Synching your Cycle: The What, The Why and The How of Seed Cycling
Searching up #seedcycling on Instagram reveals more than 14,900 posts, all aesthetic graphics about the process and delicious looking recipes. While seed cycling isn’t necessarily a new concept, it is newly trendy. There are plenty of blog posts and anecdotes that vouch for its usefulness. But what exactly is seed cycling? How can you try it? Is there any scientific basis to this process? Read on to find out!
What is Seed Cycling?
Simply put, seed cycling is the process of consuming different types of seeds in rotation to balance your hormones during your menstrual cycle. The seeds used in this rotation are flax and pumpkin seeds, and sunflower and sesame seeds. Synchronizing your consumption of these seeds with various stages of your menstrual cycle can allegedly help relieve PMS, regulate irregular cycles, ease pain from conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS, ovarian cysts etc. and generally benefit the health of the person who is seed cycling. However, it is important to note that there is no proven scientific evidence to back seed cycling.
How do you seed cycle?
Essentially, there are two phases to this process: Phase 1 (days 1-14) and Phase 2 (days 15-28). The first 14 days typically cover the Menstrual and Follicular stages of your menstrual cycle. Accordingly, pumpkin and flax seeds are consumed during Phase 1, mainly to balance estrogen levels in the body. The next 14 days cover the Ovulatory and the Luteal stages of your menstrual cycle. During these days, sunflower and sesame seeds are consumed, mainly to balance progesterone levels in the body. The process involves consuming two tablespoons of ground seeds everyday, which you can add to your salads or smoothies to enhance the taste.
If you’re a person who still menstruates, you’d start Phase 1 (pumpkin and flax) during the first day of your period, or the first day of the Menstrual stage. You’d switch to Phase 2 (sunflower and sesame) approximately on day 15, or the first day of your Ovulatory stage.
What is the connection between seed cycling and hormones?
During the Menstrual-Follicular stages, proponents of seed cycling claim that phytoestrogens (compounds in plants that can mimic estrogen) help balance estrogen levels as needed. Additionally, zinc in pumpkin seeds is said to help boost progesterone levels for the next phase. During the Ovulatory-Luteal stages, lignans (a type of polyphenol) in sesame seeds are supposed to limit estrogen levels from increasing too much. Vitamin E in sunflower seeds is said to promote progesterone levels.
After menopause, seed cycling allegedly still helps regulate hormonal levels and post menstrual symptoms. In particular, flax seeds have been linked to slight increases in estrogen, improved hormone metabolism, fewer hot flashes, reduced vaginal dryness, and generally better quality of life after menopause. Sesame may offer some benefits to people after menopause as well. Again, it is important to note the lack of concrete proof and extensive research to fully back these claims.
Is seed cycling for you?
Seeds can have many benefits not directly tied to menstruation. All four recommended seeds are rich in fibre, manganese, magnesium, copper, thiamine, vitamin E and healthy fats. Flax, sunflower and sesame seeds have been linked to improvements in heart disease risk factors, namely high cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels. Flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds have been connected to protection against breast cancer, while sesame seeds have been linked to reducing inflammation, and better athletic recovery and performance.
To make a long story short: seed cycling has a variety of benefits, whether directly related to menstruation or not. If you have the time and energy to do so, you might see benefits. However, keep in mind that if you are suffering from hormonal imbalances or menstrual disorders, seed cycling is not a way to fix this. Seek medical help in such cases!
Here’s some further reading if you’re interested in this topic:
Written by: Arundati Vijay
Graphics by: Nikita Dhamija