There it's a good chance you are constipated if you have…
- Less than 3 bowel movements a week
- Stools are hard and lumpy
- You have difficulty emptying bowels
- Lack appetite
It's usually nothing to panic about and everyone has their fair share of constipated bowel movements over the years, but nonetheless it is a very annoying occurrence at the very least and can be frustrating as well as extremely uncomfortable.
Relieving constipation is a must and luckily there are plenty of natural foods out there that can help solve this problem, flaxseed being one of them. This is no new finding. Using flaxseed to help with constipation has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and with the increasing number of research being done on this particular topic, it is pretty well proven to help.
Constipation.. a Number of Causes and a Number of Solutions..
Constipation, like diarrhea, has a number of causes. However, some of the more common ones include…
- Lack of fiber
- Not getting enough H2O
- Eating too much dairy
- Digestive diseases
Because there are many different causes of this particular condition you should keep in mind that just because flaxseed helps relieve diarrhea in one person doesn't mean it is necessarily going to work for you, although it does have a good chance.
4 Ways that Flaxseed Helps
How It Helps..
1. It Increases Stool Consistency
Constipation is characterized by a hard lumpy stool, which makes it very difficult to pass. This is not a good consistency to have and luckily flaxseed can help with that.
A 2018 study published in Nutrition and Metabolism (scientific journal) showed that a daily intake of 10 g flaxseed (which is just under 2 tablespoons) can improve stool consistency, making it more formed, soft, and overall easier for your body to get rid of.
In the study 10 g of flaxseed was baked into cookies and patients consumed them daily for 12 weeks. The results were that 42.3% of patients who consumed the flaxseed cookies reported at least somewhat of an improvement in symptoms of constipation, compared to only 7.4% who ate placebo cookies. The stool consistency was then looked at and also showed improvement for the flaxseed group but no improvement in the placebo group.
2. And It Increases Stool Frequency Too
A separate study that tested the laxative effects of flaxseed meal found that it can increase the stool frequency as well. This makes perfect sense, after all if it increases the consistency then an increase in frequency should come along with it due to the simple fact that it is much more easy for the digestive system to get rid of.
In this study flaxseed meal was fed to constipated mice for 14 days. The results were that it "significantly increased amount of defecation and wet weight of feces".
Why It Might Help..
3. It's a good source of fiber
Fiber is easily one of the most common causes of constipation… Specifically lack of fiber. That is how it usually works, constipation is due to lack of fiber and diarrhea is due to too much fiber, although it doesn't always work out this way 100% of the time.
There is insoluble fiber and then there is soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is not broken down by the digestive system and helps break up food and add bulk to stool. Soluble fiber helps to absorb water and can lead to softer stool that is easier for your body to release.
If you consume only 10 g of flaxseed a day then you are getting about 1 g of soluble fiber and 3 g of insoluble fiber, which is a pretty darn good amount. And just to put this into perspective for you, most ground flaxseed products have their serving size listed at 2 tablespoons which is 14 g.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids can help
Omega-3 fatty acids are probably most well-known for being beneficial to heart health, but they may also help with healthy bowel movements. There is some evidence that exists which suggests that they help with symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcertative colitis, which includes constipation.
Why omega-3 fatty acids help is largely unstudied. They are known to help reduce inflammation from constipation in the intestines and colon and can act as a lubrication which could be the reasons for such benefits.
Fish oil is probably the most commonly taken supplement when it comes to omega-3's but is far from the only good source of them. According to WebMD 1 tablespoon of flaxseed will give you about 1.8 g of these fatty acids.
Flaxseed Oil is Effective as Well
If you were to look up whether or not flaxseed oil is effective for fighting constipation you would find information to the contrary, stating that it is not a good remedy. However, we beg to differ.
Yes, flaxseed oil has zero fiber BUT there are a number of studies out there showing it to be a good treatment.
A study from the Journal of Renal Nutrition tested flaxseed oil as a constipation treatment for people doing hemodialysis. This study was a double-blind, randomized, four week long study that consisted of 50 constipated patients. The results… The oil proved to be as effective as mineral oil which is a well-known constipation treatment.
Another study performed on rabbits and guinea pigs found flaxseed oil to not only help with constipation, but also to have antidiarrheal effects. Basically what was found here is that the oil helps your bowels return to healthy normal movements and can be beneficial for either side of the spectrum.
So Should You Be Taking Flaxseed for Constipation?
There our a lot of health foods out there that are claimed to be good for treating conditions like constipation but seriously lacked the evidence of being effective. Flaxseed is not one of them. Flaxseed as an effective treatment has plenty of scientific backing.
As mentioned earlier, this is definitely not going to work for everyone because of the many causes of constipation, but it is worth a try. And even if it doesn't work, at least you benefit from it in other ways.
So go out there bake some flaxseed cookies, whip up some flaxseed in your pancakes or maybe mix them in a smoothie. Give it a try and see if it works for you.
There are also plenty of other natural treatments you could try. Looking for something sweet? Grapes help too.