5 min read
by Meg Loughman | 08/24/2022
Holistic menstrual health is (finally) having its moment. From cycle charting as a way to better understand your hormonal fluctuations, to eating foods that are optimized to the different phases of your cycle, people with periods have been looking for ways to take menstrual matters into their own hands. If you happen to have also found yourself on seed cycling TikTok like I have, then you know exactly what I mean.
So, what exactly is this practice of seed cycling that’s been trending everywhere? We spoke with Kate Morton, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Funk It Wellness, to get the scoop on seed cycling and how the practice of eating different types of seeds based on where you are in your menstrual cycle can help balance your hormones, support fertility, alleviate PMS symptoms, and more.
Of course, while the concept of food as medicine is nothing new, it’s important to note that seed cycling is not proven to be a cure-all for everyone’s hormonal health. Every person’s unique hormones are complex, and while many swear by its successes, there isn’t much scientific evidence that backs up this specific practice.
Still, though, we do know that seeds are jam-packed with nutrients and vitamins that are beneficial for your overall health — they can help promote the reduction of inflammation, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels while providing you with protein, fiber, and more. So, whether or not you find life-changing results from your seed cycling journey, you can rest assured that it’s natural, healthy, and gentle on your body.
Seed cycling is a simple seed rotation ritual that is designed to balance out and support the fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone that occur throughout the four phases of your cycle (menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, & luteal). The practice involves eating flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds to work with your body’s hormones and the unique rhythms of your menstrual cycle to provide micronutrients that can counteract PMS symptoms, such as bloating, fatigue, acne, mood swings, cramps, and more.
Since your body is more efficient at processing nutrients from real food, it makes sense to get your vitamins and minerals through food rather than pills and supplements. Seeds are the perfect nutrient-dense vessel, hence the practice of seed cycling coming into prominence.
To kick things off, let’s do a quick refresher of the four phases of the menstrual cycle and what research says about nutrition in each of these phases. Keep in mind that everyone has a different cycle length, and that the days listed below are just an average.
menstrual phase (days 1 - 5ish): Menstruation marks the first day of your menstrual cycle, starting off strong with the first true bleed day of your period (cue sliding into a pair of your comfy Thinx period underwear). At this phase, our hormones are low and our energy may be a little low too. Opt for warm, cooked foods to support slower digestion, and foods that are rich in both iron and vitamin C to support blood loss. It can also be helpful to load up on anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, turmeric, flax seeds, and salmon. (Hello, omega-3s!)
follicular + ovulatory phases (days 6 - 14ish): The follicular phase begins after you stop bleeding, and estrogen levels start to pick up. Then, about halfway through your cycle, ovulation occurs. You may feel your energy returning and the digestive system revving up! Your body is more insulin-sensitive in this phase and you may notice your body craving foods like sweet potatoes and quinoa. Your body also can benefit from adding in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, to help with estrogen excretion.
luteal phase (days 15 - 28ish): The luteal phase can get a bad rap, as it’s traditionally seen as the PMS phase. In this phase, progesterone — our calming hormone — takes over. Our bodies become slightly more insulin-resistant in this phase, so increasing intake of protein and zinc-rich foods can be beneficial. It is also important to continue to focus on anti-inflammatory foods, like in the menstrual phase, and it can be wise to cut back on caffeine and plan to get an extra hour of sleep in.
When it comes to seed cycling, we break up the menstrual cycle into two halves. In the first half, or from the first day of your period to ovulation, you eat a tablespoon of organic pumpkin seeds and flax seeds every day. In the second half, or from ovulation to the start of your next period, you eat a tablespoon of organic sesame seeds and sunflower seeds daily.
Flax seeds contain lignans, which aid in estrogen release, meaning they bind to excess estrogen & help eliminate it to support balanced estrogen levels. Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, which aids in progesterone production & supports balanced testosterone levels. They’re also rich in antioxidants that help protect your ovaries, eggs, and reproductive system as a whole. Both flax & pumpkin seeds are rich in omega-3 fats, which support uterine blood flow and maintain healthy cell membranes.
Sesame seeds are rich in zinc, which aids in progesterone production and has been found to support dysmenorrhea (painful periods). They also contain lignans and omega-2 fatty acids, which help block excess estrogen. Sunflower seeds contain selenium, which helps improve liver function and remove excess estrogen. They also contain Vitamin E, which may help support progesterone production and overall antioxidant protection. There is new research that shows that the combination of selenium and Vitamin E together may be beneficial for improving ovarian reserves and fertility.
Together, these seeds can help to lower inflammation and create a fertility-promoting environment in your body. Add these seeds to your grocery list, grind ‘em up, and start including them into the meals you are already consuming — like smoothies, salads, yogurt, oatmeal, avocado toast, and more. For an even more convenient way to get your seeds in, the seed cycling kit from Funk It Wellness has pre-ground and -mixed seed blends that make eating based on where you are in your menstrual cycle easier than ever.
Have you ever tried seed cycling? Found any success in lessening your PMS symptoms or boosting your overall hormone health? Let us know in the comments!
Meg Loughman (she/her) is a bayou-born, Brooklyn-based writer & content strategist. When she’s not journaling to lofi beats at a cafe somewhere, she likes to moodboard and partake in slow, luxurious breakfasts. You can keep up with her work on her website and tune into her sporadic dispatches & musings on Instagram.
by Meg Loughman