You may or may not have heard about seed cycling yet, as it is gaining popularity, for fertility. It was a tool I learned in medical school for regulating periods naturally. Seed cycling is useful for the woman wanting to get pregnant or the woman who wants regular, predictable periods without taking birth control pills. It can also be useful post-menopausal women or any woman whose hormones do not appear to be fluctuating regularly.
Seed cycling is exactly what it sounds like—using seeds to help the menstrual cycle and regulate your periods naturally. We use certain ground seeds for the first half of the cycle and different ground seeds for the second half.
How does seed cycling regulate your period?
Ground seeds are rich in nutrients, as well as anti-inflammatory oils. These poly-unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids make excellent hormone support. To understand how seed cycling works, you have to first understand what happens in a healthy menstrual cycle.
What happens in a healthy menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is divided into two parts: the follicular phase and the luteal phase.
The Follicular Phase
The follicular phase is considered day 1 (first day of bleeding) until about day 14 (or when one ovulates). This phase is an estrogen dominant time of the cycle, necessary for building up the uterine lining (endometrium).
The Luteal Phase
After ovulation until the start of your period (approx. day 15 to day 28-ish) is the luteal phase. During this phase, there is a hormonal flux where estrogen drops. Meanwhile, progesterone increases as it is released from the corpus luteum within the ovary. Progesterone is necessary to thicken the uterine lining in preparation for implantation of a joint egg and sperm.
Common Hormonal Problems in the Menstrual Cycle
The most common hormone imbalance I see is a luteal phase defect. Essentially, estrogen levels either don’t come down or progesterone levels don’t come up enough after ovulation.
One common reason for a luteal phase defect is stress. Your body will rob itself of progesterone during times of stress in order to make more cortisol, the stress hormone.
(To understand this process better, you may want to read this article on adrenal fatigue.)
Symptoms of a Hormonal Imbalance
- Tender breasts
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Ovarian cysts
- Fibrocystic breasts
Many of these symptoms may seem normal, but they are not. They are symptoms of a hormone imbalance.
Stress is not the only factor to consider. We also assess diet, food allergies or sensitivities, environmental health, gut health, etc. All of these factors are necessary considerations when discussing functional fertility.
Should you consider seed cycling?
Seed cycling is a very safe therapy with virtually no risk. See the advantages of seed cycling below. If you’re struggling with any of the hormone-related symptoms above, it may be worth a trial.
Seeds for the follicular phase (Days 1-14)
Because your body needs estrogen during the follicular phase, this is a good time to fuel up on these seeds.
Remember, we count the first day of your period as Day 1 of your menstrual cycle. So you’d start eating these seeds on Day 1, for about two weeks.
Commit to eating 2 tbsp daily of ground seeds. Any combination of flax, chia, or pumpkin seeds is acceptable.
Seeds for the luteal phase (Days 15-28ish)
- Zinc increases the production of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which stimulates ovulation and then production of progesterone.
- Vitamin E works as an antagonist for estrogen, which also helps increases progesterone.
Together they make a fantastic support of the luteal phase.
You should start eating these seeds about two weeks after your last period and then eat them until your next period starts. Your cycle might be longer or shorter than 28 days. The important thing is your luteal phase lasts until the day before your period.
Continue to eat 2 tbsp daily of a combination of ground seeds, changing appropriately luteal-supporting seeds.
Can you use seed cycling with irregular menstrual cycles?
Yes! Since you will probably use seed cycling to regulate your period naturally, it’s normal that you might struggle to know when the first day of your cycle is. Maybe you don’t have periods very often.
For that, we orient ourselves to the lunar cycle. You can print and use the graphic below for help.
If you live near the ocean, you know how much the moon impacts our world’s day-to-day. The change in tides forces the moon’s influence into our awareness.
But that’s not all. Did you know that research has also shown that the moon may also affect the movement of plant leaves? The so-called “leaftide” describes a connection between the movement of water inside the leaves and the tidal cycles.
But if the moon can influence the tides and the movement of leaves, why do we dismiss the lunar impact on our bodies? If you can’t identify where you are in your menstrual cycle, it’s perfectly reasonable to use the lunar cycle.
The lunar cycle is helpful for women who have irregular menstrual cycles, aren’t menstruating at all for some reason, or are post-menopausal. Whether menstruating or not, our bodies continue to cycle. Hormones are still released, even if not at the same magnitude as they once were.
A moon cycle and a menstrual cycle
The moon cycle is about 29-30 days. An optimal menstrual cycle is 28-30 days. Coincidental? I don’t think so.
You may be familiar with the term “Red Tent,” where in biblical times, women of many cultures gathered for a woman’s bleeding. The Red Tent was a retreat. A place for women to cleanse and be with their sisters. But it often also synchronized with the moon. Still does!
Today’s modern woman may or may not have cycles that correlate perfectly with the lunar cycle. That doesn’t matter. When we correlate a menstrual cycle to the moon cycle, we can think of it quite figuratively:
- The new moon represents a new menstrual cycle. Day one of a menses is the first day of bleeding. Endometrium is shed for a new lining to grow.
- Ovulation can be likened to the full moon. That’s when we are at our most fertile. More light is being cast upon us. The energies are vibrant.
- If you’re not sure of your menstrual cycle, because periods are infrequent and irregular, follow the lunar cycle until your body’s hormones kick in.
How to use the moon for seed cycling
If you don’t have regular cycles and don’t know where to start, use the new moon as Day 1 and the full moon as Day 15. With that in mind, follow these instructions:
- New moon to full moon: Eat ground flax, chia or pumpkin seeds for 2 tablespoons total.
- Full moon to new moon: Aim for ground sesame or sunflower seeds for 2 tablespoons total.
I typically expect someone to see results within 3 months of cycling.
Don’t obsess over the moon’s cycle
Many women hope to cycle with the moon. This is not necessary for optimal hormonal health. Don’t worry about it!
If you need the lunar cycle, due to irregular menstrual cycles, go for it. But take your cues from your body. If your body chooses a different cycle than the moon, run with it.
Advantages of seed cycling for fertility
Seed cycling takes advantage of everyday food as medicine. It isn’t a pill. It’s affordable. It’s easy. The trick is to eat 2 tablespoons of GROUND seeds every day. Add them to smoothies, applesauce, yogurt, salads, etc.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, there are several other advantages to seed cycling:
- Promotes ovarian health – Zinc, vitamin E, iron, and omega 3 fatty acids are all necessary for your ovaries. Consuming seeds regularly insurances that you are getting enough.
- Promotes healthy eggs – To prepare the best eggs for conception, you need balanced hormones. Seed cycling promotes a healthy hormonal balance.
- Predictable menstrual cycles – If you’re trying to conceive, knowing when you need to get busy is extremely useful. Seed cycling has the tendency to bring cycles into a natural rhythm.
- Implantation – No pregnancy occurs without a healthy luteal phase, because that’s when the embryo implants into your uterine wall. For this to happen, you need a healthy level of progesterone. Thankfully, seed cycling makes sure you’ve got the progesterone you need at the right time.
- Libido – If you’re not using assisted reproduction technology (ART), it’s pretty hard to get pregnant, or at least enjoy the process, if you don’t feel like making love with your partner. While seed cycling can’t fix any relational problems, it can give you that hormonal edge that sometimes you need to be ready for a romantic evening.
- Fixes your menstrual cycle irregularities without birth control pills – This one might sound obvious, but if you are having problems with your menstrual cycle and want to get pregnant, your options are limited. The most prescribed choice ordinarily is birth control pills. But… birth control pills prevent pregnancy. Seed cycling doesn’t.
Six tips for successful seed cycling
I hope I’ve convinced you why you should try seed cycling. If you’re ready to get started, try these six tips for a successful experience.
- Buy raw, whole, unsalted seeds. Roasted seeds are exposed to high temperatures and break down those fragile oils. Pre-ground seeds are not a good option as those oils can also go rancid before you even get them home.
- Grind enough seeds for a week with a coffee or seed grinder. Store in a glass jar in the fridge or freezer to protect those therapeutic oils.
- Treat it like a supplement or daily medication. I was most compliant myself by putting them in a shot glass and filling with a few ounces of hemp milk. Otherwise, I kept putting it off throughout the day.
- Keep an app on your phone that tells you where you are in your menstrual cycle, or mark on a calendar when you know to switch seeds.
- You do not have to eat all the seeds. Pick one for each phase or mix it up. Totally up to you as long as they are in the right phase.
- Eating the seeds whole doesn’t do the same as grinding them. You can still eat all the seeds any time of the month. The goal is to get your therapeutic 2 tbsp dose of ground seeds daily.
You don’t have to do this alone. The best results come from working in conjunction with a doctor who understands natural medicine and will support your health goals. If that’s you, I’d love to help.