Your hormones are greatly influenced by your diet, sleep patterns, stress levels, physical environment and movement routines. When less than optimal, these can challenge your body’s natural biology, throwing your hormones out of whack. For women, hormonal imbalance is the root of many health issues such as irregular periods, acne , PCOS , low libido, thyroid disorders, and chronic fatigue .
Seed cycling has become a popular way for women to help rebalance female hormones. But does this nutritional therapy really work? Here’s what the science shows.
Seed cycling is a protocol that involves rotating certain types of seeds throughout your menstrual cycle. Proponents claim this practice can balance progesterone and estrogen. When hormones are balanced, estrogen levels rise during the first half of the menstrual cycle, whereas progesterone levels rise during the second half. When not in this natural rhythm, an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone can occur which can contribute to menstrual irregularities.
In truth, there is little scientific research to support the direct relationship between seed cycling and improved hormonal balance in women. There is, however, scientific support for the benefits of specific nutritional components present in flax, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds in promoting hormonal balance in the cycle.
For example, scientific research shows that flax seeds help in lengthening the luteal phase of the cycle therefore, improving ovulation in addition to reducing common premenstrual symptoms such as breast pain and cramping. Studies also show that Vitamin E and omega 3- and omega-6 fatty acids in pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, and flax seeds are essential for hormone production and follicle function. Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to directly increase progesterone secretion and enhance uterine blood flow in animals.
Additionally, zinc, which is present in higher concentrations in pumpkin and sesame seeds, helps to improve formation of the corpus luteum , the hormone-secreting structure that is responsible for producing progesterone and stimulates the uterus to thicken in preparation for potential implantation. Selenium, a trace mineral present in sunflower seeds, supports faster detoxification in the liver of female hormones.
While none of these studies can be directly linked to seed cycling specifically, they do create clear correlations that the nutritional properties present and rich in flax, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds may play an active role in supporting our natural hormonal cycle.
Flax, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are rich in omega 3- and omega-6 fatty acids and Vitamin E.
If you’ve tried other methods of balancing hormones without success, seed cycling could be another option. Anecdotally, some people have had success with this protocol in combination with other healthy lifestyle changes. We recommend talking to your doctor first.
Interested in giving it a try? Here’s how:
Both flax and pumpkin seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which promote enhanced uterine blood low and maintain healthy cell membranes. Flax seeds contain special properties called lignans which can help to bind excess estrogen in the first phase of the cycle while pumpkin seeds, high in the trace mineral zinc, support progesterone production and release for the second phase of the cycle.
Sesame seeds, which also contain lignans, help to block excess estrogen during this period while sunflower seeds, high in the trace mineral selenium, assist in the detoxification process of hormones in the liver.
Grinding the seeds increases the surface area for absorption to the essential fatty acids inside. They can easily be blended into smoothies, sprinkled on top of chia seed pudding, mixed into salad dressings, hot cereals, or non-dairy yogurt parfaits.
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.
Kelly Candela is a registered Dietitian Nutritionist with six years of experience in the health and wellness field, four of which have been spent right here at Parsley Health supporting members with everything from gut issues and autoimmune disease to cardiometabolic health concerns and fertility. She holds a Master's of Science in Nutrition from one of the leading science-based natural medicine schools in the country, Bastyr University, and completed her dietetic internship at Sea Mar Community Health Center in Seattle, WA.