What is Seed Cycling?
Seed cycling is a nutritional practice of incorporating certain seeds into the diet, at various stages of the reproductive cycle to help regulate the associated hormones. The four seeds used in seed cycling are:
To be more specific, seed cycling involves consuming these seeds during the follicular and luteal phases of your menstrual cycle to support the proper balance of oestrogen and progesterone levels, which naturally fluctuate throughout the month. The unique combination of nutrients as well as omega-3 fatty acids and plant lignans are some of the key nutritional components that make seed cycling effective.
Seed cycling can be helpful for women at any stage of their life, including during post-menopause. However, they can be beneficial seeds for fertility as well as useful for women who experience irregular menstrual symptoms. Furthermore, seed cycling can be beneficial for women who are coming off oral contraceptives or other hormonal birth control. These symptoms can include heavy, painful or irregular periods, mood swings, acne or PMS.
How Does Seed Cycling Work?
Each of the four seeds has specific health benefits that relate to hormone changes during your 28-day ovarian cycle on the whole. This cycle can be divided into two phases: the follicular and luteal phases, each lasting for approximately 14 days. Let's take a better look at these phases and what seeds to consume during each one.
Phase 1: Follicular Phase
Your follicular phase begins on the first day of your period and denotes Day 1 of your ovulatory cycle. The end of this phase is approximately on Day 14 and usually aligns with the day of ovulation. The ovulatory phase is when you are at your most fertile where your reproductive hormones rise and peak around Day 14.
During phase 1, oestrogen, luteinising hormone (LH), follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) and small amounts of testosterone are the dominant hormones. Altogether, these hormones stimulate the ovary to release an egg for fertilisation and also help prepare the uterus for implantation. The ovaries also produce testosterone to help with libido which is a normal part of the first phase of your cycle.
Pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds are especially high in zinc, omega 3, phytoestrogens and lignans. These nutrients all support healthy testosterone production, and oestrogen metabolism and reduce inflammation. As such these are the seeds of choice during phase 1 of your ovarian cycle.
1-2 tbsps. of pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds should be consumed during your follicular phase, every day.
Phase 2: Luteal Phase
Your luteal phase begins at ovulation and continues until you get your period, which is typically on Day 28. Following ovulation, progesterone is the dominant hormone during this phase, as your body is expecting the implantation of a fertilised egg. If this doesn't happen, you'll get your period as normal, which ends this cycle and starts a new follicular phase.
Sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are very high in lignans, omega 3 and vitamin E which promote progesterone production, improves endometriosis symptoms, support liver detoxification and have anti-inflammatory properties. This makes these seeds important for phase 2 of your ovarian cycle.
1-2 tbsps. of sesame seeds and sunflower should be consumed during your follicular phase, every day.
How To Incorporate Seed Cycle To Balance Hormones
It's as simple as this:
- Phase 1 Follicular Phase: (Days 1 -14) Include 1-2 tbsps of ground or whole pumpkin and/or flax seeds in your diet.
- Phase 2 Luteal Phase: (Days 15-28) includes 1-2 tbsps ground or whole sesame and/or sunflower seeds.
For optimal health benefits, consuming 1-2 tablespoons of seeds daily is suggested. Remember, seed cycling is not an exact science and the recommendations are based on the existing clinical studies and evidence for each of these seeds as standalone interventions. So, rather than be too prescriptive, it's best to incorporate these seeds as mindfully as possible and trust your body to do the rest.
That said, wherever possible you should use raw, organic and high-quality seeds to ensure the maximum health benefits. It's also best to grind your own and eat them in small batches to preserve their nutrients. The outer polyphenols and essential fats in seeds are sensitive to light and heat and can oxidise if improperly stored.
The last thing you want is to consume rancid seeds that have little to no health benefits. Grab a coffee or spice grinder, blitz small batches and keep them in the fridge, ready for the week ahead. For whole seeds, keep them out of direct sunlight in a cool place, or the fridge.
Here's some ways you can add ground or whole seeds to reap the seed cycling benefits:
- Blend them into smoothies, yoghurt, porridge, or chia seed pudding
- Sprinkle them on toast, Buddha bowls, salads or soups
- Bake your own nut and seed bread
- Try making a pesto with pumpkin and flaxseeds
- Make your own seed butter
- Mix up homemade granola using each combo (pumpkin and flax seeds or sesame seeds and sunflower seeds)
- Use pre-made LSA mix and add other seeds as needed
Does Seed Cycling Actually Work?
It's a fair question. With all this background research on how good each type of seed is for various hormone-related conditions, it's reasonable to wonder whether the process of seed cycling works as a therapeutic intervention. Because there's no clinical data on the practice of seed cycling, it comes down to taking the available information on these seeds and making an evidence-informed decision for yourself.
Be aware, however, that seed cycling may not resolve all your hormone issues. The reason for this is that reproductive health is a complex beast, and as such requires a multifaceted approach. Stress, toxin exposure, environmental health, interpersonal relationships as well as diet all need to be considered when it comes to your hormones.
And yes, indeed, the areas of health that relate to oestrogen dominance, such as weight gain, mood disturbance, liver detox function, dysmenorrhea (heavy periods) and fertility can all be improved drastically with dietary interventions. But seed cycling alone may not be sufficient to treat these conditions. It just isn't that simple.
Final Thoughts on Seed Cycling For Hormone Health
Overall, I believe that seed cycling is an approachable and worthwhile step towards improving your overall health status, inclusive of your hormones. It's an easy dietary intervention that you can do on your own, while tracking your cycle and discovering for yourself if you think it's helpful.
If you need more support or you don't notice any changes after two or three cycles of implementing seed cycling, it's best to work with a health provider to rule out any other potential culprits that may be contributing to poor hormone health. Don't hesitate to get expert help if you have any major concerns. We want to see you and your hormones thriving!
Seed Cycling Frequently Asked Questions
Is seed cycling the same as seed medicine?
Incorporating seeds to improve human health has been part of many traditional healing practices around the world, such as in Ayurvedic medicine. Eating seeds in this way could be called “seed medicine” due to their ability to nourish the body on many levels, including physical, mental and emotional health. While there may be some overlap between the concept of seed medicine and seed cycling, the latter is a specific, more modern practice of using 4 seed types to augment reproductive health.
Are there any other benefits to seed cycling?
Besides the potential reproductive and hormonal benefits, consuming seeds is a great way to add nutrient-rich foods to your diet. Including seeds in the diet can help with your mood, as well as your immune and digestive health. This is because all four types of seeds offer different beneficial minerals and vitamins, such as protein, fibre, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
How do I know when I'm ovulating?
There are some simple, natural methods for predicting ovulation, such as a distinct elevation in basal body temperature and specific changes in cervical mucous. Stringy, clear, cervical mucous that resembles raw egg white is a solid indicator of ovulation. The quality and viscosity will be different before and after the day of ovulation. Remember, it's normal to ovulate on slightly different days each month, which could be between days 13-16. Period tracking apps or charting your cycle with a pen, paper and thermometer are all easy ways to get to know your own menstrual and ovulatory cycles.
What is the correct way to store seeds for seed cycling?
To ensure better quality and higher nutrient content, it's recommended to buy raw organic seeds instead of roasted ones. If possible, grind the seeds daily or weekly. Storing them in the refrigerator or freezer after blending is also a good idea. Remember to keep them away from sunlight and warm temperatures to avoid oxidation.
Can I use a sesame seed substitute?
For those with an allergy or sensitivity to sesame seeds, hemp seeds can be used as a sesame seed substitute. Hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients, which makes them a great choice for improving hormone balance and overall health. While hemp seeds don't contain the all-important lignan phytochemical that modulates oestrogen, these seeds still confer some broad health benefits and can be enjoyed across your entire cycle.
Seed Cycling Recipes For Hormone Health
If you're interested in weaving these healthy seeds into your diet to see if they help in balancing your hormones, here are some recipes to get you started.
Overnight Oats with Flaxseeds
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 2 tbsp flaxseeds/linseeds
- 1/2 cup almond milk (or any milk of your choice)
- 1/2 cup plain yoghurt (or vanilla for sweetness)
- 1 tbsp honey (or maple syrup for vegans)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Optional toppings: sliced bananas, chopped nuts, fresh berries, or nut butter
- In a mason jar or container with a lid, mix together the rolled oats, flaxseeds, almond milk, plain yoghurt, honey, and vanilla extract until well combined.
- Refrigerate the container overnight, or for at least 4 hours, to allow the oats and flaxseeds to absorb the liquid and soften.
- When ready to serve, give the oats a good stir and add additional milk if needed to reach your desired consistency.
If desired, top with sliced bananas, chopped nuts, fresh berries, or nut butter.