09 Oct Seed Cycling for Fertility & PMS
Written by Jordan Faith, BS in Nutrition Candidate
Medically reviewed by Grace Goodwin Dwyer, MS, MA, RD, LDN
Maybe you have heard of seed cycling before, but never truly looked into it. Or maybe you have, but you’re unsure it’s even worth a shot. Don’t worry: we did the research so that you don’t have to.
What is seed cycling? Seed cycling is a nutrition strategy that links eating certain seeds to phases of your menstrual cycle. The goal is to balance your body’s hormones by aligning specific seeds’ nutritional benefits with your body’s monthly changes.
Here’s the TLDR up front:
- Seed cycling has not been scientifically proven to help with fertility, PMS, or other hormonal situations. We need experimental research to confidently make any claims
- With that said, the bioactive components in seeds have been proven to have a beneficial effect on health (in various ways that we’ll descibe)
- Seeds are also nutrient-dense, safe, and affordable – so if you want to give seed cycling a try, you don’t have much to lose! It’s possible you might reap the same benefits by just enjoying seeds on a regular basis, rather than cycling them.
For the full details, keep reading!
Is seed cycling right for me?
Seed cycling is intended to balance ovarian hormones – namely, estrogen and progesterone. Regulating these hormones can have a wide range of benefits. These are some of the benefits that proponents of seed cycling claim:
- Reducing hormonal acne
- Calming PMS symptoms
- Supporting fertility
- Alleviating menopause symptoms.
Does seed cycling work?
It’s important to understand that while some aspects of seed cycling biologically make sense (stay tuned for that in the next section), seed cycling has not been scientifically tested. So far, we have only heard testimonials from women (1, 2, 3, 4) that have tried it out.
We can’t fully understand seed cycling’s outcome because no experimental studies have proven that it helps regulate hormones. With many factors influencing our hormones such as diet, stress, aging, and medication, there are so many other variables to factor into the mix. With that said, even if seed cycling is not directly effective for hormonal health, it is safe, expensive, and nutritious. Seeds are nutritional powerhouses and offer benefits beyond (possible) hormone balance.
Adding pumpkin seed, flaxseed, sesame seed, and sunflower seeds to your diet will provide you with:
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids
- Vitamin E
It’s also important to note that if you take hormonal birth control, seed cycling may have little effect on your hormones as you are already taking hormones.
How do you cycle seeds?
If you’re still curious about seed cycling to see if it impacts your health, look no further: this step-by-step guide breaks down how to cycle seeds if your menstrual cycle is somewhat regular (in other words, about the same number of days every cycle).
If you don’t have a regular cycle, don’t worry, you can still use seeds! Simply follow the phases of the moon by starting with the follicular phase during a new moon and switching to the luteal phase with a full moon. Your menstrual cycle is roughly 28 days which is similar to the 29 day cycle the moon follows.
Get to know your cycle
The menstrual cycle is technically composed of four phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. For the purposes of seed cycling, we’ll be using the follicular phase and the luteal phase to guide our timing.
Part 1: The Follicular Phase
First, let’s understand what’s happening to our bodies during the follicular phase. Day 1 of the follicular phase is the day you start bleeding (menstruation). This phase will end after you ovulate.
During this phase, your follicle stimulating hormone (or FSH) stimulates just over a dozen of the mature follicles within the ovary to start to develop. The cells around these follicles start to secrete estrogen until it is time for your body to ovulate.
How will I know when I am ovulating? It’s very easy to tell when your period starts, but knowing when you are ovulating can be trickier. Here’s some tips:
- Look out for a mucus discharge that is similar to that of white, raw egg whites
- Track your basal body temperature
- Buy an ovulation test. These are over the counter tests that measure the amount of luteinizing hormone in your body, which increases right before ovulation.
What’s going on hormonally- estrogen levels increase during the follicular phase of your cycle or until you ovulate.
And if your estrogen levels don’t increase enough? This may have an effect on your fertility, since low estrogen may prevent ovulation from occurring (2).
Seed Cycling During the Follicular Phase
The goal of seed cycling during the follicular phase is to ensure that estrogen levels are high and progesterone levels are low to keep ovulation on track.
To do so, you would consume both of these seeds daily:
- 1 Tablespoon of Ground Flaxseed
- Flaxseed is rich in lignans, a phytoestrogen that weakly resembles estrogen within the body.
- 1 Tablespoon of Ground Pumpkin Seed
- Pumpkin seeds contain phytoestrogens as well as folate. Dietary folate and folic acid (synthetic form of folate) have been associated with better reproductive outcomes, like higher progesterone levels and more regular ovulation.
Part 2: The Luteal Phase
You started ovulating. Now what?
Now your body is preparing to develop the uterine lining for the egg, so progesterone levels are on the rise while estrogen decreases. This phase lasts approximately two weeks.
Seed Cycling During the Luteal Phase
The goal of seed cycling during the luteal phase is to ensure that progesterone levels are high and estrogen levels are lower to keep the menstrual cycle functioning properly and to reduce the symptoms of PMS.
During this phase, ground pumpkin seeds and ground flaxseeds are replaced by the daily consumption of both:
- 1 Tablespoon of Sunflower Seeds
- Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E, which supports healthy progesterone levels.
- 1 Tablespoon of Sesame Seeds
Now Repeat the Cycle
When you’re finished with Parts 1 and 2, it’s time to cycle back to the beginning!
It may take a couple of months for you to see any progress from seed cycling, since hormonal changes from nutrition of any kind can take a while to manifest. As mentioned earlier, this makes interventions like seed cycling difficult to study in experimental settings: there are so many factors influencing hormonal production such as environment, lifestyle, and genetics that make it hard to pinpoint just one solution.
How can I incorporate seeds into my life?
Just because it says eat 1 Tablespoon of ground flaxseed daily doesn’t mean you have to eat them plain! There are so many creative ways to enjoy seeds in foods that you already love.
Try adding seeds to:
- Roasted Vegetables
- Toast (with avocado, peanut butter, jam)
- Energy bite recipes
- Ice Cream (for an extra crunch!)
What’s your favorite way to add seeds to your diet? Comment below!