Dr. Francis adds that all four seeds are nutritionally dense, with high levels of omega fatty acids, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, which is likely why seed cycling advocates believe they can have a profound impact on fertility. The same nutrients in the seeds may also have an impact on skin health. “All omega oils and seeds have lots of vitamins and minerals which feed skin,” Dr. Francis says. “They have vitamin E, which helps the skin and cell membranes — vitamin E is a strong antioxidant that helps the integrity of the skin collagen. The omega oils help to increase skin plumpness, softness, hydration and make the skin look years younger.”
Where Does This Practice Come From?
While it’s unclear when, where, and how seed cycling originated, Dr. Francis says the practice falls perfectly in line with other protocols in naturopathic medicine, a field that relies on holistic methods of healing and natural lifestyle modifications. “Naturopathic doctors have long used herbs and foods to restore hormone balance and health,” she says. “Most indigenous cultures and ancient wisdom medicines are aware of the ability of herbs, foods, plants, and essential oils to balance the hormones and women’s cycles. There are many naturally occurring plants and foods that promote the activity of different hormones.”
“My stance is that it's great to take things into your own hands, but when a woman has menstrual irregularity, it is extremely important to me to know why,” says San Francisco Bay Area-based fertility doctor, Aimee D. Eyvazzadeh, aka the Egg Whisperer. “Is it from polycystic ovary syndrome? Is it from hypothalamic amenorrhea [a condition in which a problem in the hypothalamus causes menstruation to stop]? Is it from decreased ovarian reserve, a condition in which a woman has fewer eggs than average and could go into menopause sooner?”
According to Eyvazzadeh, getting to the root cause of the issue affects the course of treatment and may go a long way in preventing women from spinning their wheels while trying to troubleshoot their own menstrual problems. “There are simple hormone tests a doctor can do, in conjunction with an ultrasound and history review to confirm the right diagnosis,” she says. “After that, would seed cycling help you? It is possible! I do think that food is medicine and there is a lot of to be said about how the foods we eat affect our mood, energy, and even menstrual cycle.”
Want to Try It? Here’s What You Should Do
If you’re interested in giving seed cycling a try, it’s important to remember that there is no hard science to back up its effectiveness, and it’s always a good idea to work with a health expert who can help guide you.
That said, there’s likely little harm to giving the protocol a go, although you should keep a few potential risks in mind. “[Seeds] are high in calories and can add some weight in some people,” Francis says. “They may cause bloating if you take them whole and do not grind, and the seeds swell up when you drink water, and they may expand in the abdomen.”
Dr. Francis says an easy way to add seeds to your diet is to add one to two tablespoons of flax or pumpkin seeds to smoothies, yogurt, and salads during days 1-14 of your cycle. During days 15-28, try swapping in one to two tablespoons of sunflower or sesame seeds to those meals and snacks. “Either raw or ground can work,” Dr. Francis says, noting that she prefers to measure out one to tablespoons of raw seeds before grinding them in order to retain the integrity of the oil. “However, ground seeds are easier to digest. They must be eaten shortly after grinding to preserve the integrity of the oils.”