If you follow wellness hashtags on Instagram you probably have come across Seed Cycling. It’s a trend that has picked up popularity, especially in the last two years and, although there is no real scientific research to back seed cycling specifically, there is research supporting the benefits of individual seeds.
So we decided to find out a little more about this trend and what it can do for you.
What is seed cycling?
Seed cycling is the idea that certain types of seeds, such as pumpkin, flax, and chia, can help your body achieve hormone balance when eaten at certain times throughout your cycle and allegedly relieve hormone-related symptoms such as PMS, irregular periods, PCOS, cramps and generally help you feel better.
However, it’s important to note that lifestyle changes might also be necessary for this to work - it’s not a magic bullet after all.
How does seed cycling work?
Theoretically, seed cycling either enhances or inhibits the production of estrogen and progesterone in the body (depending on what is needed), thereby balancing and optimizing your hormones and relieving symptoms due to hormonal imbalance.
Pumpkin and flax in Phase 1 are thought to support the estrogen-dominant follicular phase when the ovaries increase estrogen levels in the body (1). Likewise, sunflower and sesame seed supplementation in Phase 2 are thought to support increases in progesterone in the luteal phase (1).
How to start seed cycling for hormone balance?
Seed cycling is quite simple. In short, you consume 1-2 tbsps of pumpkin and flax seeds daily during the follicular phase of your cycle and once you ovulate and start the Luteal phase you switch to consuming sunflower and sesame seeds daily during your luteal phase.
- The Follicular Phase of your cycle starts on day 1 of your period and ends when you ovulate, generally mid-way through your cycle approximately between days 12-16. (pumpkin and flax)
- The Luteal Phase of your cycle starts the day after you ovulate until your next period and will generally last between 2 weeks. (sunflower and sesame)
You can learn more about your menstrual cycle, phases, and hormones in our article: “The Menstrual Cycle - Phases, Hormones and Their Functions”
If you are no longer menstruating or have irregular periods you can start phase one on the first of the month and switch to phase two after 2 weeks or follow the moon cycle which also lasts around 29 days.
- Days 1-14 (new moon to full moon), eat pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.
- Days 15-28 (full moon to new moon), eat sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.
How to incorporate seed cycling into your everyday routine:
Some creative ways to use your seed cycling seed mix include:
- Add your seed blend to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, or chia seed pudding
- Sprinkle on toast, nourish bowls, salads, or soups
- Make homemade granola with pumpkin and flax or sesame and sesame seeds
- Energy ball bites - This recipe by Nourished by Nutrition shows you how to make bites for each phase of your cycle
How does seed cycling support hormone balance?
Is there any science supporting seed cycling?
While there are no scientific studies on seed cycling, there is some research on how specific foods can be used to support hormone balance. However, it is important to note that the science behind seed cycling is in its infancy and we cannot say with certainty whether or not it works.
Based on research around specific seeds, the seed cycling theory is as follows:
Seed cycling for the follicular phase
During phase one, which lasts two weeks, you eat a tablespoon of flax and a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds.
Flax seeds contain lignans which bind to excess estrogen. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which helps support progesterone production as you move towards the progesterone rise in the second phase of your cycle.
Seed cycling for the luteal phase
During phase two, which also lasts two weeks, you switch to sunflower and sesame seeds.
Sesame seeds are a rich source of zinc which helps boost progesterone production and also contain lignans that help block excess estrogen while progesterone rises. Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E and selenium. Vitamin E can help boost progesterone production, while selenium helps detox the liver of excess estrogen.
This adds about 100 calories, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber to your day.
How long does it take for seed cycling to start working and see results?
You should give seed cycling at least 3 months before deciding if it works for you or if it doesn’t as, just like with supplements, seed cycling needs time to work. Consider keeping a journal to track your symptoms throughout the month to help you identify the shifts happening.
Frequently asked questions on seeds?
Do Flax Seeds increase estrogen in the body?
Flaxseeds contain an element called phytoestrogens, which is a plant chemical also known as lignans. Lignans may act like estrogen in the body, hence flaxseeds can increase estrogen in your body indirectly.
Can Flax seeds cause breast cancer?
Flaxseed contains phytoestrogens, which are plant chemicals called lignans. Because lignans may act like estrogen in the body, scientists aren't sure whether flaxseed would be harmful or helpful for breast cancer.
Studies have reported that flaxseeds reduced breast tumor growth and metastasis (spreading) in rats.
Can seed cycling help with menopause symptoms?
One small study compared flaxseed to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in menopausal women.
It reported that 40 g of flaxseed worked as well as HRT for mild menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, mood disturbances, and vaginal dryness).
But the study was not well designed, and another, larger study found that flaxseed did not improve symptoms like hot flashes, nor did it protect against bone loss.