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Flaxseeds and Digestion Problems

author image Erica Jacques
Erica Jacques is an occupational therapist and freelance writer with more than 15 years of combined experience. Jacques has been published on and various other websites, and in "Hope Digest." She earned an occupational therapy degree from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland, giving her a truly global view of health and wellness.
Flaxseeds and Digestion Problems
Flaxseeds in a wooden bowl on a wooden table. Photo Credit: nerudol/iStock/Getty Images

Flaxseeds are a good source of fiber, and are often revered for their natural laxative effects. Available in many forms, flaxseed supplements can promote regularity in your bowel routine. However, improper consumption of flaxseeds may cause you to experience digestive problems.

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Flaxseed Properties

Flaxseed is a high-fiber seed that comes from the flax plant. It's very small, about the size of a pen tip, and can be used either in its whole form or crushed. Flaxseed is also available as a powder, flour or water-soluble fiber source. It can also be made into flaxseed oil. Nevertheless, reports that when flaxseed is used as a laxative, it's generally in another, more fiber-rich form.

Flaxseed as a Laxative

Though its use as a laxative in humans has little scientific research to back it up, the most common use of flaxseed involves its laxative properties. When taking flaxseed as a supplement, the University of Maryland Medical Center advises using it in its ground form, and then taking between 1 and 2 tbsp. per day. Don’t worry if your flax seeds are whole; to grind flax seed, simply run it through a coffee grinder that is cleaned of coffee. You can also buy flaxseed caplets, which may contain ground flax powder. According to UMMC, children can also take flaxseed, though their suggested dose is lower: 1 tsp. is appropriate for children between the ages of 2 and 12. You can use flax seed daily, or as needed for constipation issues.

Digestive Issues

When using flaxseed as a laxative, drink plenty of water. If you don't drink enough water while taking flax seed, you may develop constipation, which is probably the opposite of your desired effect. In addition, it has the potential to block the intestines if constipation becomes severe enough. For some, however, flaxseed can work overtime, causing very loose stools or even diarrhea. In fact, recommends people who have chronic digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s Disease, to avoid flaxseed as it can cause more irritation. If you're unsure whether a flaxseed supplement is right for you, discuss its use first with your doctor.

Flaxseed and Drug Absorption

Flaxseed is available over-the-counter. However, this doesn't mean that it's 100 percent safe for everyone. In addition to avoiding flaxseed use if you already have certain digestive issues, you should also avoid it if you take blood thinners or medications for diabetes. Due to its its effects on the digestive process, flaxseed may also interfere with the way other medications are absorbed by the body. Thus, UMMC recommends allowing an hour or two to pass between taking flaxseed and using other prescription medications.

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