Updated: Sep 2
A female’s body runs through a menstrual cycle driven by hormones to prepare for a possible pregnancy each month. Throughout the different phases of these cycles, hormones have different jobs, with some being produced more or less during the specific phase. An imbalance of these hormones can cause mild to severe symptoms depending on how imbalanced they are. Many holistic practitioners and nutritionists incorporate seeds to help support and balance estrogen and progesterone hormones throughout their cycle, allowing their symptoms to subside. Before we dive into the process of seed cycling, understanding the menstruation cycle will help us learn it better.
Women start getting their period (menarche) at the average age of 11 to 16 and stop getting their period between ages 55-65 (menopause). Menopause is a much longer process lasting anywhere from seven to 14 years. Between menarche and menopause, a woman's regular cycle is an average of 28 days long (may be shorter or longer). The cycle has four phases with constant hormonal changes:
It starts on the first day of a woman's period and ends roughly on days five to seven
The uterine lining sheds when an egg is not fertilized and does not implant into the lining
Estrogen and progesterone hormones decrease
Starts on the first day your period ends
Day six to 14
Estrogen hormone increases
Estrogen causes the uterine lining to thicken to allow for the egg to implant
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) increases
FSH stimulates the follicles in the ovaries to grow, and then one matures into an egg to be released
Day 14 to 28
Luteinizing hormone (LH) increases
LH causes the ovary to release an egg into your fallopian tube
Estrogen and testosterone hormones peak
Day 15 to 28
The egg released travels through the fallopian tubes to the uterus
Progesterone hormones increase
Progesterone prepares the lining for a fertilized egg implantation
Other Roles of Estrogen and Progesterone
Hormones are released in our body and travel throughout our bloodstream, affecting other parts of a woman's body outside the female reproductive organs.
Unbalanced Hormone Symptoms
Estrogen and progesterone can affect physical, mental and emotional aspects of women’s daily lives and processes. Most symptoms that come to mind when discussing women and menstruation are their moods and uterine pain. Depending on how unbalanced hormones are, symptom intensity can vary.
**Other hormones affect women’s health, but for this topic, we are going to focus on progesterone and estrogen
What is Cycle Syncing?
Cycling syncing is when you track your cycle and modify your exercise, nutrition and sex life according to the phase (menstruation, follicular, ovulation, luteal) of your cycle.
Cycling Syncing 'Practices'
Low estrogen and progesterone can induce cramping, breast tenderness, insomnia and fatigue. Considered the “rest and recovery” phase.
Exercises consist of low impact like Yoga and walking.
Having sex and getting pregnant is highly unlikely in this phase, so some women will have unprotected sex with the knowledge that they likely will not get pregnant at this time.
Strength training can be beneficial due to the endorphins released and help relieve pain from cramping.
Insomnia/ fatigue and
cramping could be due
to mineral deficiency or
deeper root causes like
leaky gut syndrome or
Estrogen increases. Progesterone is still low.
Your endurance increases through this phase.
Exercises consist of longer workouts, resistance training, and moderate cardio.
Cortisol levels tend to increase in this phase, which can induce stress.
Reducing the intake of stress-promoting foods like sugar, alcohol and caffeine is recommended.
Increasing dietary fibre can help decrease stress. Foods like fruit, vegetables, and dark chocolate.
Limiting sugar, alcohol,
and caffeine is
your entire cycle!
Life happens. You
might feel over-
stressed from work,
lack of sleep, being a
new parent and need to
“rest and relax” during
this phase at some
Testosterone and estrogen spike.
High-intensity workouts or heavy strength training is optimal at this time.
Optimal time to try and conceive in this phase.
The relaxin hormone is released during this
phase and remains
released through the
luteal phase. It is a
produced by your
ovaries and the
pregnant). It loosens
and relaxes your
muscles, joints and
ligaments and could
lead to potential risk of
injury due to the
looseness of the
structures. There is no
need to be fearful, but
be aware if you’re
working out and feel
“off,” this could be why.
Progesterone starts to increase.
Fatigue can set in.
Low-impact exercises like Pilates.
Serotonin decreases, which can induce feelings of anxiety and depression.
Seratonin-boosting foods contain tryptophan, which helps build serotonin. Foods that contain tryptophan are primarily found in protein but are present in other sources:
Natural lubrication decreases
If you follow the cycle
prescription, you are
strength training one
week/ month. This
decrease lean muscle
progression in strength
and lifts, and lower
adherence to any
programs or goals
you’re working towards.
Some people who practice cycle syncing believe they achieve optimal wellness by catering to their hormone shifts during these phases. However, it can be misleading information to think cycle syncing can ‘normalize’ abnormal moods, feelings, or cravings and that it could potentially minimize dysregulated hormone symptoms. Is Cycle-Syncing Worth it?
Breetheclub believes that cycle syncing can be a rigid way to fulfill a day-to-day balance to overall health and wellness. Our menstrual cycle is tapping into our feminine energy and the truest form of womanhood. During our cycle, we should be in flow, meaning to surrender, let go, reflect and be empathetic and compassionate towards ourselves. Putting masculine energy around it (structure, routine, and focus) goes against our true nature.
Tracking your cycle and being aware of when you menstruate, ovulate or have any concerning symptoms is very beneficial. Most women tap into a routine when navigating their cycles for a short time and slowly move towards a more intuitive approach. Most cycle-tracking articles focus on how and what to work out in a specific phase.
Allowing your hormones to dictate your workout routine may leave room for minimizing potential symptoms, leaving room for excuses and removing a crucial component of natural painkillers (endorphins) that we get from exercises. For instance, if you are exhausted leading up to your period and experiencing crippling cramping, this may be common but not necessarily normal. It would be beneficial to seek further care to find the root cause of these issues.
Breetheclub believes in giving your hormones more support throughout your cycle using herbs, nutrition, supplements and somatic work. The goal is to get to a place of intuitively understanding what your body needs [rest, movement, omegas, meditation, etc.]. Cycle syncing your workouts and sex life can feel restrictive and allow for potential excuses like not doing your training or meeting up with friends instead. Excuses may be valid on some days, but they should not be structured and predicted to happen in a specific period during each month.
Syncing your cycle can be a valuable tool for learning about your moods or PMS symptoms and beneficial for someone trying to get pregnant. However, for a lifestyle routine, this predictiveness and restrictiveness can lead to dissatisfaction and deter your health journey. Supporting your hormones with nutrition is a tool to help give you the freedom to listen and support your body. Breetheclub wants to help you cultivate an attainable and enjoyable lifestyle that makes sense for you! Seed cycling is one tool you can practice to potentially support your hormones throughout the different phases of your cycle. *Make sure to seek medical care for deeper root issues relating to your gut biome and menstruation.
Seed cycling incorporates multiple seeds throughout the menstruation cycle to help regulate estrogen and progesterone shifts and help balance them in the different phases. Seed cycling follows only the two main phases of the menstrual cycle: from Menstration to Ovulation (Follicular phase) and Ovulation to Menstruation (Luteal phase)
1. Follicular phase (Day 1-14)
2. Luteal phase (Day 15-28)
Four Seeds used for Seed Cycling are:
Ground Sesame seeds
Flaxseed contains numerous nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, fibre, lignans and the vegan form of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that can support and decrease menstrual cramping. Lignans are an antioxidant that has a similar makeup to estrogen. Lignans can act like estrogen and affect the production or breakdown of it. A better estrogen balance can reduce irritability, mood swings, and mental fog. *Flaxseed contains omega-3 properties in its shell, and our bodies cannot break the shell down, so ground flaxseed is necessary to achieve omega-3 benefits!
Pumpkins are a high source of fibre, zinc, magnesium, tryptophan, carotenoids, and vitamin E.
Zinc helps improve progesterone production, allowing for estrogen to be balanced and improving mood and sleep.
Sesame seeds contain nutrients like fibre, protein, linoleic fatty acids, magneisum, calcium, vitamin E, zinc, selenium and lignans. Sesame seeds can convert to a lignan called enterolactone, which also mimics estrogen and can help balance it. Selenium can support estrogen detoxification in the liver, helping reduce excess estrogen in our body.
*ideally ground will be better for digestion!
*Make sure to use organic seeds and check labels for the use of canola oil or sunflower oil in your seeds, as this is added for shelf life and is known to be inflammatory!
Seed Cycling Routine
Follicular Phase: 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds and pumpkin seeds per day
Luteal Phase: 1-2 tablespoons of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds per day
How Long to See Hormonal Symptoms Changes?
Seed cycling can take up to three months to start seeing changes in your hormone symptoms. Practicing a healthy lifestyle alongside seed cycling will also help the benefits of seed cycling flourish and yield a positive change in your hormones.
Is Seed Cycling for You?
Many women always accept their mood swings and cravings when they are PMS-ing. This doesn’t have to be your normal! Some women experience way more and intensified PMS symptoms than others. Seed cycling can help support hormone balance and potentially subside PMS symptoms like mood swings, irritability, food cravings, cramping, breast tenderness and insomnia.
These symptoms could also result from compounding issues of irregular hormones and other issues in your body, such as an unhealthy gut or an over or under-accumulation of essential and toxic minerals. If you would like to dive deeper into assessing your hormones and other contributing factors like your gut biome and mineral levels, multiple forms of testing are available:
Hormone Level Testing
*The DUTCH test is the most accurate as it offers adrenal hormone levels, sex hormone levels and the hormone’s metabolites.
Gut Biome Testing
Stool sample: Measures healthy and unhealthy microbes in your digestive system (bacteria, viruses, fungus).
Mineral Content Testing
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA): Measures mineral content in the hair, which provides information on the accumulation of essential and toxic minerals in your body
Seeds May Need Some Adjusting
If you suffer from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), leaky gut syndrome or ulcerative colitis, seeds aren’t always the culprit but may be responsible for flare-ups. If you feel seeds lead to flare-ups, try grinding them and adding them to liquid (shake or smoothie) for proper digestion. If you feel like you are a healthy individual & have these symptoms and want to try and lessen them, seed cycling may be a great tool to do this!
Written By: Lauren O'Malley, RN Edited By: Bree Lowry, BKin
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*This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.*