Seed Cycling For Healthy, Happy Hormones

*Recipe near the bottom. 

You may have heard about seed cycling before if you are into hormonal health, regulating your cycle or just natural approaches to health and wellness in general. I first heard of seed cycling a few years ago, back when I was trying everything (seriously, I mean everything) to try regulate my hormones. I was desperate to get my period back after losing it for over a year post hormonal birth control pill (“HBC”) and I was also trying to get rid of adult acne caused by hormonal imbalances.*

My hormones were SO out of whack that seed cycling alone didn’t do it for me back then, but it might for you depending on where you are in your own healing journey. I sought help from a few practitioners, changed my diet and lifestyle habits, and healed spin-off health issues before I started to see results in my hormonal health. I have found seed cycling to be a great (and delicious) support now that I am on the mend though.

Hormonal imbalances can really mess with us and often cause a host of other issues. Sometimes we don’t even know that our hormones are imbalanced so it can be tough to get them back on track without the help from a professional. Basics such as eating an abundance of whole foods, quality sleep, keeping stress levels at bay and eliminating our exposure to toxins as much as possible can really help to keep our hormones happy. Seed cycling falls into the food category and I’m excited to share this simple method with you. Back when I first stumbled upon seed cycling, it didn’t seem to be trending like it is today. It’s so great that this method is getting more attention as of late!

*I’m in the middle of writing more about my own wellness journey and I will link it here as a backstory when it’s posted.

DISCLAIMER: Before you go any further, just a reminder that I am not a medical practitioner and have no medical training. Anything I share is based on my own research and experience. Please contact a Holistic Practitioner or Naturopathic Doctor if you have health issues that you need help with.

Okay, lets get into the juicy stuff…

What is Seed Cycling?

Seed cycling is a method that incorporates a rotation of four ground seeds into your daily diet to help support your natural hormonal cycle. The mix of seeds you consume throughout the month depends on where you are in your menstrual cycle.

The four seeds are:

  • Whole Flax Seeds
  • Raw Pumpkin Seeds
  • Raw Sunflower Seeds
  • Raw Sesame Seeds

This method said to help naturally regulate your cycle, improve or eliminate symptoms of PMS, and balance your hormones. It’s especially great for women coming off of HBC who want to support their bodies in getting back into their natural flow. (2)

I’ve seen women struggling with symptoms of PMS, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), post-birth control syndrome (PBCS), irregular periods, acne, and breast tenderness benefit from adding seed cycling to their routine

Dr. Jolene Brighten, N.D.

How does it work & why should I try it?

Let’s tie this explanation in with a little chat about the two main phases of the menstrual cycle – this will help to better understand the purpose of seed cycling.

The Follicular Phase (Phase 1: days 1 to 14 of your cycle)

The first day of your period is when Estrogen is at its lowest point in your cycle and stays that way for the first few days of your period. It then begins to rise rapidly and peaks at ovulation.

So why flax and pumpkin seeds? Flax seeds are a rich source of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are a type of plant nutrient that contain estrogen like properties. Eating seeds that contain phytoestrogens can help to balance estrogen levels.

Lignans bind to estrogen receptor sites on your cells and prevent estrogen uptake in those cells. It’s neat because it helps balance estrogen levels when estrogen is too low & when it’s too high. If estrogen is too high, lignans will block the cells’ receptor sites from uptaking the excess estrogen and if estrogen is low, lignans can supplement estrogen levels to help balance things out.

Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which helps support progesterone production as your body prepares for a rise in progesterone in the luteal phase.

Flax and pumpkin seeds also provide fibre which is important for estrogen metabolism. Excess estrogen gets processed through the liver and sent on to our digestive tract to be eliminated. If we aren’t having regular bowel movements then the estrogen has no where to go and might be reabsorbed back into the body, which would only exacerbate hormonal issues. (1, 2)

The Luteal Phase (Phase 2: days 14 to 28+ of your cycle)

This is the phase of your cycle after ovulation when progesterone starts to rise and peaks. Estrogen levels drop after ovulation and then begin to increase again. It’s always a balancing act with estrogen and progesterone – they need to be in perfect harmony to be happy. Too much of one and not enough of the other can cause problems. If estrogen levels get too high during this phase then you might experience some of the classic PMS symptoms – for me that is often tender & swollen breasts.

Progesterone is so important when it comes to a healthy pregnancy, but whether or not you are trying to conceive it is still important to maintain healthy progesterone levels for optimal health.

Progesterone helps your uterus to prepare itself for possible pregnancy. It does this by thickening the lining of your uterine wall to prepare for a fertilized egg. If you don’t get pregnant then your progesterone levels will drop and the uterine lining will shed during your period.

So why sunflower and sesame seeds? They are high in selenium, lignans, vitamin e, and omega-6. Together, these properties support liver function and proper elimination of excess hormones, regulate estrogen and progesterone levels, and reduce inflammation. Omega 6s convert into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body, which supports progesterone levels and reduces inflammation in the body related to PMS. (1)

Is it for me?

Honestly, I feel like seed cycling is probably great for all women, but especially for those of us who are working on balancing our hormones for optimal health. If you:

  • are planning to go off the pill
  • just went off the pill
  • have hormonal acne
  • have irregular periods
  • have ammenorhea (no period)
  • experience PMS
  • have ovarian cysts
  • experience breast tenderness
  • have any other signs of hormonal imbalances

then seed cycling might be worth a shot! It can even be valuable for women going through menopause.

How do I seed Cycle?

You’ll need to grind your seeds each week and be sure to keep them in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer to avoid oxidization. Use a high-speed blender, food processor or small coffee/seed/spice grinder (cheap on amazon).

Even though it sounds kind of complicated and time consuming, Seed Cycling is actually quite simple. It goes a little something like this:

Follicular Phase (phase 1): days 1 to 14 of your cycle (starts the first day of menstruation & goes until ovulation). Take 1 Tbsp (each) of ground flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. 
Luteal Phase (phase 2): days 15 to 28+ of your cycle (goes from ovulation to menstruation). Take 1 Tbsp (each) of ground sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. *I say 28+ because some women have slightly short or longer cycles - do what fits with your cycle.

& REPEAT

But I don’t have a regular period?

It’s okay! You can definitely still seed cycle even if you have irregular/missing periods. Instead of following the phases of your cycle you will follow the phases of the moon:

New Moon to Full Moon: Days 1-14 Take 1 Tbsp (each) of ground flax seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Full Moon to New Moon: Days 15-28 Take 1 Tbsp (each) of ground sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

For postpartum moms, postmenopausal women or those who are experiencing amenorrhea (no periods), seed cycling can be done by following the moon cycle. Use the new moon as your day 1 and eat flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. When the full moon arrives, switch to the sunflower and sesame seeds. 

Dr. Jolene Brighten, N.D.

Help! How do I know when I’m ovulating?

This can be tricky for some, especially those who recently went off the pill. There are a quite a few ways to determine when you are ovulating – through trial and error you can find what is best for you. If you think you might be anovulatory (don’t experience ovulation at all) please see a professional to remedy this asap!

The Billings Method: is a natural birth control and family planning method that uses the evaluation of cervical mucus to predict ovulation.

How to check cervical mucus

Basal Body Temperature: by taking your temperature using a thermometer everyday FIRST thing in the morning (before moving or getting out of bed) for a month or two and logging it you will be able to find out when (and if) you are ovulating because our core body temperature increases by about a half a degree post ovulation.

Ovulation Test Strips: urine-based tests that you can use at home to detect when ovulation is about to occur. They work king of like pregnancy tests by detecting the luteinizing hormone (LH). LH triggers ovulation. About 24-36 hours before the egg is released LH increases. (1)

Pros and cons of ovulation predictors

THIS website might be helpful.

Also, period trackers are your best friend. There are tons of apps out there if you do a quick google search. I recently discovered that the health app on the iPhone is actually pretty great too if you don’t want to download a new app!

How should I implement Seed Cycling into my daily life?

So you can definitely follow the method I explained under the “How do I seed Cycle?” heading by grinding your seeds and adding them to things such as:

  • smoothies
  • salads
  • oatmeal/overnight oats
  • yogurt and seed mix (instead of granola)
  • granola (after it’s cooked)

Or you can get creative and make:

  • homemade seed butters
  • seed pesto
  • homemade energy balls/bars

Or, better yet…

SEED CYCLING MIX / RECIPE

I think it was about three years ago when I tried Loni Jane’s “Flat Tummy Superfood Burcha Mix“. I didn’t use the mix for seed cycling at the time, but it was delicious and a staple in my fridge for a really long time. We are going on a road trip to visit family soon so recently I have been thinking about foods were can bring on the road. I’ve also been wanting to start seed cycling again after a little stint of slacking, and Loni’s recipe popped into my mind. Perfect timing! I combined Loni’s burcha recipe & Minimalist Baker’s seed cycling approach to using Loni’s recipe and BAM. Here we are. 

Adding the ground seeds to this mix is a more appealing & easy way to seed cycle (for me anyway) because I don’t have to find something to add my ground seeds to everyday since I enjoy the mix at breakfast or as a snack throughout the day.

Full recipe idea and credit to Loni. I really only changed it slightly. I make two separate batches: one for the follicular phase and one for the luteal phase. In the follicular phase I remove the sesame and sunflower seeds and add in both ground and whole flax and pumpkin seeds (I like the texture they add whole so I add both). In the luteal phase I do the opposite – I remove the flax and pumpkin and add in the ground and whole sesame and sunflower seeds.

FOR THE FOLLICULAR PHASE
1/2 cup flax seeds, ground
1/4 cup flax seeds, whole
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup cacao nibs
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, ground
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, whole
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup sultanas, diced
1/2 cup diced dried mango, diced
1/4 cup activated buckwheat (can substitute for oats, puffed rice or quinoa or leave it out)

FOR THE LUTEAL PHASE
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds, ground
1/3 cup sesame seeds, whole
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, ground
1/3 cup sunflower seeds, whole
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup cacao nibs
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup sultanas, diced
1/2 cup diced dried mango, diced
1/4 cup activated buckwheat (can substitute for oats, puffed rice or quinoa or leave it out)

Be sure to keep these mixes in the fridge or freezer so they don’t oxidize and stay fresh. I’ve been loving having them with mango, watermelon, fresh lime squeeze and coconut yogurt lately, but in the past I’ve absolutely loved soaking them in plant-based milk overnight and enjoying them with some fresh berries and coconut yogurt in the morning – kind of like overnight oats, but it’s bircher instead! Soaking them overnight is best for optimal digestion, but it’s not necessary.

Final Thoughts

  • Seed cycling isn’t an overnight fix. Like most natural methods, you should be consistent (as much as possible) and commit for at least three months. Feel free to keep a journal so when you check in at month three or four you will be able to measure your progress and see if it is working for you.
  • On that note, if you having hormonal imbalances and aren’t otherwise taking care of yourself and supporting your hormones then you likely won’t reap the benefits of this method.
  • Ideally you want to grind your seeds daily, but that’s not realistic for me so I do it weekly(ish) and keep in the fridge/freezer to maintain freshness.
  • Reminder: always use raw seeds!
  • Science: there really hasn’t been very much research on seed cycling and its relation to improved levels of hormones, but there is scientific support for the benefits of specific nutrients in the seeds can help promote hormonal balance.
  • I started citing my sources and got carried away a some point and forgot – I’ll be editing at some point with the rest of my sources, but for now I just wanted to get it up.
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