Seed Cycling

Last year when I spoke publicly about my love for cycle syncing, someone DM’d me on Instagram asking if I cycled my seeds. “I draw the line here. That sounds too woo-woo” I thought to myself. I already cycle synced…and now I had to cycle my seeds, too? Good lord…what was next? Soon will I be cycling through different temperatures of water to drink to balance my chakras? (jokes, jokes)

However, I can't lie. My interest was definitely piqued. 

Seed cycling is similar to cycle syncing in that you rotate different seeds into your diet at different times to support your menstrual cycle and to maintain an "optimal hormonal equilibrium" aka...hormonal bliss or better yet..hormonal balance. 

 
 My seed cycling smoothie bowl :)

My seed cycling smoothie bowl :)

 

I’m a true believer that we can only go so far in our health journeys at one time. Too much change too quickly can overwhelm us, leaving us feeling depleted and perhaps making us want to quit altogether. This is why so many major “diet plans” fail. Long story short, last year I wasn’t in the mental space to begin seed cycling because I was already juggling other things. I needed to get stronger and create space to introduce a new practice into my routine. 

Fast forward to this year, I was finally ready to give seed cycling a try.

Why seed cycle?

Proponents of seed cycling say it may help balance hormones, lessen PMS symptoms, trigger a period (for those with amenorrhea), and help the release of certain hormones. Others say it helps them combat hormonal acne, abnormal bleeding, fatigue, infertility, sleep issues, and irregular periods commonly associated with imbalanced hormones. 

It goes a little something like this:

Days 1-13 (the first day of your period): eat 1 tbsp daily of either flax or pumpkin seeds to boost estrogen. 

FLAX - Contain lignans, which help to bind excess estrogen so that it can be eliminated from the body. They are also known to protect against hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer.

PUMPKIN - High in zinc, which support progesterone.

Days 14-28: eat 1 tbsp daily of either sesame or sunflower seeds to boost progesterone.

SESAME: Contain lignans to block excess estrogen.

SUNFLOWER: High in selenium, which is good for hormone balance.

I've created a handy infographic for your fridge, pantry, or phone wallpaper so you can always remember which seeds to eat when. 

 
 Download and print this image and hang it on your fridge!  Right click and save to downloads, then open it up on your computer and print it out.

Download and print this image and hang it on your fridge!

Right click and save to downloads, then open it up on your computer and print it out.

 

Days 1-13 are your menstrual and follicular phases. Day 1 of your cycle is considered the first day of your menstrual cycle, when you start bleeding. Flax and pumpkin seeds may boost estrogen which helps support these phases.

Days 14-28 are your ovulation and luteal phases, which is when your body is looking for a progesterone boost. Sesame and sunflower seeds are great for this. 

The whole theory behind seed cycling is that consuming certain seeds at certain times of your menstrual cycle can benefit the body. These seeds carry certain vitamins, oils, and nutrients that can apparently help the body’s production, release, and metabolism of hormones. (Source)

This is not to say that seed cycling will heal all of your hormonal issues, but it may help support your journey to happier and more balanced hormones. If there’s a possibility that a seed could support the bod, lessen PMS symptoms, balance hormones, and increase fertility, why not give it a shot?

Does it really work?

Although there are no studies showing the direct correlation between the pattern of seed cycling and improved hormonal balance, a study in 1993 found that women taking 1 tbsp of flax powder daily lengthened the luteal phase (latter half of the cycle) and resulted in fewer anovulatory cycles (months with no ovulation).  (Phipps et al., 1993). Women with shorter luteal phases are sometimes associated with infertility. Read more about the studies here: https://www.livestrong.com/article/523346-flaxseeds-and-menstruation/

In a later study, women who consumed a daily muffin with 25 grams of flax seed for three months had significantly reduced breast pain at the beginning of the menstrual cycle (Goss et al., 2000).

Some studies have shown a reduction of hot flashes in women using flax seed, although other studies have shown no benefit for menopausal symptoms.

Lastly, some say that flax seed may help limit cramps during menstruation by providing omega-3 fats that slow the release of prostaglandins, which are responsible for cramping during menstruation. 

 
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How I seed cycle:

Like with anything health related, I'm not militant about any rules, plans, or guides. I find its much easier for me to stick to things longterm when I practice flexibility, fluidity, and grace. So if I am in my menstruation phase and I forget to eat the right seeds, it's totally ok. I don't stress about it. In general, I just use this as a guide for extra support when I feel called to it. It's not a bible or something to live by. Stressing out about the seed cycling will only cause more harm to your hormones than forgetting to eat a tbsp of pumpkin seeds, if you catch my drift. 

My Tips:

  • I store all my seeds in glass jars in the fridge.

  • I eat 1 tbsp of the appropriate seeds each day, either whole, ground, or in their ‘buttered’ form.

  • I grind my flax seed before eating. This makes it much easier for the body to digest them. I buy my flax seed whole and grind them myself in my Vitamix because buying them whole is generally more cost effective. I grind them on high for about 30 seconds until they are ground up finely. Be careful not to overgrind, or you might end up with flax seed butter. I find it helpful to grind about 5 cups at a time and leave them in a Weck jar in the fridge.

  • I buy all my seeds raw, unsalted, and in their whole form. Other seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame do not need to be ground in order to be digested.

  • If I choose to toast the seeds, I do it myself on a cast iron skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant or golden brown.

  • You can also eat the corresponding seeds in the form of seed butter. Pumpkin seed butter, sunflower seed butter, and tahini are all fantastic sources of the vitamins and minerals needed to support your hormones.

Ways to add your seeds to meals:

  • Flax seed go great blended into smoothies, mixed into hot cereal and yogurt bowls, sprinkled on top of chia pudding, or baked inside homemade bread recipes.

  • Sunflower seeds are delicious when toasted on top of salads.

  • Pumpkin seeds taste wonderful on top of yogurt bowls.

  • Sesame seeds can be enjoyed in salads or sprinkled on top of macro bowls/roasted vegetables. Sesame seeds are the main ingredient that makes up tahini, which is an incredible spread on toast, drizzled across a baked potato, mixed inside a smoothie, or eaten alongside an apple or banana.

 
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What It’s Done For Me

Though I used to struggle with regular periods during my PCOS days, I have a pretty normal cycle now (it varies from 28-34 days) and ovulate regularly. However, I do get cramps sometimes during my period, and consuming 1 tbsp of ground flax seed each day during my luteal phase and during the first few days of menstruation does help lessen my abdominal pain and menstrual cramps. 

I’m turned onto the idea of seed cycling for a few reasons: I am prone to hormonal imbalance with a PCOS diagnosis and insulin resistance and seed cycling may help balance hormones. The studies about flax seed helping hot flashes, cramps, and ovulation excite me beyond measure because I do sometimes get cramps during my period. And lastly because it’s another way to expand my diet and rotate the foods I’m eating.

Have you ever been stuck in a food rut or keep eating the same thing because you feel uninspired and bored but you’re too lazy to try to find something else to eat? This is me, all the time LOL. Rotating seeds weekly helps to eliminate this issue. If I’m feeling unsure of what to eat for lunch, solely glancing at the seed cycling poster on my fridge gives me instant ideas for what I want to eat.

In general, I think seed cycling is a fun way to rotate foods, support my hormones, and lessen my period cramps. I use it as a guide to keep a rhythm but don't follow it all day every day, similar to the way I practice cycle syncing.

Do you seed cycle? How has it helped you?