When it comes to the intricacy of hormone balance, seed cycling is one of my favorite ways to effectively [yet gently] shift hormones back into balance. Seed cycling is the practice of eating specific seeds to support the key hormones of each phase in the menstrual cycle. The seeds used include flaxseeds, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds. I use seed cycling to support women at any stage in a woman’s life and find it especially helpful for women coming off of birth control or struggling with post birth control symptoms like acne, irregular periods, or new onset of PMS.
HOW DOES SEED CYCLING WORK?
Seed cycling provides specific nutrients to help build your hormones in sync with fluctuations in hormone levels.
To use seed cycling you need to know a few things. You’ll be tracking your menstrual cycle and changing your seeds to match the phase you are in.
Day one is the first day you experience your period. That will be the day you begin the follicular phase seeds and you’ll continue through ovulation or day 14. Following ovulation you will switch to luteal phase seeds.
A STEP BY STEP TUTORIAL
Beginning the first day of your cycle you’ll eat 1-2 tablespoons of fresh ground flax seeds and or raw pumpkin seeds, which support both estrogen production and metabolism. It’s a great way to create balanced estrogen, which is key during the follicular phase. Fresh ground flaxseeds in particular are an excellent way to balance estrogen without pushing you towards estrogen dominance, a common cause of heavy periods and PMS. Flaxseeds are also rich in lignans, which have a weak estrogenic effect. Research has shown these lignans to be beneficial in improving estrogen and progesterone ratios.
Following ovulation, which can vary for each woman, you will switch to 1-2 tablespoons each of raw sunflower and sesame seeds. Sunflower and sesame seeds support progesterone levels, which is the key hormone during the luteal phase [the phase following ovulation until your next period].
If you are unaware of when you actually ovulate simply switch to your luteal phase seeds day 15 of the cycle, but if you’re tracking ovulation then you can switch seeds the day following ovulation.
If you’re like me you’re a visual learner. So let’s look at this charted out…
THE BENEFITS OF SEED CYCLING
Decrease in breast tenderness- Cyclical breast tenderness is a common complaint among women. It typically comes on right before your period. There are studies showing improvement in symptoms when flaxseeds are included regularly in the diet.
Painful period relief- The cause of those painful periods is rooted in excess prostaglandins, estrogen dominance and inflammation. Because these seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids they can help lower inflammation and the effects of prostaglandins. The lignans and nutrients support the elimination of estrogen in the body so that you don’t run into issues with estrogen dominance. While seed cycling can be excellent for alleviating period pain, I also typically encourage my clients to combine their seed cycling with magnesium and fish oil while the seeds work their “magic.”
PCOS support- Seeds are a great source of zinc which supports healthy testosterone production. Testosterone is an androgen and in PCOS, androgens are responsible for the hair loss, acne, and hirsutism (hair growth on the face, chest and abdomen) that is commonly experienced by women with PCOS. Research has shown that women consuming flaxseeds have more favorable levels of androgens and these fibers help with estrogen elimination while also supporting gut health. Additionally, these seeds are also rich in essential fatty acids, which support healthy oil production and decrease inflammation. Other nutrients, like zinc, found in these seeds play important roles in skin health and acne management.
Clear skin- While acne can be due to a number of factors including excess testosterone, estrogen dominance, poor gut health, inefficient liver detoxification, and lack of quality nutrients in the diet. Acne is also common when women come off of birth control due to what is called an androgen rebound, which is an increase in testosterone production after stopping birth control. This is why I recommend women begin seed cycling when coming off of birth control.
A QUICK START GUIDE TO SEED CYCLING
Day 1 – 14: 2 Tbsp ground flax and / or raw pumpkin seeds daily [or a combo of the two] Day 15 – 18 [or from ovulation until the beginning of your next cycle]: 2 Tbsp raw sunflower seeds or sesame seeds daily [or combo of the two] ** The practice works best when the seeds are fresh ground and they definitely need to be raw.
CREATIVE SEED CYCLING IDEAS
Make a fresh seed butter to enjoy with fresh fruit
Mix them into a smoothie
Make a raw seed-based granola
Sprinkle them on salads
Include them in a no-bake energy bar or bite recipe
Enjoy a homemade raw pumpkin seed pesto
Whip up a fresh [un-toasted] tahini
Add them to oatmeal or yogurt
HOW LONG DO I NEED TO PRACTICE THIS?
You’ll want to give yourself a full cycle to note any changes. Typically, seed cycling needs to be coupled with other hormone supportive practices to have a noticeable effect. In other words, you can’t expect to seed cycle and continue to dodge vegetables and skip sleep to create any real change for your hormones. For some women, it can take up to 3 months to really notice an effect, although they typically note some improvement after their first month. I encourage my clients [and based on the results they delightfully comply] in making this a lifelong practice. You don’t have to be dogmatic about it, but it is a simple tool to support your hormone health and leverage food to create better hormones. To your hormone balanced freedom,
RESOURCES: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4375225/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7386123 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2752973/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4147287/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23859042