How To Seed Cycle For Happy Hormones (Plus My Go-To Smoothie!)
I had never been one to take that much interest in my hormonal and sexual health. And truth be told, I knew very little. Isn’t it crazy - a whole primary, secondary and tertiary education and having to watch YouTube videos to understand just how my own reproductive system (and body!) actually worked. I mean, I didn’t even know what the names of the different stages of my menstruation cycle were called! (Do you?)
I got my first period pretty early on at the age of 11 and proceeded to go on the pill when I was 16 and started having sex. I still remember hiding my first prescription from my parents!
It was only when I turned 23 did I realise just how messed up your body can become from taking contraceptives and I quit cold turkey. Sure I’d been on pill for birth control and my skin, but my thoughts were -
a) There’s condoms and I was in a long term relationship (with now husband!) and
b) It never did much for my skin anyway (Three rounds of roaccutane and a very messed up gut is testament to that!)
But beyond knowing that it was bad, my knowledge ended there.
Only this year as we’ve been trying to conceive have I paid more attention. Conceiving isn’t as easy as they make out in the movies and when everyone around you is seemingly falling pregnant first go, it can leave you feeling a little deflated.
Isn’t it ironic how we spend the majority of our 20s trying not to get pregnant and then when we’re ready…..month on month it’s the dreaded waiting game! When you pull back the curtain, open up a conception app or just chat to friends, you realise that this whole falling pregnant thing isn’t as quick and easy as we’re made to believe! Anyway, more on our conception/fertility/pregnancy journey another day - let’s talk seed cycling!
Seed cycling is a concept I came across when investigating changes I could make to improve my chances of falling pregnant. I’m fortunate that I’ve always been very regular and my cycle is 28 days on the money, every month, but seed cycling isn’t just for the ladies ready for a bun in the oven. In my research, I came across stories of women who hadn’t had periods for years after the pill and seed cycling solved that! Stories of pre-menopausal women, women struggling with acne, PMS, post-partum ups and downs, all of these issues created by hormonal imbalance - all helped to heal by seed cycling. Giving a boost to the mantra “food is medicine!”
The idea is that with certain seeds in the first part of our cycle - the follicular phase - from the day we start our period to the day we ovulate (you can track this and work it out by using apps, I’ll list my favourites below) and then certain seeds in the second part of our cycle - the luteal phase - from the day we ovulate to the day before our period begins, we can balance estrogen in the first phase and progesterone in the second phase.
For arguments sake, there could also be a third phase - the ovulatory phase - but to dive into seed cycling, since we only rotate for two cycles, let’s stick with that!
Let’s talk about our Sex hormones
Ok as someone that seriously sucked in science at school, I’ll try explain this is easily as possible…
On Day 1 of our cycle - aka. when your period shows up - estrogen and progesterone levels are low. During this follicular phase of our cycle, as estrogen levels increase steadily this signals to the pituitary gland (a hormone hub in your brain) to produce Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH).
Now FSH begins the process of maturing a follicle (this being the fluid-filled sac in your ovary containing an egg) in preparation for ovulation and potentially pregnancy! Along with the follicle itself producing more estrogen to prepare the uterus.
At ovulation, usually around Day 12-14 of your cycle, increased estrogen levels trigger a sharp rise in Luteinising Hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland, causing the release of the actual egg from the follicle.
The ruptured follicle (corpus luteum if we’re getting fancy with our Latin) now secretes progesterone and estrogen to continue to prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilised by sperm, estrogen and progesterone levels drop and on Day 28 (or thereabouts), your uterus lining sheds, taking with it what wasn’t fertilised, as your period begins.
why do these hormones matter?
Well for one, when our hormones are imbalanced our bodies react in ways that can cause us a heck of a lot of issues!
Mood swings, hair loss, infertility, anxiety, depression, weight gain, endometriosis, migraines, insomnia, cysts, fibroids, irritability and potentially even breast and ovarian cancer, just to name a few…
In an ideal world, we wouldn't to do anything to support or rebalance our cycles as they'd be happily humming along regularly and balanced.
But due to the excessive amount of stress that many of us deal with on a day-to-day basis - which of course leads to elevated cortisol levels, adrenal fatigue and sure enough, hormonal issues, not to mention the toxins and stressors we both consume and create - coffee, alcohol, beauty products, pollution etc you get the gist, seed cycling is a simple way to support the body to rebalance your cycle and alleviate many of these symptoms within a short time frame (read: a couple of months!) that is gentle, easy and cheap!
Let’s start seed cycling!
Start phase 1 seed cycling on the first day of your period and continue it for approximately 14 days. You can track when you ovulate using apps like Glow, Clue or Eve by regularly inputting symptoms, moods, spotting, period start and end dates etc to make this easy peasy!
If your follicular phase lasts longer than 21 days, this is a sign of imbalances. Seed cycling is a great start!
In this phase with use -
High in lignans (these block excess estrogen production)
High in omega 3s (these help to reduce inflammation in the body, regulate FSH levels and support reproductive function)
Rich in zinc (This prepares the body for progesterone secretion in the next luteal phase)
High in omega 3s
We begin phase 2 after ovulation or after two weeks to balance hormones.
In this phase we use -
High in lignans (these regulate estrogen and progesterone levels)
High in omega 6 (this converts into GLA in the body supporting progesterone levels and reducing inflammation in the body related to PMS)
High in selenium, which supports liver function to prevent clogging from excess hormones, resulting in proper hormone excretion
High in omega 6
If you’re menopausal - you can start the cycle anytime! Just follow the guide and take a short break between seed cycling phases. Of course, if you’re unsure I would always recommend working with your own holistic practitioner or naturopath. If you’re based in Sydney, Australia, I recommend Anthia from Ovvio Organics!
It’s also worth mentioning that seed cycling works best if you’re not on birth control. (A short note from me and a bigger blog post to come - I came off the pill at 23 and tracked my cycles like mad, used condoms and tuned into my body. My cycle became extremely regular after years of spotting, odd periods and more. I would recommend using natural methods/condoms and getting off the horrid birth control, but of course, your own research and judgement is worth it’s weight in gold!) And whilst you might be saying, “Coco, you might be regular but are not pregnant!” my own fertility comes down to stress and truth be told, hasn't been longer than 6 months yet - so I’ve avoided going to the doctor just yet. Trusting in divine timing - whilst telling my Aries/Type A/impatient AF brain to pipe down and chill! Again, another blog post for another day.
How to incorporate seed cycling into your diet
Easy! I add my seeds into my morning smoothie or grind them up for use in my overnight oats or porridge or even a salad for extra crunch (yum!)
It’s important to remember to use organic (when you can) but always raw, unfrosted, unsalted seeds to ensure you’re getting their full medicinal, happy hormones boost! I keep all my seeds in jars in the fridge to ensure they don’t oxidise and go bad! It’s also key to remember that seeds begin to oxidise 15 minutes after they’ve been ground, so grinding them fresh is best or strong pre-ground seeds in the freezer.
Happy Hormones Smoothie
Full of goodness, easy to chuck the seeds you’re using for this cycle into a blender to grind and whiz up and most of all, delicious!
One scoop of Vega Essentials Vanilla Powder (I like this powder because it’s clean, nutrient jam packed pea, flaxseed and hemp based protein and also has my fave Vitamin B7 which is ideal for energy, healthy hair and skin - winner! Note: that I switch this out during Phase 2 of my cycle due to it being flaxseed based protein too.)
1 tablespoon flaxseeds
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 frozen banana
1 cup almond mylk or other non-dairy mylk
1/2 teaspoon maca powder
1/2 teaspoon ashwagandha (you can learn more about adaptogens and why I use them here)
Blend up in a high-speed blender and enjoy!