What is Seed Cycling?

Seed cycling is a naturopathic approach involving the consumption of four types of seeds throughout your menstrual cycle to help stabilise your hormones: flax and pumpkin during the first half of the menstrual cycle (the follicular phase), and sesame and sunflower during the second half (the luteal phase). All seeds should be ground and consumed in a one-to-one ratio. It’s claimed to benefit those experiencing hormone-related issues such as PMS, fertility problems, PCOS, endometriosis, and menopausal symptoms.

Quick reminder of the menstrual phases, if you need it: The follicular phase includes the first 14 days of the menstrual cycle, when the follicle is maturing and oestrogen levels are gradually increasing until they reach a peak level prior to ovulation. Progesterone levels are generally low during this phase. The luteal phase is the 14 days following ovulation, when the follicle ruptures, degrades, and transforms into the corpus luteum, a structure that secretes progesterone, which is thus high during this phase.

Hormones are complex and are easily influenced by stress, diet, sleep environmental toxins. Imbalances commonly present as irregular periods, very light or very heavy flow, PCOS, PMS, skin breakouts, low energy and fatigue.

The process typically involves two phases:

Phase 1 (Day 1 – 14): Consumption of 1 tablespoon each of freshly ground flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds daily to balance oestrogen and stimulate progesterone production.

Phase 2 (Day 15 – 28): Consumption of 1 tablespoon each of freshly ground sunflower seeds and sesame seeds daily to boost progesterone levels.

How to consume your seeds:

Sprinkle on your breakfast bowls, smoothies, salads or stir into soups & sauces. 

Is there scientific evidence for seed cycling?

Currently, there are no studies directly examining the effects of seed cycling on hormone levels or related conditions. Claims are primarily anecdotal, lacking scientific backing. However, individual seeds have been studied for their potential hormonal impact:

  • Flaxseeds and sesame seeds contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) known as lignans, which may affect oestrogen levels, though the evidence is limited.
  • Pumpkin seeds provide zinc, which is linked to progesterone production.
  • Sunflower seeds contain vitamin E, associated with increased progesterone.

While some studies suggest potential benefits of certain seeds on hormone-related issues like PMS and PCOS, the evidence remains inconclusive and limited.

The pros and cons of seed cycling:

Seeds offer numerous health benefits, including fibre, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. Incorporating them into the diet can be beneficial, though the specific benefits of seed cycling are uncertain.

Individuals may experience placebo effects or a sense of control over their health with seed cycling. However, it’s essential to note that the evidence supporting its efficacy is weak.

For those with hormonal irregularities, personalised medical and nutritional support is crucial. Seed cycling should not replace individualised care, and any dietary changes should be made in consultation with healthcare professionals.

Alternatives to seed cycling:

Maintaining a balanced, varied diet is essential for overall health, including hormonal balance. Following an anti-inflammatory diet like the Mediterranean diet may offer additional benefits for fertility and inflammatory conditions.

Individuals experiencing hormone-related issues should seek medical and nutritional support tailored to their needs from qualified professionals.

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