If you’ve spent any amount of time in the holistic menstrual wellness space, then you’ve most likely heard of seed cycling. For those of you who have never heard of it, let me tell you that there is good reason for all of the hype. Seed cycling, a practice often recommended by naturopathic doctors, is a simple method to balance hormones naturally by eating specific seeds at specific times of the menstrual cycle. The nutrients and chemical compounds in the seeds help support the production and elimination of certain hormones at the appropriate time.
Seed cyclers typically consume two types of seeds during the first half of their cycle (from first bleeding day to ovulation) and two different types of seeds during the second half (from ovulation to the start of the next period). This “seed cycling” can help to improve:
- Irregular periods
- Long cycles
- Luteal phase defect
- Cyclical breast tenderness
- Heavy periods
When combined with other supportive therapies, seed cycling can even help improve cases of amenorrhea and PCOS.
How does it work?
Seed cycling helps your body to rebalance its own hormone levels naturally. The two main hormones at play are estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen dominates the first half of the cycle, causing ovulation, and progesterone dominates the second half of the cycle and requires ovulation to occur in order to be produced in the right amounts. In western society, diet, lifestyle and environmental factors can often contribute to the overproduction of estrogen, which can contribute to a number of period problems. Likewise, stress and other factors can diminish our production of progesterone.
Seeds provide a powerful tool for combating hormonal imbalance because their hulls contain lignans (chemical compounds found in plants) which bind to excess hormones, and the oils in the seeds themselves contain essential fatty acids that are required in order to create hormones. By eating specific seeds at specific times, you can help your body to build estrogen or progesterone at the appropriate time, and protect your system from excess estrogen.
How do you do it?
During Phase 1 (approximately days 1-14 of your cycle), consume flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. The lignans in flax seeds help bind to excess estrogen, and the zinc in pumpkin seeds primes your body for the production of progesterone during Phase 2. Zinc also prevents estrogen from converting to testosterone.
During Phase 2 (approximately days 15-28/29/30 of your cycle), consume sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Sesame seeds contain lignans like flax seeds to help bind to any excess estrogen that is still present at this time. Sunflower seeds are high in selenium, which helps to support the liver in the breakdown and detoxification of estrogen. This helps maintain a healthy estrogen to progesterone ration during the second half of the cycle.
The quality of the seeds is important. Raw seeds will have the most active compounds, and organic seeds are best. You may simply sprinkle raw seeds on your meals (as salad toppers, for instance), but for the biggest impact, grinding fresh seeds is recommended. Buying previously ground seeds is also an option, but the potency will be diminished.
Take it further
You can also alternate fish oil and evening primrose oil to accompany your seed cycling. A tablespoon of fish oil should be taken during Phase 1, and a tablespoon of evening primrose oil during Phase 2 to complement the affect of the seed compounds.
In the case of a very irregular or absent period, you can use the phases of the moon to conduct your seed cycling, doing Phase 1 from the new moon to the full moon, and Phase 2 from the full moon to the new moon.
Remember, this is a gentle therapy, so please give your body three to four months to see results!
Please note: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and does not serve as a replacement for personal health care from a licensed professional practitioner. You should always consult with your physician or healthcare provider before introducing new supplements, particularly if you are on any type of prescription medication. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional or the directions and information on the packaging of supplements discussed herein.