Seeds are one of the most nutrient-dense foods, packed with heart-healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids alongside a heavy dose of vitamins, minerals and proteins that are beneficial for reproductive health and hormone regulation. However, consuming the right kind of seeds in the right combination and, most importantly, at the right time is essential when it comes to tapping into their healing powers. This is exactly what seed cycling is all about.
Seed cycling or seed rotation is a method to regulate hormones by consuming four kinds of selected seeds at specific timelines of the menstrual cycle.
“Seed cycling helps to optimise hormonal levels during the menstrual cycle,” says Varsha Easwaran, nutritionist and Nutrition Coach for Team India MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). “It also helps to manage pre-menstrual symptoms caused by hormonal imbalance.”
The female body experiences different phases of hormonal imbalance in its lifetime — puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, parturition, breastfeeding, perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause. From fatigue and insomnia to weight gain and mood swings, ill-regulated hormones in the body can manifest externally in different ways, sometimes severely.
To follow seed cycling, Easwaran says that it is important to understand the two phases of the menstrual cycle: the period from menstruation to ovulation (Day 1 to 14) is the follicular phase; and from ovulation to the beginning of the next cycle (Day 14 to 28) is the luteal phase.
Seeds and phases
The seeds used in the process include flax, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin. The seeds are consumed in specific combinations during each phase of the menstrual cycle.
“One to two tablespoons of flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are consumed daily during phase one and the same amount of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds is taken in the second phase,” says Easwaran. “There are no specific dietary restrictions to be followed while on seed cycling, [except] eating healthy food.”
Some people are allergic to seeds and can experience digestive issues, boils on the face, skin rashes, bloating and pain.
According to Ramya Ramachandran, Chennai-based registered dietitian and certified lactation counsellor, eating roasted seeds prevents digestive issues. “Roast them lightly on a low flame for five to ten minutes without burning,” says Ramachandran, who is the founder of Nectar Integrated Health Services Pvt Ltd.
“Start with one teaspoon each initially and if it suits the body, go for a tablespoon,” she advises. “Also, do not consume the seeds on an empty stomach. I suggest having the seeds an hour before lunch.”
As per both the experts, the seeds are saturated with vitamins and mineral that aid hormonal balance. Flax seeds contain lignans that prevent an excess of the hormone oestrogen in the body. Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are rich in zinc that regulates progesterone as it increases in phase 2. And sunflower seeds are high in Vitamin E; it boosts progesterone production and selenium, and detoxifies excess oestrogen in the liver.
A PCOS issue
Bengaluru-based microbiologist Anagha Menon says seed cycling corrected her irregular periods. “There were times when I got my periods after a gap of three months,” she says.
Menon was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) when she was 16 and she was put on birth control pills as part of the treatment. However, she discontinued it as she began getting frequent migraines due to the pills.
“The doctor told me to shed some weight to manage the issue. Even after months of following a strict diet, I would get my periods late. It was never on time. This made travelling difficult for me.”
After struggling with the issue for four years, she consulted a nutritionist who introduced her to seed cycling. “Until then, I had taken only sesame and not the other seeds,” says Menon. “I kept a check on my cycle and consumed the seeds in the prescribed way for four months before I started seeing a change. It has been two years now and my periods arrive right on time every 28 to 30 days.”
While seed cycling alone is not a panacea, the experts say the seeds are beneficial when the prescription is followed.
“There is no other claim besides regulation of hormones,” says Easwaran. “Although some believe that it helps with chronic endometriosis, there is no supporting evidence yet.”
Many causes for disorders
Ramachandran believes that the reason for PCOS is not the same for every woman. “For some, it might be due to insulin resistance, or it could be an underlying thyroid condition. Poor lifestyle habits, genetics and inflammation are other causes of the cysts,” she says. “It is important to identify the root cause first so that a positive approach can be implemented.”
Also, not every case of PCOS may require seed cycling, in her view. Exercise and healthy eating often work in most cases. “But if the condition persists, one should consult a registered dietician with experience in seed rotation therapy and follow a customised diet plan.”
Ramachandran has seen women getting their cycles corrected within a month of starting the seeds therapy. “Results vary from person to person, and we cannot say the exact duration. It is a natural therapy and hence, it is important to be patient with the body by giving it enough time to heal,” she says.
Apart from seed cycling, she also recommends exposure to sunlight. “Vitamin D plays a major role in regulating and supporting ovulation, egg development and fertility. So, get that early morning sunshine,” is her advice.