After a recent trip to see my naturopathic doctor (with a whole slew of hormone-related complaints in tow) I learned that it’s possible to balance hormones naturally with a process called “seed cycling.” Seed cycling is essentially the addition of various seeds to the diet during different phases of the female reproductive cycle to promote a healthy balance of hormones in the body.
Ladies, if you feel like hormones are ruling your life or if you suffer from menstrual cramps, back aches, PMS, fatigue, headaches, irregular cycles, food cravings, acne, bloating, or anxiety then this article is for you! It turns out that just because these symptoms are common doesn’t mean they are normal or necessary. It’s possible to balance your hormones naturally and eliminate painful and frustrating symptoms with seed cycling.
First a bit about how hormones work in the female body.
Menstrual Cycle & Hormone Balance
There are two key hormones that regulate the female reproductive cycle: estrogen and progesterone. During the first phase of the cycle, from the first day of the period through ovulation (days 1 to 14) estrogen levels increase and dominate. During the second phase of the cycle (days 14 to 28 or so) estrogen levels slowly decrease while progesterone increases.
“It is the imbalance of estrogen and progesterone throughout the cycle that contributes to the symptoms of PMS, menstrual cramps and irregular cycles.” –Dr. Kristy Vermeulen, ND
Seed Cycling & How It Works
Seed cycling is a way to help the body naturally balance its hormone levels by incorporating different seeds into the diet during the different phases of the menstrual cycle. By simply adding pumpkin, flax, sunflower, or sesame seeds to the diet at the right time in your cycle, you can assist the body in either producing more of a needed hormone OR processing and eliminating excess hormones.
Phase 1: Follicular Phase (Days 1-14)
Day 1 of your cycle is the day that menstruation begins. The two weeks that follow make up the follicular phase, during which pumpkin seeds and flax seeds provide the body with omega-3 fatty acids which promote healthy cell membranes, allowing hormones to reach their destinations within the body. Additionally, pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which supports progesterone release and flax seeds contain lignans which block excess estrogen. The combination of pumpkin and flax seeds during phase 1 of your cycle helps to balance estrogen production and absorption in the body.
- During this phase, take 2 Tablespoons daily of raw pumpkin and flax seeds. I like to take 1 Tablespoon of each. Some doctors recommend that you grind the seeds prior to consuming them to make sure that the lignans are adequately available for absorption by your intestines. My doctor told me this was optional, so decide what works best for you.
- In addition to these two seeds, the seed cycling regimen also calls for taking a daily fish oil supplement during this phase. Aim to get 1500-2000 mg of EPA/DHA daily. To accomplish this I take 3 capsules a day of Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega. This is an excellent, high quality fish oil but you can use whatever you have. The key is to check the bottle for its EPA & DHA content and make sure you get a minimum combined total of 1500 to 2000 mg daily.
Phase 2: Luteal Phase (Days 15-28)
Ovulation marks Phase 2 of your cycle around day 15 and marks a shift from estrogen production to progesterone production. During this phase sesame seeds and sunflower seeds support the natural balance and production of hormones in the body. Sesame seeds, which also contain lignans, help to block excess estrogen while sunflower seeds provide the body with selenium, a trace mineral that assists the liver in detoxification.
- During this phase, take 2 Tablespoons daily of raw sesame seeds and sunflower seeds (again, I like to take 1 Tablespoon of each), preferably ground.
- Some doctors recommend that you take Evening Primrose Oil during Phase 2 of your cycle as an omega-6 supplement. I am not doing this. Instead, I’m taking fish oil all month long (as suggested by my doc). Ask your naturopathic doctor what he or she recommends.
The process of balancing your hormones naturally with seed cycling doesn’t happen overnight. While you may begin to see changes sooner, it generally takes 3 months before you see significant changes in your symptoms. Be patient and take good care of yourself during this time by drinking lots of water, getting regular exercise, and eating your greens! I’ve been practicing seed cycling for over a month now and I already see some changes. I’m having fewer breakouts (hooray!), fewer PMS symptoms, and fewer migraines. I am excited to stick with this regimen and see how my body continues to heal and find balance.
Ideas for Adding Seeds to Your Diet
- A KRUPS Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder makes the process of grinding seeds simple & easy. You can grind them daily or grind them for each phase of your cycle and store them in the refrigerator.
- My favorite ways to incorporate seeds into my diet is to sprinkle them on cereal, veggies, and salads or blend them into smoothies.
- Sesame seeds are delicious when sprinkled on ice cream.
- Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are easy to eat plain and make a great on-the-go snack.
- In a pinch, you can add your ground seeds to a glass of juice, nut milk, or water and drink immediately.
- Try making hormone balancing Larabars by adding the seeds you need into my recipe for Simple Homemade Larabars.
- Raw tahini is a great way to add sesame seeds to your diet. Add it to salad dressing, hummus, or spread it on crackers!
Here are a few helpful links to check out if you’d like to learn more about balancing your hormones naturally with seed cycling: