By Annie Xystouris, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and Communications Fellow at the MH Hub.
Seed cycling is a hot trend in female health right now. It’s being presented as a remedy for PMS, infertility and pretty much any kind of period-related issue. In this blog post, we will look at what it is and where the idea comes from, how it is supposed to help and give our own two cents on whether or not it’s worth it.
What is it?
Seed cycling is basically a seed rotation technique that can help regulate and balance hormones during the menstrual cycle. When seed cycling, a woman ought to consume specific seeds during the different phases of her cycle to support specific hormone production.
It is based on the idea that food is medicine, it’s what nurtures us and helps us grow, in other words, that what we eat can influence our body functions, including hormone production. It is recommended for women or all ages — for teenagers at the beginning of their reproductive cycle to pre-menopausal women, post-birth and beyond menopause.
Up until very recently, in most western countries, hormonal issues have mostly been “dealt with” with the prescription of the contraceptive pill or other hormone medications. In recent years however, a large number of mostly female (surprise, surprise) experts have begun talking about the power of food and lifestyle choices in helping correcting hormonal imbalances. Some examples include Alisa Vitti, Dr. Lara Briden, Dr. Jolene Brighten.
Image: Dr. Jolene Brighten
According to Brighten, seed cycling can help bring back the important balance between the hormones estrogen and progesterone, specifically boosting estrogen levels in the first part of the cycle (the follicular phase leading up to ovulation) and progesterone levels in the second part (the luteal phase leading to menstruation).
Many conditions, including tender breasts, mood swings, weight gain, cysts and fibroids, are scientifically proven to be caused by a too high ratio between estrogen and progesterone in the second phase of our cycle — too much estrogen and not enough progesterone, or “estrogen dominance”. These conditions are not normal, though many of us are taught to expect and accept them. PMS-free periods are possible.
How do I do it?
Let’s start with the basic notion of a 30-day cycle (though many women have shorter or longer cycles — and that’s perfectly normal!). Day 1 is counted as the first day of your period. If you are suffering from amenorrhea (absence of cycles), have irregular cycles or are in peri / menopause, this technique may still help. If you are in your menstruating years but are not cycling, you can start any time you like, doing two weeks of each seed rotation, as if you had a 30-day cycle. The same stands if you have already entered menopause.
During the first part of the cycle (days 1–15), estrogen is rising to build our uterus lining. You will want to eat 1–2 tablespoons per day of flaxseed and pumpkin seeds, as their natural nutrients increase estrogen levels. (As a side note, flaxseed should always be consumed ground, not whole, and kept in the fridge).
During the second part of the cycle and after you ovulate, progesterone thickens the uterus lining and prepares it for implantation, and subsequently, pregnancy. For this part of the cycle, seed cycling suggests eating sesame and sunflower seeds. Sesame seeds have zinc and sunflower seeds have Vitamin E, both of which are known to stimulate progesterone production. You can sprinkle your seeds in salads, soups, smoothies or on pasta, whatever you want — be creative!
Is it worth it?
As you can see, seed cycling can be an easy, gentle and cheap way to support your body in doing its job better.
Will it magically solve all your hormonal issues? Probably not.
Food is only one part of the equation: your stress levels, water intake, sleep, exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment, exercise and even your own thoughts can heavily influence your cycle too. In our opinion, you have nothing to lose if you try it out.
Let us know by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org or write in the comments if you’re already cycle-syncing and if and how it’s is working for you!
Effect of flax seed ingestion on the menstrual cycle. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8077314
Zinc induced changes in the progesterone binding properties of the human endometrium. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7386123
The Effect of Flaxseed Supplementation on Hormonal Levels Associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: A Case Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2752973/
Effects of phytoestrogen extracts isolated from pumpkin seeds on estradiol production and ER/PR expression in breast cancer and trophoblast tumor cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23859042
How to Use Seed Rotation to Rebalance Your Hormones https://hormonesbalance.com/articles/how-to-use-seed-rotation-to-rebalance-your-menstrual-cycle/