Seed & Oil Cycling for Hormone Balance
By Joanne Aponte, ND • April 14, 2020
Cycling of seeds and oils in your diet is a great way to use food as medicine to support healthy hormone balance and regulate the menstrual cycle. Your ovarian hormones (progesterone and estrogen) perform a rhythmical dance throughout the month. This rhythm can easily be disturbed by changes in sleep, stress, diet and activity levels. This disruption in the rhythm of your hormones may be experienced as PMS, irregular, short or long menstrual cycles, heavy or light bleeding, and painful menstrual cramps.
The fats in the seeds and oils support healthy ovarian function and serve as precursors for estrogen and progesterone formation. Female hormones are primarily produced from fat and cholesterol, so having adequate sources in the diet are key! The essential fatty acids from fish oil and GLA from Evening primrose oil also have anti-inflammatory benefit, which can help relieve painful menstrual cramps.
The first half of the menstrual cycle is called the follicular phase (this is Days 1-14). In this phase, estrogen levels are rising and an egg matures in preparation for ovulation. Seeds that are supportive of estrogen such as flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are ingested daily. Flax seeds promote ovulation (release of an egg to be fertilized) and help maintain normal cycle length. Flax seeds contain lignans which are important in maintaining healthy estrogen balance and metabolism.
The second half of the cycle is called the Luteal phase (Days 15-menses). This phase which occurs after ovulation is higher in progesterone. Seeds focused on supporting progesterone such as sunflower seeds and sesame seeds are ingested. The GLA rich oil Evening Primrose, has progesterone supportive effects and has been shown to reduce PMS symptoms in studies.
Oils are taken in supplement form (either capsules or liquid). The seeds can be easily incorporated into the diet in raw or ground form. Add seeds to smoothies, breakfast foods or yogurt, sprinkle seeds on salads or make protein snack balls. Flax seeds should always be eaten ground. Pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds may be eaten whole. Try seed butters such as Sunflower butter spread on rice cakes or veggies dipped in Tahini (ground sesame seeds).
See below for some yummy ways to include these seeds in sauces and dressings.
Use a coffee bean grinder or blender to grind the seeds to a fine powder. (Use a separate coffee grinder solely for seeds)
Here’s how to do the seed and oil cycling:
Note: If you do not currently get a menstrual period of if your periods are very irregular, follow the moon cycle.
Days 1 to 14 – from menstrual bleeding to ovulation OR from the time of the New Moon to the Full moon (* Day 1 of your cycle is the first day of menstrual bleeding)
- 1 Tbsp freshly ground FLAX seeds
- 1 Tbsp freshly ground or handful of RAW PUMPKIN seeds
- Fish oil supplement containing 1 gram of EPA .
Day 15 to Menses – from ovulation until menses OR from the time of a full moon to new moon.
- 1 Tbsp freshly ground or whole SUNFLOWER seeds (or sunflower butter)
- 1 Tbsp freshly ground SESAME seeds (or Tahini)
- 2600mg of Evening Primrose Oil per day.
Most women will do well with the rotation as it is written; some women will do better if the rotation is flipped so that the sunflower/sesame seeds are used first and the flax/pumpkin seeds are used second. Try it the way it is written for the first two months. During that time, pay special attention to any changes in your emotional self, physical self, and menstrual cycle. If there are unpleasant changes, flip the pattern.
Seed and oil cycling takes time to work, benefits will best be experienced when continued for at least 4-6 months. This is a health building habit that can be continued for the rest of your life.
Tahini Salad Dressing:
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
2 tsps honey or maple syrup
Water to thin out
Sunshine Sauce with Sunflower butter
Serve as a dip for veggies or as a main meal with protein of choice (meat, poultry, chicken). Toss over spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
dash ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup canned coconut milk
Place all the ingredients except the coconut milk in the bowl of a food processor and whirl until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber scraper, then add the coconut milk. Process until it’s blended and smooth. Store covered in the fridge.
* From the Whole 30 Cookbook
Pumpkin and Hemp Seed Pesto
- 2 cups raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
- ⅓ cup hulled hemp hearts
- Juice and zest of 2 lemons
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 packed cups spinach
- 2 packed cups kale
- 1/2 cup fresh basil
- 1 cup olive oil
- 6 cloves raw garlic, peeled with ends chopped off
Add ingredients to food processor and until a smooth sauce forms (a bit of texture is totally fine).
Add pesto to zucchini noodles, veggies, fish or chicken. Enjoy!
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.