Should You Be Seed Cycling?
Seed cycling is a growing trend to help balance hormones and help with a variety of hormone-related issues. Should you give it a try?
Seed cycling, or eating different seeds during different times of your menstrual cycle, is a trend that has been gaining momentum. Here’s a look at what’s involved and if there’s science to back up the claims.
What is Seed Cycling?
Proponents of seed cycling claim that this technique can help balance hormones and issues resulting from hormonal imbalance such as acne, PMS, menstrual cramps, irregular cycles and infertility.
The theory behind this nutrition strategy is that different seeds and when you take them help build specific hormones. During days 1 through 14 it’s recommended to include flax and pumpkin seeds (which allegedly boost estrogen levels) in your diet. Why? Because when estrogen is increased, it helps build the lining of the uterus.
During the second part of the cycle — days 15 through 30 — the recommendation is to incorporate sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, alleged progesterone-boosting seeds, into your diet. Progesterone helps thicken the uterus lining and prepare it for implantation. Proponents of this theory also believe that zinc and vitamin E from these seeds help stimulate the body to make more progesterone.
The seeds should be ground before being ingested. Ground seeds contain the lignans, which supposedly bind to excess hormones. On days 1 through 14, 1 tablespoon each of ground flax and pumpkin seed should be eaten, while days 15 through 30, 1 tablespoon each of ground sunflower and sesame seed is recommended. If you want more than just the seeds, the plan recommends adding fish oil (about 1,500 mg per day) of a combo of EPA and DHA during the first part of the cycle, while evening primrose oil (derived from the seed of the evening primrose plant) can be added during the latter part of the cycle.
Does It Work?
Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, CPT and co-author of Fertility Foods Cookbook, weighed in this rising fad. As a fertility nutrition specialist, Shaw is a big proponent for eating a more plant-forward diet, rich in healthy fats, whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables. However, Shaw explains: “While I've yet to come across a reproductive endocrinologist thus far in my practice recommending seed cycling for their patients, I do see why some may jump on the train. Nuts and seeds are absolutely a great component of a diet conducive to conception, they are rich in unsaturated fats and many even have those heart healthy omegas in them. However, they are unfortunately not a magic pill that will promise those two pink lines overnight.” In addition to Shaw’s firsthand insight, there is very little science to back up the claims of seed cycling.
If you want to give seed cycling a try, there is no health concern of adding ground seeds to your diet. According to Shaw, “if including seeds in that sounds good to the individual, than by all means, toss those beauties on your salad!" However evening primrose oil can be potentially dangerous for anyone with heart issues, or on heart medications as it can slow down blood clotting. Always speak with your doctor and registered dietitian before taking it or other supplements.