Flaxseed Oil & Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A bowl of flaxseeds and a container of flaxseed oil.
Image Credit: Volodymyr_Plysiuk/iStock/Getty Images

If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you know how difficult it can be to deal with your symptoms, which may include abdominal pain and bouts of diarrhea or constipation. You may also know that there is no cure for IBS, and treatment involves managing symptoms through diet and probiotics, in addition to medication and mental health management. While research has found that supplementing the diet with flaxseeds may help improve constipation in people with IBS, there is no evidence that flaxseed oil helps manage symptoms.


Diet and IBS

Diet plays an instrumental role in managing IBS. Some of the recommendations include eating small portions to prevent cramping and diarrhea, limiting fat intake and eating a diet that is high in carbs. It is also recommended that you avoid certain foods that may exacerbate symptoms, such as foods and beverages high in caffeine, certain milk products, artificial sweeteners and foods that cause too much gas, including cabbage and beans. If constipation is your primary IBS symptom, it is recommended that you focus on getting more fiber in your diet. While fiber may alleviate constipation, however, it may not have an effect on abdominal distress or pain.


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What's so Great About Flaxseed Oil?

Flaxseed oil is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which is the plant form of the essential omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are necessary for blood clotting and building the cell membranes in your brain. Getting more of these fatty acids in your diet may help improve heart health and lower the risk of heart disease. The omega-3s in flaxseed oil may also benefit those suffering from inflammatory illnesses such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.


Flaxseed Oil and IBS

While flaxseed oil may be beneficial to those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, currently there are no studies or evidence showing that flaxseed oil reduces IBS symptoms. As a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed oil as part of a healthy diet plan can be beneficial to your overall health. You can add flaxseed oil to your salad or drizzle it over your veggies for flavor. Cooking destroys the essential fats, so it is not recommended as a cooking oil.


Flaxseeds and IBS

While flaxseed oil may not offer benefits to those with IBS, flaxseeds may be helpful. Not only are flaxseeds high in fiber, but they also contain a gummy substance called mucilage, which expands when exposed to water, adding bulk to your stools. Both the fiber and mucilage in flaxseeds make it a natural laxative, which may help your constipation. A 2012 study published in the "Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics" investigated the effectiveness of flaxseed, in whole and ground forms, on bloating and wind in people with IBS. While the study did not find any statistical significance between those supplemented with whole flaxseed, ground flaxseed or the control group, the researchers suggested further research to get a clearer picture of how the seeds may benefit those with IBS.




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