Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is the tiny seeds from the flax plant. Because of their nutritional makeup, flaxseed has been investigated as a way to address the symptoms of many health conditions, including constipation.
Here you will learn about flaxseed so that you can make an informed decision as to whether it would be a good thing to add to your diet to ease your symptoms of constipation of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
So, what is Flaxseed?
The flaxseed plant has a long history of being used by humans for a wide variety of uses. The leaves, stems, and seeds of the flax plant have been used for clothing, in cooking, and for medicinal purposes, as well as in the manufacture of many worldwide goods.
More specifically, flaxseeds are the tiny, sesame seed-size seeds from the plant. Although flaxseed can be eaten whole, grinding the seeds allows the body to fully benefit from flaxseed’s many nutritional benefits.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Dietary fibre (particularly soluble fibre)
- Vitamins, minerals and the phytochemical lignan
Nutritional and Health Benefits of Flaxseed
When eaten in a ground form, flaxseed offers a wealth of healthful nutrients. Research on animals in laboratories and some preliminary studies with humans who have certain diseases have found evidence that flaxseed may:-
- Improve heart health
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Reduce the risk of certain cancers (breast, colon, prostate)
- Ease the symptoms of menopause
Clearly larger studies need to be conducted before any firm conclusions can be made about the helpfulness of flaxseed for these health problems. Still, these findings are exciting, nonetheless.
Using Flaxseed for IBS
Although most studies have been done with laboratory animals, one small study on 55 humans with constipation-predominant IBS found that flaxseed may not only help to ease constipation but may also help to reduce bloating and abdominal pain.
Flaxseed is effective in speeding up intestinal movement, resulting in an increased frequency of bowel movements.
Animal studies suggest that flaxseed may not only ease the symptoms of constipation but may also help to ease diarrhoea due to its effect on stool formation. That being said, if you have diarrhoea-predominant IBS, (IBS-D) and you decide to give flaxseed a try, you may want to start with very small doses to allow your body time to adjust.
Although there is no research on the subject, it is possible that flaxseed might be a nice option for you if you have alternating type IBS (IBS-A) as the increase in fibre might theoretically help to stabilise the makeup of the stool.
On the flip side, it’s worthy to note that another small study of 31 people with IBS found that flaxseed did not improve stool frequency or consistency. With that, more research is needed to better understand the role of flaxseed as a way to ease IBS symptoms.
Things to Keep in Mind
It is important to consider shelf-life requirements when deciding which form of flaxseed to use. Whole flaxseed has a shelf life of up to one year. Ground flaxseed should be refrigerated and used within a few months.
Flaxseed oil should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent it from going rancid. Use within a few weeks of opening.
It is also important to bear in mind that flaxseed oil lacks fibre and some of the other major-nutritional benefits of flaxseed in its seed form.
How to Use Flaxseed
You have the option to buy flaxseed pre-ground or to use a small coffee grinder to grind your own. Flaxseed has a pleasant nutty taste.
To avoid stomach upset, add flaxseed to your diet gradually. Start with about 1 tsp. and work your way up to 2 tbsp. per day.
Make sure to drink lots of water when consuming flaxseed. Here are some ways to incorporate it into your daily diet:
- Sprinkle ground flaxseed on cereal or yogurt
- Add ground flaxseed to baked goods
- Add ground flaxseed to smoothies
- Fold ground flaxseed into your favourite sauce recipes
A Footnote From The Green Protein
Before using any new substance on a regular basis, you should get clearance from your doctor. Individuals who suffer from diverticulosis, a condition in which a person has small pockets in their intestine lining, need to be extremely cautious not to have seed fragments become trapped in those pockets and, thus should only use finely ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil.