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Seed cycling is an alternative medicine practice believed to help regulate reproductive hormones.
Evidence on seed cycling is non-existent, but the practice has been around for a long time.
There’s probably not much risk to trying seed cycling.
I first heard of seed cycling from a friend of mine who works as a healthy-living chef. According to her, seed cycling could regulate any “hormonal imbalance.” Intrigued, I set out to find some science behind seed cycling and potentially try it out for myself.
Plenty of people have been talking about seed cycling, and some pretty notable bloggers were publishing their own recipes using the seeds. Instagram seemed to be ground zero for “health experts” promoting seed cycling to fix whatever hormonal ailment was afflicting you.
Hormonal variations in estrogen and progesterone, as well as androgens, can influence the menstrual cycle and cause symptoms ranging from hair growth, acne, weight changes, infertility, and irregular cycles (1).
Some people look to hormonal birth control to regulate these symptoms. But if you’re trying to become pregnant or just looking to avoid taking hormonal birth control, your options can feel limited (2).
Perhaps that’s why seed cycling has been on the tip of everyone’s lips over the past year or so. It’s certainly not a new method—alternative medicine practitioners from herbalists to acupuncturists and naturopaths have long recommended it for a list of hormonal woes including infertility and menopause.
So I gave it a go. But first I dug a little deeper.
What is seed cycling?
According to all the chatter online, seed cycling is diet supplementation with four different seeds: pumpkin, flax, sesame, and sunflower. The seeds are eaten every day, raw and ground. Whole seeds won't break down completely in your gut, so grinding them enables your body to extract more nutrients from the seeds. They can be eaten alone or added to other foods like smoothies and salads.
The recommended regimen has two phases.
Phase 1 of seed cycling is one tablespoon of raw, ground pumpkin seeds and one tablespoon of raw, ground flax seeds from day one of your period until the day before you ovulate. Phase 1 should be about two weeks for most people.
Phase 2 of seed cycling involves eating one tablespoon of raw, ground sunflower seeds and one tablespoon of raw, ground sesame seeds per day from the day of ovulation until the day before the first day of your period. Phase 2 should also last about two weeks for most people.
Why supplement with seeds? These seeds contain specific vitamins, nutrients, and fatty acids that are believed to support hormonal function.
Pumpkin and flax in Phase 1 are thought to support the estrogen-dominant follicular phase when the ovaries increase estrogen levels in the body (1). Likewise, sunflower and sesame seed supplementation in Phase 2 are thought to support increases of progesterone in the luteal phase (1).
Is there any science to support seed cycling?
“Believed” and “thought” are both key words when talking about seed cycling and its benefits.
Seed cycling is generally considered alternative medicine, and there isn’t much science on its risks, benefits, or efficacy. Most reports of seed cycling are anecdotal. However, there’s probably little risk to ingesting seeds daily. In fact, there may be other health benefits to eating seeds including increased dietary fiber and protein (3, 4).
Since there haven’t been any published studies on seed cycling specifically, I looked for data about the seeds individually and their impacts on hormones. Even data on the seeds themselves was sparse. Here’s what I found.
Each of the seed types utilized in seed cycling contains lignans, plant compounds that are believed to weakly mimic some of the effects of human estrogen (5). This is important because estrogen influences the menstrual cycle, which can in turn impact ovulation, fertility, and menopause.
Flaxseed and the cycle
One small study of 18 people published in 1993 found that when people with cycles ate a traditional western, low-fiber, omnivorous diet supplemented with flax, there were some interesting results. There were fewer anovulatory cycles, and the average luteal phase was longer, but cycle length was unchanged. No changes in estrogen levels were noted (6).
This means that flax could possibly have an impact on fertility. Anovulatory cycles seem like normal cycles with normal periods, but ovulation doesn’t actually occur. Ovulation occurring each month means more opportunities for the person to become pregnant, while a longer luteal may be more supportive of early pregnancy (7).
Another small study found that when people in menopause added flaxseed to their diets, the concentration of estrogen in their blood decreased (8). This is an interesting finding, since estrogen might be linked with the incidence of breast cancer in postmenopausal women (8).
Pumpkin seeds and the cycle
In addition to containing lignans, pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, providing 15% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) per ounce (9). Some case reports associate zinc with decreases in menstrual cramps (10). It’s believed that menstrual cramps are caused by excess prostaglandins, and zinc is thought to decrease the metabolism of prostaglandins (11).
Sunflower seeds and the cycle
Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E (12). The findings of one study supported the idea that vitamin E supplementation might increase progesterone, the hormone that helps maintain early pregnancy, in women who were unable to conceive (13). This results of this study can’t be isolated to just vitamin E, though, because there were other ingredients in the supplement. And while there was a small difference in progesterone levels, it wasn’t considered statistically significant. A review of the role of vitamin E in female reproductive health suggested vitamin E is an antioxidant critical to promoting fertility (14).
In 1972, a study was published on vitamin E and its similarity to estrogen and progesterone (the hormones that impact the menstrual cycle) in rats. This paper cited references that corroborated the hormone-like effects of Vitamin E, dating back to as far as 1929 (15).
Sesame seeds and the cycle
One small study of postmenopausal women who consumed sesame seed powder found that eating the seeds increased levels of one form of vitamin E circulating throughout the body (16). Seed consumption didn’t increase estrogen, but it decreased a type of androgen and increased sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). It's worth noting that the increase was minor and not statistically significant (16). Theoretically, this might reduce health risks for some people during menopause including cardiovascular disease and cancer risk, but the research findings are mixed (even contradictory) and not well understood (17).
How to seed cycle
To put it bluntly, these studies are small and far from conclusive. Without any convincing evidence, I didn’t feel especially compelled to try seed cycling, but in the interest of research, I ordered four bags of seeds and decided to try it for one month.
Overall, I spent about $40 for what seemed to be about four months of seeds in their organic, raw form. Most of the health and wellness gurus online say it takes three to four months to see the real benefits of seed cycling. I followed these steps:
Grind one week’s worth of pumpkin and flax seeds.
Store sealed in the fridge to maintain freshness.
Consume two tablespoons of seeds each day. I put mine in smoothies, on top of salads, pasta and just about everything I ate.(Video) How to Use Seed Cycling to Balance Hormones | Boost Your Fertility While TTC
Repeat after one week.
Switch seeds the first day of menstruation.
Switch seeds the day of ovulation.
How can you tell when you ovulate?
I’ve had a few friends try seed cycling as well, and the biggest hiccup seems to be that not everyone can tell when they’re ovulating. There are a few ways to determine when you’re ovulating, but if you’re using hormonal contraception, these won’t apply (and seed cycling really won’t do much for you since you are already taking hormones).
You can monitor your cervical mucus using the Billings Ovulation Method. This method works by observing the wetness of your vulva each day. When you ovulate, your cervical mucus will be wet, slippery and similar to raw egg whites.
You can use Clue to track your cycle and pinpoint when you’re likely to ovulate. You can enable a notification to let you know when it’s ovulation day.
An over-the-counter test
You can buy an over-the-counter ovulation test that measures luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone that surges before you ovulate.
Does seed cycling work?
I did notice a few changes during my 28 days of seed cycling. I usually experience both painful ovulation (called mittelschmerz) and painful menstrual cramps. The month I tried seed cycling, my ovulation pain was basically eliminated and I did notice some reduction in period cramping. I didn’t notice any changes in mood or bleeding volume or length. The reduction in pain was a tangible benefit, but at the end of the month, I didn’t continue with seed cycling because I just became tired of eating the seeds.
While there’s no real data to support seed cycling, as long as you have no allergies to seeds and can afford to purchase them, there aren’t any serious risks to including seeds in your daily diet.
Variations across the menstrual cycle can be normal, yet some changes may indicate an underlying issue that medical care could help resolve. If you experiencesymptoms of PCOS, irregular bleeding, painful periods, infertility, or irregular periods, it’s worth getting checked out by your healthcare provider. You can use Clue to track your symptoms so you can give your provider more information about your body and symptoms.
Seed cycling balances the two main hormones affecting pregnancy (Progesterone and Estrogen) and as a result, the chances of conceiving naturally are increased gradually. Even if you're opting for assisted reproductive technology, the seed cycle increases your chances of getting positive results.Is there any evidence for seed cycling? ›
Seed cycling is not proven to support normal female hormone balancing, nor is there evidence that it supports any of the symptoms associated with imbalanced hormones. However, seeds have many health benefits. They're a source of fiber, plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.Can seed cycling be harmful? ›
Seed cycling is generally considered alternative medicine, and there isn't much science on its risks, benefits, or efficacy. Most reports of seed cycling are anecdotal. However, there's probably little risk to ingesting seeds daily.Is seed cycling safe during pregnancy? ›
4. Should I be seed cycling when I am pregnant? It is advised that you do not consume the seeds during pregnancy, but it can be used for getting you back on track after your little one has entered the world providing you with essential nutrients that the two of you will need to be happy and healthy.Can spinning affect fertility? ›
Those who cycled at least five hours a week were more likely to have a low sperm count and fewer motile sperm than men who did other forms of exercise or who didn't exercise at all. Sperm production can be impacted significantly by temperature.Does flaxseed affect fertility? ›
“Flax seeds are especially beneficial for women. They are known to help women's fertility by boosting the chances of conception. These seeds also support normal ovulation and restoration of hormonal balance. These are good for post-menopausal women as it protects them from cardiovascular issues,” shares Kaul.Can seed cycling increase estrogen? ›
Seed cycling can boost estrogen levels during the follicular phase, and progesterone levels during the luteal phase: In a typical 28-day cycle, the follicular phase lasts from day 1 to 14 (around the time of ovulation), and this when your body is producing oestrogen.Do chia seeds increase estrogen in females? ›
~ Flaxseeds are considered to be phytoestrogens*, while chia seeds do not have any estrogen-like properties.Does seed cycling cause heavy periods? ›
Know how seed cycling can help fix irregular periods
She says, "Seed cycling is an alternative remedy for excessive bleeding, infertility issues, and irregular periods. Seed cycling occurs in two phases: the follicular phase and the luteal phase."
Unfortunately, current research suggests that seed cycling won't do much to balance your hormones. However, seeds are a healthy part of a balanced diet, and they're rich in fiber, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. Consider using them as a crunchy topping on soup or adding them to a tasty salad.
The promise of a simple, food-based solution to heal your hormonal woes is certainly compelling. However, overall, the science on seeds does not support the claims that are being made – eating this or that seed at a certain time in your cycle doesn't regulate your hormones.Does flaxseed affect hormones? ›
Lignans, which are the type of phytoestrogens in flaxseed, can change estrogen metabolism. In postmenopausal women, lignans can cause the body to produce less active forms of estrogen. This is believed to potentially reduce breast cancer risk.Is flaxseed good while trying to conceive? ›
High in both Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids which your body needs to balance hormone All in all, flax seeds are a powerful package for balancing hormones and boosting fertility. Aim to get about two tablespoons of flax seeds every day; grind them up for maximum benefit.How many months should I cycle seeds? ›
It's best to follow the 14 day cycle for each phase of seeds. By staying on track with the 2-week rotation, the process will nudge your body into an optimal menstrual cycle rhythm and help you get back on track.Which seeds are best for fertility? ›
Roasted, unsalted sunflower seed kernels are rich in Vitamin E, an essential nutrient that increases sperm count and motility. Sunflower seeds also offer substantial amounts zinc, folic acid, and selenium— all of which are potent fertility nutrients with stellar benefits.
Cycling is good for your health and very unlikely to be harmful to your fertility.Can I do indoor cycling while trying to conceive? ›
Indoor cycling is another safe, low-impact exercise that can be continued till the baby arrives. You should take water breaks and rest in between if you feel tired or breathless. Exercising is great when you are trying to prepare your body for conception, but it is not at all beneficial if you are doing it wrong.How can I speed up my fertility? ›
- Maintain a Healthy Weight. ...
- Moderate Exercise. ...
- Avoid Tobacco and Too Much Alcohol. ...
- Consider Taking a Multivitamin. ...
- Work on Managing Your Stress. ...
- Be Aware of Environmental Toxins.
Almonds. Loaded with the healthy monounsaturated fats that support the reproductive system, as well as Vitamin E and other vitamins and minerals, snacking on almonds is a great way to give your fertility a delicious boost!What foods increase fertility rates? ›
Eating more protein from vegetable sources, instead of animal sources, may improve fertility levels in women. Replacing low fat dairy products with high fat versions may help improve fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Theoretically, seed cycling either enhances or inhibits the production of estrogen and progesterone in the body (depending on what is needed), thereby balancing and optimizing your hormones and relieving symptoms due to hormonal imbalance. A few months of cycling is said to be enough to begin seeing the benefits.Do almonds raise estrogen levels? ›
The original sample of almonds showed the greatest estrogenic activity (p less than 0.01) which was confirmed by repetition of the experiment (p less than 0.01), but subsequent studies of other samples of almonds showed no estrogenic activity.How long does it take for flaxseed to balance hormones? ›
It can take about three months to see benefits. Keep a journal to mark your symptoms through your seed cycling experience and work with a doctor and health coach to help support you while you rebalance your hormones.Does vitamin D increase estrogen? ›
High blood levels of vitamin D linked to reduced estrogen – and potentially lower breast cancer risk. Can taking daily vitamin D supplements decrease sex-hormone levels and thereby potentially reduce the risk of breast cancer in older women?Which food is highest in estrogen? ›
When it comes to estrogenic foods, flax seeds rank near the top. They have the highest amount of phytoestrogen content out of all the phytoestrogen-rich foods. Flax seeds are also a great source of dietary fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol and regulate the digestive tract.What are the signs of low estrogen? ›
- Dry skin.
- Tender breasts.
- Weak or brittle bones.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Moodiness and irritability.
- Vaginal dryness or atrophy.
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Irregular periods or no periods (amenorrhea).
Despite these benefits, cycling commonly leads to injury, with up to 85% of all recreational cyclists citing an overuse injury. Given unbalanced pressure distribution when on the bike, the neck, hands, wrists, lower back, knees, and perineum are the regions most frequently affected by cycling.Will seed cycling cure PCOS? ›
It is also known as a “seed rotation diet”. This method helps in regulating the hormonal balance in the female body. Although it is not a scientific-based approach for PCOS management and treatment, the NUNM report shows its positive effect.
Seed cycling typically involves eating flax seeds and pumpkin seeds during the first, follicular phase (Days 1-14) of your cycle, when your period starts. You consume a combo of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds during the second, luteal phase (Days 14-28), or after ovulation.Does cycling spike cortisol? ›
A cyclist's resting levels of cortisol may increase in response to endurance training [16, 17], in response to intense cycling , and possibly in response to psychological arousal during competition [19–22].
Women with breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer or endometriosis should ask their doctor before taking flaxseed, because it may act like estrogen in the body. Some researchers think pregnant women should not take flaxseed, because it may act like estrogen in the body.How can I increase my progesterone naturally? ›
- Eat foods that support your body's production of hormones.
- Avoid foods and external substances that can knock your hormones out of sync.
- Reduce the amount of stress in your life.
- Reduce your level of body fat.
Summary. in seed cycling, you eat certain seeds throughout the month to affect the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body. It is a health trend that claims to balance hormone levels, boost fertility, and ease menopause symptoms. There is no evidence to support these claims.What happens to your brain when you cycle? ›
Cycling can grow your brain in the same way it can grow your muscles. Blood flow to the brain increases just as it does with the muscles, bringing in more oxygen and nutrients that can improve its performance. Riding increases the production of proteins used for creating new brain cells by two or three times the norm!Do pumpkin seeds balance hormones? ›
Seed cycling is a naturopathic remedy that aims to balance estrogen and progesterone levels by eating flax and pumpkin seeds during the first half of the menstrual cycle and sunflower and sesame seeds during the second half.Who should not take flaxseed? ›
Hormone-sensitive cancers or conditions: Because flaxseed might act somewhat like the hormone estrogen, it might make hormone-sensitive conditions worse. Some of these conditions include breast and ovarian cancer. Until more is known, avoid taking large amounts of flaxseed if you have one of these conditions.What seeds are high in estrogen? ›
Sesame seeds are a potent source of phytoestrogens. Regularly eating sesame seeds has been shown to increase estrogen activity in postmenopausal women.What are the negative effects of flaxseed? ›
- allergic reactions.
- diarrhea (oil)
- intestinal obstruction.
- stomach ache.
- gas (flatulence)
You can plant seeds for lettuce, peas, spinach, green onions to be planted and grown throughout the year! Yep, you can start many seeds throughout the spring/summer/fall season! So it's really never too late to start seeds.How many years can a seed last? ›
All seeds will be viable for one to two years. After two years, germination rates will drop for many types of seeds, and will eventually fall to zero. So, stocking up on seeds for an “emergency” isn't a good idea, because they don't last forever.
I would suggest that you start seed cycling with the moon phases. This would look like taking 1-2 tbsp of organic* Flax seeds, chia seeds & pumpkin seeds starting with a new moon. Then once a full moon hits, transition to consuming 1-2 tbsp of organic *sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.Do fertility doctors recommend pre seed? ›
If you can't live without lube, Masterson says you can use Pre-Seed, an FDA-approved “fertility-friendly” lubricant developed by doctors. It's pH-balanced to match fertile cervical mucus as well as the pH of his sperm, so it won't hurt your odds of conceiving.What are fertility Superfoods? ›
Grapefruits, oranges, broccoli, peppers, kiwis, and pineapples are filled with vitamin C that can regulate women's hormonal balance. Spinach contains iron, which can help ovulation. Finally for your partner: pomegranates, avocados and cooked tomatoes can increase male fertility.Which seeds are best for female fertility? ›
Sunflower seeds also offer substantial amounts zinc, folic acid, and selenium— all of which are potent fertility nutrients with stellar benefits.
You're most fertile at the time of ovulation (when an egg is released from your ovaries), which usually occurs 12 to 14 days before your next period starts. This is the time of the month when you're most likely to get pregnant. It's unlikely that you'll get pregnant just after your period, although it can happen.What increases fertility in a woman? ›
Eating more protein from vegetable sources, instead of animal sources, may improve fertility levels in women. Replacing low fat dairy products with high fat versions may help improve fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant.What naturally increases fertility? ›
- Stick to a fertility diet. ...
- Maintain a healthy weight. ...
- Eliminate alcohol and tobacco. ...
- Take prenatal vitamins. ...
- Stay hydrated. ...
- Manage stress. ...
- Monitor your ovulation. ...
- Get busy in the bedroom.
- Dairy. It pays to bone up on dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese) when you're trying to conceive. ...
- Lean animal protein. Let's talk (lean) turkey…and lean chicken and lean beef. ...
- Fatty fish. ...
- Complex carbs. ...
- Oysters. ...
- Yams. ...
Supplements containing Myo-inositol, folic acid and melatonin have been shown to help improve egg quality and ovarian function. Other reasons conceiving after 35 may be more difficult include: Infection or surgery that caused scar tissue around the fallopian tubes or cervix.How do I know if I am fertile enough to get pregnant? ›
If your menstrual cycle lasts 28 days and your period arrives like clockwork, it's likely that you'll ovulate on day 14. That's halfway through your cycle. Your fertile window begins on day 10. You're more likely to get pregnant if you have sex at least every other day between days 10 and 14 of a 28-day cycle.
Raspberries and blueberries are rich in natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, which help in boosting fertility levels. They are also a good source of folate and vitamin C, which can help with foetal development.Can seed cycling balance hormones? ›
Unfortunately, current research suggests that seed cycling won't do much to balance your hormones. However, seeds are a healthy part of a balanced diet, and they're rich in fiber, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. Consider using them as a crunchy topping on soup or adding them to a tasty salad.What are the 3 most fertile days? ›
Ovulation happens about 14 days before your period starts. If your average menstrual cycle is 28 days, you ovulate around day 14, and your most fertile days are days 12, 13 and 14. If your average menstrual cycle is 35 days ovulation happens around day 21 and your most fertile days are days 19,20 and 21.What is the best age for pregnancy? ›
Experts say the best time to get pregnant is between your late 20s and early 30s. This age range is associated with the best outcomes for both you and your baby. One study pinpointed the ideal age to give birth to a first child as 30.5. Your age is just one factor that should go into your decision to get pregnant.What is the best age to have kids? ›
In that sense, we can generally place the female reproductive years between 12 and 51 on average. Of course, as women age, the odds of conceiving also gradually lower. The ideal childbearing age is often considered to be in the late 20s and early 30s. Pregnancies later in life could come with some health risks.