How This Helps

The concept of seed cycling has been growing in popularity in recent years. Seed cycling is said to balance hormones, boost fertility, and also alleviate the symptoms of menopause. The concept of seed cycling focuses on eating pumpkin, flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds at different times during the month to balance certain hormones in women. However, while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support claims of its usefulness, there is a lack of scientific evidence to elaborate on these claims. Let us take a closer look at the concept of seed cycling for hormone balance and if it works or not.

What is a Seed Cycling?

Seed cycling is a natural remedy that claims to balance hormones in women. It does so by regulating the hormone estrogen during the first half of the menstrual cycle and then regulating the hormone progesterone in the second half of the cycle. 

Some of the reported health benefits of seed cycling include:

●    Helps regulate periods

●    Reduces acne

●    Treats polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

●    Treats infertility

●    Treats endometriosis

●    Alleviates symptoms of menopause including night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, and fatigue

 

Some online sources also claim that seed cycling improves the levels of thyroid hormone, weight loss, water retention, hair health, and even improve cellulite. 

The most common way of following seed cycling is to begin by eating one tablespoon each of freshly ground flax and pumpkin seeds each day for the first 13 to 14 days of the menstrual cycle. This stage is known as the follicular phase.[1]

The second half of the cycle is known as the luteal phase. Women following seed cycling have to eat one tablespoon each of the ground sesame and sunflower seeds each day. This routine continues until they arrive on the first day of their next period, marking the start of the next cycle again. 

In women who are menopausal or postmenopausal and do not have a regular menstrual cycle, they should follow the phases of the moon to guide them instead of cycle dates. Day one of the cycle would then begin with the new moon. 

Supporters of seed cycling believe that positive hormonal changes can be observed within just a couple of months of practicing seed cycling. 

See: Control Menopause with Ayurveda Herbs

How does seed cycling work?

There are various inconsistencies in the claims of how seed cycling works. Depending on which source you believe, the theory of how seed cycling works varies. However, in spite of all the different claims out there, the basic foundation behind seed cycling is that different seeds can help promote or hinder the main hormones in women, that is, estrogen and progesterone. 

In a normal or regular menstrual cycle, estrogen gets produced during the first 14 days of the follicular stage. During this phase, the eggs in the ovaries ripen.[2],[3]

As you get closer to ovulation, the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in the body start to increase. Estrogen levels then start to decline just after ovulation. 

Post the egg is released, the luteal phase begins. During this, the body's estrogen and progesterone start to increase gradually. This increase happens within a careful balance to support a possible conception and implantation. The hormone levels then again decline before the next period if no conception and implantation take place.[4]

While most women produce sufficient levels of hormones to support a healthy menstrual cycle, some develop some of the health conditions, such as hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), that can lead to a hormonal imbalance. Over-exercising and being overweight or underweight can also cause a hormonal imbalance.[5]

Furthermore, when a woman reaches menopause, the levels of progesterone and estrogen start to decrease, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Menopause also causes symptoms such as weight gain and hot flashes.[6]

The idea of seed cycling claims to help correct hormonal imbalances and also promote a healthy menstrual cycle. 

See: Acupuncture got me positive results dealing with my female hormonal problems

Seeds and hormones connection

What is the link between Seeds and Hormones?

During the follicular phase of the cycle, supporters of seed cycling claim that the high levels of phytoestrogens present in flaxseeds can help boost or reduce the levels of estrogen in the body as required. 

 

Phytoestrogens are substances found in plants that mimic the action of estrogen.[7] 

 

Furthermore, there is zinc present in pumpkin seeds that can boost the production of progesterone. This increased hormone production prepares the body for the start of the next phase of the cycle. 

 

Then, during the luteal stage, lignans present in sesame work to disrupt estrogen levels from increasing too much. Lignans are a type of polyphenol. At the same time, vitamin E present in sunflower seeds helps increase the levels of progesterone. 

So it is through the actions of zinc, phytoestrogens, selenium, and vitamin E that seed cycling works towards balancing the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body, thus balancing the hormones throughout the cycle. 

 

See: Sesame Seeds Health Benefits And Nutrition Facts

Does seed cycling actually work?

Science & research of seed cycling

Flax seeds and sesame seeds are known for containing high concentrations of lignans.[8] 

After you have these seeds, the lignan gets converted into mammalian lignans enterodiol and enterolactone. These are phytoestrogens that mimic the action of estrogen, or they can also hinder it, depending on the dosage you have taken.[9]

Some studies in women have found that flaxseed intake can help improve cycle regularity and also the hormone levels. It can also reduce cyclical breast pain. [10] 

However, the effects of lignans are not very strong and are primarily associated with anti-cancer properties instead of normalizing hormone levels.[11],[12]

When it comes to sesame seeds, a five-week study done on postmenopausal women showed that consuming 50 grams (1.8 ounces) of sesame powder every day increases the levels of certain other sex hormones, but does not have any effect on the levels of estrogen.[13]

When it comes to the intake of vitamin E and zinc, there is no evidence to show that getting these nutrients from seeds has any added benefits for hormone balancing in the body.[14],[15]

 

Overall, for women with hormonal imbalances, seed cycling is perhaps not the best way to improve symptoms as there is a lack of substantial evidence to show the effectiveness of seed cycling in balancing the levels of hormones in the body. 

 

 

See: Ayurvedic Treatment For Menstrual Cycle Pain & Cramps

Summary

There is no doubt that seeds are highly nutritious and can offer many health benefits. However, are insufficient resources to ascertain that the consumption of seeds in seed cycling has any impact on balancing the hormone levels in the body. 

Nevertheless, eating seeds is still an excellent way of improving your overall health, and you should include all types of seeds in your diet.

See: How To Manage Fibro Fog Or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

References

1. Phipps, W.R., Martini, M.C., Lampe, J.W., Slavin, J.L. and Kurzer, M.S., 1993. Effect of flaxseed ingestion on the menstrual cycle. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 77(5), pp.1215-1219.

2. Maybin, J.A. and Critchley, H.O., 2015. Menstrual physiology: implications for endometrial pathology and beyond. Human reproduction update, 21(6), pp.748-761.

3. Jabbour, H.N., Kelly, R.W., Fraser, H.M. and Critchley, H.O., 2005. Endocrine regulation of menstruation. Endocrine Reviews, 27(1), pp.17-46.

4. Taraborrelli, S., 2015. Physiology, production, and action of progesterone. Acta obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 94, pp.8-16.

5. Ferreira, S.R. and Motta, A.B., 2018. Uterine Function: From Normal to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Alterations. Current medicinal chemistry, 25(15), pp.1792-1804.

6. Schindler, A.E., 2006. Climacteric symptoms and hormones. Gynecological endocrinology, 22(3), pp.151-154.

7. Rietjens, I.M., Louisse, J. and Beekmann, K., 2017. The potential health effects of dietary phytoestrogens. British journal of pharmacology, 174(11), pp.1263-1280.

8. Rodríguez-García, C., Sánchez-Quesada, C., Toledo, E., Delgado-Rodríguez, M. and Gaforio, J.J., 2019. Naturally Lignan-Rich Foods: A Dietary Tool for Health Promotion?. Molecules, 24(5), p.917.

9. Penalvo, J.L., Heinonen, S.M., Aura, A.M. and Adlercreutz, H., 2005. Dietary sesamin is converted to enterolactone in humans. The Journal of nutrition, 135(5), pp.1056-1062.

10. Jaafarnejad, F., Adibmoghaddam, E., Emami, S.A. and Saki, A., 2017. Compare the effect of the flaxseed, evening primrose oil and Vitamin E on the duration of periodic breast pain. Journal of education and health promotion, 6.

11. Touillaud, M.S., Thiébaut, A.C., Fournier, A., Niravong, M., Boutron-Ruault, M.C. and Clavel-Chapelon, F., 2007. Dietary lignan intake and postmenopausal breast cancer risk by estrogen and progesterone receptor status. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 99(6), pp.475-486.

12. Frische, E.J., Hutchins, A.M., Martini, M.C., Thomas, W., and Slavin, J.L., 2003. Effect of flaxseed and wheat bran on serum hormones and lignan excretion in premenopausal women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 22(6), pp.550-554.

13. Wu, W.H., Kang, Y.P., Wang, N.H., Jou, H.J. and Wang, T.A., 2006. Sesame ingestion affects sex hormones, antioxidant status, and blood lipids in postmenopausal women. The Journal of nutrition, 136(5), pp.1270-1275.

14. Favier, A.E., 1992. The role of zinc in reproduction. Biological trace element research, 32(1-3), pp.363-382.

15. Traber, M.G., 2014. Vitamin E inadequacy in humans: causes and consequences. Advances in nutrition, 5(5), pp.503-514.

See: Signs of diabetes in women

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