Since I am very focused on healing my own hormones right now, I’m totally open to any sort of holistic approach that might help! Kara and I decided that we would try it out, and we’re both starting this week! We’re going to be chatting about it more on Straight Up Paleo, so stay tuned!
What even is seed cycling? It’s exactly what it sounds like. You cycle different seeds into your diet at different times of the month. Specifically, you eat certain seeds at different points in your menstrual cycle! You might have heard of certain seeds having different effects on estrogen, for example. Seed cycling uses those hormone-affecting properties to promote the detoxification and production of certain hormones at different points in your cycle, to mimic what your body should naturally be doing on its own. For those with hormone imbalances, seed cycling sort of gets your body more “on track” in terms of hormone production.
Like I said, balancing hormones is not an easy thing to do, and one thing alone is not going to fix it. Since seed cycling is such an easy, food-based method that works with the body to help it get back to its normal rhythm, there’s no harm in adding it into my current protocol. Seed cycling isn’t meant to be a quick fix, but rather something that can help show improvements over a few months (apparently 3 or 4), or longer. Again, it’s a supplement to a larger protocol, in my opinion – not a complete treatment or cure.
Women’s menstrual cycles are meant to align with the cycles of the moon. A woman’s usual hormone cycle is typically 28 days long, as is a full lunar cycle. Back in the day, when there were no artificial lights, the changing light of the moon is what sent signals to your brain to “set up” your body’s hormonal rhythms. Ovulation was meant to occur during the full moon, when the nights were the brightest. In other words, when there was a higher chance you’d see a guy you want to mate with. Wink wink.*
Menstruation was meant to occur at the new moon, when there is hardly any light in the night sky. This makes sense – your fertility is at its lowest, so there’s no point in mating. Meanwhile, men’s fertility mirrors this pattern, for everyone’s reproductive convenience.
In order to seed cycle, all you have to do is eat certain seeds that help your body follow these natural rhythms. For the first 14 days of your cycle, which is the follicular phase, 1 tbsp flax seeds and 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds are on the menu each day. You can also add fish oil for extra support during these 14 days. This will be from new moon to full moon.
For the second half of your cycle, the luteal phase, 1 tbsp sunflower seeds and 1 tbsp sesame seeds are on the menu each day. You can also add evening primrose oil for extra support during these 14 days. This will be from full moon to new moon.
If you’re curious about why these specific seeds help, here’s the lowdown. The combination of pumpkin seeds and flax seeds helps your body get rid of extra estrogen that’s usually in your body during the follicular phase, which is the estrogen-dominant phase of your cycle. The lignans in flax seeds bind to the excess, and the zinc in pumpkin seeds helps get your body ready to produce progesterone in the next part of your cycle, while also stopping the estrogen from turning into an unwanted form of testosterone.
Meanwhile, sunflower and sesame seeds work together in the luteal phase, which is progesterone-dominant. These seeds are rich in zinc and selenium, boosting the production of progesterone and helping with the estrogen-progesterone balance in the body thanks to the linoleic acid content. The selenium in sunflower seeds helps with the liver’s detox processes, which creates the right hormonal balance in our bodies, and the lignans in sesame seeds block out extra estrogen.
Here’s how you do it. If your cycle is somewhat regular, start seed cycling on the first day of a new menstrual cycle. So from day 1 of your menstrual cycle to day 14 (your follicular phase), you eat flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Then from days 15-28 (your luteal phase), you eat sunflower and sesame seeds.
If your cycle is really irregular or you don’t have a cycle, then start seed cycling on the new moon to try to sync up with the moon cycle. Again, you would eat flax and pumpkin seeds the first 14 days until the full moon, and then sunflower and sesame seeds the next 14 days until the next new moon.
I made this little graphic to make it easier!
The seeds are supposed to be mixed and ground fresh, from raw and organic seeds. However, I personally think as long as you get in 1 tbsp of each type of seed on the assigned days, you’re good. Technically, the oils in the seeds can go rancid if they’re not ground fresh, but I say just do your best. Being realistic, I know I personally am not going to ground up fresh seeds every single day. If you can, GREAT! If not, I wouldn’t sweat it. I think it’s more important just to get the seeds in your diet any way that works for you!
Another thing that’s important is to not eat phase 1 seeds during phase 2, or vice versa. It might confuse your body!
You can easily look up the moon’s current phase on the Internet. I’m actually going to start seed cycling myself at the next full moon, which will be October 5, 2017! Since I’m starting at a full moon, I’ll be eating 1 tbsp sunflower seeds and 1 tbsp sesame seeds per day for 14 days, then switching over to pumpkin and flax.
Some ideas for incorporating these seeds into meals:
- sprinkle them on top of salads
- put them in or on smoothies
- put them in yogurt bowls
- flax bread / flax muffins / tahini bread, etc.
- make a seed “crust” on proteins
- flax crust pizza
- flax puddings
- dip veggies in the seed butters
- Make sauces and dips with the seeds
- pumpkin seed pesto, for example
I’m incredibly excited to try out this little experiment and see if it helps at all with balancing my hormones. Why not give it a shot?! I love to be my own guinea pig. If you’re interested in joining in on seed cycling, I’d love to hear how your experience goes! I’ll be sharing how I incorporate them on my social media, and I’ll keep you all updated if I notice any changes!
Have you tried seed cycling before? I would love to hear about your experience!