Seed cycling is an incredible food as medicine treatment to support hormone balancing. An incredible reminder of the power of food. I have been sharing my experiences with seed cycling on Instagram over this past month and so many of you have written to ask – What is Seed Cycling? Today I am sharing a brief introduction to seed cycling plus the simple Seed Cycling Balls recipe I have been using to make seed cycling a breeze.
As women, our hormones are a delicate symphony, influenced by far more factors than most people realize. From sleep to stress, the foods we eat, the products we are exposed to, medications and supplements and so much more. Our body's natural rhythms and internal energies are unique to each of us and with the ebbs and flows of life, we can see shifts and imbalances and not always be clear on the whats and whys, but also where to even begin to adjust to get things back into our natural balance.
I have to admit, I am a tad embarrassed that I think it wasn't until I was somewhere in my early 30s that I finally fully and truly understood my cycle, what the various phases were called, and what was happening when. Why isn't this something we talk about more? Why can't we just openly discuss our hormonal cycles and the natural rhythm for us, what to look for and what we should consider normal and what may be a sign of a deeper imbalance.
Because our cycle is this taboo topic for so many, still, many women just tolerate, endure and assume that things we are experiencing are just part of it and that we need to suck it up and just deal with it. Acne, moodiness, heavy cramping, irregular cycles, migraines and more, all things so many of us experience and chalk it us to "our time of the month".
I spent MANY years on hormonal birth control, I think upwards of 13 years. I decided to transition off from birth control over 10 years ago at this point. It was a decision I made after speaking with a close family friend, a holistic chiropractor who worked closely with me on much of my health. I was sharing all of the ways in which I had chosen to change my diet, the foods I was avoiding and in a very loving and inquisitive way she asked:
"Can I ask why you are OK with taking hormonal birth control every day, despite taking so many other special considerations with your diet and your nutrition?" I remember saying "wait, what do you mean? My doctor said it is totally safe", she went on to further explain that while I am choosing properly-raised animals, looking to avoid the hormones and chemicals often found in factory farmed meat, along with avoiding synthetic, processed foods, because they weren't "natural", every day I was then taking a pill, a pill that was comprised of synthetic lab-created hormones, hormones that were tricking my body's natural system and hormones, it shuts down ovulation and tells the brain that there are enough hormones, so there is no need to make more and that it was likely causing unnecessary stress to my body. She suggested that maybe I might want to investigate and consider alternatives.
That's all this little researcher and forever-learner needed to hear, I immediately started researching, reading and wanting to know more. Before my next cycle, I decided I no longer wanted to take hormonal birth control. And that was that.
I remember it being a VERY wild ride, I didn't get off birth control and immediately have a normal 28 day cycle, in fact it was the contrary. I originally went onto hormonal birth control to regulate my cycle which was never normal or regular. I realize now how stupid it sounds to take a pill to force my body into menstruation on a schedule vs actually getting to the root cause of why my cycle was irregular in the first place.
I began tracking my cycle immediately and we chose to follow the Fertility Awareness Method. My cycle was erratic for many years after going off of the pill. Many years. Much of my most intense health and energy struggles happened in the years that followed. I wasn't supporting my hormones in any way, I just recall thinking "I guess I have an irregular cycle, it's always been this way". I struggled with terrible pre-cycle migraines, pretty rough hormonal breakouts, brutal PMS symptoms and all the other fun stuff that comes with imbalanced hormones.
Healing My Body. Healing My Hormones.
Over the years, as I discovered an incurable autoimmune disease, as I worked to heal my gut and eradicate a parasite and pathogenic gut bacteria, I also leveled out my blood sugar and dealt with the adrenal imbalances that came as a result of all these things and like magic, my cycle and my hormones followed suit. As a nutritional therapist, when it comes to symptoms and dysfunction, we have what we refer to as the foundations and then the consequences. The foundations are digestion, blood sugar regulation, minerals, dietary fats and hydration. This is where we work, we adjust and create a customized approach, hormones fall into what we refer to as the consequences. We rarely recommend specific treatments, protocols or supplements for symptoms associated with consequences, as they generally will self-balance and regulate on their own, as the dysfunction in the foundations is managed and things come back into balance. That balance is found through nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle shifts. For me, I had that exact experience.
In the last two years, since I have seen a reduction in autoimmune flare ups and my foundations have been in balance, I have seen the most regular cycles I have ever seen in my life and minimal hormonal symptoms. But stress and travel will almost always cause issue with my cycle and my hormones. After a busy start to 2019, including MANY trips which is always stressful for my body, along with a few minor digestive flare ups, including a food poisoning incident in Mexico, I found myself with a few common hormonal imbalance symptoms, including a cycle that was ranging from 23 days to 34, occasional pre-cycle migraines and a pre-menstrual chin zits. Classic hormone location for breakouts.
I decided I would give seed cycling a go. I would give it at least a month, then re-assess. After just one month of daily seed cycling, my first menstrual cycle was exactly 28 days. The first time since July of 2018, I had exactly NO chin breakouts and no pre-cycle headaches, cramps were nearly non-existent and bleeding went from 5+ to just 3.5 days. I know much of that is due in large part to NO travel in the last month, my nutrition and eating was far more my usual, since I was home and my stress was minimal. But I also know that the seed cycling was the only other variable in there and it had been at least 6 months of these pre-cycle breakouts. So for now, I am sticking with it for as long as it is working for me.
What is Seed Cycling?
Seed cycling for hormone balance is not a new practice, but it's certainly been getting more attention in recent years.
Seed cycling provides specific nutrients to help build your hormones and it integrates different seeds into the diet at different times in the menstrual cycle to support optimal hormonal balance.((Jesswein, L. (2012). Seed Cycling for Natural Hormonal Balance. Retrieved from http://naturalhealthperspectives.blogspot.com/2012/02/seed-cycling-for-natural-hormonal.html)) The concept is that seeds carry certain oils, vitamins, and nutrients that can help support the body’s production, release, and metabolism of hormones. The seeds used in seed rotation are flax and pumpkin seeds and sesame and sunflower seeds.
According to Dr Jolene and her book Beyond the Pill, seed cycling can be used at any stage in a woman's life, but it can be especially beneficial when coming off of hormonal birth control or struggling with post-birth control syndrome symptoms like acne, irregular periods, or new onset of PMS.
To practice seed cycling you need to be tracking your menstual cycle as you will change the seeds to correspond with the phase you are in.