Online doctors at Just Health Experts have served an amazing role helping individuals remotely. Here’s a response to a frequent inquiry by users of the service.
Flaxseed is a plant and worldwide laxative.1 Laxatives help reduce and relieve constipation.2 There are many over-the-counter laxatives if you have constipation but using them as directed is important.2
What are reasons for constipation?
Some reasons for having constipation are poor diet, not enough fiber, not exercising enough, and side effects of certain medications.2 Before using laxatives, it is encouraged to try lifestyle changes. For example, lifestyle changes include eating fiber-rich foods, increasing fluid intake, and exercising regularly.2 Some fiber-rich foods include wheat bran, fruits, vegetables, and oats. These lifestyle changes help the stool move through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, where it can be excreted.2
How does flaxseed work?
The GI tract absorbs water when stool is ready to be excreted. The water causes the stool to expand. When the stool is big enough, it sends a signal to the body. This signal allows it to move down through the GI tract and towards the colon. Then, it is excreted.1
However, when someone is constipated, the stool is essentially “stuck.” It cannot move through the GI tract or be excreted. Flaxseed is a laxative because it is full of fiber. Fiber is the safest laxative for long term treatment. It absorbs water to form a softer stool and sends the signal to move down the GI tract.2
How much should I take?
Flaxseed is a bulk-forming laxative, meaning that it absorbs water to make softer stool. As a result, patients should take it with plenty of water. If there is not enough fluid, it can possibly block the intestines.1
It is suggested to take 1 tbsp of whole or “bruised” seeds in 150mL of fluid at least two to three times a day to relieve constipation. However, it is not recommended to take flaxseed if you have ileus.1
In a study with Type 2 diabetes patients, flaxseed was better than psyllium for constipation symptoms. Psyllium is another laxative. In this study, patients took either flaxseed or psyllium for 12 weeks. Constipation symptoms, weight, glycemic, and lipid control showed better results in the flaxseed group compared to the psyllium group. Even though both groups were effective at decreasing all of the symptoms, treatment with flaxseed was superior.3
Are there side effects of taking flaxseed?
When taking flaxseed at recommended doses, it is tolerable. However, potential side effects are bloating, gas, cramping, and increased constipation if not enough fluid intake. Another consideration is it can affect the absorption of other medications taken at the same time. This is due to increased mucilage content from flaxseed.1
Flaxseed is a natural fiber supplement that helps with constipation relief. It is a long term safe and effective supplement. In fact, it was better than psyllium, which is a different laxative. Before using laxatives such as flaxseed, lifestyle modifications should be used. An important concept when taking flaxseed is to take with plenty of water or fluids to prevent blockage. For more information about this topic and other useful dietary supplements, please visit Natures Reveal.
- Chan, Miriam. “Popular Herbs and Nutritional Supplements.” Conn’s Current Therapy 2020, by Rick Kellerman and David Rakel, Elsevier, 2020, pp. 1361 – 1371.
- “Over-the-Counter Laxatives for Constipation: Use with Caution.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 June 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/in-depth/laxatives/art-20045906.
- Soltanian, Noureddin, and Mohsen Janghorbani. “Effect of flaxseed or psyllium vs. placebo on management of constipation, weight, glycemia, and lipids: A randomized trial in constipated patients with type 2 diabetes.” Clinical nutrition ESPEN 29 (2019): 41-48. doi:10.1016/j.clnesp.2018.11.002