How Flaxseed Can Fix Your Digestion

Flaxseed is a grain that is rich in soluble fiber. It's also a plant source of phytochemicals called lignans and omega-3 fatty acids—a powerful antioxidant.

Flaxseed has been commonly used as a laxative to improve constipation and promote digestive health. Flaxseed has been shown to be effective in helping to lower total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels. Flaxseed can possibly reduce the risk of heart disease and lower the risk of hormone-driven cancers, such as prostate and breast cancers.  

However, flaxseed may not be right for everyone, especially those suffering from a chronic digestive order. For example, people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn's disease may find that flaxseed causes more irritation. And, because of the effects on the digestive system, flaxseed may also interfere with other medications such as blood thinners or diabetes medications. Before adding flaxseed to your diet, check with your doctor to make sure that the supplement is right for you.

Which to Use: Ground or Whole Flaxseed?

According to Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD, most nutrition experts recommend that you use ground flaxseed rather than whole flaxseed because your body is better able to digest it. Whole flaxseed may pass through your digestive tract undigested, potentially reducing its health benefits. Although flaxseed is also available in an oil form, which also contains omega-3 fatty acids, it doesn't contain the beneficial fiber that seeds have, so it doesn't work as well as a laxative.

Whole or ground flaxseed can be purchased at many grocery and health food stores and the whole seeds can be easily ground in a coffee grinder and stored in an airtight container for several months.

How Much to Take?

Although the Institute of Medicine has not determined a recommended daily amount of omega-3 fatty acids, it has established sufficient amounts of between 1.1 grams and 1.6 grams a day for adults. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed provides 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.

Here's how to add flaxseed to your already healthy diet:

  • Sprinkle a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your hot or cold breakfast cereal.
  • Mix a teaspoon of ground flaxseed into mayonnaise or mustard to use as a sandwich spread.
  • Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to an eight ounce container of yogurt.
  • Bake ground flaxseed into cookies, muffins, breads, and other baked goods.




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Flaxseed and flaxseed oil (Linum usitatissimum)