FlaxseedIn middle age, flax seed was used commonly in cereals and breads, but its usage started diminishing in modern age lifestyle. Flaxseed has a hard, smooth and shiny shell and is slightly larger than sesame seed. The nutrients from ground flaxseeds are more readily available to the body compared to the whole counterpart.
Flax seed and oil derived from flax seed is a very good source of alpha linolenic essential fatty acid which is the precursor of omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid. Flaxseed ingestion may propose laxative properties, lipid lowering, and anti cancer abilities due to the presence of lignan and fiber along with omega-3 fatty acids.
However flaxseed oil lack the fiber and lignan part of flaxseed, thus may have lipid lowering properties.
Health and flaxseed
- Due to high fiber and lignan content, flaxseed can be used as a laxative.
- Based on some unclear scientific evidences, flaxseed oil may help improve symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD can manifest due to certain deficiencies or imbalances of highly unsaturated fatty acids.
- Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil may have blood pressure lowering effect, may help patients with coronary artery diseases, diabetes and also help to decrease total cholesterol, triglyceride levels and low density lipoprotein. However more research needs to be conducted in these fields to recommend its use.
- Flaxseed oil may be beneficial to decrease menopausal symptoms mildly. However overall an effect on bone mineral density and lipid profile remains unclear in this case.
Side effects of flaxseed
To gain maximum benefits from flaxseed and flaxseed oil and avoid any side effects, use it in recommended levels under the guidance of a health care professional.
- There are few side effects reported of flaxseed or flaxseed oil consumption, however unripe flaxseed pods should not be consumed as they are believed to be poisonous. They may exceed blood levels of cyanide, a toxic chemical when flaxseed or its oil is taken over the recommended limit.
- Overdose of flaxseed may lead to rapid breathing or shortness of breath, weakness, seizures or paralysis.
- People with bipolar disorder, flaxseed or flaxseed oil taken orally may cause hypomania.
- The laxative properties of flaxseeds may cause diarrhea, abdominal discomfort and ileus if taken in large doses. So people with irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, crohn’s or ulcerative colitis should avoid flaxseed consumption.
- Flaxseed or flaxseed oil may increase the blood sugar level, and also increase the risk of bleeding so people with diabetes and bleeding disorders or people taking medications for the same should use it with caution.
- Flaxseeds may have estrogen-like effects causing alteration in menstrual cycle, thus should be used with caution in women with hormone sensitive disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, breast, ovarian or uterine cancers. It is also not recommended during pregnancy and lactation due to these effects.
- Flaxseed when taken orally may increase the risk of prostate cancer in men.