Seed cycling is a wellness trend that has boomed in popularity in recent years.
Everywhere you look bloggers and influencers are raving about the practice. They claim it can help regulate hormones, reduce PMS symptoms, and even boost fertility.
But what exactly is seed cycling and how does it work?
And is there any science to back seed cycling benefits? Or is it just another hyped-up health trend soon to be forgotten?
This article will answer all these questions and more. Read on to learn how seed cycling works, how to do it, and what science has to say.
What is Seed Cycling?
Seed cycling is a naturopathic remedy that involves eating specific seeds during different phases of the menstrual cycle.
During the first half of your menstrual cycle, you eat one tablespoon of ground flax and pumpkin seeds. Then after ovulation, you switch to one tablespoon of ground sesame and sunflower seeds.
The aim is to help balance estrogen and progesterone levels – which ebb and flow throughout your cycle.
To truly grasp the logic behind seed cycling, it helps to understand your menstrual cycle’s hormonal dance.
A Quick Refresh on Your Menstrual Cycle
Your menstrual cycle consists of two phases: the follicular phase and the luteal phase.
The follicular phase begins the first day of your period and lasts until ovulation. During this phase, estrogen steadily rises. This causes a cascade of other hormonal changes, including a rise in LH, which triggers ovulation.
After ovulation, your luteal phase begins. During this phase, progesterone is the key player. Once an egg is released, progesterone levels climb. This helps thicken the uterine lining to prep the body for a possible pregnancy.
It’s normal for estrogen and progesterone to fluctuate throughout your cycle. But these hormones run on a delicate balance. If estrogen or progesterone levels get too high or too low, it can throw off your menstrual cycle and harm fertility.
For example, low levels of estrogen can lead to anovulation. This is when an egg is not released during your menstrual cycle – and it’s the leading cause of infertility.
Low estrogen is also linked with an increased risk of miscarriage. Yet high estrogen can pose fertility problems as well. High estrogen levels can lead to irregular cycles, which makes conception more challenging.
That’s why many women on their fertility journey are turning to seed cycling as a natural way to balance hormones.
How Does Seed Cycling Work?
The internet is swarming with seed cycling success stories. Supporters of the practice claim it helps balance hormones and offers a laundry list of health benefits, including:
- Easing PMS and menopause symptoms
- Regulating menstrual cycle
- Improving fertility
- Stimulating ovulation
- Reducing acne
Yet, the basis for these benefits is purely anecdotal. Currently, there’s no scientific evidence to back up the supposed benefits of seed cycling.
But there is evidence that nutrients in certain seeds may promote hormonal balance and offer symptomatic relief.
The Science Behind Seed Cycling
In theory, seed cycling is meant to promote a healthy balance of estrogen and progesterone. Seed cycling advocates believe this happens in several ways.
For starters, seeds are rich in essential fatty acids, which help calm inflammation. Too much inflammation can increase cortisol, leading to hormonal imbalance.
Yet the seeds used in seed cycling also contain specific nutrients that may support hormone balance. Let’s break them down seed by seed.
Flax seeds are extremely rich in lignans. These are plant compounds that behave like estrogen and help remove excess estrogen from the body.
Research shows consuming flax seeds may help balance hormones and influence your menstrual cycle. One study found consuming flax seeds helped reduce testosterone levels in women with PCOS. When testosterone gets too high, it can cause problems with ovulation.
Another study tracked 18 women’s menstrual cycles. During the first three months when no flax seeds were consumed, there were three anovulatory cycles. Over the three months when subjects consumed flaxseed, there were no cases of anovulation.
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, a mineral that plays an important role in reproduction. Zinc supports progesterone production. It’s believed that this may help your body prepare for the progesterone rise in your luteal phase.
Sesame seeds are another rich source of zinc, which helps boost progesterone levels as you enter the luteal phase. Sesame seeds are also high in lignans, which help regulate estrogen in the body.
Research shows that eating sesame seeds regularly can affect the levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) in postmenopausal women. SHBG is a glycoprotein that binds to estrogen in your body.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E, which is shown to ease PMS symptoms and improve progesterone levels. Sunflower seeds are also rich in selenium, an antioxidant that modulates the estrogen receptors in your body.
How to Start Seed Cycling
Getting started with seed cycling is simple. All you need is some raw flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
Seed cycling happens in two phases. Here’s how it works:
Follicular phase (first half of your cycle)
Every day during the first half of your menstrual cycle, eat:
- One tablespoon of ground flax seeds
- One tablespoon of freshly ground pumpkin seeds
This is thought to support healthy estrogen levels in the body and prepare for progesterone’s rise in the luteal phase.
Luteal phase (second half of your cycle)
Every day during the second half of your cycle, (from ovulation to the first day of your period) switch to eating:
- One tablespoon of ground sesame seeds
- One tablespoon of ground sunflower seeds
This is thought to promote progesterone production and help the body regulate estrogen.
If your cycle is irregular or if you no longer have periods, you can follow the moon cycle instead.
In this case, you’d treat the new moon as day one and start the flax and pumpkin seed combo then.
Two weeks later, on the full moon, you’d swap them for sesame and sunflower seeds and continue until the next new moon. Then, repeat the cycle.
How Long Does It Take to Work?
Some women claim to feel the effect of seed cycling within the first cycle. But to give it a fair shot, most natural medicine practitioners recommend trying it for at least three cycles.
Adding other hormone-balancing practices in tandem may improve the benefits. Reducing stress, eating a healthy diet, and getting quality sleep are all important for hormone balance.
Are There Any Side Effects?
The only real risk to seed cycling is if you have an allergy to certain seeds. Remember – seed cycling involves eating nutritious foods. So while there’s no guarantee it’ll help, it can’t hurt.
That said, since seed cycling increases your fiber intake, you may poop more often. But for most people, that’s a plus! Just make sure you drink plenty of water to keep things moving.
However, if you do observe any changes in your body after starting seed cycling, then stop it immediately. Consult your physician before you begin anything new.
How Do I Know It’s Working?
You know your body best. Tracking your symptoms can offer hints about whether your hormones are improving. Keeping a journal is one easy way to do this.
Ways to Add Seeds to Your Diet
There are tons of ways to incorporate seed cycling into your diet. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Add to smoothies
- Sprinkle over salads, toast, or oatmeal
- Use as a base for pesto
- Make homemade seed crackers, energy balls, or granola
- Whip up a batch of seed butter
But if all this sounds too complicated, you can always just eat the seeds whole.
Do I Have to Grind the Seeds?
Seeds can be difficult to digest. So, it’s recommended you grind the seeds to enhance nutrient absorption. You can do this easily with a coffee grinder or food processor.
Fair warning, once ground, seeds can get rancid quickly. So to keep them fresh, always store ground seeds in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Mason jars work well for this.
If grinding seeds sounds like too much of a hassle, you can always eat them whole instead. Either way, choose raw seeds over roasted seeds, as they have more of their nutrients intact.
Final Thoughts on Seed Cycling
Seed cycling is a holistic tool that many claim helps balance your hormones. But scientific evidence on seed cycling benefits is lacking. And while many people say it helps – it’s certainly no cure-all.
Managing stress, exercising, and eating a balanced diet are all key to supporting healthy hormone production.
If you’re curious about seed cycling, but it sounds overwhelming, don’t stress. You can always just add more seeds to your diet without worrying about how much to eat and when.
- Seed cycling is a naturopathic practice that involves eating specific seeds during different phases of your menstrual cycle.
- During the follicular phase, you eat one tablespoon of ground flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Then during the luteal phase, you eat one tablespoon each of ground sunflower and sesame seeds.
- Advocates of seed cycling claim it supports a healthy balance of estrogen and progesterone. But there’s no scientific evidence to back up any seed cycling benefits.
- Seeds contain certain nutrients that may promote healthy hormone levels. This includes lignans, zinc, selenium, vitamin E, and essential fatty acids.
- Most people suggest grinding raw seeds to enhance nutrient absorption.
- You can add ground seeds to your yogurt, smoothies, or oatmeal, or sprinkle them on salads or toast.