What is it?
Seed cycling, is a simple method for natural hormone balancing using fresh seeds in your diet at different phases of your female hormone cycle. It is also known as “seed rotation” and can be beneficial whether you are looking to optimize your fertility, improve menstruation, are peri-menopausal or menopausal. The seeds we describe below have nutrients that are proven to influence specific hormone pathways. Trying to conceive? Chinese Medicine views seeds as containing Jing, or reproductive essence. Eating seeds with more pronounced yin or yang qualities during that corresponding phase helps to balance your cycle and is thought to promote fertility.
How does it work?
Certain seeds have nutrients that influence your healthy forms of estrogen or progesterone. Eating combinations of seeds at the right time of your cycle will support your hormonal balance. Add 1 TBSP of the appropriate combo in your smoothies, plain water, coconut yogurt or atop salads, soups or cooked veggies. Great for those women depleted in minerals and iron, or for those with an imbalance of estrogen or progesterone. Seed cycling reduces PMS, acne, hot flashes, regulates the menstrual cycle and can restore libido. All that said, seed cycling cannot overcome a crappy diet; it works best when you have a baseline healthy diet and lifestyle. For most women looking to balance hormones and reduce inflammation, that means getting rid of sugar, refined carbs, cow dairy and caffeine.
If you are menstruating:
A typical follicular phase goes from day 1 of your menses until mid-cycle (or ovulation). In a 28 day cycle your follicular phase will be cycle days 1-14. Use 1 TBSP of freshly ground flaxseed and pumpkin seeds. This is the “yin” time you want to build up good estrogen . Flaxseed and pumpkin seed boost the estrogen needed to build endometrial lining. Flaxseed provides phytoestrogens, and pumpkin seed boosts iron as well as estrogen. Worried about too much estrogen? These seeds gently direct your estrogen into a protective metabolic pathway rather than a dangerous one.
The luteal phase starts at ovulation and continues until menstruation begins. For a 28 day cycle this will be cycle days 15 until your flow starts, (day 1 of menstruation). During this “yang” phase you will combine 1 TBSP of sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. Sesame seeds add zinc and improve antioxidant status while sunflower seeds contribute Vit E, important for progesterone production. Adequate progesterone supports your mood, sleep and reduces hormonal headaches.
If your cycles are irregular or you are menopausal:
Seed cycling improves some menopausal and irregular cycle symptoms. How? They tame your diva hormone, estrogen. Estrogen is a “diva” because she needs to be just right….or else. Your symptoms can be caused by estrogen dominance or estrogen depletion. Estrogen dominance in this case results from one of two situations: either estrogen is not properly eliminated from your system, causing an unhealthy form of it to build up and be recycled. As we mentioned earlier, seed cycling helps push estrogen to the healthy metabolic pathway, so it can get packaged up and excreted after it is used, rather than having unhealthy forms of estrogen recycling in your system. The second scenario is that you have too little progesterone, resulting in unopposed estrogen, aka “estrogen dominance”. Sesame and sunflower seeds will help your body make more progesterone, creating more balance to estrogen. If you simply have low estrogen, we’ve got good data for you. Flaxseed and Pumpkin seeds are particularly high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens, like certain selective estrogen receptor modulators, are structurally similar to estrogen and mimic it, decreasing risks associated with low estrogen such as osteoporosis and heart disease. They have an antiproliferative effect on the breast, and positive effects on the lipoprotein profile. They can also help stop hot flashes, mood swings and insomnia. Score!
If you are not menstruating or menopausal, start whenever you like with one seed combo and switch every one or two weeks.
If your cycle is irregular, start at any point with one combination for two weeks, then switch to the other for two weeks.
Use whole seeds that you grind freshly; flax crackers don’t count!
You will want to find a good source for seeds, avoiding seeds that may be old or oxidized. The best place to buy whole seeds is a grocery store that has a lot of turnover, especially in their bulk department. Rainbow grocery is a great choice in San Francisco.
Look for “sprouted” seeds which are easier to digest and absorb. If you can’t find the sprouted version, regular organic seeds are just fine.
Be sure you have a dedicated coffee grinder just for grinding seeds so it doesn’t mix with coffee or vice versa.
Grind enough seeds for 5-7 days so that they stay fresh, but are easy to use with a busy lifestyle.
You may notice that seed cycling increases your energy and overall sense of wellness. If you are sensitive to one of these seeds or are on special diet that excludes some, skip those and stick to the seeds that work for you. Do seed cycling at least until your symptoms feel better, and if you’d like, you can do this long term as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Sesame Ingestion Affects Sex Hormones, Antioxidant Status, and Blood Lipids in Postmenopausal Women.The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 136, Issue 5, 1 May 2006. Pages 1270–1275,
Effect of dietary components, including lignans and phytoestrogens, on enterohepatic circulation and liver metabolism of estrogens and on sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). J Steroid Biochem. 1987;27(4-6):1135-44.
Phytoestrogens: the “natural” selective estrogen receptor modulators?
Supplementation with flaxseed alters estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women to a greater extent than does supplementation with an equal amount of soy.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Feb;79(2):318-25.
Effects of Phytoestrogen Extracts Isolated from Pumpkin Seeds on Estradiol Production.in Nutrition and Cancer 65(5):739-45 · July 2013 with 847 Reads