NUNM students have many opportunities to explore topics, research and areas of practice that interest them. From broad elective choices to research study participation and self study, our students choose the doctor they want to become. Here, Lauren Sutton, naturopathic doctoral student, shares her research and perspectives on the seed cycling to support female hormonal health.
The human body is truly a wonderful apparatus, full of promise and complexity. While both male and female bodies experience regular hormonal fluctuations, females are understood to be unique in their experience of a monthly menses. The menstrual cycle itself is a carefully constructed dance played out monthly in the female bodied with the goal of releasing a single egg or mature oocyte. With intricate hormonal interplay, a single egg is chosen from thousands of possibilities to be released for potential fertilization.
The first half of the cycle, considered the follicular phase, begins with the onset of menses. At the beginning of this phase, the uterine lining is thick with nutrients to support and nourish an embryo. Should no embryo be present to nourish, female hormones estrogen and progesterone levels are decreased. This allows the thickened inner uterine lining to breakdown and to be shed, resulting in menses. At the ovarian level, follicle stimulating hormone levels increase during this phase, stimulating the development of several follicles within the ovary. As follicle stimulating hormone levels decrease, a single follicle continues to develop above the rest.
The second half of the cycle, or the luteal phase begins 14 days into the cycle with ovulation and the expression of a single mature egg from the chosen follicle. Following the release of an egg, the follicle expresses female hormone progesterone. Progesterone aids in the preparation of the uterus for potential implantation. Estrogen remains high throughout this aspect of the cycle. Should fertilization and implantation not occur, the follicle degenerates, progesterone and estrogen decrease and menses occurs.
This elaborate interplay of hormones is susceptible to disturbances and it is estimated that more than 20% of women experience irregular cycles. Practicing seed cycling throughout the monthly cycle has been shown to support female hormonal health anecdotally for many years. In modern times, the practice is gaining scientific backing and greater understanding as a tool to support fertility and reproductive health.
The practice of seed cycling involves rotating seeds into the diet throughout the follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle, with the intention of supporting the correlating hormones. The seeds involved are high in essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are necessary for regular hormone production. The seeds can also be helpful in binding and excreting excessive hormones.
In the first half of the cycle, or days 1-14, seeds that are supportive of estrogen such as flax seeds or pumpkin seeds are ingested daily. Flax seeds contain lignans which can bind to excess estrogen in the body allowing for more efficient elimination. The second half of the cycle, or days 15-30, includes seeds focused on supporting progesterone such as sunflower seeds or sesame seeds. Seeds can be easily incorporated in raw or ground form into a daily diet in smoothies, yogurt, or protein snack balls. Including seeds in a daily diet is a uniquely simple and economical way to support hormonal health for women of all ages.
- Welt CK. Physiology of the normal menstrual cycle. Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc. https://www.uptodate.com. Published March 17, 2017. Accessed December 23, 2018.
- Knudtson J. Menstrual Cycle. Merck Manuals Consumer Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/women-s-health-issues/biology-of-the-female-reproductive-system/menstrual-cycle. Updated September 2016. Accessed December 23, 2018.
- Phipps WR, Martini MC, Lampe JW, Slavin JL, Kurzer MS. Effect of flax seed ingestion on the menstrual cycle. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 1993; 77(5): 1215-1219. doi: 10.1210/jcem.77.5.8077314
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