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Can Eating Seeds Be an Effective Option for Acne?

written by Dr. Christine Bishara - May 8, 2023

Photo Credit: by stux,
Photo Credit: by stux,

As always please consult with your Primary doctor or Dermatologist regarding your acne and together you can come up with a formula that works best for you.

Most physicians are familiar with the use of standard therapies for treating acne, so when a patient of mine mentioned the term “Seed Cycling” I was a bit intrigued and decided to do some research on the topic. While I could not find many scientific publications on the subject, I did find good, scholarly summaries and a lot of online patient testimonials on its effectiveness. The mechanism of how this process works makes sense to me and it does have some scientific validity, so I’m sharing my research into this natural therapy for acne.

This article will explore not only the various causes of acne, but the different treatment options including the consumption of different Lignan containing seeds in a cyclical manner. Lignans are fiber rich phytonutrients present in seeds that have been shown to help balance hormone levels.

Let’s first dig into what the most common causes of acne are:

1- Hormonal: When we think of hormonal acne, we usually think of the pubertal teenager struggling with acne, but hormonal acne can have a resurgence during perimenopause and menopause. In teenagers, the rise in sex hormones leads to overactive oil production in glands, causing blocked pores and hair follicles. There is some genetic component in this so if your parents had acne when they were teens, you’re more likely to develop this as well.

2- Inflammation: A diet rich in processed foods affects the gut leading to some degree of systemic inflammation. The immune system responds by ramping up white blood cells which can cause inflammation and swelling in the skin.

3- Certain medications or skin products: The most common acne inducing medications include:

● Steroids

● Lithium and Lamictal

● Certain seizure medications such as Phenytoin and Valproic acid

Birth control pills

4- Diet: Processed foods over time can not only affect the gut, but also affect hormone production leading to an increase in sebum production. High sugar foods affect insulin levels which in turn affects hormone levels.

5- Stress: Stress leads to increase in cortisol levels which also affect hormone levels and increased inflammation in the skin.

6- Bacteria: The most common bacterial strains seen in patients with acne are Staphylococcus aureus, and Propionibacterium acnes. Both are common skin commensals. Some studies show that certain genetic factors play a role in certain individuals being more vulnerable to the effects of these two bacteria in the development of acne.

So how does eating seeds play a role in this? From the information I have gathered, seed cycling seems to be more effective in treating hormonal acne, but has shown improvement in all types of acne. Seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and flaxseeds are rich in lignans. While many plant based foods contain lignans, seeds have much higher levels of these potent phytonutrients. Lignans have been shown to inhibit an enzyme called 5 alpha-reductase which plays a role in the conversion of testosterone to its more potent form DHT. Lignans also have estrogen stabilizing effects and have been shown to help balance hormone levels during times of erratic production as in puberty and perimenopause/menopause.

The process of seed cycling involves rotating the consumption of 4 types of seeds, namely, pumpkin, flax, sesame and sunflower seeds.

The protocol calls for eating 1Tablespoon each of pumpkin and flaxseed daily from day 1 to 14 of your menstrual period. Then, from days 14-28, consumption of 1 Tablespoon each of sunflower and sesame seeds, repeating with every menstrual cycle. If you have irregular periods you can just start from day 1 of your cycle and do 28 days in rotation.

You’re probably wondering if seed cycling can work for men too. From what I have read, yes! Since Lignans affect testosterone balance, they can also help with hormonal acne in males. Males can follow a moon cycle (new moon to full moon). Results are seen as early as 30 days with most effective results noticed between 3-6 months.

Ready to try seed cycling? Here are a couple of articles to help you get started

Seed Cycling for Hormonal Imbalance.

What Is Seed Cycling? Effects on Hormones and Menopause

Acne can definitely cause havoc for individuals and consuming seeds is a great way to improve overall health since they contain important nutrients such as vitamin E, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids.

Whether you choose to try seeds or not, there are also some effective treatment options for acne as well. These treatments have a good safety profile and have been used successfully for many years. Here is a recent article summary I wrote on some of these treatment options. The 101 on Retin-A, Differin and Other Topical Anti Aging Skincare Products

Canada Pharmacy Online provides good pricing for these medications which can be costly:

Retin A, Renova Cream: A derivative of vitamin A and an effective and safe topical treatment for acne.

Adapalene gel: Adapalene works by penetrating deep into the pores to help increase skin turnover and improve acne.

Clindamycin gel: Clindamycin has potent antibacterial properties that help to kill acne causing bacteria.



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