Monday, December 15, 2008

Careful With That Flaxseed!

Image by KeRmo

Brrrrr! It is unusually cold weather here in the Pacific Northwest. My family back in the Midwest would probably call me a real wimp for making that comment, and they would be right. I remember those below zero days all too well, so our temperatures in the teens probably sounds balmy to them. However, now that I am completely acclimated to our milder temps here, this nippy weather takes some getting used to. I am running our fireplace every day and have clicked the thermostat up a few degrees. The air in our house is becoming much drier, too, since our furnace is running more. 

My eyes are really feeling the drop in humidity in this heated air. Time for me to review those things that help my poor scratchy eyes feel better. One strategy in particular, is increasing my intake of omega 3 fatty acids, both by eating fish such as salmon, but also by taking flaxseed oil supplements, as suggested by my doctor and also Notice that the recommendation is made for flaxseed oil. 

When my doctor made this suggestion, I got on my trusty laptop and did a little research. I was surprised to read that whole flaxseed and ground flaxseed are rich in the precursor to omega 3 acids, but the whole and ground seed may cause unwanted symptoms in the intestines and other potential problems such as decreased clotting times and interference in hormone cycles for women. Again, these effects are caused when taking excess amounts of flaxseed, not flaxseed oil. This excerpt was taken from the Mayo Clinic's website: 

.....flaxseed or flaxseed oil taken by mouth may cause mania or hypomania in people with bipolar disorder. In theory, the laxative effects of flaxseed ( not flaxseed oil) may cause diarrhea, increased number of bowel movements, and abdominal discomfort. Laxative effects are reported in several studies of people taking flaxseed or omega-3 acids. People with diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis) should avoid flaxseed due to its possible laxative effects. Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain are reported in two individuals shortly after taking flaxseed products by mouth; these reactions may have been caused by allergy.

Large amounts of flaxseed by mouth may cause the intestines to stop moving (ileus). People with narrowing of the esophagus or intestine, ileus, or bowel obstruction should avoid flaxseed ( not flaxseed oil). Individuals with high blood triglycerides should avoid flaxseed and flaxseed oil due to unclear effects on triglyceride levels in animal research. People with diabetes should use caution if taking flaxseed products by mouth, as the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed and flaxseed oil may increase blood sugar levels. 

One study reports that the menstrual period may be altered in women who take flaxseed powder by mouth daily. Due to the possible estrogen-like effects of flaxseed ( not flaxseed oil), it should be used cautiously in women with hormone sensitive conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids, or cancer of the breast, uterus, or ovary. Some natural medicine textbooks advise caution in patients with hypothyroidism, although little scientific information is available in this area. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil may increase the risk of bleeding, based on early studies that show decreased clotting of blood. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders, in people taking drugs that increase the risk of bleeding, and in people planning to undergo medical, surgical, or dental procedures. Dosing of blood-thinning medications may need to be adjusted. In animal studies, flaxseed has increased the number of red blood cells.


Unknown said...

I dont see where it says causes cancer

Anonymous said...

I disagree that is is only the flaxseed not the oil that cause stomach/intestinal upsets. I have very dry eyes and meibomian gland dysfunction so it was recommended that I take flaxseed oil to help with these problems. It works great for dry eyes and MGD but after a few days I thought I had gotten a case of food poisoning. After stopping the oil everything has cleared up. It's possible that it may have something to do with dosage, though. Unfortunately, fish oil affects me the same way. :/

Anonymous said...

I had ground flaxseed with my oatmeal and it gave me bloody diarrhea. I have had some digestive problems so I wonder if it is indicative of something worse than I thought.

Anonymous said...

I suffered severe constipation, cramping, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting after taking flax seeds for 2-3 weeks. I had no idea this could possibly be a side effect; I wish the packaging issued a warning.

Unknown said...

Large amounts of ANYTHING can cause upper and lower GI upset. I cannot live without my daily flaxseed oil. It has cured me of so many woman issues. Hot flashes are gone, breast pain and tenderness gone, No more itchy dandruff, psoriasis and Rhuematoid arthritis... GONE, and I'm calmer and not so strung out and I can finally poop again.

JP said...

Even a small amount will cause my daughter to have sever back and stomach pain and vomiting. Doctors could never figure out what was going on until I read an article and we kept monitoring what she ate directly before an episode. I compared the ingredients and the common denominator was flaxseed. I just made Perdue chicken strips. Didn't bother to look at the ingredients. I figured they were better then other brands, no antibiotics etc. Our daughter had some, withib 20 min she was asking me if they had flaxseed. I didn't think so until I read the ingredients. .2% flax.. well for the next couple hours she was miserable. Bellyed over in pain. .. I wonder how many people have this. I now know I need to read everything I buy to see if it has flax. Im not against flax. My husband is a cancer survivor and is on a special diet that its main ingredient is flax. We credit the diet for his long remission. Everyone reacts differently to it. Our daughter does not seem to have any issues with the oil. Oh by the way Chic-fil-a buns contain flaxseed. . found out the hard way

Ron said...

I have IBS, and flaxseed oil gives me terrible abdominal cramps and bloating. Avoid.

Anonymous said...

I put 2 spoonfuls in my oatmeal to try to up my breast milk supply. Worst mistake i ever made! I have ibs with constipation so i figured it would do more good than harm, i was wrong. I've been having terrible stomach cramps and diarreah as well as nausea and vomiting.

Anonymous said...

Both my late husband and I could NOT tolerate flaxseed, or flaxseed oil..
We both had been taking whole psyllium husks for years as a fiber supplement, and ate a lot of high-fiber foods, so, it wasn't that (and the oil did it too)...
We really believed we had a allergy to it, because it gave both of us bad intestinal cramps and diarrhea.
We tried more than once.
Sad too...because nowadays all the whole grain and so forth bread seem to have flaxseed in them, so i struggle to find a bread I can actually eat.. :'(

Wood said...

I have been trying flax oil for 5 days now, and I realize now it is causing body pains, joint pains that I have never had before, it makes my colon hurt, strange feelings on the side of my head around my upper jaw and lower ear, my energy level has dropped in half or less, my vision has gotten worst since I started taking it, and a few other side effects,

It has to be the flax oil because before I started taking it, I did not have these problems, I can't eat nuts and seeds either, or peanuts, or beans, amazing I have all these side effects but with no diarrhea, I will not be taking anymore flax oil or seed, I can't eat olive oil either and it does give me diarrhea, but I can eat almond oil with no problems,

I like getting my fats from the natural foods I eat, flax is not going to be 1 of them, I don't believe flax was ever meant to be eating this way by humans, birds can digest them,
but there is so much $money$ involved in selling flax and 99 % of all the other supplements in this world, all we're going to hear is how magical it is, almost everything is promoted now days for a dollar.

Kris Are said...

I recently figured out that my nausea with my morning smoothies was due to the flaxseed. I have only noticed a problem with whole or ground flaxseeds. I have not noticed it with flaxseed oil. I have tried reducing it down to a teaspoon, but it still causes really unpleasant nausea.