Don’t panic, there are no bicycles involved! We’re talking about cycling with seeds. No clearer? OK, let’s get into it. Seed cycling is one of those trends doing the rounds on Instagram and in other wellness spaces that makes you go… huh? So we’re taking a closer look at what it’s all about, how to try it out for yourself, and if it’s actually worth it.
Seed cycling is a health hack that suggests eating certain seeds could balance hormones by regulating estrogen levels during the first half of your menstrual cycle, and regulating progesterone levels in the latter half. Those who sing its praises say it has helped them with everything from regulating their periods, to reducing troublesome acne, to treating the symptoms of PCOS or endometriosis, to easing menopause symptoms, to improving fertility.
Yup, seeds. Those little things that sometimes appear in your loaf of bread and get stuck in your teeth. Turns out they might be more useful than you thought, although the jury’s out on them right now as there aren’t enough published studies to support the theory. There is, however, some evidence to suggest it could work, thanks to something called lignans in seeds which are thought to block enzymes involved in hormone metabolism.
Sesame and flax seeds have high levels of lignans (approximately 834mg and 294mg per 100g, respectively) which are converted into phytoestrogens that mimic the action of estrogen or stop it in its tracks depending on the dose.
Some studies have found flax seeds could improve cycle regularity and hormone levels, but these effects have been primarily associated with anticancer properties, not menstruation. It is also thought that zinc and vitamin E are important when it comes to reproductive health, but there is no real evidence to suggest that eating seeds is the best way to get these nutrients into your body.
Seed cycling is thought to be beneficial for many health concerns, including irregular cycles, PCOS, menopause and more. If you are thinking of trying it to balance your hormones, it could also have a positive knock-on effect in other areas of your menstrual cycle.
There is some advice out there about using seed cycling for fertility, but you should always take caution when taking fertility advice from unrecognised sources. According to Well+Good, during the follicular phase, you should eat 1-2 tablespoons of flax seeds and pumpkin seeds a day to boost estrogen production. This can help grow the uterine lining and increase your sex drive, too. In the luteal phase, you should switch to 1 tablespoon of sunflower and 1 of sesame seeds each day to boost progesterone production. This can help stabilise your uterine lining and prepare it for a potential baby. This advice would need to be adjusted for each person’s individual cycle. If you would like to try seed cycling with fertility in mind, speak to your doctor about their recommendations.
Advice on seed cycling varies and isn’t always consistent across multiple sources. At its core is the idea that different seeds either promote or hinder the actions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. In a normal cycle, estrogen is produced during the first 14 days of the follicular phase, your levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) increase before ovulation, and estrogen levels drop after ovulation.
During the follicular phase, seed cycling supposedly utilises phytoestrogens (a compound that mimics the action of estrogen) to increase or decrease estrogen and progesterone levels as required. The idea is that this will naturally balance and optimise hormones, and relieve any symptoms that come up as a result of a hormone imbalance.
If you’re curious to give it a try to see if it could help you, the most common method across multiple sources seems to suggest:
If the ‘ground’ part puts you off, know that an article in Scientific American claims it’s perfectly acceptable to chew them or mix them into your smoothie or porridge in the morning, so don’t let that extra step stop you!
There is no research or data out there to say how long it will take before you see benefits. Those who have tried it and reported their own results claim that you could start to see positive changes in your hormones after only a few months of seed cycling.
If you can’t stop eye-rolling and your scepticism is still fully intact now that you’ve reached the end of this article, then perhaps seed cycling isn’t for you. Those who prefer hard data and research may struggle to see the potential benefits of trying seed cycling, but as it simply involves eating a couple of spoonfuls of seeds each day, it’s hard to see where the harm could be.
If nothing else, you may find yourself feeling generally healthier thanks to the abundance of nutrients in seeds. Even if they don’t improve your hormone issues, they could improve your skin, hair and overall health. Downside? Are you there?
If you have any questions about seed cycling, we’re always happy to answer anything that might be on your mind. Or if you have already tried it, we’d love to know if you saw any benefits! Our Full Stop FB group offers a private space to chat and ask questions, or you can DM us on Instagram at @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised menstrual cycle care box covers everything from organic tampons to supplements for bloating (and plenty more!) delivered regularly through your letterbox. All the more time to experiment with chowing down on those nutritious seeds to see if their supposed super-powers will work for you!
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