If you’re in a constant battle with recurring acne – especially the type that pops up right around when your period shows up – then seed cycling for acne just might be what your skin is craving.
Seed cycling (aka seed rotation) is a very simple, food-based protocol that uses nutrient-dense seeds – like flax and pumpkin – to support our hormones.
These seeds contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that are ideal for balancing hormones. And the idea is that by supporting our hormones, we can naturally treat hormonal imbalance symptoms…such as acne.
Now, if you’re wondering why your dermatologist or family doc hasn’t mentioned this protocol to you, well it’s simply because seed cycling is used mainly by alternative practitioners.
And since it’s an alternative therapy, there’s not much research to back up the protocol as a whole.
But…there are studies on the benefits of the individual seeds that are part of the protocol (more on those benefits later).
In addition, if you do a quick search online, you’ll find an increasing number of testimonials from women who’ve successfully cleared up their skin with this simple method.
So, if you’re interested in learning more about:
- which seeds to use for acne.
- the science behind how seeds help your hormones and acne.
- how to start cycling seeds for acne.
…then keep reading!
WHICH SEEDS ARE GOOD FOR ACNE?
Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds are just a few seeds that are helpful for improving acne. However, for the purposes of seed cycling specifically, the main seeds to use are:
Now, the main reason why seed cycling focuses only on these four seeds is because they contain nutrients that complement each other.
And when we consume those seeds at a specific time of the month, they nourish our endocrine (hormone-production) system, helping to keep everything in harmony.
HOW DOES SEED CYCLING HELP WITH ACNE?
Throughout the menstrual cycle, our bodies go through various pre-programmed fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and other hormones.
Basically, it looks like this (this is very simplified):
- During the follicular phase (day 1 of your period to just before ovulation) estrogen in the more dominant hormone.
- During the luteal phase (from the start of ovulation until your next period) progesterone is the more dominant hormone.
In addition to the above, there are also changes in FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone) and testosterone throughout the month.
The main thing to note here is that any unexpected or wild fluctuations in one hormone is enough to trigger a change in all the other hormones. This is because hormones work together and they’re constantly changing in response to each other (and external factors).
So, with seed cycling, we eat foods that keep things within a “safe zone.”
Now, with this in mind, here are some of the ways in which seed cycling can improve acne:
- Both flax seeds and sesame seeds contain lignans, which are plant estrogens that have a balancing effect on estrogen. This means lignans can either increase estrogen levels or decrease them, depending on the needs of the individual (source). By balancing estrogen, there’s less risk of becoming estrogen dominant (which can trigger acne) or of having low estrogen (which can artificially raise androgens, and once again, trigger acne).
- Flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are full of zinc, a mineral that supports progesterone production. This can help acne because if progesterone is too low, estrogen becomes artificially high and that can lead to more pimples.
- Sunflower seeds are a good source of the mineral selenium, which supports liver health (source). The liver’s main role is to get rid of toxins and excess hormones (such as excess estrogen). If the liver isn’t healthy, then those toxins and hormones can accumulate in the body, creating hormonal imbalances and even, leading to excessively oily skin or clogged pores.
- All four seeds contain essential fatty acids that are a must for lowering inflammation. This is particularly significant for acne because at its most basic level, acne is referred to as a chronic inflammatory condition (source). So, anything you can do to lower systemic inflammation is beneficial.
- Sesame and sunflower seeds contain omega-6 fatty acids, while flax and pumpkin seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are the raw material for producing sex hormones (which are all fat-based hormones). In addition, a healthy balance of omega 6 to omega 3 acids keeps inflammation low.
- Research also shows that flaxseeds are quite effective at lowering androgen (male hormone) levels, which are a major contributor to acne, particularly for women with hormone-related conditions like PCOS (source).
HOW TO CYCLE SEEDS FOR ACNE AND WHEN TO START
When you seed cycle, you eat one set of seeds during the follicular phase of your cycle and another set of seeds during the luteal phase. Here’s what it looks like:
- Follicular Phase (day 1 – day 14): 1 tablespoon each of flax seeds and pumpkin seeds, for a total of 2 tablespoons per day.
- Luteal Phase (day 15 – day 28): 1 tablespoon each of sunflower and sesame seeds, for a total of 2 tablespoons per day.
If for some reason you don’t have all the seeds on hand, don’t stress. You can simply do 1 to 2 tablespoons of whichever ones you happen to have.
Now as for when to start seed cycling:
- If your periods are regular, then you start on the first day of your period (i.e. the start of the follicular phase).
- If your periods are missing or irregular, then start the follicular phase seeds at any time of your choice. Alternatively, you can also follow the moon phases (since the menstrual cycle is supposed to align with the moon cycles). In this case you will eat follicular phase seeds during the new moon to full moon phase, and the luteal phase seeds during the full moon to new moon phase.
DO YOU HAVE TO GRIND SEEDS WHEN SEED CYCLING FOR ACNE?
When you add seeds into your acne diet, they must be consumed raw and ground. Here’s why:
- It’s easier for the body to absorb the nutrients from ground seeds. This is particularly true for flaxseed, which can go through the intestinal tract undigested when eaten in its whole form (source).
Also, do keep in mind that it’s best to grind your seeds right before you use them. Freshly ground seeds have their nutrients fully intact.
However, if you’d like to grind a larger batch of seeds – say a week’s worth – then you can store them in the freezer. That will help to keep them fresher and prevent the oils in the seeds from going rancid.
Once your seeds are ground you can add them to:
- Porridge (such as oatmeal).
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR SEED CYCLING TO WORK?
Since seed cycling is designed to balance hormones as a whole, how long it takes to see actual results on your skin can vary, depending on the severity of your hormonal imbalance(s).
Having said that, it’s a good idea to give yourself at least one full menstrual cycle before expecting any changes.
And in some cases, it can take up to 3 or 4 months before the effects become visible.
Remember that this is a dietary change and it can take a while to fully experience the benefits of food-based protocols.
FAQs ABOUT SEED CYCLING FOR ACNE
Does drinking water help clear acne?
Water is helpful, and in fact, essential for clearing up acne because it helps to flush out waste that is clogging up pores or causing inflammation.
In addition, drinking water hydrates the skin, which means you’re less likely to experience dry skin. Dehydration can trigger your body to overproduce sebum in an attempt to counteract the dryness. And that excess oil can lead to more breakouts.
Seed cycling is one of the simplest, food-based techniques that you can use to clear up your skin from the inside out.
The power of this approach lies in the fact that it helps you address the root causes of acne, and in particular, hormonal acne.
With a little patience and consistency, seed cycling allows you to improve systemic, chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalance. And that means you can ultimately free yourself from constantly trying our new topical products (that may not always give lasting results).
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