Seed cycling, a practice of eating specific seeds during certain phases of the menstrual cycle, has been around for hundreds of years, but it’s recently picked up steam as news media, influencers, and wellness brands have begun sharing the details. This ancient practice claims to serve as a natural means of balancing a woman’s hormones throughout her menstrual cycle to improve fertility and reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and endometriosis. But does it actually work? And what does it take to do it? Join us as we dig into the research.
What is the seed cycling schedule?
The average seed cycling plan recommends consuming one tablespoon of flaxseeds and one tablespoon of pumpkin seeds a day during the first 13 or so days of a menstrual cycle. Then, after ovulation, participants eat one tablespoon of sunflower seeds and one tablespoon of sesame seeds every day until their next period begins.
Does seed cycling really work?
In theory, compounds in these seeds would cause the body to produce more or less of certain menstrual cycle-related hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. However, there is very little research on this practice overall. Let’s take a look at what is currently known:
Seed cycling may reduce anovulatory cycles
One small study of 18 women encouraged them to eat their normal diet for three cycles and then consume flax seeds along with their typical diet during the next three cycles. They then compared the data of the second and third cycles to the fifth and sixth (to allow the diet to begin taking effect). The researchers found that there were a total of three anovulatory cycles among the 36 cycles the women experienced before eating flax seeds, and there were no anovulatory cycles after.
What is an anovulatory cycle? This is when an egg is not released from the ovary during a menstrual cycle. It is normal for a woman to experience a few anovulatory cycles in her lifetime.
Essentially, this means that none of the women skipped ovulation while consuming flax seeds. However, much more research is needed to confirm whether or not flax seeds can prevent anovulatory cycles.
Will pumpkin seeds affect progesterone levels?
One major claim of seed cycling is that the zinc in pumpkin seeds is supposed to increase your progesterone levels. However, one study found no significant difference in progesterone levels between a control group who didn’t take a zinc sulfate supplement and those who did.
Can sunflower seeds boost fertility?
Another reasoning behind seed cycling is that the Vitamin E in sunflower seeds can help increase the amount of progesterone in your body. Unfortunately, this is probably not true. A study published in 2020 observed 321 women with PCOS who were undergoing ovulation induction (using medication to induce ovulation). Those who supplemented with Vitamin E had no significant changes in ovulation rate or pregnancy rate than those who did not.
Is seed cycling worth it?
Unfortunately, current research suggests that seed cycling won’t do much to balance your hormones. However, seeds are a healthy part of a balanced diet, and they’re rich in fiber, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. Consider using them as a crunchy topping on soup or adding them to a tasty salad.
If you currently have a hormonal imbalance or are experiencing infertility, PCOS, endometriosis, or severe PMS, our doctors can help. Schedule an appointment with a St. Joseph Health OBGYN today to start on the path toward better health.