Flax seeds produce a vegetable oil known as flaxseed or linseed oil.
Flaxseed is high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals called lignans. Flaxseed can help reduce total blood cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Flaxseed oil also contains omega-3 fatty acids, but it doesn't have the beneficial fiber that the seeds have.
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil may help to:
- Recent studies also showed positive benefits of flax seed oil in IBD (Crohn's Disease and Colitis). Flax seed oil seems to be able to heal the inner lining of the inflamed intestines.
- Lower cholesterol, protect against heart disease and control high blood pressure. Several studies indicate that flaxseed oil, as well as ground flaxseeds, can lower cholesterol, thereby significantly reducing the risk of heart disease. Flaxseed oil may also have a protective effect against angina (chest pain) and high blood pressure. In addition, a 5-year study done recently at Boston's Simmons College found that flaxseed oil may be useful in preventing a 2nd heart attack. It may also help prevent elevated blood pressure by inhibiting inflammatory reactions that cause poor circulation and artery-hardening plaque.
- Counter inflammation associated with lupus and gout. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to limit the inflammatory reaction associated with these conditions. In cases of lupus, flaxseed oil not only reduces inflammation in the joints, kidneys and skin, but also lowers cholesterol levels that may be elevated by the disease. Taking flaxseed oil for gout may lessen the often sudden and severe joint pain or swelling that is a symptom of this condition.
- Control constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticular disorders. Because they are high in soluble fiber, ground flaxseeds can help ease the passage of stools and thus relieve constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticular disease.
- Reduce cancer risk. The lignans in flaxseed appear to play a role in protecting against breast, colon, prostate, and perhaps skin cancer. In one study(1), prostate cancer patients who added about 3 heaping tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily to their diet, had more slowly-dividing tumor cells and a greater rate of tumor cell death than men who did not follow such a diet, after about 5 weeks.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, excluding skin cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 198,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. While the cancer will be diagnosed in about 1 in 6 men, about 1 in 30 will die of the disease.
Tips for including flaxseed in your diet:
* Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your hot or cold breakfast cereal.
* Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to mayonnaise or mustard when making a sandwich.
* Mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into an 8-ounce container of yogurt.
* Bake ground flaxseed into cookies, muffins, breads and other baked goods
Side Effects and Cautions
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil supplements seem to be well tolerated. Few side effects have been reported.
- Flaxseed, like any supplemental fiber source, should be taken with plenty of water; otherwise, it could worsen constipation or, in rare cases, even cause intestinal blockage.
- The fiber in flaxseed may lower the body's ability to absorb medications that are taken by mouth. Flaxseed should not be taken at the same time as any conventional oral medications or other dietary supplements.
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
National Center For Complementary and Alternative Medicine