Recently, a new trend called seed cycling has been creeping out of the woodwork. The practice is being praised by naturopaths and wellness influencers who claim that seed cycling has many benefits. Seed cycling involves ingesting seeds to control and regulate hormones throughout the menstrual cycle. The intended goal is to reduce menstrual symptoms such as cramping and bloating by eating a variety of seeds at different moments during a cycle. The ingested seeds purportedly raise and lower levels of important hormones like estrogen. Flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds are thought to affect hormone levels in the body. While flax and pumpkin seeds are estrogenic and therefore increase the body’s production of estrogen, sesame and sunflower seeds increase the production of progesterone. The idea behind seed cycling is to eat specific estrogenic or progesteronic seeds to account for moments during the menstrual cycle when hormone levels may be out of whack to bring the body back into balance.
Seed cycling is a popular suggestion of naturopaths and other wellness gurus. It is often suggested as an alternative to hormonal birth control for preventing painful menstrual symptoms like cramping and bloating. Seeds cycling, however, is not capable of producing contraceptive effects in the body. There is also limited research to support its ability to affect hormone levels in any meaningful way.
Flax seeds are one of the most important seeds involved in seed cycling because they contain lignans. Lignans supposedly limit the build-up of estrogen during specific moments in the menstrual cycle. The data supporting this link, however, is slim. Research compiled by Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute points to the limited evidence that elements like lignans have a direct and noticeable effect on the body’s hormones. More research is required to better understand the impact of seed consumption and seed cycling in relation to fluctuating hormone levels.
At the moment, support for seed cycling is purely anecdotal. While there are indeed individuals who claim that the routine has diminished their painful symptoms, there is no actual scientific evidence pointing to the effectiveness of consuming seeds to balance hormones.
There is, however, weight to the claim that food has the ability to affect our bodies. In some cases, poor nutrition may lead to amenorrhea, which is the loss of a period. The Mayo Clinic explains that the lifestyle factors that may contribute to the absence of a period include low body weight, excessive exercise, and stress. Our actions and lifestyle choices certainly have an impact on hormone production. A poor diet, for instance, may lead to malnutrition, which in turn may limit optimal hormonal function. Food, however, is not able to significantly alter our body’s hormone balance. If hormone levels aren’t normal, the answer is not to start eating handfuls of seeds each month. There is likely an underlying issue, and a physician’s visit is necessary to discover the root cause.
Interestingly, there is also a possibility that the body responds in some ways to plant hormones. According to a piece written in the journal Trends in Plant Science, research shows that trace remnants of plant hormones in food may have the ability to impact gut health.
The bottom line is that food definitely has an impact on our bodies. We need it to live and thrive. Seeds are also an incredible source of nutrients and are an essential part of a healthful diet. They are tasty and make a great snack, too, but there is little evidence to support the benefits of seed cycling. While there are no known ill health effects of eating seeds as part of a seed cycling program, there’s also no research to suggest otherwise.
Written by: Steph Coelho