One of the newest wellness trends is seed cycling. More and more women struggle with hormone imbalance and seed cycling claims to balance hormones in a natural and gentle way.
What is seed cycling?
Seed cycling is the concept of consuming freshly ground seeds during certain days of a women's monthly menstrual period. During the first half of a cycle or the follicular phase, a woman would consume pumpkin and flax seeds. During the second half of the cycle or the luteal phase, sesame and sunflower seeds are consumed. The pumpkin and flaxseeds help promote the balancing of estrogen while the sesame and sunflower seeds promote the balancing of progesterone.
A women's body is very influential to our diets, exercise, stress levels, and the quality of our sleep. While seed cycling is not a cure-all, when used in combination with other lifestyle changes and hormone balancing practices, seed cycling can be an effective way to help reduce PMS symptoms, acne, boost fertility, and in my case, reduce the severity of flare-ups caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Days 1-14 of your cycle
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground flaxseeds
Days 15-28 of your cycle
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground sunflower seeds
How does it work?
Hormones in a normal cycle
In a regular cycle, estrogen is high during the first 14 days (follicular phase) while the eggs in the ovaries ripen. Levels of luteinizing (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) increase before ovulation while estrogen levels decrease after ovulation.
Once an egg has been released, the luteal phase or days 15-28 start. Estrogen and progesterone will increase to support the implantation of the egg. If implantation or conception do not occur, the estrogen and progesterone levels will decrease. Then the cycle starts again.
How long does it take to see results?
Just like most therapies, you won't see results overnight. Rather it's about consistency and sticking to the practice. For me, I started feeling less joint pain and swelling the week before my monthly period within one month of seed cycling. Now is a good time to remind you that everybody is different therefore results will vary. Most start to see the benefits of seed cycling within three months. The key is to stay consistent.
Any substitutions in case of food sensitivities?
During the first few months of seed cycling, I was also on an elimination diet. One of the triggering foods that showed up for me was sunflower seeds. For the second half of my cycle, I simply left out the sunflower seeds and consumed a little more sesame seeds to compensate. While it's best to consume all four seeds, adjust accordingly and know consuming some of the seeds is better than none.
My experience with seed cycling
I started seed cycling in January of 2021. I noticed that the week before my menstrual cycle, my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms would be the worst. On top of it, my irritability and anxiety would be high. When I have that type of joint pain, I have a hard time doing my daily tasks and taking care of my kids.
I would feel some relief once my period started and felt almost normal the week following my period. And by normal I mean still some joint tenderness and stiffness, but the pain was minimal and manageable. Then once again, as the cycle continued, I'd be back to where I was and have joint pain and swelling.
My cycle lasts around 30 days. Days 1-15 I would consume one tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed and one tablespoon of freshly ground pumpkin seeds. Now typically for the remaining of the month, or days 15-30, one would consume one tablespoon of freshly ground sunflower seeds and one tablespoon freshly ground sesame seeds. For me personally, I left out the sunflower seeds due to them testing high on a food sensitivity panel.
Things to know before you start
Use raw seeds
It is best to use raw seeds (unfrosted and unsalted) for seed cycling. Using raw seeds means the nutritional value is still intact. If possible, buy your seeds organic as it will reduce pesticide exposure which can disrupt hormones. I buy my seeds in bulk at my local health food store and store them in glass jars in my fridge until I am ready to use them.
Grind your seeds
It is best to freshly grind the seeds before consuming them. I use a coffee grinder to grind my seeds. Grinding helps breakdown the seeds and helps with digestion. If you can't grind them, that's okay. The only exception is flaxseed and sesame seeds which can not be digested if they are left whole.
Store in the refrigerator or freezer
This is so important! To reduce the chances of the seeds going rancid or oxidizing and to protect any nutrients, store them in glass containers in the fridge or freezer. I store mine in wide-mouth quart-sized Mason jars so I can easily scoop out what I need.
Track your cycle
Most women's cycles are not 28 days long. I have found using a monthly period tracker to be so helpful! I have been using a period tracker app for years. It helped me get pregnant right away with both my kids by tracking my cycle and knowing when I was ovulating. If you do not know the exact days of your cycle and are not interested in using an app, I recommend tracking by the moon cycle. Please note that you may need to add or subtract a day or two since most women's cycles are not 28 days long. Tracking by the moon looks like this:
- Days 1-14 (new moon to full moon)
- Days 15-28 (full moon to new moon)
Ways to incorporate seeds into your diet
- Add the freshly ground seeds to a morning smoothie like this Tropical Smoothie
- Sprinkle on top of a salad full of fresh greens and a light vinaigrette
- Add them to my Seed Cycling Brownie Bites
- Mix into homemade granola
- Mix into chia seed puddings
As a reminder, I am not a physician or a nutritionist. I highly recommend working with a dietitian, like I am, to fully understand seed cycling and what this therapy can do for you. I am simply sharing my experience and how it relates to my rheumatoid arthritis in hopes it will spark a conversation with your medical team.