What Is Seed Cycling?
Estrogen and progesterone are the key hormones that regulate a woman’s monthly cycle. The menstrual cycle is divided into the follicular phase and the luteal phase. The follicular phase begins on the first day of your period and goes until ovulation, in a regular cycle this happens on cycle days 1-14. The luteal phase starts from ovulation until the beginning of the next period, which is typically cycle days 15-28. In the follicular phase, estrogen is the predominant hormone, responsible for growing an egg to be ovulated and preparing the uterine lining for implantation. Once an egg is ovulated, progesterone levels rise and estrogen slowly declines. This rise in progesterone is required for supporting a healthy pregnancy, but if there is no fertilization of the egg, progesterone eventually falls and the cycle begins again.
Although these hormones control our menstrual cycle, they affect every system in the body. We function at our best when these hormones are at optimal levels. When we have an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone we can see symptoms of PMS, irregular or painful periods, acne, changes in mood and anovulation, just to name a few! If you have any of these symptoms of hormonal balance, seed cycling is something you can start to incorporate into your daily routine to start taking control of your hormonal health!
What is Seed Cycling?
Seed cycling integrates different seeds into the diet at different times in the menstrual cycle to support optimal hormonal balance. Aside from anecdotal reports and clinical experience, there are no randomized controlled trials on the exact seed cycling protocol, however, we know that food has a powerful impact on the body. The idea behind seed cycling is that seeds have different ratios of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and nutrients that support the body’s production, release, and metabolism of our sex hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone. The seeds you are going to use are flaxseed, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds. These seeds contain lignans which help balance estrogen by binding the hormone to ensure proper elimination and inhibiting the reabsorption of estrogen back into the system. Flaxseeds are the most widely studied seed, showing benefit in hormone-sensitive cancers, reducing breast pain, and promoting ovulation. Additionally, sesame seeds have been studied in women with irregular cycles and were shown to initiate a period. Furthermore, sunflower and pumpkin seeds have been used together to reduce the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, assumed to be due to their phytoestrogenic activity. Thus, we can confidently say these seeds have clear hormonal impacts, and using them at the right time may relieve symptoms of hormonal balance that come with the cycle.
How to Use Seed Cycling?
The seeds are rotated based on the phase of the cycle. It is important to have an understanding of your monthly cycle to know when you will be incorporating which seeds. If your cycles are regular, this protocol should be started on your cycle day 1, the first day of your period. If you have absent or irregular cycles, this protocol can be followed according to the phase of the moon cycle. This means that you would start phase 1 of the protocol on the first day of the new moon and start the second phase 14 days later, with the full moon.
Follicular Phase (Day 1-14, or until ovulation): This is the estrogen phase of your cycle
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground raw, organic flaxseeds, and
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground raw, organic pumpkin seeds
Luteal Phase (Day 15 (about)-28, or until your period): This is the progesterone phase of your cycle
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground raw, organic sunflower seeds, and
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground raw, organic sesame seeds
Since seeds are high in healthy oils, the fatty acids can oxidize quickly, becoming rancid. This is why it is best to grind them as you use them, or grind enough for 2 days maximum (I use a coffee grinder!). Store them in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge or freezer to maintain their freshness. You can add the seeds to smoothies, salads, soups, sprinkled on oatmeal or you can enjoy them right off the spoon!
I advise my patients to try seed cycling for a minimum of 3 cycles, as it takes time to notice changes. Seed cycling is a safe and gentle tool you can easily incorporate into your daily routine on your path to happier hormones, but a hormone imbalance can be tricky to deal with on your own. If you are experiencing any symptoms of hormonal imbalance for longer than 3 cycles, it is a good idea to see your healthcare provider to understand the reason for your concerns. You may require a more targeted approach to your treatment, but seed cycling can be used alongside most treatments! I love seed cycling as it is a tool you can use at home to start taking your hormonal health into your own hands.
If you are ready for an individualized approach to treating your hormonal concerns, I’d love to work with you! Contact me for an appointment or book in online here.
Article written by Dr. Bronwyn Storoschuk, ND. As a board certified naturopathic doctor, health advocate and professional problem solver, Dr. Bronwyn offers personalized care, appreciating the uniqueness of each individual. She works to optimize the health of women with ambition to enable a vibrant and thriving life. She has a special interest in Women’s Health, including hormonal imbalance, reproductive health and fertility, and weight loss.