I have spent several years researching the best ways to eat for the menstrual cycle in an attempt to balance my hormones and, hopefully, get pregnant. During my research, I learned about seed cycling, which is an easy and gentle way to support hormones, balance premenstrual syndrome (PMS) issues, and help regulate a cycle. To seed cycle, you eat specific seeds during each menstrual cycle phase. This helps promote a healthy balance of estrogen and progesterone levels. You may also eat or avoid certain foods and use specific supplements to ensure you get the correct nutrition for each phase.
A regular menstruation cycle begins on the first day of a period and is triggered by the rise and fall of the body’s chemicals (aka hormones). The pituitary gland and the ovaries manufacture and release hormones at specific times that cause the reproductive tract organs to respond accordingly. The typical menses phase lasts from day 1 to day 5. This is when the lining of the uterus is shed and can last from 2 to 7 days. The follicular phase is from day 6 to 14. During this time, estrogen rises, causing the uterus lining to grow and thicken. Then follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) causes follicles in the ovaries to grow. During days 10 to 14, one of these follicles will form a fully mature egg. The ovulation phase occurs around day 14 and is caused by luteinizing hormone (LH), which results in the release of the egg. Next is the luteal phase, which lasts from day 15 to 28. Once an egg is released, it starts to travel through the fallopian tube to the uterus. The hormone progesterone rises, helping the uterine wall prepare for pregnancy. Pregnancy occurs if an egg becomes fertilized by sperm and attaches to the uterine wall. If pregnancy does not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, and the lining thickens and sheds, starting the cycle over. Each phase of the cycle has different nutritional needs. Learning about the menstrual cycle and your cycle phases is a great tool that can help you significantly on your journey to health, even if it’s not for pregnancy.
For seed cycling, there are two phases, the follicular phase and the luteal phase. During the follicular phase, you include 1-2 tablespoons daily of flax seeds and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to your diet. During the luteal phase, you include 1-2 tablespoons daily of sunflower and sesame seeds to your diet. This can be as simple as adding them to a smoothie or salad. There are plenty of recipes on the web you may follow as well.
Here is a recipe I like to use:
⅓ cup quick oats
⅓ c shredded coconut
⅓ cup raw sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds (depending on phase)
⅓ cup raw sunflower seeds or flax seeds (depending on phase)
⅓ cup almond or cashew butter
⅓ cup no-sugar maple syrup (I like Lakanto Monkfruit Syrup) or raw honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pure almond extract
¼ tsp salt
Optional: no-sugar chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, ginger pieces
Grind seeds in a food processor or blender until finely ground. Add oats and pulse a few times. Add all remaining ingredients and mix until dough forms. Taste the mixture and add in any additional desired flavors. If the mixture is too wet, add more oats. If too dry, add more syrup. Use a spoon to scoop out dough and form into 15 even-sized balls. Store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks or in the freezer for one month.
Note on flax seeds: Flax seeds are best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, as they can spoil quickly depending on how they’ve been processed. You will smell an off-putting sour smell and bitter taste when they have gone bad. Flax seeds are rich in fiber and omega-3s and are a great source of nutrients, copper, protein, and thiamine, or vitamin B.