You can prevent constipation by getting plenty of fiber from whole grains, beans, fruits and veggies, but if you need a laxative, mineral oil is a better choice than flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil may have a laxative effect, but evidence that it works well for everyone is lacking, and it’s too high in calories to take in large doses. Both oils can interact with medications, so talk to your health care provider before taking them to relieve constipation.
Mineral Oil Relieves Constipation
As a lubricant laxative, mineral oil works by coating stool, which holds in water, softens the stool and makes it easier to eliminate. Some types of mineral oil are swallowed, while others are applied rectally via an enema.
When you swallow mineral oil, barely a trace amount is absorbed into the bloodstream. About 98 percent of the total dose travels straight through the digestive tract to the large intestine, where it can go to work relieving constipation, reports the International Programme on Chemical Safety.
Flaxseed Oil Shows Potential
Whole flaxseeds are known for their laxative effect because they’re packed with dietary fiber. Because flaxseed oil doesn’t retain the natural fiber, it’s not usually used to relieve constipation, but researchers found that it works as a laxative for at least one group of people.
When patients undergoing dialysis for kidney failure took olive oil, flaxseed oil or mineral oil to treat constipation, both dietary oils worked as well as mineral oil. Flaxseed oil did the best job of improving the frequency of bowel movements, reported the Journal of Renal Nutrition in January 2015.
Most of the flaxseed oil you consume is digested and absorbed in the small intestine. As a result, it doesn’t get into the large intestine to relieve constipation. While flaxseed oil shows promise for treating constipation, more research is needed to determine its effectiveness in healthy people.
Calories and Nutritional Value
Mineral oil doesn’t provide calories or nutrients because it’s not absorbed. By comparison, a tablespoon of flaxseed oil has 120 calories. With this amount of calories, you could easily exceed your daily calorie goals if you used flaxseed oil as a laxative.
Flaxseed oil is better used for its nutritional value. It’s one of the best sources of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which is an essential omega-3 fatty acid that fights inflammation and helps keep your heart healthy.
One tablespoon of flaxseed oil has about 7 grams of ALA, an amount that’s six times more than the recommended daily intake for women and four times above the daily intake for men.
Pregnant women should not take flaxseed oil or mineral oil unless it’s approved by their doctor. Both types of oil can cause allergic reactions, and they have the potential to interact with medications, especially blood thinners and medications used to lower blood pressure.
Flaxseed oil may increase the risk of severe bleeding in people who have a bleeding disorder. Mineral oil may interact with heart and bone medications. It also inhibits the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, so long-term use can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
- IPCS Inchem: Toxicological Evaluation of Some Extraction Solvents and Certain Other Substances
- Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center: Mineral Oil (Rectal)
- University of Maryland: Mineral Oil (By Mouth)
- Journal of Renal Nutrition: The Short-Term Effects of Olive Oil and Flaxseed Oil for the Treatment of Constipation in Hemodialysis Patients
- FamilyDoctor.org: Laxatives: OTC Products for Constipation
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Oil, Flaxseed, Cold Pressed
- MedlinePlus: Flaxseed Oil