Seed cycling is an alternative medicine method that naturally regulates hormones. In particular, the intake of certain seeds is synchronized with the menstrual cycle in seed cycling. Its objective is to provide fatty acids, phytoestrogens, and certain vitamins that help the production of some hormones.
The goal is to give the body the nutrients it needs at each stage of the menstrual cycle. It also seeks to aid menstruation, as this period involves a series of physical and mental changes that can be difficult to cope with.
Here, we’ll tell you more about this approach.
What is Seed Cycling?
Seed cycling is a practice in which the consumption of certain seeds rotated in the diet depending on the menstrual cycle period in which the woman is. This variety of foods provide vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and phytoestrogens that help produce, metabolize, and release hormones.
To understand it better, you first need to understand the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle encompasses a series of processes and changes that all women go through each month. The body tries to prepare for a possible pregnancy. Eggs are produced with the help of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Estrogen and progesterone are also produced.
The latter is the most important, as they determine the follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle. In the follicular phase, estrogen levels increase as part of the process and preparation for releasing the egg. This occurs from day one until day 14.
In the luteal phase, ovulation begins on day 14 until the onset of the next menstrual period. This is when progesterone increases to prepare the body for a possible pregnancy. When the egg is not fertilized, it’s expelled with the blood.
The seed cycle aims to maintain a balance in each menstrual cycle phase for the body to have optimal hormonal activity.
What do seeds contain that help regulate the menstrual cycle?
Oilseeds such as flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids of the omega 3, 6, and 9 series— anti-inflammatory linoleic acid and oleic acid, which is part of hormone production.
They also contain vitamins B complex, A, E, and K. Their main minerals are potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. These nutrients can participate in the control and manufacturing of hormones.
Among other things, they contain bioactive compounds such as phytoestrogens. The International Journal of Clinical Practice defines phytoestrogens as compounds of non-steroidal vegetable origin that, once ingested, are transformed into active hormones thanks to the action of intestinal bacteria.
Meanwhile, the Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome notes that some phytoestrogens, such as those in soy, have been shown to have some estrogenic activity. Such is the case of isoflavones.
In fact, a study has revealed that some oilseeds may have other types of phytoestrogens with medium or low estrogenic activity. Lignans and coumestans are part of this group.
All this explains why seed consumption is associated with a lower incidence of disease in Asian women. While the Western diet provides about 5 milligrams of phytoestrogens per day, the Asian diet provides 40 to 200 milligrams per day.
The Benefits of Seed Cycling
It’s believed that the seed cycle may contribute to the relief of some symptoms of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Its benefits even appear to extend to women in menopause and perimenopause. However, more scientific evidence is still needed.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits.
1. Control of the menstrual cycle
The Climacteric journal suggests that the consumption of some seeds is useful for women with irregular menstruation. In addition to phytoestrogens, the seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids and oleic acid that balance hormonal health. Therefore, they optimize the functioning of the menstrual cycle.
2. Prevention of premenstrual inflammation
The National University of Naturopathic Medicine states that regular consumption of seeds balances hormones and helps to reduce premenstrual symptoms such as inflammation. It also harmonizes the hypothalamus gland with the pituitary gland and ovaries.
3. Seed cycling may have a favorable effect on bone health
A special article on osteoporosis in postmenopausal women reveals that seed cycling promotes bone resorption through increased osteoblastic proliferation and differentiation. Consequently, this approach is considered a good alternative to promote bone health.
However, it should be noted that the available data are still limited, and there are few human clinical studies. Therefore, it should not be a first-choice remedy.
4. Seed cycling can help in the treatment of climacteric symptoms
The phytoestrogens provided by the seeds are allies in the control of menopausal symptoms. In particular, they reduce hot flushes, as they act as estrogenic agonists in the thermoregulatory center of the hypothalamus.
A group of researchers observed that out of 190 women treated with phytoestrogens, 80 to 82% reduced their number of hot flushes. It was also associated with improved sleep quality and decreased nervousness and depression.
What are the most commonly used seeds?
Some varieties of seeds stand out more than others for their benefits in the menstrual period. Therefore, they are the ones that are used in the seed cycle.
Here are some of them:
- Pumpkin seeds: They provide a series of minerals such as zinc, which improves the hormone testosterone levels. They also contain magnesium and the amino acid tryptophan, which together improve sleep to maintain hormonal balance.
- Sesame seeds: This helps block excess estrogen and maintain hormonal balance. Coumestran or coumestrol is the most common phytoestrogen. It influences female hormones, regulates inflammation, and promotes the metabolism of sex hormone precursors such as cholesterol.
- Flax seeds: This is abundant in lignans, also called estrogenic modulators.
- Sunflower seeds: These contribute to reducing estrogen in the luteal phase through coumestrol.
How to implement seed cycling
We already know that the menstrual cycle is divided into the follicular phase and the luteal phase. Basically, in each of these phases, different seeds are ingested.
The follicular phase (1-14 days)
In this phase, progesterone levels tend to drop. Therefore, the consumption of pumpkin seeds is recommended.
Pumpkin seeds, in turn, promote good testosterone production and are involved in the production of melatonin. It’s even believed that they help improve mood since they optimize the segregation of serotonin.
Other seeds that you can use in this first stage are flaxseeds and chia seeds. Both contain polyunsaturated fats that help make hormones, as well as being anti-inflammatory and regulatory. They also contain mucilages that promote intestinal health.
- The best option is to ingest a tablespoon of flaxseed and a tablespoon of pumpkin a day during the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle.
The luteal phase (14- 28 days)
In this phase, estrogen begins to decrease while progesterone increases. Therefore, it’s advisable to eat other types of seeds.
One of the recommended varieties is sesame, which helps to avoid excess estrogen. It is a seed abundant in calcium and vitamin B6, necessary to balance the menstrual cycle.
Another ideal variety is sunflower seeds, which stand out as a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids and calcium. It’s believed that their intake supports the liver in the task of processing hormonal fluctuation. In addition, it seems to affect the activation of progesterone.
- It’s recommended to take one tablespoon of sesame seeds and one tablespoon of sunflower seeds a day during this period.
- Note: in both phases, the seeds should be raw, fresh, and ground.
What is there to remember about seed cycling?
To date, evidence on the effectiveness of seed cycling remains limited. While some studies have supported the benefits of some seeds in regulating the menstrual cycle, more trials are still needed. In any case, these foods are healthy and all have a place in a healthy and varied diet.
In case of problems with the menstrual cycle, such as heavy bleeding, irregularities, or strong symptoms, it’s best to consult a doctor. Once your case has been evaluated, the professional will guide you towards other habits and treatments that help control it.