Part of holistic wellness is understanding that everything in the body is connected. Hormone balance affects many other areas of your health, and when this delicate balance is thrown off for some reason, your body’s way of telling you can be through menstrual changes, energy issues, digestive troubles, insomnia, infertility, and more.
For getting hormones back in balance, seed cycling can be a powerful way to use whole foods to improve your wellbeing. To discuss this gentle method, we are joined by Kate Morton, a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in Human Clinical Nutrition that focuses on women’s health and fertility. She’s also the founder of Funk It Wellness, a menstrual health company on a mission to end PMS, naturally.
Referenced in this episode:
- Seed cycling
- The effects of flaxseed supplementation on metabolic status in women with polycystic ovary syndrome
- Effects of Flax Seeds Supplementation in PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Funk It Wellness
- FIW on Instagram
- FIW on TikTok
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The written version of this interview has been edited slightly for length and clarity.
Kristen Ciccolini: Can you share with our audience a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Kate Morton: I’m a registered dietitian, I live in Austin, TX, and I’m the founder of Funk It Wellness. We’re a menstrual health company and we make seed cycling kits. I started out as a pediatric pulmonary dietitian. I still worked with moms and babies but I definitely was not in a fertility space until I got off birth control and my whole body just went haywire.
I’d been on it about 10 years, I had the Nexplanon implant, and it actually got lost in my arm. My muscle grew around it and it was making the hormones come out faster. I basically had a period for two years. Even though I’m so loud and outspoken, I was too nervous to go to my doctor and talk to them about it because the first time I called them, they were like “We’re going to put you on more hormones,” and I was like, “No, that’s not what I want.”
I was living in New Zealand at the time and it kicked off this whole journey of exploration about my body, which led me to become a menstrual health dietitian and I got introduced to seed cycling. It literally changed my life.
I had deep cystic hormonal acne, ear to ear, across my chin and jawline. I had really bad cramps. My mood swings were out of control. I was really desperate to try anything. It completely changed my life.
KC: Were you able to get the implant out?
KM: I had two of them. I had one when I was living in the U.S. and they charged me $1,000 to get it taken out. They encouraged me to get another one put in because they were like “You’re moving across the world, you don’t want a baby right now.” I didn’t get any education on cycle tracking. That’s really something that came later for me.
So I was like, “Okay, you’re right. I don’t want a baby right now, I guess I’ll just get another one put in even though I’ve had all these terrible things.” The second one was even worse. Crazy enough, in New Zealand they took it out for free and gave me a prescription for 5,000 condoms.
KC: That’s so interesting you bring up the conversation with your doctor around birth control and how you don’t get that education and you said you were nervous to talk to them about it. Do you hear from customers their different stories about birth control and how they’ve come off of it? Also, how does that tie into the seed cycling business?
KM: Most of our DMs — either they’re on [birth control] and they want to support their bodies in a way that can help them someday come off of it, or they’re like me and they came off of it and they had no idea that they really should be prepping their body or that our bodies are so dependent on these artificial hormones. It’s something that I’m really passionate in talking about.
I’m not anti-birth control. Birth control does prevent birth, and if that’s what you want to use it for, I think it can be a tool. I’m very pro informed decision making. I want my clients and customers to have every ounce of education they can have so they can go to their doctor and make the best decisions for themselves, they’re not me, who was 23, getting bullied into getting this horrible implant into my arm and had so many negative experiences from it. My body was deficient in progesterone for two years after getting that out.
KC: And then you found seed cycling.
KM: Yeah! It’s really cool because I was learning how to track my cycle and I got introduced to seed cycling. There’s not a lot of pharmaceutical companies that want to fund research on natural alternatives, so I’ve spent three years researching it on my own. I’m so amazed by food and what it can do for our bodies. And our menstrual cycles have four phases — energy shifts, but not just energy. Nutritional needs shift.
If you think about hormones, they have to be built. They’re not something that just exists, they’re built. We need proper nutrition to build the hormones and I think of our cycle as a relay race handing off a baton. We have different hormones that play in each phase, and they all need different nutrition to hand off the baton so that the next hormone can take over.
Seed cycling plays into that perfectly because it gives you those nutrients that you need to support those phases from a food-based source. It also gives you fiber, fat, and protein, and prebiotic fiber.
KC: I love that relay visual. Let’s back up — for those who have never heard of seed cycling, could you explain what that means?
KM: Seed cycling is a really simple ritual around your cycle. Your first step is tracking your cycle, noting your period when it starts and when it ends, do that for a couple months. Once you’re tracking your cycle, then you just choose your seeds.
From the first day of your period to you ovulate, you have flax and pumpkin seeds. These are really important because flax seeds are really rich in phytoestrogens, which are like a magical puzzle piece. They either help boost estrogen or remove estrogen based on what your body needs. They’re really rich in magnesium, which is important for building hormones, also sleep and stress management. Zinc is important for cell multiplication — we don’t think about this but our eggs being formed, it’s cells multiplying.
Once you ovulate, you switch to sesame and sunflower seeds. Once you switch and start making progesterone in your luteal phase, on average you burn between 100 and 300 extra calories a day. So this has a slightly higher nutrient density in these seeds. They’re rich in Vitamin E and Vitamin B6, which are clinically proven to basically bust every PMS symptom that you have. They also have selenium for thyroid and endocrine support. gain, with zinc and magnesium.
It’s really simple. All it is is tracking your cycle, eating pumpkin and flax seeds (one tablespoon of each) for the first half, and then switching to sesame and sunflower (one tablespoon of each) for the second half, and then you just keep on cycling through.
KC: I know that there’s not a whole lot of research on the practice of seed cycling itself. You mention the nutrients and what they’re good for, there’s research on that, but seed cycling itself has limited research. You mention you’ve done research yourself over the last few years — I’d love to know what you’ve done to develop your kits and if you could share the process of what you’ve created.
KM: I’m really manifesting that we can get some real clinical research on this. We’re growing a lot and we have a lot of customers that we talk to every day, but running a clinical research study is not in my skillset. But what I do for research, I always start with analyzing the nutrients. I start with breaking down each seed.
What’s in this seed? What’s the makeup of it? How should it be consumed? I did all the research on all of the ingredients in each seed. Then I figured out how much of that seed do you actually need to eat to get the right amount. That’s where the tablespoon recommendations come in.
Then I actually ended up finding in the ’80s and ’90s there was a surprisingly big spike in menstrual research. It dies off around 2000 but there was an interest in menstrual cycles, so there’s actually a significant amount of research on diet and how it gets implemented into the cycle.
I started there, then I worked backwards. What impacts our menstrual cycle? What do we need to support it? Blood sugar balance is a really important thing that I don’t think we talk about enough. Seed cycling can help with that.
I made a brief, it’s really long. It has every research article that’s ever talked about these nutrients being used in the diet. Specifically with B vitamins, it’s really important to get them through your food. There are a couple of research studies that have shown people who increase their B vitamin intake through food, their PMS is reduced by 35% in the first month. People who supplemented with lab-made supplements saw no change.
KC: We’re a culture of convenience. We want the supplement, we heart that a certain nutrient is going to be good for us, so we go buy it, rather than finding the food that contains it. It doesn’t work in isolation as well as it would, or at all, like it would in a whole food.
KM: That leads perfectly into how we developed the kit. So I did all this research on why this would work. As a dietitian, I am both Westernly trained and integratively trained, so I wanted to be able to not just say “Hey, buy this, it works.” I wanted to be like, “This is why this works, and this is why it’s good for you.”
Seeds, to absorb, need to be ground. You have to break the shell to absorb the nutrients. Seeds go rancid very quickly once the shell is broken.
Then our next obstacle is we need to find a manufacturer really close to us, we need to use seeds that have low transit time, so we could grind and ship immediately to you. That’s the other part of our process. That’s all that went into the kits, and then doing the research on — how do we make this convenient? How do we make this accessible? What’s a good price point that people can afford?
From there, how do we make it fun? Because if it’s not fun, who wants to do it anyways?
KC: You make it so fun! My clients who try seed cycling are always looking for ways to make it easier and your kits make it super convenient. You mention they come ground, they go rancid easily, do you have a way that you recommend storing the seeds?
KM: If you’re doing it at home, the top thing I tell you is that when you’re grinding them, make sure you’re putting them in something that is opaque so light can’t get into them. Light is what kills a lot of nutrients. Store them in your fridge or your freezer. You could totally travel with them, take them out of your bag, but just for max freshness make sure they’re in the fridge or freezer and do not cook with them.
KC: You’ve done the research on how it works, you also have many customers that have given you their stories about how it has helped them. I’d love to know if there are any stories that stand out to you.
KM: There’s one in particular that always gets me. We had someone reach out to us and she was like, “I’m 47, I have had terrible periods my entire life. They have been so bad that I was about to get a hysterectomy. You guys were my last-ditch effort. If this didn’t work, I was done.” After three months of seed cycling with us — I will say, seed cycling takes time, it’s not a magic bullet, it doesn’t fix everything, it’s definitely a tool — “my periods are amazing and I don’t have to get a hysterectomy. Minimal cramping, I feel great, they’re not long and heavy anymore.” That was one that really stood out to me.
Something as simple as a food routine could help someone who’s been struggling since her first period. Hysterectomy is a big surgery, it’s a long recovery time, it’s scary. The fact that food could influence and change that I found to be amazing.
We also have a lot of conception stories. We call them our Funk It Babies.
We have a lot of people with PCOS who don’t have consistent periods. They start seed cycling, after a few months their periods come back and they get consistent. There’s a lot of cool research on flax seed and PCOS.
If you seed cycle with us, we love hearing your story because it makes it all worth it. All this fighting to change the stigma because we all deserve to have a chance to live a peaceful life that doesn’t constantly involve fighting with our cycles.
KC: Seed cycling helped me. I used it as a tool for helping regulate my cycle after I got off birth control. That took a full year for it to regulate. It’s not an easy process, especially because I was on birth control for like 15 years. You spend all this time doing one thing, it’s not going to be an easy road. But it can be!
I know with my clients, even with seed cycling or just starting on any new routine to help your cycle, you can see changes in as little as a month. But it can also be as long as a couple years.
KM: That’s a great point. I was the same. I was on birth control for 10 years and it took six months before my period came back, and then a year after it came back, I had 50-60 day cycles. I moon cycled to help get back on track. Ten years of birth control, I was so frustrated, it was taking forever — but a year and a half isn’t that long to undo 10 years of damage.
KC: And then in that time, you’re learning so much about your body that is so valuable. That information is never going to leave you. When you say moon cycling, do you mean that you were seed cycling with the lunar phases?
KM: Yes, that’s what I was doing because my cycle was so unpredictable once it came back. I would go 60 days without any bleeding, then I may have spotting. The lunar cycle is 28 days, just like the average menstrual cycle. If you think about the new moon, the energy of the new moon is very aligned with menstrual energy, and then the ovulation and the full moon. Now my cycle, three years later, is almost perfectly aligned with the new moon.
So many people are algned with the moon, and they think it was passed down from generation to generation when we were living outside and that’s how we tracked our cycles.
KC: I hear a lot from people about how they menstruate on the new moon, the full moon, and it changes over time. It’s really cool that you’ve been able to stick with it. But I want to emphasize that that’s not always the case for everyone, that if it changes, it changes, it’s totally natural for that to happen.
KM: It’s okay if your cycle varies slightly. When we fall back — our cycles are linked to our circadian rhythm, which is also something I’ve been doing a lot of research on — your cycle may be adjusting.
KC: What are some of your favorite ways to use the seeds? I think of the typical things like smoothies, yogurt. What are more interesting ways that you use them?
KM: I really love them on soup and chili and things that are warm. I top once it’s cooled down a little bit. I’ll put it on top of oatmeal. We have someone who puts them in matcha. She grinds them really fine in her blender, even finer than we send, and makes a matcha powder with it. Protein balls, bliss balls. We have a maca powder too you can make a latte with. It’s not seed cycling, it’s different. We have people who just eat them by themselves.
KC: How does the maca powder fit into a healthy hormone protocol?
KM: Maca was my first introduction into this world. I was on birth control in my early 20s, newly married, I had no libido. I was like, “What’s wrong with me? Have I made a terrible life choice? Do I not like having sex?” I was really mentally struggling with it. Then I read birth control can impact libido, especially the one I was on, which was so progesterin-heavy.
I found maca when I was living in New Zealand as this way to increase libido and energy. I’d been simultaneously working on cutting back on caffeine since my early 20s because I have anxiety and that’s not helpful for me. So maca got introduced to me and I loved it because it was a non-stimulant energy boost adaptogen, and it’s really nutrient dense. It’s cruciferous root vegetable, it’s got iron, calcium, and it really does help boost your libido if you have it daily.
KC: How much are you having daily?
KM: Oh, little bit. I took a teaspoon. I would recommend if you’re sensitive to anything, I would start with a half a teaspoon, just because it’s an adaptogen, it is powerful, so I think starting with a little bit and building up is really important.
KC: Aside from regulating the menstrual cycle, helping with libido, is there anything that you’ve seen with customers that is another added benefit that people wouldn’t typically connect to seed cycling?
KM: A lot of people who previously experienced vaginal dryness actually have a lot of good fertility signs after seed cycling. Sesame seeds are linked to decreasing vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women, so the mechanism they think that comes from is the increased phytoestrogen content. So it can help with vaginal dryness.
Also it can really help with hair growth. It’s interesting because pumpkin seeds contain an amino acid called cucurbitin linked to hair growth in both men and women.
The prebiotic fiber is really important for gut health, and if we are talking about hormones, I do not think it’s possible to talk about hormone health without talking about gut health. Our gut health is our foundation. You’re not what you eat, you’re what you absorb, and what you absorb is usually in your gut.
Skin health is another one. I also think a benefit people don’t necessarily think about is it creates a routine around your cycle, which is just really special because we spend our whole lives being told we should hate this part of ourselves, and then you start celebrating it and it’s really interesting what shifts in your life around it. I love my period now, I’m excited about it. It’s possible to love your period even if you previously hated it.
KC: Could you give a high-level explanation as to why gut health is so important?
KM: Here’s where I always start and it makes some people slightly uncomfortable, but we’ve gotta be pooping every day. It is the foundation of life.
Think about your garbage in your house. You have it in your garbage can, it’s contained, you take it out every day or whenever it’s full. Imagine if your garbage can was full and you just continued to stuff stuff in it and never took it out of your house. That’s not great! That’s things that don’t need to be in there, bacteria overgrowth, it smells.
Your digestive system and your gut health cleans out waste. It also takes out nutrients from food. It’s really cool. You eat this thing, your whole digestive system works to break it down, then your gut extracts all the nutrients from it, and then pushes out what it doesn’t need.
Something people don’t realize is that estrogen is excreted through the digestive system. Gut health comes in here because we need to be absorbing the nutrients from our food. A healthy gut is the only way to do that. Also, we don’t want waste sitting for extended periods of time in our body because that’s not good. It helps to get everything out of the body.
Also, serotonin is in our gut. Serotonin is very important for mood. If you guys have ever experienced PMS, you know mood is a huge part of that.
We need to take care of our guts. Drinking enough water, eating enough fiber, getting enough sleep, and going to the bathroom regularly.
KC: Shifting gears, I wanted to ask about the business. Starting a business is super stressful and can really take a toll emotionally, especially when you’re solo, and sometimes even more so when you have a team that you’re responsible for. How do you do it while staying in alignment with your cycle?
KM: I’m gonna be real with you guys, this has been a huge journey for me. Emotionally, spiritually, hormone-wise — I knew it was going to be hard, but it’s so much harder than I thought. I will say something I’ve really struggled with is practicing what I preach when it comes to owning a business because there are deadlines, there are times when I cannot align it with my cycle, there are things that have to get done some days. It sucks. I don’t love that.
I’ll take you guys through a little journey. Sleep, I never had a problem with until I started a business. Then all of a sudden, I had really bad insomnia because I was stressed and worked through it.
I am working on learning to take breaks, moving my body at yoga once a week is really important for my mental health. I gave up alcohol, and I’m not saying that this is forever, but in this season of my life, alcohol was not serving my mental or physical health. It was compounding upon the stress and forming unhealthy coping mechanisms. I did not stop going out with friends though. I still go out and I just get mocktails or water or something fun instead.
I’ve worked really hard on putting an amazing community of people around me, people who also own businesses. It’s really beneficial if you’re an entrepreneur to have other friends who understand what your day-to-day looks like.
Another thing was I gave up coffee for the first year of owning my business. Hear me out — I’m not anti-coffee, I love coffee. I realized it’s not good for me, my gut health. I get eczema when I get stressed, so I started drinking coffee again and my eczema started to come back.
So I gave up alcohol, gave up coffee, started doing yoga. I also do try to run my business in alignment with my cycle. As a team, we have certain work-from-home days. We’re small so we cannot always do this. On our period, if you need extra time on things, not scheduling meetings around then. Using follicular phase for creative planning. My period ends today and I’m feeling that energy of wanting to plan. Then ovulatory phase for meetings and luteal phase for executing tasks.
My luteal phase always also falls on the end of the month, which, if you own a business, is the time you’re really trying to wrap things up and meet goals. It’s terrible timing because it’s when I’m always the hardest on myself.
I’ve implemented a gratitude practice. It started out just in my luteal phase, now I do it every day. Five things I’m grateful for before I even open my eyes in the morning to remind myself how much good there is, how much fun there is.
I changed pretty much my entire life to be able to cope with running a business.
KC: I love that you share that you’re not always in sync with it, and that’s really important to emphasize. People think everything has to be perfect all the time and it’s not always, that’s not how life works. You also share that you’re taking care of yourself as much as you can outside of what you can’t control and that’s also really key to think about.
How does hormone support look in the workplace? If you have any tips for people to make their offices more period-friendly.
KM: This is one of my favorite topics to talk about because I want us to be authentic in how we show up. We try to realistically figure out, how can we make this easy and fun?
Our number one core value is education, and empowerment, and empowered decision making. At our meetings we have an education topic. Sissy, who runs our social media, runs the education topics. We talk about — this week was amenorrhea, next week it’s pubes, it’s anything in the hormone world that we’re curious about. She researches it, but as a team everyone has to bring one thing that learned about it.
From there, we try to shift our work in alignment with our cycles. We’re working on that. We’re definitely not perfect at it, there are sometimes we can’t be.
Also, having an office space where it’s friendly to say, “I started my period today and my energy is low, can I work from home this morning?” Really having a space where we can talk about things.
Also, pads, tampons, wipes. We have all the things in the office. That’s really important because 60% of people have been stuck at work without a menstrual care product and it’s caused them anxiety and they’ve lost productivity during the day.
KC: This has been such a great conversation. Where can people connect with you?
KM: Funkitwellness.com is the best place to shop [get 15% off with code KRISTEN15]. Our Instagram is @funk.it.wellness — this is the best place to find us. DM us, we will always talk back within 24 hours. We have ebooks on our website. We have a new TikTok.
KC: You will all definitely want to go follow them, they are so fun on the internet. Thank you so much for being here, this was so awesome!
KM: Thank you for having me!