Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is a small oval shaped seed from the flax plant. Ancient cultures used flaxseed as both food and medicine. Flaxseed contains essential nutrients that provide a number of health benefits, including improving digestion and relieving constipation. You can find flaxseed at your grocery store or health food store. Consult your physician for any digestive problems.
Flaxseed is a good source of various nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are beneficial and may reduce inflammation and lower your risk of certain chronic diseases such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids may also improve some digestive issues, such as inflammatory bowel diseases. A 2005 study in "The World Journal of Gastroenterology" found that the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids could help ease symptoms of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
Flaxseed is high in fiber. Because of this, it is often used as a natural remedy to relieve constipation. A tablespoon of whole flaxseed contains 2.8 grams of fiber, a component of food your body does not digest or absorb. Fiber increases the weight of your stool and helps to soften it, making it easier to pass. Eating a diet high in fiber can help normalize your bowel habits and prevent constipation.
You can improve digestion by adding ground flaxseed to your diet. Although flaxseed is also available in whole form, it is difficult to digest. You can make your own ground flaxseed from whole seeds using a dedicated coffee grinder, or buy ground flaxseed at grocery or health-food stores. Although flaxseed oil is also an option, it does not contain the necessary fiber to improve your digestion. The oil does have omega-3 fatty acids, however.
Flaxseed can have potential interactions with other medications. Talk to your health-care provider if you take blood thinners or medications for diabetes or birth control. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends adults take 1 tablespoon of flaxseed two to three times a day with lots of water. You can also take a larger dose, 2 to 4 tablespoons, once a day. You can easily add flaxseed to different foods, such as baked goods, yogurt or salads.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Flaxseed
- Everyday Health: How Flaxseeds Benefit Digestion
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Linus Pauling Institute: Lignans
- USDA Nutrient Database: Seeds, Flaxseed
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber- Essential for a Healthy Diet
- MayoClinic.com: Ground Flaxseed: Better Than Whole?
- The World Journal of Gastroenterology: Effect of Fish Oil Enriched Enteral Diet on Inflammatory Bowel Disease Tissues in Organ Culture: Differential Effects on Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease
- Flax Council of Canada: Flax FAQ
- Cleveland Clinic: Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images