A science-based guide to seed cycling for hormone balance and to support fertility! Learn what seeds to use, how it supports your hormones and how to incorporate it into your daily routine.

Seed Cycling for hormone balance - pumpkin, flax, sesame, sunflower seeds

Have you heard of seed cycling? This hormone supporting practice is one of the top trending wellness practices, and for good reason. More and more women are struggling with hormone imbalances.

Women’s hormones are a complex system that functions in a delicate balance. However, women’s hormones are greatly influenced by your diet, exercise, sleep, stress levels, and environmental toxins. This means that any of these factors can throw your hormones out of that delicate balance. In turn, a slight hormone imbalance can become the underlying issue for a number of health concerns, including irregular periods, acne, PCOS, thyroid disorders, and chronic fatigue.

Seed cycling is one of the easiest ways you can support your hormones in a gentle, yet effective way. This simple practice helps support balanced hormone levels, reduces PMS symptoms, boosts fertility and can help stimulate menstruation if it’s absent (amenorrhea).  While seed cycling alone isn’t a cure-all, when incorporated consistently (especially with other hormone stabling practices) it’s a great way to take advantage of the healing powers in food. Read on to learn all about seed cycling and how to incorporate it into your daily routine.

What is seed cycling?

Seed cycling is the practice of eating specific seeds during the two main phases of your menstrual cycle (follicular and luteal) to help promote the healthy balance of estrogen and progesterone levels. It’s a gentle and completely natural way that helps reduce PMS symptoms, boost fertility, and can help stimulate menstruation if it’s absent (amenorrhea), and other symptoms as a result of hormonal imbalances. 

Seed cycling can be used at any stage of a woman’s life (including post-menopause). However, it’s especially beneficial when coming off of hormonal birth control or struggling with post-birth control syndrome symptoms like acne, irregular periods or missing periods, or PMS.

Seed Cycling for hormone balance - pumpkin, flax, sesame, sunflower seeds

How to start seed cycling for hormone balance?

To better understand seed cycling, you need to understand the two main phases of your menstrual cycle. The first 14 days of your menstrual cycle makes up the follicular phase, while the following 14 days make up the luteal phase. When your hormone levels are balanced, estrogen rises during the first half of your cycle whereas progesterone levels rise (while estrogen levels slowly decline) during the second half of your cycle. An imbalance between estrogen and progesterone can contribute to PMS symptoms, menstrual cramps, acne, short luteal phases, anovulation, irregular cycles, and amenorrhea.

Days 1-14 of your cycle (or menstruation to ovulation)
    • 1-2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
    • 1-2 tablespoons ground pumpkin seeds
Days 15-28 of your cycle (or ovulation to menstruation) 
    • 1-2 tablespoons ground sunflower seeds
    • 1-2 tablespoons ground sesame seeds

If you don’t have a 28-day menstrual cycle, don’t worry! Many women don’t. You can adjust the length of time you consume each seed combination based on your cycle length. This is why I highly recommend tracking your cycle and ovulation. It guarantees that you are syncing the correct seeds with each phase of your cycle since ovulation can occur at slightly different times each month.

What if you have an irregular or missing period (amenorrhea)? 

It’s possible to seed cycle even if you have irregular or missing periods. Instead of rotating with the phases of your cycling, you’ll follow the phases of the moon a general guideline. In this case, day 1 of your cycle would begin with the new moon.

Days 1-14 (new moon to full moon), eat pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.

Days 15-28 (full moon to new moon), eat sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

It may seem odd or even a little woo-woo, but the moon is powerful. It controls the waves in the ocean, can affect our center of gravity, and have an effect on your menstrual cycle. Have you ever noticed that the moon and the average menstrual cycle are both 28 days? This is no coincidence. Many women’s cycles (when balanced) naturally follow the phases of the moon.

Seed Cycling infographicHow does seed cycling support hormone balance?

In truth, there is little scientific research that supports the direct relationship between seed cycling and improved hormonal balance in women. There just haven’t been studies done on this practice. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work! It’s important to keep an open mind with nutrition and natural healing practices since there are limitations in research and lack of studies on specific topics. 

While studies don’t directly link to seed cycling to hormone balance, they show clear correlations that specific nutritional components in flax, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds may play a role in supporting your natural hormonal cycle.

Follicular Phase

During the first phase of the menstrual cycle (follicular phase), pumpkin seeds and flax seeds help improve our estrogen levels while preventing excess estrogen. Flax seeds contain lignans which bind to excess estrogen. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which helps support progesterone production as you move towards the progesterone rise in the second phase of your cycle.

Luteal Phase

During the second phase of your cycle (luteal phase), sesame seeds and sunflower seeds help boost progesterone production. Sesame seeds are a rich source of zinc which help boost progesterone production and also contain lignans that help block excess estrogen while progesterone rises. Sunflower seeds are high vitamin E and selenium. Vitamin E can help boost progesterone production, while selenium helps detox the liver of excess estrogen.

The nutritional components In Seeds

Lignans

Flax seeds are considered phytoestrogens, which have a weak estrogen-like effect in the body. (1) This naturally supports healthy estrogen production. Flax seeds are unique in that they also contain nutritional components called lignans which can help to bind excess estrogen. (2) Research shows that flax seeds help in lengthening the luteal phase, improving ovulation and reducing common PMS symptoms such as breast pain and cramping. (3

Sesame seeds also contain lignans which help to block excess estrogen during the second phase of your menstrual cycle when progesterone rises. Research shows that sesame seeds are beneficial for postmenopausal women by improving blood lipids, antioxidants, and sex hormones. (4)

Zinc

Pumpkin and sesame seeds both contain high levels of zinc. This mineral helps to improve the formation of the corpus luteum in the uterus. The corpus luteum is responsible for producing progesterone and stimulates the uterus to thicken in preparation for potential implantation. (5) (6) 

Omega-3s, Omega-6s + Vitamin E

Both flax and pumpkin seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s promote blood flow to the uterus, increase progesterone secretion, and help maintain healthy cell membranes. (7) In addition, Vitamin E has been linked to reducing PMS symptoms. (8) Research also shows that Vitamin E, omega-3s and omega-6s found in pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, and flax seeds are essential for hormone production and follicle function.

Selenium

Sunflower seeds, high in the trace mineral selenium, supports estrogen detoxification in the liver. (9) (2) This helps reduce excess estrogen during the luteal phase when estrogen declines and progesterone rises.  

Seed Cycling for hormone balance - pumpkin, flax, sesame, sunflower seeds

How To Incorporate seed cycling Into Your Everyday Routine:

It’s recommended to eat 1-2 tablespoons of the specific seeds each day. Raw, ground seeds are best, especially for the flax and sesame. You can simply use a coffee/spice grinder to grind the seeds. I grind about a cup at a time and keep it in a glass jar in the fridge or freezer.

Incorporating seed cycling into your daily routine couldn’t be easier. Just add them to anything! I top my morning toast with the ground seeds, throw them into smoothies or oatmeal, or just sprinkle them on top of any dish. 

Some creative ways to use your seed cycling seed mix include:

    • Add to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal or chia seed pudding
    • Sprinkle on toast, nourish bowls, salads or soups
    • Pesto with pumpkin and flax seeds
    • Homemade seed butter 
    • Make homemade granola with pumpkin and flax or sesame and sesame seeds
    • This recipe for seed cycling bites for each phase of your cycle (coming soon!)

How Long Does It Take To See Results?

Seed cycling takes time to work with your body. It can take at least three months of daily use to start noticing the benefits. Keeping a journal to track your symptoms throughout the month can help you identify the shifts happening over the months. 

You might be wondering, do I have to stick with this for life? The truth is, it’s entirely up to you. Seed cycling is such an easy and gentle way to naturally support your hormone balance daily, you may want to consider it. It may feel daunting to think about doing this forever, but once you get into a habit, it may become second nature. I recommend taking it month-by-month. Making a monthly goal to seed cycle makes it feel much more manageable. 

Things to know before you start

Grind your seeds

Use a coffee or spice grinder to grind the seeds (especially the flax and sesame). This helps your body digest them. That being said, if you aren’t able to grind them that okay. Incorporating the seeds is better than not because they aren’t ground. The only exception is flax seeds, which your body can’t breakdown or absorb if left whole. 

Use raw seeds

It’s best to use raw (unroasted, unsalted) seeds to ensure they have all of their nutrients intact and nothing was lost in the roasting process. Using organic seeds when available helps reduce pesticide exposure which can disrupt hormones. 

Store in the refrigerator or freezer

The polyunsaturated fats in seeds oxidize and go rancid very quickly, especially in sunlight and warmer temperatures. Keeping the seeds in a cool, dark place like the fridge or freezer to keep them fresh.

Track your cycle

This is so important! While you can follow the moon phases, it’s best to rotate seeds with your unique cycle. In order to do this, you need to track your cycle.

My absolute favorite way to track your cycle is using the Ava Bracelet (Use the code nourished20 for 20% off!). I will talk in greater detail about why I love it so much in my pregnancy journey post. But I truly believe this is the reason we got pregnant so quickly! It’s 100% worth the investment.

Prioritize hormone balance

Keep in mind that seed cycling isn’t a cure-all. Hormone imbalances are often a result of digestive issues, blood sugar imbalances, stress, a lack of dietary fat and protein, lack of sleep, and environmental toxins (like your cleaning and skincare products). You can’t expect seed cycling to give you the boost you need without prioritizing good sleep, managing your stress, eating well and staying hydrated and limiting your exposure to hormone-disrupting toxins.

Need More Guidance?

Hormone balance is complex since there are so many factors that play into this delicate balance. It’s important to work with a doctor to test your hormones levels and properly diagnose your condition. Once you have this information a dietitian can help make diet and lifestyle changes to help you balance and maintain optimal hormone levels.

If you’d like more guidance, I’d love yo work with you! Check out my “work with me” page or email jessica@nourishedbynutrition.com for more details. 

Seed Cycling infographic