Seed cycling has been a hot topic of conversation lately! Cysters trying to conceive or just trying to regulate their cycles have been eager to know what it’s all about. So I decided to take a deep dive and explain what seed cycling is and what the scientific evidence is saying about its proposed benefits.
This holistic tool has been used by women to balance hormones and promote healthy menstrual cycles. Seed cycling is a process of rotating the consumption of certain seeds in your diet to promote a healthy production of the hormones, estrogen and progesterone. The seeds used include flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. Flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are used during the 1st phase of the menstrual cycle to regulate estrogen production. Sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are used during the 2nd phase of the menstrual cycle to stimulate healthy production of the hormone, progesterone.
How do these hormones regulate my cycle?
- Estrogen: this hormone rises right before ovulation during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. This hormone is produced by follicles and is responsible for ovulation.
- Progesterone: this hormone is released from the corpus luteum during ovulation and rises after ovulation during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. It stimulates thickening of the uterine lining to prepare for pregnancy.
What are the phases of a menstrual cycle?
- Follicular phase: this starts with the 1st day of your period to when you ovulate. Generally, this is day 1 through day 14. However, everyone ovulates differently so this range may vary.
- Luteal phase: this phase starts after you ovulate and ends the day before your next period starts. This generally lasts anywhere from 10-16 days and tends to be more consistent than the follicular phase.
What seeds and why are used?
- Pumpkin seeds: good source of zinc, magnesium, iron, protein, and antioxidants. The magnesium content promote better blood sugar control, which can be helpful in maintaining healthy hormonal balance. Zinc promotes production of progesterone in preparation for the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle as well as support healthy testosterone levels before ovulation.
- Flax seeds: great source of antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats. Contains alpha-linoleic acid, lignans, and protein. These lignans, or phytoestrogens can be beneficial in estrogen production and estrogen metabolism. Ground flaxseed consumption has also helped with elongating luteal phases during the menstrual cycle.
- Sesame seeds: Good source of healthy fats, plant protein, vitamin E, magnesium, and lignans. Help reduce inflammation in the body and promote proper cholesterol metabolism, therefore greatly benefiting heart health as well.
- Sunflower seeds: Rich in vitamin E, selenium, healthy fats, plant protein, and iron. Aids in reducing inflammation in the body, better blood sugar control, and healthy cholesterol metabolism. Sunflower seeds can also help with estrogen detoxification, as well as reducing PMS-related symptoms.
How to seed cycle:
- During the follicular phases of your menstrual cycle, consume 1 Tbsp each of:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Flax seeds
- During the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, consume 1 Tbsp each of:
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
How to prepare and store the seeds?
You can blend a week’s worth of seeds ahead of time and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or in the freezer. You don’t want to ground the seeds together too far in advance to ensure the seeds don’t oxidize and go rancid.
Ways to consume the seeds?
I love adding the seeds to smoothies, yogurt, avocado toast, homemade seed bars, oatmeal, chia pudding, or sprinkling on cereal. It is recommended to consume these seeds consistently for at least 3 cycles to see potential benefits.
What does the science say?
If you go to PubMed and search for the benefits of seed cycling, you’re likely to come to a dead end quite quickly. There is minimal research supporting the use of seed cycling for hormonal balance. However, there is evidence supporting the health benefits of individual nutrients that many of these seeds contain, such as zinc, magnesium, selenium, vitamin E, omega 3-fatty acids, and lignans, as indicated in the description of the seeds above. Proposed benefits of seed cycling include:
- Menstrual cycle regularity
- Healthy production of estrogen and progesterone
- Proper metabolism and detox of estrogen and progesterone
- Healthy ovulation
Here’s the thing. For some women, it has worked wonders. Others haven’t seen any effect. My take? If you’re a woman, especially a woman with PCOS trying to somewhat regulate your cycles and are looking for holistic measures to do so, then there is no harm in trying this. Also just because the research doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it won’t benefit your health to include these seeds into your daily diet. All of these seeds have nutritional benefits to consuming them.
Will seed cycling help with my PCOS and fertility?
While we have discussed many of the individual health benefits of the seeds used in seed cycling above, the research regarding seed cycling for PCOS and fertility is minimal. Anecdotally, some women swear by it regulating their menstrual cycle and some research has demonstrated less anovulatory cycles with the use of these healthy fats on a daily basis. So looking at it plainly, a regular cycle with healthy ovulation equates to better fertility. If you happen to fall into this group of ladies who have seen a benefit to seed cycling then yes, do you girl! Many women also find that they just feel better overall even if they don’t see changes in their cycle. Do keep in mind that seed cycling is not the end answer to your infertility issues. It should be used in combination with quality sleep, regular physical activity, self-care practices, and a overall healthy diet rich in healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and adequate protein.
What’s the bottom line?
Whether you decide to follow the guidelines of consuming 1 tbsp each of pumpkin, flaxseed, sesame, and sunflower seeds during the designated time frame outlined by seed cycling or just choose to incorporate any of these healthy fats on a daily basis throughout your menstrual cycle, both ways are A-OK!
Some women may find it easy and enjoyable to follow the guidelines outlined by the seed cycling schedule, while others may get exhausted with the preparation or just find it too difficult. If you find yourself in the latter group, then the bottom line is to find a way to include 1-2 tablespoons of ANY of these healthy seeds daily regardless of the timing!