Have you heard of seed cycling? Learn all about this delicious and easy way to bring your hormones back into balance naturally so that you can get relief from symptoms such as painful menses, bloat, acne, PMS and more
What is seed cycling?
Seed cycling / seed rotation is an old naturopathic protocol that utilises nutrition, in this case seeds, to support the body’s production, detoxification, and metabolism of hormones in order to bring hormones back into balance naturally.
Flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are taken in the first half of the cycle and sunflower and sesame seeds are taken during the second half.
When Hippocrates (The Father of Medicine) said Let Food Be Thy Medicine this is what he meant.
How does seed cycling work?
The first half of the menstrual cycle is estrogen dominant. The combination of flax and pumpkin seeds taken in the first half of the cycle work to detox any excess estrogen whilst priming the body for adequate progesterone production in the second half of the cycle.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
Excess estrogen can be associated with the following symptoms
- Breast tenderness
- Mood Swings
- Hair Loss
- Weight Gain especially around the waistline
- Ovarian Cysts
- Water Retention
- Hair Loss
The second half of the menstrual cycle is supposed to be progesterone dominant. The combination of sesame and sunflower seeds taken in the second half of the cycle work to promote progesterone production.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone
Low progesterone levels manifest in symptoms similar to estrogen dominance plus
- Short Cycles
- Menstrual Cramps
- Mid Cycle Spotting
How to do seed cycling
Menstrual Phase and Follicular Phase Seeds
On day 1 of your cycle up until ovulation (approx day 14) eat 1 tablespoon each of GROUND RAW flax and pumpkin seeds. So that’s 2 tablespoons daily. Add it to your quinoa porridge, smoothies, sprinkle it on your salad etc.
Ovulation Phase and Follicular Phase Seeds
How each seed works to benefit your hormones
Let’s take a closer look at each of the seeds in the rotation and how they can benefit your body.
Flax seeds are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and lignans, a phytoestrogen that stops your body from producing excess estrogen.
How it works : Once you have eaten flax seeds and it arrives in your gut, gut bacteria gets to work converting the lignans in flax to enterolactone and enterodiol. These go into your estrogen receptors and block them from creating excess estrogen.
Pumpkin seeds are high in Omega 6 fatty acids and zinc which is crucial for reproduction and healthy immune function.
Sesame seeds are high in Omega 6 fatty acids and Vitamin E which is essential for fertility.
Sunflower seeds are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and lignans which are anti estrogenic.
How it works : What makes sunflower seeds important for the second phase of the cycle and set them apart from flax seeds is that sunflower seeds aid in the bioavailability of the Vitamin E found in sesame seeds.
Seed Cycling FAQ
Who should do seed cycling
Women who experience any or all of the following
- Irregular periods
- Painful periods
- PMS (includes mood swings, bloat, headaches)
- Heavy flow
- Menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia
- Symptoms of PCOS, Endometriosis and Fibroids
- Balancing hormones post pill
Who should NOT do seed cycling
- Women who are pregnant
When to start seed cycling / seed rotation
In order to do seed cycling you must track your cycle. Ideally you would begin on day one of your cycle, that is the first day of your period.
Further Reading : Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps, that work!
How do I do seed cycling if my menstrual cycle is irregular?
Seed cycling can be particularly effective at helping you to get your period back and regulating your cycle but first we must define irregular.
What is an irregular cycle
Your cycle is considered irregular if it CONSISTENTLY varies by more than 8 days from cycle to cycle. Anywhere from 24-35 days is considered a healthy cycle of which 28 days is simply an average.
So let’s say your cycle length is usually 31 days but this month you had a death in the family which brought on sudden stress around the time of ovulation. You can expect that your cycle may be longer than usual if the stress delayed ovulation. This is NOT an irregular cycle.
If however one month your cycle is 40 days then the next 49 then 27 etc etc you can consider that this IS an irregular cycle.
Why is my cycle irregular?
There are so many reasons why your cycle can be irregular and without knowing your FULL health history it’s impossible for me to determine but irregular cycles can be due to:
- elevated stress levels from a sub-optimal diet and other negative stress triggers
- over exercise and under eating
- if you’re just coming off hormonal birth control
- peri- menopause
- thyroid irregularities
Also if you’re a teen who has just started her menstrual cycle it’s pretty common to have irregular cycles as your body gets into the rhythm of things.
Ok, so now onto how to de seed cycling if your cycle truly is irregular
If your menstrual cycle is truly irregular meaning as described above it does not fall into the cycle length of 24-35 days AND varies by more than 8 days from cycle to cycle then you would generally ‘disregard’ your own cycle length and follow the moon cycle of 28 days in hopes of coaxing your own cycle to fall into place. Check a moon calendar and start seed cycling with either the full or new moon whichever is closest.
- Phase 1 seeds – New Moon
- Phase 2 seeds – Full Moon
If your cycle started off as irregular and has since ‘normalised’ as you progress with the protocol you can choose to stop using the moon calendar and follow your own cycle. The choice is yours!
I have given you all the information I know on seed cycling now the decision is yours to make. You know what’s best for your body.
Can I eat other nuts and seeds while seed cycling?
You may eat other nuts and seeds but if you are to truly see the benefits it’s best not to eat the seeds from one phase in another. So you could eat say chia seeds throughout your cycle but you wouldn’t want to eat flax seeds during the second half of your cycle for example.
Does seed cycling work?
I have personally seen the benefits so I can confidently say that yes it does work!
Most women in my practice have seen massive improvement in their symptoms when following the protocol for at least 3 cycles. That said seed cycling is not a magic bullet. A healthy diet and lifestyle is needed if you are to see an improvement in your symptoms. Don’t go sprinkling these seeds on your Mcdonald’s and expect it to work 😉
Can I do seed cycling if I am estrogen dominant?
If you are estrogen dominant that does not mean that you need to completely eliminate plant based oestrogen’s such as flax. The issue with estrogen dominance is not that you have too much estrogen but that there is an inability to effectively break down and excrete oestrogen. Women need estrogen for healthy menses, breasts, skin and hair. Flaxseeds are pretty remarkable in that they can increase estrogen or block estrogen depending on the needs of your body. That said there are women who don’t do well on flaxseeds. My advice would be to give seed cycling a try and keep a journal of your symptoms. That’s the only way to know if its for you or not.
Seed cycling with the moon when your period is MIA or irregular
My seed cycling story : I began seed cycling whilst in the postpartum phase. I was breastfeeding my daughter on demand and did not have a period for 2 years. A couple months before I decided to wean her off (on her 2nd birthday) I started seed cycling.
Since I did not have a period I took the first day of the new moon as Day 1 of my cycle. I am happy to report that my period returned one moth after my daughter was fully weaned. Not only that but my period was perfectly aligned to the moon and 100% symptom free!
Are there any side effects to seed cycling?
Seed cycling is a gentle an non invasive food as medicine therapy. The only potential side effect is that whole seeds can cause digestive discomfort for some. (This is why we grind the seeds) By consuming the seeds ground you will GREATLY minimise any chances of digestive upset, which is really nothing compared to the long term risk factors involved in taking the pill or other artificial hormonal therapies. If you decide to give it a try make sure you keep track of your symptoms in a journal so you can exactly determine if seed cycling works for your body.
Do I HAVE to grind my seeds for seed cycling ?
Flax seeds and sesame seeds MUST be ground as they are just too tiny to be broken down completely by your teeth. You can get away with not grinding pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds if you’re really good at chewing but if you’re going to be grinding the other two seeds anyways you might as well. Of course if you’re adding your seeds to a smoothie then the blender will break them down and you don’t need to grind them before hand.
How do I eat seed cycling seeds
I understand that remembering to eat your daily dose of seeds might be challenging at first so here are some ideas to get you started.
Sprinkle seed cycling seeds on
Blend seed cycling seeds into
Swirl seed cycling seeds into
What’s important to remember is that in order to see the real benefits your seeds should be taken RAW and GROUND. So any seed cycling recipe where the seeds are cooked, baked etc isn’t truly seed cycling.
Seed Cycling Recipes
Seed cycling is an all natural and easy way to balance hormones by incorporating different seeds into different phases of your menstrual cycle. Will you give it a try?
If after reading this blog post and watching that video above you’re still not convinced about Seed Cycling I encourage you to listen to this podcast on the subject.
For the first half of the menstrual cycle : Menstrual and Follicular Phases
- 7 tablespoons raw organic flax seeds
- 7 tablespoons raw organic pumpkin seeds
Makes 1 week supply
For the second half of the menstrual cycle : Ovulatory and Luteal Phases
- 7 tablespoons raw organic sunflower seeds
- 7 tablespoons raw organic sesame seeds
Makes 1 week supply
- Add seeds to a glass jar and grind one tablespoon of each daily using a mortar and pestle OR
- Add one weeks supply of seeds to a coffee grinder or small food processor and grind seeds until fine. Store ground seeds in a glass jar in the fridge to help prevent the oils from going rancid.