Raise your hand if you’ve never noticed any changes in your body and shifts in your mood, gut and immune system throughout your menstrual cycle. If you’ve never lost yourself in the fridge, binge eating, trying to satisfy cravings for something sweet or really salty, if you’ve never had headaches, no energy but lots of irritation towards your partner for maybe… breathing too loud. If you’ve never had muscle pain before and through the first days of your period, felt dizzy or felt cramps. If you see your hand raised at this moment, you’re probably a miracle. The rest of you, keep reading.
As you may know, all of the above symptoms are generated by a hormonal imbalance that occurs during the reproductive cycle of each woman, making it for some more difficult than others to make it through the day, during PMS or the first days of menstruation. At this time, certain foods, rich with specific vitamins and minerals can relieve certain symptoms, but there is also another natural technique you can use to help the situation: seed cycling.
Seed cycling is a holistic practice based on the rotational consumption of certain seeds in the different phases of the cycle, which help with the hormonal imbalance that occurs at the time and ease the symptoms. Although there’s no scientific evidence to support the benefits of consuming certain seeds in rotation in the different phases of the cycle, it’s a totally natural and harmless practice you can try and see for yourself. After all, seeds are an important addition to your diet.
So, what happens exactly during seed cycle? In the first phase of your cycle (from the first day of your period till the 14th day), flax seeds and pumpkin seeds seem to help with estrogen production, while our system metabolizes lignans. During the second phase (day 14 to 28) the combination of sesame and sunflower seeds is considered to promote progesterone production, so eating those seeds in the correct phase of your menstrual cycle can help with hormonal balance. Tip: Have organic and raw seeds which you can sprinkle on your salad, your smoothie, your fruit salad etc.
Don’t forget that beyond seed cycling, whether you’re a vegan or not, you also need to emphasize in a healthy, immune-supporting plant-based diet with lots of fruits and vegetables that are good for gut microbiome, cutting back on sugar, fat and processed foods. Include the following in your diet according to phase and see if it helps.
Menstrual phase: During the hardest and most uncomfortable part of the cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels hit low, while the thickened uterine lining is no longer needed, so it breaks down and sheds, leading to our period. At this point vegetable soups and broths can add comfort, while legumes like lentils and iron-rich green leafy vegetables can replenish iron and zinc in our system, which we need as we lose iron from bleeding –and at the same time benefit our gut microbiome. Cut back on coffee and start your seed cycling with 1 tbsp each of pumpkin seeds and ground flaxseeds to maintain good levels of estrogen, until your hormones start to rise back up in the end of your period. For menstrual cramps, try ginger tea which is anti-inflammatory and helps.
Follicular phase: This is the time when period comes to an end and estrogen levels start to rise while the body prepares for ovulation later on. At this point, choline is helpful from foods like legumes, tofu, green vegetables, potatoes, nuts, seeds, grains and fruit, while it’s a good idea to replenish your lost iron with green leafy vegetables, legumes and vitamin C which aids absorption. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, tempeh etc., and prebiotic garlic help in gut health so don’t omit. Keep having 1 tbsp each of pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds, continuing your seed cycling.
Ovulation phase: Keep it up with raw fruits and vegetables, grains and pseudograins like quinoa. Their fibre content will support gut balance which in turn helps in hormonal balance, while omega-3 from dietary sources like nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, Brussels sprouts will relieve cramps that come with the period later on. Keep seed cycling with 1 tbsp sunflower seeds and sesame seeds which are also rich in good fat. Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa, rich in antioxidants and magnesium will comfort PMS while it can also fight cravings –same goes for dried fruit. Sweet potatoes are another wise choice you can make for gut health and a good source of carbs and if you face pain in ovulation try some mint tea or ginger tea. Don’t forget your water!
Luteal phase: This is the phase after ovulation when hormones start to drop and menstruation is on the way, which means… hello PMS! Headaches, muscle pains, low energy, cravings, stress are some of its symptoms which bring discomfort in most women, while at this point, sensitivity to insulin is lower. This means it’s crucial to maintain balanced levels in blood sugar which you can do with starch vegetables, root vegetables, green leafy vegetables. For extra B vitamins, try oats and include some nori, wakame, kombu for iron, zinc and iodine in your meals. You’ll need these nutrients when your period comes. Mint tea can still benefit you against bloating and water retention and don’t forget your seeds: 1 tbsp sunflower seeds and sesame seeds to relieve you from menstrual pain which is on its way.
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