SEED CYCLING: BALANCING HORMONES WITH YOUR DIET

Let food by thy medicine – Hippocrates

PMS is so common that it is perceived as normal. Many of us experience some form of discomfort and bodily changes prior to our cycle, including bloating, breakouts, sugar cravings, fatigue, and mood swings. These symptoms can vary in severity and are partly controlled by two important hormones – Oestrogen and Progesterone. These two hormones are part of the endocrine system and are constantly present, however they rotate dominance in alignment with your cycle. They also play an important role with androgens (testosterone), which can cause certain symptoms (e.g. breakouts). 

A regular cycle is between 21 – 35 days, where Oestrogen and Progesterone rotate dominance. During the Follicular phase (day 1 – 14), Oestrogen levels increase and start to decrease at the beginning of the Luteal phase (day 15-28), where progesterone levels rise. 

The imbalance of these hormones can be the reason behind some of the discomforts and bodily symptoms. 

So what is seed cycling? 

There are 4 seeds that contain specific nutrients that support balancing this hormonal process. 

Flax seeds – contain lignans that block excess oestrogen. Recommend grounding. 

Pumpkin seeds – extremely high in zinc and supports progesterone production. 

Sunflower seeds – high in selenium for hormone metabolism and liver detoxification. 

Sesame seeds – contain lignans that block excess oestrogen. 

These nutrient-dense seeds can have powerful effects on regulating your hormones. A clinical evaluation, where the effect of ingested flax seed powder on 18 women, suggests a significant specific role for lignans in the relationship between diet and sex steroid action (Phipps, Martini, Lampe, Slavin & Kurzer, 1993). 

The recommended guide for incorporating these into your diet is: 

Follicular phase (day 1-14) 

  • 1 Tbsp of flax seeds Note: it is recommended to ground the flax seeds or buy LSA. 
  • 1 Tbsp of pumpkin seeds. 

Luteal phase (day 15-28) 

  • 1 Tbsp of sunflower seeds 
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds. 

Now, not everyone enjoys eating 1Tbsp of seeds on their own…I know – I gave it a go and felt like a bird. Here are some suggestions for incorporating these into your diet: 

  • Smoothie 
  • Oats 
  • Stir-fry 
  • Chia pudding 
  • Homemade protein bars 
  • Granola 

I also like to buy good quality seeds and divide them into small jars, that way they are easily accessible. 

Using the diet to address concerns and imbalances is a traditional holistic method and is cost effective, however changes will take time (roughly 3 months/3 cycles). If you are looking for a natural method to balance and control menstrual discomforts, than this is certainly worth a try. 

Reference 

Phipps, W., Martini, M., Lampe, J., Slavin, J., & Kurzer, M. (1993). Effect of flax seed ingestion on the menstrual cycle. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-abstract/77/5/1215/2649961

JAFFA PROTEIN BALLS

PREP 5min | MAKE 10min | 8-10 balls

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 scoops plant based protein (I like Pranaon)
  • 2 Tbsp cacao
  • 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp seeds (sesame, sunflower, hemp)
  • 2 Tbsp rice malt syrup
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp cacao nibs
  • 3-4 drops Doterra orange essential oil or 2 tsp finely grated orange zest and 1 tsp orange juice

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blitz until the mixture starts to form. Add small amounts of water if needed.
  2. Use a large spoon to start dividing mixture and roll to create balls.
  3. Refrigerate for 1hr to set.

SOUPA HEALTHY RED THAI SOUP

PREP 10 MINS                       I                 COOK 20 MIN

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 500g carrots
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 Tbsp garlic
  • 1 Tbsp ginger
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 500ml water
  • 1 lime

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat coconut oil in a large pan. Roughly slice onion and cook in pan for 1-2min.
  2. Add garlic and ginger. Stir.
  3. Peel carrots and sweet potato and dice into 1-2cm pieces. Place in pan and stir.
  4. Add 400ml coconut and water.
  5. Add peanut butter and curry paste, stir and bring to a simmer.
  6. Allow to simmer for 20min or until carrots and sweet potato are softened. Add juice from one lime. 
  7. When softened use a blender to create a creamy consistency.
  8. Serve with fresh lime and chilli. 

THE BENEFITS OF MEAL PLANNING

Planning my meals for the week is a balance between being a control freak and being obsessed with food. The best part is that there are so many benefits for planning your meals, including:

  • Time
    • By committing one hour a week to preparing your meals, you allow for so much more time to yourself or your family during the busy week.
    • This always results in less stress.
  • Cost effective
    • As you are buying similar ingredients and at times in bulk.
  • Health success
    • Remaining in control of your meals and having food prepared will save you from reaching for the alternative quick option.
  • Environmental benefits (no food waste)
    • You are buying food/ingredients to be consumed and not sit at the back of the fridge and go to waste.

A quick guide to meal planning:

  • Pick your battles: you don’t have to prep every meal. If you have time to whip up a smoothie in the morning then focus on the other meals that will save you time. If you like to have options for dinner then create a list of options and prepare parts of those meals to save time.
  • Check your equipment: If you move around a lot like me then your equipment may be the deciding factor as to what you can produce that week. I have learnt miraculous things about sandwich presses. Also consider your containers to store your meals.
  • Check for foundation ingredients: Check the pantry/fridge for those staple ingredients (salt, pepper, oil) that you may need.
  • Begin list: think of meals that have similar ingredients. Use Pinterest, magazines, this website 🙂
  • Transfer ingredients to your shopping list and write out your meals for the week. This can be placed somewhere on display like the fridge.

Items that are always on my shopping list:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Proteins – chicken, fish (love salmon and barramundi),
  • Nuts and seeds – mainly sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia, sesame
  • Almond milk
  • 80% dark chocolate
  • Natural PB
  • Eggs
  • Canned tuna
  • Coffee and green tea
  • Frozen berries

Go-to Smothies

  • Berry: ½ frozen banana, ½ cup frozen berries, handful spinach, 1 large Tbsp PB, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, almond milk and protein (Pranaon salted caramel – delicious)
  • Green: ½ frozen banana, ½ avocado, handful spinach, 1 large Tbsp PB, chia seeds, almond milk, protein (Pranaon), greens powder (optional)

Protein Oats

  • ¼ cup GF oats, almond milk, protein (Pranaon salted caramel). Topped with berries, natural PB, seeds

Work-week Lunch

  • Large amount of baby spinach, ½ avocado, 3-4 cherry tomatoes, handful cooked sweet potato, goats cheese, canned tuna, seeds (sesame, flax, hemp). Dressing: 1 Tbsp olive oil, lemon, tahini

Dinner varies, some examples are:

  • Teriyaki salmon: Salmon fillet, cauliflower rice, asparagus. Teriyaki sauce: Soy sauce or coconut aminos, raw honey, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds & water to thin sauce.
  • Satay Buddha bowl: Chicken, cauliflower rice, mix of vegetables. Satay sauce: Natural PB, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, SF maple syrup, lime juice & water to thin sauce.Teriyaki salmon: Salmon fillet, cauliflower rice, asparagus. Teriyaki sauce: Soy sauce or coconut aminos, raw honey, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds & water to thin sauce.

Snacks

  • Air-popped pop corn
  • Homemade banana muffins
  • Celery & natural PB
  • Mixed nuts

See the Meal Plan section for some examples.

DAY ON A PLATE

Have you read about a diet and convinced yourself that would be your life now, then read another one and thought the same thing?? I certainly have. We have access to a wide variety of eating plans or diets that all provide benefits in their own right, so how do you know what works for you?

I love to experiment with diets and educate myself on the philosophy behind this way of eating. I have also given the following diets a good hard crack:

  • Vegan
  • Ketogenic
  • Vegetarian
  • Paleo
  • Tracking calories/macronutrients
  • Carbohydrate cycling
  • Intermittent fasting

This has also made me very annoying to dine with as you never know what band-wagon I’m on that week.

There are many reasons behind dietary choices, from personal beliefs to medical conditions. Therefore, the different options serve an important purpose as the diet plays such an important role in our wellbeing.

I want to discuss my favourite eating plan – Conscious Eating !

You can follow any and all eating regimes and still be conscious, as this is more directed at connecting with your body and being aware of the foods you consume.

What is Conscious Eating?

My interpretation

  • Keeping it simple. I eat enough food to support my energy levels and to support my day. I listen to my body and stop eating when I am full.
  • Selecting foods that provide a health benefit. If I want chocolate, I will have chocolate, however I will reach for a 70-80% dark chocolate that has antioxidants and minimal sugar. This rule applies to all foods.
  • Do not deprive yourself. This follows on from the previous point. Get creative when recreating your favourite comfort foods in a healthy version and allow yourself to have a ‘treat’.

In term of ‘my day on a plate’, I eat 3 main meals a day, a snack and a dessert.

Breakfast: Green smoothie or protein GF oats and a black coffee

Snack: green tea and protein ball

Lunch: Big salad with a source of protein (tuna, chicken), green tea.

Dinner: Lots of vegetables and another source of protein. I like to have cooked vegetables at night and this may be a curry, stir fry, soup.

Dessert: Dark chocolate and peppermint tea.

HEALTHY CARAMEL SAUCE

PREP 2 MINS                    I                 COOK 10 MIN               I          MAKES 1 CUP

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ – ¾ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup SF maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium saucepan, add coconut milk, tahini and maple syrup on medium heat. Stirring occasionally.
  2. Continue stirring until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Taste and adjust sweetness with maple syrup as necessary.
  4. Pour into a jar and store for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

ADAPTOGENS

‘A substance that increases the body’s resistance to physical, environmental, emotional, or biological stressors and promotes normal physiological function’ – Bone, 2003

A common denominator in a lot of imbalances/illnesses/diseases is stress. We stress over day-to-day issues, as well as the health concern we may be battling ourselves. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m told to ‘reduce my stress’, I end up stressing over reducing my stress (?!?!?).

So what is stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to an kind of demand or threat. It is a state of threatened homeostasis caused by intrinsic or extrinsic factors and is counteracted by a repertoire of physiological and behavioural responses aiming to re-establish the optimal equilibrium.

Key components of the stress system are the hypothalamic-pituitary-system (HPA) axis and the autonomic nervous system (ANS, which interact with the central nervous system (CNS).

Introducing Adaptogens!

Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions. Adaptogens were recently defined as herbal preparations that increased attention and endurance in fatigue, and reduced stress-induced impairments and disorders. This definition was based on evidence obtained from clinical trials.

Adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic and CNS stimulating activity. The stress-protective activity of adaptogens was associated with regulation of homeostasis via several mechanisms of action, which was linked with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the regulation of key mediators of stress response.

In other words, adaptogens normalised your physiology – Stressed àCalm, Hot àCool.

Favourites and how to incorporate

A few of my favourite adaptogens are:

  • Ashwaganda Withania somnifera
  • Rhodiola Rhodiola rosea
  • Schisandra Schisandra chinensis
  • Astragalus Astragalus membranaceus

Add ½-1tsp of the powdered plant mixture to hot beverage. This can be done at any time of the day, when feeling stressed, headaches, or at night to help sleep and wake up refreshed.

I have experienced noticeable results from including Ashwaganda into my daily routine. I have ½ a tsp in the afternoon and if I need help winding down, I will have some before bed.

You can find different types of adaptogens at your local health store.

It is important to note that supplements are just that –supplements. They are there to supplement a deficiency and assist you in that moment. To experience optimal effects, you must aim for your lifestyle to align with your goal.

These are a few lifestyle habits to incorporate that are shown to provide calmness and reduce the severity of stress.

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Device free time
  • Reading

Adaptogens not only provide therapeutic effects in stress-induced circumstances, they can improve quality of life due to the multiple pathological effects. If you are looking for a holistic way to manage stress and adapt to circumstances, I encourage you to give an adaptogen supplement a try.