Our bodies go through many changes. From puberty and PMS to fertility and menopause, it’s common to experience highs and lows that impact us mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Hormones play a major role in how we respond to these changes. Do you ever feel moody or physically uncomfortable when your period hits each month? If so, you’re not alone. Fatigue, skin changes, feelings of depression or anxiety, and bloating are common symptoms directly tied to our hormones.
Fortunately, there are many diet and lifestyle modifications that can help balance hormones naturally and support overall health, including exercise, limiting sugar intake, reducing daily stressors, eating more whole foods, and prioritizing 7–8 hours of sleep each night!
Since a healthy diet is key to restoring balance in both the body and mind, it should come as no surprise that new, natural ways to do so have become increasingly popular. Seed cycling is one recent phenomenon that people have turned to in an effort to get their health back on track.
What is seed cycling?
Seed cycling is a natural way to balance hormones naturally by eating certain seeds at different times of the menstrual cycle. It focuses on the nutrition found in four seeds: flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower. The goal is to balance two hormones that help regulate the menstrual cycle: estrogen and progesterone. Seed cycling focuses on estrogen in the first half of the cycle and progesterone in the second half.
Seed cycling has many potential benefits, including:
- Regulating periods
- Easing symptoms of PMS, like headaches and bloating
- Reducing acne
- Helping to treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis
- Easing symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes and mood swings
How does seed cycling work?
To get started, you need to track your menstrual cycle and know exactly when it begins. From there, your 28-day cycle is divided into two phases.
During phase one (days 1–14), your estrogen levels tend to be the highest. To manage these levels and avoid estrogen dominance, we recommend consuming one tablespoon of flaxseeds and one tablespoon of pumpkin seeds each day. Flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and lignans (which help reduce estrogen), while pumpkin seeds are high in omega-6 fatty acids and support both fertility and a healthy immune system.
During phase two (days 15–28), your progesterone levels tend to be the lowest, so we recommend consuming one tablespoon of sesame seeds and one tablespoon of sunflower seeds. Sesame seeds are high in omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E, while sunflower seeds are high in omega-3s and lignans.
Seed cycling encourages you to add these super seeds to your daily diet. It’s a simple and natural way to support your hormonal imbalances – and you might already have some of them in your kitchen! We recommend buying raw seeds, not roasted, salted, or seasoned.
If you’re looking for a little inspiration, here are a few of our favorite ways to incorporate these seeds into your daily diet:
- Add ground flaxseeds to a smoothie.
- Sprinkle flaxseeds over a bowl of oatmeal or yogurt.
- Add pumpkin, sesame, or sunflower seeds to a salad.
- Mix pumpkin or sunflower seeds into your favorite DIY granola.
- Roast pumpkin seeds and carry some in your bag for an on-the-go snack.
- Make your own seed crackers and top with avocado or homemade hummus as a healthy (and crunchy!) snack.
Like many lifestyle shifts, balancing your hormones with seed cycling won’t result in changes overnight. It usually takes about 3–4 months to begin feeling changes, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t feel or see results right away. Health is an ongoing process!
What are common symptoms of hormonal imbalances?
Maybe you’re reading about seed cycling and aren’t sure if you want to try it, or maybe you don’t know if your hormones are imbalanced. However, hormones are connected to the brain, gut, and immune system, so it’s important to pay attention if something feels off. According to a recent survey, nearly half of women aged 30–60 have experienced symptoms of a hormonal imbalance.
Common signs include:
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Irregular periods and PMS
- Brain fog
- Low libido
- Digestive issues, like stomach cramps or bloating
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
Daily habits and mind-sets can impact hormones – from stress and an unhealthy diet to over exercising, birth control pills, menopause, and thyroid problems – and when one thing is off, it can cause a domino effect of other imbalances. Although a hormonal imbalance can look and feel like many different things, you know your body best. Keep track of your “bad” days, stay in tune with both your body and mind, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re your best advocate!
Seed cycling and other natural ways of balancing hormones are becoming increasingly popular because more and more people are trying to take control of their health. After all, a balanced life is a more empowered life!
Want to learn more about hormone health? IIN created the Hormone Health Course specifically for Integrative Nutrition students and graduates, and the October class is open for enrollment right now! Click here to learn more or to join our next class.