Did you know that some seeds may contain hormone-balancing compounds that could help regulate and balance your menstrual cycle?
I’m the first to admit that there is no ‘one size fits all’ and no short cuts to health. I also agree with Hippocrates who said: ‘Let food be thy medicine’. I believe it is always wise to first use food as a way to health. Seeds are amazingly healthy. Even if they don’t magically cure your menstrual issues, you’ll be eating more of these little nutritional powerhouses.
Seed rotation may be useful for many hormonal challenges. They may help to support PCOS, acne, abnormal bleeding (very heavy or very light), infertility, PMS, irregular periods and sleep issues. Of course, the best results are experienced when your lifestyle is balanced in a holistic way.
The modern seed rotation protocol comes from Lindsey Jesswein, a graduate of the National College of Natural Medicine. According to Jesswein, it’s because seed hulls contain lignans, a polyphenol found in plants. These, she writes “help modulate the hormonal pathways of the body.” So let’s take a closer look at the interesting protocol of seed rotation.
The two classic phases of our menstrual cycle
For seed cycling or rotation, let’s divide your menstrual cycle into the two classic menstrual phases.
Then we’ll have a look at the four seeds and how to rotate them.
The first half of your cycle is the follicular phase. It typically runs from days 1-14 or until ovulation. Day one is the day you start menstruating. In the follicular phase, you shed the lining of your uterus and start growing a new layer. You also are prepping an egg in your ovary to for release at ovulation. At this time, estrogen is rising and should be its highest at ovulation, so now’s the time to eat seeds that boost estrogen.
The second half of your menstrual cycle is the luteal phase. This is from ovulation until the day before you start your next bleed. Our rhythm and cycles can be different. Typically, ovulation takes place 11-14 days (and up to 16 days) before menstruation depending on the length of your cycle. In the luteal phase, you want to boost progesterone, because this is what the egg needs to be fertilized and implanted. If you are low in progesterone during your luteal phase, your body may show up with signs that are consistent with estrogen dominance. You may experience PMS, breast tenderness, mood swings and a heavy flow.
What if you don’t have a regular menstrual cycle or you are on contraception like the merina? Well, there are other methods to determine where in your cycle your body actually is. One way is by monitoring your temperature and cervical mucous. And you can then start to cycle your seeds at the appropriate time.
If you are menopausal or experience an absent or very irregular cycle, start the follicular phase at the new moon and continue for two weeks. Switch to the luteal phase at the full moon. Once your cycle becomes more regular, you can start cycling according to your own cycle.
The seeds used in seed rotation
The hulls of seeds contain lignans which are said to help modulate the hormonal pathways. The oils in seeds are called essential fatty acids. They may provide the building blocks for steroid hormone synthesis.
Each seed contains different quantities and variation of lignans and essential fatty acids (EFA). You can use these seeds to provide your body with a variety of precursors it needs to create ‘normal’ hormonal cycles.
During the follicular phase, you’ll eat 1 tablespoon per day each of flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. During your luteal phase, you’ll rotate your seeds by eating 1 tablespoon of sunflower and sesame seeds per day. Once you’ve got the hang of seed rotation you can even add EPA, DHA and GLA (other healthy fats) for added benefit. Remember always consult your health practitioner before radically changing your food intake.
I recommend seed cycling for at least 3-4 cycles as this is typically when you start to see some changes and benefits.
Follicular Phase Seeds
Flax seeds (also known as linseeds) have been consumed for over 6000 years, making them the world’s first cultivated superfood. Their benefits include dietary fibre as well as one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds also contain Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), antioxidants, lignans, and alpha-linolenic acids. They help to improve digestion and may decrease menopausal symptoms and hormonal imbalances. Because they are the number one source of ALA, they promote clearer skin and help to reduce sugar cravings. They have even been said to reduce cholesterol by increasing the amount of fat in bowel movements.
Flax seeds must be ground to break their shell so that you can utilize the nutrients. Left whole they form a gel-like texture on their surface and they just pass through your system and you poop them out.
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and also in lignans and have been known to promote breast health. They are high in fibre, manganese, magnesium, copper, thiamine and vitamin E. They are also rich in antioxidants, and delicious!
During your follicular phase eat 1 tablespoon of (ground) flax seeds and one tablespoon of pumpkin seeds per day. It’s super easy and there are so many simple recipes for healthy treats and snacks available. You can also grind the flax and use it in your morning porridge, yoghurt, salads and smoothies. Add them to salads, stir fry or eat as is.
Luteal Phase Seeds
Sunflower seeds are especially high in vitamin E and selenium as well as phenolic acid. These are great anti-oxidants. Sprouted sunflower seeds increase their protein content. Sunflower seeds may help to reduce inflammation, manage blood sugar and assist with heart health.
The lignans and vitamin E may help to manage estrogen and boost progesterone. That’s why they are most useful during the second half of your cycle, the luteal phase.
I enjoy making sunflower milk. When soaked and blended well you don’t need to strain it and can use this in smoothies and to make chia pudding.
Sesame seeds have been linked to athletic recovery and reduction of inflammation. Who doesn’t love good tahini? Sesame seeds are so easy to sprinkle on just about everything and add a lovely earthy taste.
They are high in selenium and vitamin E which is super useful for supporting progesterone production.
How to get started
* Find yourself some fresh raw seeds, organic where possible. Store them in a cool dry pantry or even the fridge. This will ensure they don’t go rancid.
* Grind your seeds every couple of days and store the unused ground seeds in the fridge. They should keep for 2-3 days.
* Look for creative ways to add them to your favourite foods.
* Consider making your own seed butter, seed milk, hummus and tahini. You may even prefer to bulk prep items for the week so that you know they are always on hand.
* Seeds, like nuts, are best eaten raw instead of roasted. But hey, you may just toast them occasionally and add them to your favourite foods.
* Be consistent. If you want to make a real go at seed cycling, consistency is key. And, they are inexpensive, healthy and delicious so once you get started it’s really quite fun!