Volume 3, Issue 36
September 23, 2010

How to maximize the benefits of flaxseed without irritating your stomach

By now, you're probably well aware of the many health-related benefits of flaxseed. They are the best overall source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. And they also are loaded with the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is the anti-inflammatory oil that we need to offset the unusually high intake of the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats that most of us get. But how you take flaxseed makes a huge impact on how beneficial it is. In fact, if you take it the wrong way, you won't see much benefit at all — and it can cause severe stomach irritation.

The authors of a recent study looked at the blood levels of people who took their flaxseed in three different ways. Some of them took the seeds whole (30 grams per day). Others took them after they had been ground up (30 grams a day). And others just took a commercial preparation of flax oil (1« tsp. per day). In all cases, they ate the flax after they baked it into muffins. Then, after three months, the researchers took blood samples and measured their levels of ALA.

Only two of the three groups experienced an increase in their levels. Those taking either the flax oil or the ground flaxseed saw an improvement. The participants eating the whole flaxseed did not show any increase in plasma ALA levels. But that's not all.

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Some of the participants in the study had some intestinal irritation from the flax no matter what form they used. But the effects from the whole seed and oil preparations were much worse. Some people from each of these groups had symptoms that were severe enough to force them to stop eating the muffins and withdraw from the study. No one withdrew from the group that ingested milled flaxseed however.

So if you want to have the benefits of flax without any of the possible side effects, it seems that the best way is to grind it first.

Flax oil is very susceptible to damage from exposure to oxygen. To protect the oil, simply keep the whole seed (not ground) in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Make sure you use them very quickly after you grind them. It's best to grind them just before you use them. The freshly ground flaxseed will go a long way toward protecting you from the damage of inflammation. This can include arthritis and other types of pain.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

REF: Austria JA, Richard MN, Chahine MN, Edel AL, Malcolmson LJ, Dupasquier CM, Pierce GN. Bioavailability of alpha-linolenic acid in subjects after ingestion of three different forms of flaxseed. J Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Apr;27(2):214-21.

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