Seed cycling is a gentle way to restore your reproductive hormones through strategically eating seeds at different phases of your menstrual cycle. The premise is using four different seeds divided into two sets, one set for each phase of your cycle.
During the first half of your cycle you eat to promote estrogen balance with flax and pumpkin seeds. During the second half you eat for progesterone balance with sesame and sunflower seeds.
Seed cycling is a whole-foods based approach of eating nutrient dense food to encourage hormonal balance. This approach is not a quick fix; it can take 3 – 4 months (or cycles) to see the shift. It takes time to re-establish a natural rhythm but it is worth the wait.
Don’t underestimate the power of food. Just because it doesn’t come with a bar code or hefty price tag doesn’t mean it isn’t working. Plant medicine is queen!
What can seed cycling help rebalance?
Although there is limited science behind seed cycling there are some smaller studies around flax seeds suggesting they may help regulate your period. However, the anecdotal evidence from myself included, is plentiful.
After years of long and irregular periods with acne and mood swings, I have regulated my cycle and skin and I believe that seed cycling is a big component in my journey. I went from my average cycle length being 45 days to having a consistent 32 day cycle with significant reduction in both acne and mood swings.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine seeds have an affinity for nourishing the kidneys and adrenals which in turn supplies nourishment and energy for the ovaries. Therefore, through this point of view, eating seeds retraces you back to the foundation of reproductive health. Furthermore, seeds are a nutrient dense and cheap food. If nothing else you gained a compact set of healthy fats (the structure of hormones), vitamins, protein and minerals that will benefit your whole body, so why not use them?
An imbalanced hormonal system may contribute to symptoms such as
- irregular cycles
- amenorrhea (absent period)
- heavy or light bleeding
- painful cramps
- fibroids on the ovaries or breasts
- low energy
- mood swings
- depression and anxiety
- tender breasts
- ovarian cyst
- weight gain around the midline
Seed cycling may help regulate estrogen and promote progesterone production to help alleviate these symptoms. Whether you are experiencing high or low estrogen, seed cycling can assist in bringing you back to center and finding your natural rhythm again.
In more severe hormonal imbalances such as PCOS, seed cycling alone may not rebalance your hormones.
How does Seed Cycling work?
Seed cycling works by splitting your menstrual cycle into 2 phases and within each of these phases you consume 2 types of seeds, a tablespoon of each, every day.
The first half of you cycle is the follicular phase where you consume freshly ground flax and pumpkin seeds daily.
The second half of your cycle is the luteal phase where you consume freshly ground sunflower and sesame seeds daily.
The follicular phase is from day 1-14 or from the start of menstruation until ovulation. During the follicular phase you consume 1 tbsp daily of flax and pumpkin seeds.
If you have an irregular cycle or no longer experience a period you can follow the phases of the moon. Your day 1 would start on the new moon and continue until the full moon; or you can simply choose the first of the month as day 1 and continue until mid month.
During the first half of your menstrual cycle estrogen is the dominant hormone. Almost every single cell in the woman’s body has a receptor for estrogen. It is responsible for heart function, beautiful hair and skin, bone formation, vaginal health and lubrication and part of a healthy brain, and not just for a healthy menstrual cycle.
Flax seeds are a rich source of a plant based omega 3 oil, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that helps to reduce inflammation in the body and as an added bonus this may also help moisturize skin and dry eyes. It also contains lignans (more on this in a moment) to help balance the body’s estrogen. And lastly, flax seed is an excellent way to bulk up your poops to help you properly eliminate processed estrogens. If you aren’t pooping your processed hormones out you are reabsorbing them, reeking havoc on your hormonal system.
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc, which is an essential building block of progesterone, the main sex hormone in the following phase.
Optional addition: a high quality fish oils to boost omega 3 and help reduce inflammation.
Flax + Pumpkin
Day 1 (first day of your period) – 14 you will consume
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground flax seed
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground pumpkin seeds to help balance estrogen levels.
If you have an irregular or absent period: new moon – full moon you will consume
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground flax seed
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground pumpkin seeds
Grab your free pdf Seed Cycling for Hormone Balance below
Estrogen high, estrogen low?
Flax seeds promote estrogen balance whether you have too much or too little estrogen. They are able to do this because they are a rich source of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that adapts to the body’s estrogen needs. Phytoestrogens can bind to estrogen receptors, exerting estrogen like effects on the body. However, they are 1/100 000th as potent as estradiol, the primary and strongest estrogen in the female body.
For women who have low estrogen phytoestrogens can help by very gently bringing the estrogen higher. This helps balance low estrogen symptoms of painful sex, vaginal dryness, migraines, loss of memory, osteoporosis, headaches, breast tenderness, irregular or absent periods, depression, lethargy, low sex drive, love handles, sagging skin, trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
For women with high estrogen this helps because the phytoestrogen locks onto the estrogen receptor on the cell prompting the body to detox the excess estrogen. This helps to reduce high estrogen symptoms of low sex drive, swollen breasts, mood swings, more intense PMS, bloating, heavy bleeding, endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, varicose veins, mood swings, premenstrual migraines and infertility.
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The luteal phase is from day 15 – 28 or from ovulation to the start of menses. During the luteal phase you consume 1 tbsp daily of sesame and sunflower seeds.
If you have an irregular cycle or no longer experience a period you can follow the phases of the moon: full moon-new moon; or you can simply switch mid month and continue until the end of the month.
This second half of your cycle is about boosting progesterone levels. Progesterone is the hormone responsible for plumping up the endometrium (uterine lining), helping maintain pregnancy once conception has occurred, promoting a normal sleep cycle and normal blood sugar levels.
Sesame seeds are a source of zinc and have a lighter lignan profile to continue to help balance estrogen. Zinc supports the production of progesterone.
Sunflower seeds are a rich source of vitamin E and selenium. Vitamin E stimulates progesterone production and selenium supports liver detoxification and balanced hormones.
Both sesame and sunflower seeds are rich sources of linoleic acid, another essential fatty acid that has the potential to be converted to gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA helps to keep the ratio of estrogen and progesterone more in balance.
Optional addition: high quality evening primrose supplement that supports progesterone levels and is an anti-inflammatory.
Sunflower + Sesame
Day 15 (ovulation) – 28 you will consume
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground sunflower seeds to support this process.
If you have an irregular or absent period: full moon – new moon you will consume
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp of freshly ground sunflower seeds
Who is Seed Cycling for?
The wonderful thing in using a food based approach to balancing your hormones is that seed cycling is for most women, at any age.
Seed cycling is a great option if you experience
- amenorrhea (absent periods)
- heavy periods
- irregular periods
- estrogen dominance symptoms
Even if you no longer have a bleeding phase seed cycling will still benefit you. You simply track your cycle with the moon’s phases as a way to regulate when to switch between seed sets.
Irregular or absent cycle
If you no longer have a bleeding phase or have an irregular cycle (you don’t know when it will come) you can use the moon to help track when to seed cycle. The moon offers a beautiful compass with its 28 day cycle. If your cycle is irregular or absent from trauma, blockage or scarring, menopause, a partial/complete hysterectomy, post pill amenorrhea, hypothalamic amenorrhea, obesity, under eating or any other reason cycle syncing will still benefit you. Despite having an absent bleeding phase, at any age your body is still going through phases and hormonal shifts each month, seed cycling assists in supporting you through these ebbs and flows.
Loss of your menstrual cycle doesn’t mean your hormones are gone, it simply means they are out of balance or at a reduced swing. Even post menopausal women have an ebb and flow of estrogen throughout the month but it is more subtle.
The average cycle is considered to be 28 days but anything within 22-35 days is considered within the normal range.
Why would I want to boost my estrogen if I already have estrogen dominance?
Excess estrogen symptoms or estrogen dominance is often from too much estrogen metabolites, the ‘dirty’ estrogen. The problem is not estrogen itself but from the inability to effectively process and eliminate the metabolites from our body. Seed cycling helps remove the metabolites and balance the ‘clean’ estrogen.
Why freshly ground?
Firstly we want to grind the seeds because it is difficult to properly chew these tiny seeds. I recommend using a designated coffee grinder to grind your seeds on an as needed basis, or up to 5 days in advance.
Secondly, many digestive systems are not working optimally and are unable to effectively digest whole seeds. However, if you have a high power blender, you can add whole seeds to your smoothies, dips or sauces.
Once seeds are ground the oils are prone to go rancid (bad) very quickly. Flax seeds in particular produce a very fragile oil and it will go rancid easily. Ground seeds should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge to limit oxidation. Consuming rancid oils creates another job for the liver to deal with. We want as much liver energy to go towards balancing hormones as possible, not creating more work for it to do.
What if your cycle is long or short?
You would deviate from your period and follow the moon cycle, rotating the seeds every 2 weeks to gently nudge it back into harmony.
How can I consume these foods?
Incorporating seeds into your daily routine is easy once you get the hang of remembering to eat them! The ideas are literally endless on how you can eat them. You can try adding the ground seeds into bliss balls, pestos, chia pudding, crackers, smoothies or no bake energy bars. And keep your an eye out for seed cycling specific recipes coming soon!
Or top your soup, salad, curry, oatmeal, yogurt, chia pudding, apple sauce or straight up mix them in water and take a shot.
If you currently have a low fiber diet start slowly and work your way up to 1 tbsp of each appropriate seed. And drink water! If you’re not drinking water you’ll get plugged up and things will get worse not better.
You can eat them as butters – pumpkin or sunflower butters and tahini. However, if you tend towards the constipated side or have more muddy, sticky poops (you need to wipe several times or poop sticks to the side of the toilet and leave a mud trail) I would avoid or limit butters as this may further exacerbate the issue.
Final thoughts on seed cycling for hormone balance
When I first heard about seed cycling I was skeptical, confused and overwhelmed. You’re telling me what these seeds everyday are going to help with all my baggage of crap?? Once I got over the confusion, especially for someone who didn’t have a regular cycle – I decided to start the first day of the month because I didn’t want to wait for the next moon phase, I actually started to enjoy the process. After 4 months my period started to regulate and now I eat seeds according to my own cycle which is 32 days long.
Start eating the seeds today and switch when to the next set when it’s time, no need to wait for a certain menstrual or moon phase. Be open to the fact you’ll miss days which is fine but consistency long term is key here. Just like the gym, you can’t expect results without putting in some work. There is a slow build over a few months and then you’ll see your dedication pay off.
Seed cycling is simply one option in your toolbox. I believe starting from the ground up is the best approach. Boosting digestion and eating nutrient dense foods can pave the road for your thriving health. Seed cycling is an inexpensive, gentle and whole foods alternative to support your menstrual cycles and optimize your health.
I hope I have clarified what seed cycling is, how to do, who it will help and why. Let me know if you have any questions and please share your own experience with seed cycling because a community of women supporting each other will move mountains.
All information contained on Marrow Holistic Health’s website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent health problems. For all serious health issues, please contact a medical or nutrition practitioner. The information provided in this program is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this program, be it direct or indirect, consequently, special exemplary or other damages. In all circumstances, it is always wise to consult your physician before changing your diet, taking supplements or starting any exercise or health program.