Did you know there is a really simple, targeted dietary approach that may help you balance your hormones? We look to diet as the foundation for our health, and if there’s a cool way to use food to affect a certain change in the body, we’re all about it.
What is Seed Cycling?
Seed cycling is a systematic way of eating various types of seeds at different times of the month to potentially boost fertility, ease symptoms of menopause, and support hormone balance naturally. It may be particularly beneficial for women coming off the Pill and trying to renormalize their cycles.
It’s a pretty simple deal: from day 1 through day 14 of your menstrual cycle, you eat 1 TBSP each of ground flax and pumpkin seeds, and days 15 through 28, you eat 1 TBSP each of ground sesame and sunflower seeds. Have an irregular cycle or in menopause? No worries—just sync your start date with the new moon cycle (ie. day 1 would be the first day of the new moon).
And, while the information on seed cycling has focused on women, men can join in too! It may help men regulate their own hormones as well. It’s not a gender specific approach and can help boost testosterone levels.
How Does it Work?
There’s limited research on seed cycling, though it does have a lot of anecdotal support to suggest it can help regulate more normal hormone production and function in the body.
One hormone expert tracked her basal temperatures before seed cycling and three months after starting, and found much more consistent basal temperatures and cervical fluid, consistent with a more even-keeled pre-menopausal experience—which indicates more steady hormone balance.
One of the big reasons it may be so effective is seeds’ lignan content. Seeds like flax have weak estrogenic properties but also contain plant lignans, which are polyphenols that can bind to excess estrogen and help detoxify it through the liver and gut. Research has shown that the luteal phase progesterone/estradiol (a form of estrogen in the body) ratios were significantly higher during the flax cycles, and mid-follicular phase testosterone was slightly higher during the flax cycles.
We also know that a fiber-rich diet supports the removal of excess hormones, like estrogen, through the gut and stools. Research also suggests that lignans communicate with the gut microbiome to offer protective effects from the development of breast cancer.
What Else Does It Do?
During the first half of your cycle, otherwise known as the follicular phase, we focus on pumpkin and flaxseeds. In addition to the lignans, seeds contain other properties that help boost the seed cycling benefits. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc, which can support normal testosterone levels. They also contain tryptophan, potentially supporting improved sleep (many women have reported getting sounder shut-eye after seed cycling for a few months)—which in turn has a supportive impact on our hormones. The antioxidants in pumpkin seeds also offer protective benefits to the female reproductive system.
During the second half of your cycle, called the luteal phase, we focus on sesame and sunflower seeds, also rich in lignans and fatty acids—and healthy fats are superstars for hormone health.
Sesame seeds are cool little powerhouses: they may help reduce inflammation and support cardiovascular health, and improve cholesterol metabolism. This last part impacts our hormones, since the sex hormones are produced from cholesterol. Inflammation can also affect the adrenal glands, which in turn plays a role in our hormone balance.
Sunflower seeds contain a nice amount of minerals like iron, which can increase estrogen detoxification, and magnesium, a mineral that may boost prostaglandin levels and also decrease menstrual cramps and discomfort. They also contain vitamin E and calcium, both of which may reduce the crankiness that can accompany our cycles.
Should You Try It?
You can see that seeds can support hormone health in a variety of ways, some directly and others indirectly. Our take at Cambiati Wellness is that you can try it for yourself and track your monthly symptoms, and see for yourself if this technique is beneficial for you. If nothing else, you’ll be choosing healthy fats and adding fiber to your diet—something we could all use more of.
Sprinkle some on your salads, soups, vegetables, in your shake—and let’s see what comes from it.
There’s very little downside or risk, and it could truly impact your life, and let’s be honest, those around you!
Citations: Phipps WR, Martini MC, Lampe JW, Slavin JL, Kurzer MS. Effect of flax seed ingestion on the menstrual cycle. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. https://experts.umn.edu/en/publications/effect-of-flax-seed-ingestion-on-the-menstrual-cycle
Almario, R, Karakas, S. Lignan content of the flaxseed influences its biological effects in healthy men and women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Adolphe J L, Whiting S J, Juurlink B HJ, Thorpe L U, Alcorn J.Health effects with consumption of the flax lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside.
Alipoor B, Haghighian M K, Sadat B E, Asghari M. Effect of sesame seed on lipid profile and redox status in hyperlipidemic patients.