Well Seeded

Could these teeny, tiny germs be the se­cret to a fuss-free pe­riod?

Women's Health (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - By Nell Frizzell

You’ve heard of “seed cy­cling”, right? No? Oh, okay. Well, ba­si­cally: seeds – those things that be­gin all plant life – have the po­ten­tial to reg­u­late the hu­man en­docrine sys­tem. While there’s not yet any sci­en­tific ev­i­dence for seed cy­cling, the ac­tual seeds in­volved have proven health ben­e­fits and the abil­ity to keep your hor­mones in check. In­ter­ested? Then let’s start, seed-like, at the very be­gin­ning...

Ac­cord­ing to Natalie Sel­don, au­thor of The Good­ness of Nuts & Seeds, seeds are lit­tle pow­er­houses of nutri­tion, en­ergy and fi­bre. “They con­tain lots of en­er­gy­boost­ing min­er­als, like iron, mag­ne­sium and zinc,” she says. “They’re also high in protein, which we should all be get­ting 45g of a day.” One of the great­est as­sets of seeds is their con­ve­nience. Would you pop a tin of oily fish in your pocket for a quick “don’t mind me, I’m just go­ing to eat this on the bus to work” snack? Didn’t think so. Seeds, though, are small, mo­bile and to­tally con­ve­nient. “I add mine to smooth­ies and por­ridge, scat­ter them over soups, sal­ads and pas­tas and mix them into home bak­ing,” says Sel­don. “Hemp seeds make a cheese­cake crust nu­tri­tious and chia seeds and dates are a great al­ter­na­tive to bis­cuit bases.” And, as Sel­don ex­plains, you can soak and sprout seeds, make seed but­ter and seed milk or, you know, eat them by the hand­ful.

Germ of an idea

Per­haps more in­ter­est­ingly, there’s also plenty of ev­i­dence that the phy­tonu­tri­ents found in seeds can have a mea­sur­able im­pact on fe­male hor­mones. Ac­cord­ing to al­ter­na­tive ther­apy ex­pert Dr Mark Hy­man in his ar­ti­cle “The Life Cy­cles of Women: Restor­ing Bal­ance”, di­etary fi­bre and lig­nans (phy­tonu­tri­ents found in many seeds, grains and beans that boost your im­mune sys­tem and help bal­ance your hor­mones) bind to oe­stro­gen and help your body to flush it out, ei­ther in urine or fae­ces. Quite sim­ply, eat­ing flaxseeds at a time of ex­cess oe­stro­gen will help your body wrap it up and get rid of the ex­cess, which could re­sult in more reg­u­lar men­strual cy­cles and less breast pain. And then there are pump­kin seeds. In a pilot study pub­lished in the jour­nal Cli­mac­teric, con­sum­ing pump­kin-seed oil led to a drop in the sever­ity of hot flushes, fewer headaches and re­duced joint pain among menopausal study par­tic­i­pants.

Seedy busi­ness

But could we get even more ben­e­fits from seeds by eat­ing spe­cific com­bi­na­tions at spe­cific times? Seed cy­cling is a rel­a­tively new prac­tice and even its strong­est pro­po­nents seem un­sure of its ori­gins. It in­volves eat­ing at least a ta­ble­spoon each of pump­kin seeds and flaxseeds (aka lin­seeds) ev­ery day for the first two weeks of your men­strual cy­cle, then the same amount of sun­flower and se­same seeds each day for the sec­ond two weeks. Of course, many women do not fol­low a 28-day men­strual cy­cle and ex­pe­ri­ence ab­sent or ir­reg­u­lar pe­ri­ods that bear lit­tle-to-no re­la­tion to the lu­nar cy­cle. How­ever, anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gests that eat­ing seeds like this – pump­kin and flax when you start bleed­ing, then se­same and sun­flower from when you ovu­late – could ease some of the un­pleas­ant ef­fects of oe­stro­gen and also help keep your whole cy­cle reg­u­lar and healthy. Nu­tri­tional ther­a­pist Han­nah Alder­son ex­plains: “Where there is oe­stro­gen, there is a need for detox­i­fi­ca­tion, as oe­stro­gen tox­i­c­ity can lead to a va­ri­ety of prob­lems, such as PMS, breast ten­der­ness, lack of ovu­la­tion, weight gain and an in­creased risk of hor­mone­as­so­ci­ated can­cers.” Eat­ing raw, or­ganic ground seeds can boost detox­i­fi­ca­tion, sug­gests Alder­son. “Through seed cy­cling, you can sup­port each phase of the cy­cle with the raw el­e­ments re­quired to func­tion op­ti­mally. I of­ten dis­cuss it with clients as a nat­u­ral ap­proach to PMS or try­ing to reg­u­late pe­ri­ods.”

Tak­ing root

Flaxseeds, ex­plains Alder­son, con­tain omega-3 and lig­nans, while the zinc in pump­kin seeds, it’s ar­gued, will stop oe­stro­gen from con­vert­ing into testos­terone and prime your body to pro­duce the hor­mone pro­ges­terone – which helps pre­pare your uterus for preg­nancy – in the sec­ond half of your cy­cle. This half, known as the luteal phase, is when eat­ing sun­flower seeds, which con­tain omega-6 and vi­ta­min E, along with se­same seeds, which con­tain lig­nans, will ap­par­ently help you to pro­duce pro­ges­terone nat­u­rally. What, you may be ask­ing, would hap­pen if you ate other seeds at a time when you’re meant to be munch­ing on

1.6 The num­ber of mil­ligrams of zinc in 1 tbsp pump­kin seeds. That’s around a quar­ter of your RDA – help­ing to keep your hor­mones in per­fect bal­ance.

flaxseeds or sun­flower seeds? “I don’t think you’re go­ing to pre­vent any of the ben­e­fits by hav­ing a tea­spoon of se­same seeds when you’re meant to be hav­ing flax and pump­kin seeds,” says Sel­don. Sure, eat­ing dif­fer­ent seeds will do you no harm, but seed-cy­cling devo­tees main­tain that the method is the best way to keep your hor­mones in check. Of course, seed cy­cling should not re­place treat­ment for ex­treme en­docrino­log­i­cal prob­lems, but be­ing aware of how the min­er­als and phy­tonu­tri­ents in dif­fer­ent seeds might sup­port your body’s hor­monal pro­cesses could help bring your cy­cle back into bal­ance, par­tic­u­larly if you’ve just come off the pill, have an ir­reg­u­lar cy­cle or are look­ing to boost your fer­til­ity. “Un­less you have a very se­ri­ous hor­monal prob­lem, like poly­cys­tic ovary syn­drome, and you’re us­ing seed cy­cling as the only treat­ment, then you’re not go­ing to do your­self any harm,” says Alder­son. Sold on seeds? To make the most of these lit­tle nu­tri­tional won­ders, Alder­son rec­om­mends con­sum­ing them or­ganic, raw and ground. Why ground? Stom­ach en­zymes don’t have the ca­pa­bil­ity to break down whole seeds once they’re in the gut and un­for­tu­nately the av­er­age per­son’s mo­lars aren’t quite up to the job ei­ther. But be­ware – if you buy pre­ground flaxseeds, they ox­i­dise within a few days and be­come ran­cid, so you’re bet­ter off grind­ing them your­self with a blender, cof­fee grinder or an old-school up­per-arm work­out us­ing your trusty pes­tle and mor­tar.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.