I’ve been seed cycling for about two months now and have made some interesting and noteworthy observations. Overall, I’ve been doing pretty well…that is to say, that after a two-month cycle (which was really more like 6 ½ weeks given my particular flow…pun intended), I only missed five (non-consecutive) days. This included a couple of overnight business trips, so I think I deserve some grace there. Even so, that leads me into my first key takeaway…
Takeaway #1: Don’t let perfect be enemy of the good…
I was able to find all of my seeds (i.e., flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame) pretty easily at my local Whole Foods. The first three, I was able to get from the bulk bin section, while the sesame seeds (you want raw, not toasted) were in a prepackaged shaker in the seasoning’s aisle, where you find the salt and pepper. I already had a cheap coffee grinder at home (which hadn’t actually been used to grind coffee in about three years, thanks to the wondrous blessing that is the Nespresso® coffee maker – VertuoLine – but I digress…).
The naturopathic recommendation is to consume freshly ground seeds every day, because ground seeds contain lignans, which bind more efficiently to excess hormones. Going into it, I knew that the grinding everyday thing was going to be a problem for me, so I decided I would grind my seeds every 2-3 days and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. For the most part, this has been working just fine (see “cons” later in this post).
Takeaway #2: Think ahead and make a plan!
It may not sound like it, but making sure you get in your two tablespoons of freshly ground seeds everyday takes some forethought. Especially if you’re not a daily smoothie or green salad consumer, which I’m not. Because I’m also intermittent fasting on a 16:8 cycle (more on that in a future blog post), I had to be extra thoughtful about when and how I was going to consume my seeds within a limited 8-hour feeding period (typically Noon-8PM).
I work outside of my home and there have been a few days that I’ve forgotten my seeds at home (argh!). This means that I’m limited to consuming my seeds with my last meal of the day, which, depending on the meal, could be a disaster (think Lean Cuisine and Pizza night). Apart from these unfortunate “brain fog” days, most days I do okay with the seamless integration of seeds into my lunch time salad or late afternoon Greek Yogurt snack (coconut preferred).
Takeaway #3: Shed embarrassment – People are going to judge…get over it!
My job is pretty relational, which means I find myself in professional social settings, like business lunches and dinners about once or twice a week. Though we’re well beyond it now, the lunch and dinner circuit is pretty amplified during the holiday season, which is of course when I decided to start my seed cycling experiment. During this time, there were several evenings that I had work dinners outside of the house, and because I either forgot or hadn’t planned accordingly throughout the day, dinner was my last chance of the day to get my seeds in.
While I tried to be stealth with it, sidling out two Ziploc bags of seeds to sprinkle over my surf and turf dinners, (understandably) elicited some quizzical glances and a few raised eyebrows. On one occasion, an inquisitive soul had the gumption to ask me about it, which surprisingly led to a very lively and impassioned discussion about the need for more research and options for managing women’s hormonal health. Hear! Hear!
As for the other speculating, yet less inquisitive observers, I’ll just have to be resigned to being dubbed the “seed lady” – a not so-loving moniker given to me by 15 year-old son. About a week into my process, during dinner one night he blurted out, “That’s disgusting. It looks like you dropped your dinner in the sand.” He wasn’t wrong. Even so, his words were dripping with the judgement of repulsion, a sentiment which pops up in my insecure thought bubble whenever I have to pull out my seeds in public (the horror!).
Two Months In: The Pros and Cons
Naturopaths advise that it can take up to three to four months before you realize the full benefits of seed cycling. After two months (and as early as three weeks in), I’ve already experienced some pretty significant benefits that have made the process worth the effort.
· No premenstrual acne (AWESOME)
· Fewer chin hairs (THANK GOD)
· Shorter period with lighter flow, i.e., four days w/light spotting from five days w/significant spotting) (ALWAYS A GOOD THING)
· Noticeably less hostile during tail end of period – just about everyone in my orbit has noticed to the point of commenting (THE BEST)
· Thinking about and planning for when you’re going to have your seeds everyday (ONE MORE THING TO REMEMBER TO DO)
· They sometimes ruin/detract from your meal (SAND IN YOUR FOOD CAN BE UNPLEASANT)
· Grinding seeds is messy (FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE LIVED THROUGH A RENOVATION, THINK “SAWDUST”)
· Cleaning the grinder is a pain (FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS)
· Absolutely NO effect on my night sweats (ARGH! THE SEARCH CONTINUES)
I’ve Got the Need -- the Need for Seeds
In terms of the actual seeds, I definitely prefer the weeks of pumpkin and flax seeds – mostly because they taste better – or more specifically, their flavor profiles are subtler and better integrate with a wide range of food. Unlike sesame and sunflower seeds, both of which have a pretty distinct taste (and can be pasty), whether alone or integrated with other foods. On the upside, because I’m on a 25-day cycle, I really only have to eat the sunflower and sesame seeds for about three weeks, give or take a day or two.
Not long into the process, I accepted that if I was going to have any chance of successfully integrating this natural approach to balancing my hormones into my lifestyle, then I couldn’t be fanatical about it, or I’d likely buckle under the pressure of precision. I realized that there were days that I might not get my seeds in, and that my kitchen was going to be covered in seed dust because I wouldn’t have the energy to sweep it up, or some aloof stranger was going to judge my odd and unseemly dietary practices. WHATEVER.
After two months, I’ve definitely experienced some benefits of seed cycling that make it all worthwhile. But honestly, when I think about the fact that I could be in perimenopause for another five years (or more), it seems like it would be a lot easier to take a pill or two, rather than grinding and sprinkling my food with seeds Every. Single. Day. Even so, I’m committed for now, because it’s working. Now, on to the night sweats…