Does seed cycling work on hormones and help you regulate your cycle? In the naturopathic world, seed cycling isn’t anything new. It’s been around for a long time, but before you head to the store to stock your pantry, let’s chat about if it will work for you.
What is seed cycling and why do women use it?
If you’re dealing with period problems, really bad PMS, or a hormone imbalance, you’ve probably been searching for solutions–and seed cycling probably popped up as one of them. Essentially, seed cycling rotates specific types of seeds throughout your menstrual cycle.
Is it really that simple? Does eating these seeds actually work? Skeptics say no. But even though there’s not a ton of evidence out there on how effective seed cycling is, plenty of women argue yes and share success stories to back it up. What we do know for certain: your diet does affect your hormones. Low fat diets, diets that cut out macronutrients or micronutrients, and calorie restriction can all lead to hormone imbalances and irregular (or skipped!) periods. The reason why seeds might help? Seeds are good sources of essential fatty acids (EFAs), and healthy fats are required for hormone balance. But also: each of the seeds you’d use in seed cycling have specific properties that support the natural rise and fall of hormones during the phases of your menstrual cycle.
How do you seed cycle for hormone balance?
To understand the theory behind seed cycling, let’s take a look at your menstrual cycle, what seeds to eat, and how much you need to make a difference.
How to seed cycle during the first half of your cycle
The first part of your cycle is called the follicular phase. This phase begins on the day you start bleeding (day one of your cycle is the first day of your period). The follicular phase continues until you ovulate. There’s a lot happening with your hormones in this phase. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), start to increase and trigger the growth of about 15 to 20 eggs in your ovaries. Estrogen rises and peaks.
To seed cycle, you’ll start eating estrogen-supportive seeds on the first day of your period. Go for 1 to 2 tablespoons a day of fresh ground (and raw!) flax or pumpkin seeds on yogurt, in smoothies, a sweet potato, or over salad–the possibilities are endless. These seeds have estrogen-promoting properties. They also have polyphenols called lignans to help your body metabolize estrogen better.
Continue this routine of raw, fresh, ground flax and pumpkin seeds throughout the entire follicular phase, until you ovulate. In a 28-day cycle, women would ovulate around day 14. But you may be different, especially if your cycles last more than 28 days. (Up to 35 days is considered normal!)
How to seed cycle in the last half of your cycle
When you ovulate, you’ll stop the ground flax and pumpkin seeds. In the second part of your cycle, you want to boost progesterone instead. (Lots of women are low on this all-important hormone, especially if they’re not ovulating. Find out more on low progesterone symptoms here.) Your adrenal glands make a tiny bit of progesterone. But mostly, progesterone is made after ovulation. Progesterone does so many good things for your body. It can help you feel more relaxed, reduce your anxiety, help PMS, and works wonders on insomnia.
To seed cycle in this phase, sunflower and sesame seeds are key. They still need to be fresh and raw, and you’ll still want to grind them up and have 1 to 2 tablespoons a day. These two types of seeds give you vitamin E and zinc, which are really important to hormone balance and progesterone.
Does seed cycling actually work on hormones?
There really aren’t any studies that prove seed cycling works… or that it doesn’t. Most of the claims you hear are personal stories and reports. Is that bad? Not necessarily? These accounts are valuable, even from a healthcare perspective, and can eventually lead to scientific studies and trials.
Scientifically, we do know that the foods we eat can play a huge role in hormone balance and the overall health of your body. Including seeds in your diet may help with this, regardless of how you cycle or rotate them. This is because seeds are a good source of fiber. Fiber’s important to gut health, which is critical to your hormone balance. Seeds also have essential fatty acids. (So do fatty cold-water fish, other nuts, and plant-based oils.) Many of us just don’t get enough essential fatty acids. That’s a shame because deficiencies can lead to hormone imbalances and period problems. We need healthy fats to make cholesterol–and cholesterol is used to make hormones.
Another potential benefit of starting seed cycling is that one healthy choice can encourage us to make more. Other ways to promote better hormone balance are to get more fiber, eat a wide variety of colorful foods, drink water, and above all else: reduce your stress. Over time, your stress hormones borrow your progesterone and mess with your periods and thyroid hormones. Because there’s no data on seed cycling, the only way to know how seed cycling affects you is to give it a try and track your menstrual cycle.
Is it safe?
For most women, it’s unlikely that adding a tablespoon or two of seeds to your diet would be unsafe. Seeds are very nutritious, and the quantities used in seed cycling for hormones are not excessive. That said, we’d always advise running thoughts and ideas about your health by your healthcare provider. They know your medical history, medications, and goals and can make recommendations for you personally.
How long will it take seed cycling to work?
Lifestyle changes don’t always bring about instant results–but they’re still 100% worth doing. Over the long haul, they’re the single most important thing you can do for your health and hormone balance! With seed cycling, you’ll hear that you should give it about three months. But some of us have longer cycles than 28 to 30 days. So, really, you want to give it about 3 menstrual cycles before you evaluate how it’s working for you personally. While you’re seed cycling, we highly recommend tracking your cycle. Some of our favorite free apps to check out: Clue, Period Tracker, and Flo.