Flax Seed & Constipation

Flax Seed, Constipation, Diarrhea & IBS: A Diet Incorporating Flax Seed Proves Beneficial

Persons suffering from constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can alleviate those conditions by adding golden flax seed benefits to their diets. Dietary issues can be embarrassing and greatly impact your quality of life.  Many times the doctor's answer involves lifelong prescriptions with risk of side effects, but there are other options!  Flax seed from North American Nutrition is a natural food high in fiber, lignan and omega-3 essential fatty acids.

The unique combination of flax seed fiber and omega-3 EFA’s soften the stool and promote bowel movements for relief of constipation. Flax seed cleanses the colon, and continued use may help prevent colon cancer.

Ease Constipation with Flax Seed Fiber in Your Diet

Unlike some laxatives, golden flax seed from North American Nutrition is a natural food that is gentle and non-habit forming, and supplies the body with healthy nutrients.

People suffering from diarrhea or IBS will find consuming flax seed daily will add substance to their stool after a short period of time.

North American Nutrition customers have documented that Golden flax works better than any other products they have tried. Many have also noticed other flax seed benefits such as relief from indigestion, lower cholesterol levels, faster-growing and stronger nails, relief of PMS and menopause symptoms, fewer colds, better control of blood sugars, more energy, and simply feeling better overall.

Of course, you want to phase in any increased intake in fiber, so that your body has a chance to get used to your new dietary regimen. Otherwise, you may find yourself running to the bathroom a little too frequently! And any increase in dietary fiber should always be accompanied with an increase in water consumption. You want to get six or more glasses of water a day to help the fiber pass through the intestines. Believe it or not, without enough liquids, fiber can actually cause constipation.

-Jane Reinhardt-Martin RD, LD
An excerpt from her book FLAX Your Way to Better Health



When I called you in September 2002, I had no idea what a change my health and quality of life were about to take. I had read somewhere that flaxseed helped with digestive problems. I am a 53 year old man in good health. I have suffered from Crohn's disease, specifically ileitis, for some 25 years. For all these years, I had rarely had a day where I felt "normal." Each day, no matter how I watched my diet, I suffered from gas, bloating, 3-4 bowel movements and a general feeling of nausea. If you remember, I asked you if you thought adding your golden flax to my diet might help. You were very encouraging and suggested I try the product. I did and what a difference it has made. Little by little, I have increased my consumption to a little more than 2 scoops per day. It took a short period for my body to adjust to the additional fiber. But now, Greg, I feel so much better. I would say that on 8 out of 10 days I actually feel GOOD. No more bloating, regular bowel movements which are not spastic like they used to be and a general feeling of being able to go somewhere and not worry about where the nearest bathroom is. Your flax has also eliminated the diarrhea.

In addition, I'm getting valuable fiber which I couldn't tolerate previously. I use the flax on my cereal in the morning and I have no trouble placing some in a small glass of water and consuming it that way. It is also good on a salad and in so many other dishes. I now have my wife taking it along with my in laws. I heard a local nutritionist on the radio the one day and she said that flax has elements in it which make red blood cells "unstickable" thus lowering your heart attack risk. Even my gastroenterologist to whom I showed a small quantity of the flax on my last visit said that he is amazed at "How doggone good you are doing."

Anyway, I'm giving this testimonial to you as a gift to use on your website in return for the "gift" you have given me: actually feeling good after so many years of frustration. I hope others who read this will try the product and stick with it awhile.........I'm sure it will help others like it has helped me. Again Greg, thank you so much for your kind advice and recommendation in September of 2002."

Very truly.........Gerald Dimitri

Constipation: How fiber helps
Inadequate fiber in diet is a principal cause of constipation, which is generally diagnosed if bowel movements occur less frequently than three times per week. While accompanied by discomfort, constipation is not a disease. A product such as North American Nutrition’s Golden Flax seed will help those afflicted. The natural dietary fiber in flax seed is not digested in the stomach, passing instead to the large intestine (colon), where it acts like a sponge drawing water to the stool and increasing the number of bacteria in the colon. Both contribute to a larger, softer and easier-to-pass stool. Experts also recommend plenty of water, regular exercise, and avoidance of long-term use of over-the-counter laxatives.

Who and why
Some people think they should have a bowel movement every day, but that is not necessarily correct. There is no "right" number of bowel movements. Each person's body finds its own normal number of bowel movements. It depends on the food you eat, how much you exercise, and other things.

At one time or another almost everyone gets constipated. In most cases, it lasts for a short time and is not serious. When you understand what causes constipation, you can take steps to prevent it.

According to the 1991 National Health Interview Survey, about 4 1/2 million people in the United States say they are constipated most or all of the time. Those reporting constipation most often are women, children, and adults age 65 and over. Pregnant women also complain of constipation, and it is a common problem following childbirth or surgery.

Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States, resulting in about 2 million annual visits to the doctor. However, most people treat themselves without seeking medical help, as is evident from the $725 million Americans spend on laxatives each year.

What Causes Constipation?
To understand constipation, it helps to know how the colon (large intestine) works. As food moves through it, the colon absorbs water while forming waste products (stool). Muscle contractions in the colon push the stool toward the rectum. By the time stool reaches the rectum, it is solid because most of the water has been absorbed.

The hard and dry stools of constipation occur when the colon absorbs too much water. This happens because the colon's muscle contractions are slow or sluggish, causing the stool to move through the colon too slowly.

Common Causes of Constipation
• Not enough fiber in diet
• Not enough liquids
• Lack of exercise
• Medications
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Changes in life or routine such as pregnancy, older age, and travel
• Abuse of laxatives
• Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
• Specific diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lupus
• Problems with the colon and rectum

The importance of diet
The most common cause of constipation – and one of the most significant -- is a diet too low in fiber (found in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains) and too high in fats (in cheese, eggs, and meats). People who eat plenty of high-fiber foods are less likely to become constipated.

Fiber--soluble and insoluble--is the part of fruits, vegetables, and grains that the body cannot digest. Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and takes on a soft, gel-like texture in the intestines. Insoluble fiber passes almost unchanged through the intestines. The bulk and soft texture of fiber help prevent hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.

An easy solution: Flax seed added to diet
The gelatinous liquid created via the process is termed mucilage. The hard shell that makes up 12 percent of the seed absorbs moisture quickly and expands into a gel as soon as it comes into contact with liquid.

Two tablespoons of flax seed stirred into a glass of boiling water will thicken up quickly and have the consistency of a pudding. To use flax as a laxative, drink the mixture before it thickens…the thickening will occur in the stomach. The unbroken flax seed, protected by the shell, will pass through the digestive system without breaking down.

For a person’s body to digest flax seeds and benefit for their many nutritional qualities, including the oils, the shell or hull must be broken.

The mucilage formed by flax can serve another important purpose: the repair of damage caused by taking massive doses of antibiotics. The friendly bacteria in a person’s intestines are destroyed in large quantities if he or she takes antibiotics, birth control pills, or other drugs, especially for a prolonged period. Chronic constipation may develop. Flax mucilage assists intestinal flora in re-establishing itself.

Inadequate and incorrect elements in diets
Unfortunately, Americans on the average ingest only about 5 to 20 grams of fiber daily, short of the 20 to 35 grams recommended by the American Dietetic Association.

Scientists have found that both the soluble and insoluble types of fiber in flax seed are beneficial. Two-thirds of the fiber in flax is insoluble, consisting of cellulose and lignin. This fiber cleans out the intestines, reducing bowel transit time, therefore helping a person to avoid constipation. The other one-third (soluble) plays an important role in reducing serum cholesterol levels and helps to regulate blood glucose levels. This is especially good news for persons afflicted with diabetes.

Both children and adults eat too many refined and processed foods in which the natural fiber is removed.

A low-fiber diet also plays a key role in constipation among older adults. They often lack interest in eating and may choose fast foods low in fiber. In addition, loss of teeth may force older people to eat soft foods that are processed and low in fiber.

Not Enough Liquids
Water and juice are essential liquids, adding fluid to the colon and bulk to stools, making bowel movements softer and easier to pass. People who have problems with constipation should drink enough of these liquids every day, about eight 8-ounce glasses. Other liquids, like coffee and soft drinks, which contain caffeine seem to have a dehydrating effect.

Lack of Exercise
Lack of exercise can lead to constipation, although doctors do not know precisely why. For example, constipation often occurs after an accident or during an illness when one must stay in bed and cannot exercise.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a problem that affects mainly the bowel, which is also called the large intestine. The bowel is the part of the digestive system that makes and stores stool. The word syndrome means a group of symptoms. IBS is a syndrome because it can cause several symptoms. For example, IBS causes cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

Some people with IBS have constipation; others have diarrhea; and some people experience both. Sometimes the person with IBS experiences cramps and has an urge to move the bowels but cannot do so.

Through the years, IBS has been called by many names--colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, spastic bowel, and functional bowel disease. Most of these terms are inaccurate. Colitis, for instance, means inflammation of the large intestine (colon). IBS, however, does not cause inflammation and should not be confused with another disorder, ulcerative colitis.

The cause of IBS is not known, and as yet there is no cure. Doctors call it a functional disorder because there is no sign of disease when the colon is examined. IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, but it does not cause permanent harm to the intestines and does not lead to intestinal bleeding of the bowel or to a serious disease such as cancer. Often IBS is just a mild annoyance, but for some people it can be disabling.

High-fiber diets keep the colon mildly distended, which may help to prevent spasms from developing.

With IBS, the nerves and muscles in the bowel are extra-sensitive. For example, the muscles may contract too much when you eat. These contractions can cause cramping and diarrhea during or shortly after a meal. Or the nerves can be overly sensitive to the stretching of the bowel (because of gas, for example).

Some people with IBS, also known as spastic colon, have spasms in the colon that affect bowel movements. Although IBS can produce lifelong symptoms, it is not a life-threatening condition.

IBS can be painful and it can worsen with stress, but doctors emphasize that it does not damage the bowel or cause any other diseases.

Diarrhea: What is it?
For persons with chronic diarrhea or IBS, as noted previously, flax seed will add substance to their stool.

Diarrhea--loose, watery stools occurring more than three times in one day--is a common problem that usually lasts a day or two and goes away on its own without any special treatment. However, prolonged diarrhea can be a sign of other problems.

Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which means the body lacks enough fluid to function properly. Dehydration is particularly dangerous in children and the elderly, and it must be treated promptly to avoid serious health problems. Dehydration is discussed below.

People of all ages can get diarrhea. The average adult has a bout of diarrhea about four times a year.

What Causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea may be caused by a temporary problem, like an infection, or a chronic problem, like an intestinal disease. A few of the more common causes of diarrhea are bacterial infections, viral infections, intolerance to food, parasites, reaction to medicines, intestinal diseases and functional bowel disorders.

Some people develop diarrhea after stomach surgery or removal of the gall bladder. The reason may be a change in how quickly food moves through the digestive system after stomach surgery or an increase in bile in the colon that can occur after gallbladder surgery. In many cases, the cause of diarrhea cannot be found. As long as diarrhea goes away on its own, an extensive search for the cause is not usually necessary.

People who visit foreign countries are at risk for traveler's diarrhea, which is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or, sometimes, parasites. Traveler's diarrhea is a particular problem for people visiting developing countries. Visitors to the United States, Canada, most European countries, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand do not face much risk for traveler's diarrhea.

What Are the Symptoms?
Diarrhea may be accompanied by cramping abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, or an urgent need to use the bathroom. Depending on the cause, a person may have a fever or bloody stools.

Diarrhea can be either acute or chronic. The acute form, which lasts less than 3 weeks, is usually related to a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection. Chronic diarrhea lasts more than 3 weeks and is usually related to functional disorders like irritable bowel syndrome or diseases like celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.

How and why does flax seed work so well?
Flaxseed works in an excellent manner for individuals suffering from common constipation or diarrhea because it moves thorough the digestive tract quickly and results in softer stools. As noted, doctors and nutritionists say it is important to drink water directly after consuming flax seed since it absorbs 10 to 14 times its weight in liquid. Flax seed will help cleanse the colon and continued usage can help avoid colon cancer.

For persons with chronic diarrhea or IBS, flax seed will add substance to their stool.

flax starter kit

Articles on constipation, diarrhea and IBS
From the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

• Who gets constipated?
• What causes constipation?
• What diagnostic tests are used?
• How is constipation treated?
• Can constipation be serious?
• Hope Through Research
• Points to Remember

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• What causes IBS?
• What are the symptoms of IBS?
• How is IBS diagnosed?
• What is the treatment for IBS?
• How does stress affect IBS?
• Can changes in diet help IBS?
• Is IBS linked to other diseases?

• What is diarrhea?
• What causes diarrhea?
• What are the symptoms?
• Diarrhea in Children
• What is dehydration?
• When should a doctor be consulted?
• What tests might the doctor do?
• What is the treatment?
• Preventing traveler's diarrhea

Crohn's Disease
• What causes Crohn's disease?
• What are the symptoms?
• How is Crohn's disease diagnosed?
• What are the complications of Crohn's disease?
• What is the treatment for Crohn's disease?
• Can diet control Crohn's disease?
• Is pregnancy safe for women with Crohn's disease?

Ulcerative Colitis
• What causes ulcerative colitis?
• What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
• How is ulcerative colitis diagnosed?
• What is the treatment for ulcerative colitis?
• Is colon cancer a concern?

Celiac Disease
• What is celiac disease?
• What are the symptoms?
• How is celiac disease diagnosed?
• What is the treatment?
• What are the complications of celiac disease?
• How common is celiac disease?
• Diseases Linked to Celiac Disease
• Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
• What causes diverticular disease?
• What are the symptoms?
• What are the complications?
• How does the doctor diagnose diverticular disease?
• What is the treatment for diverticular disease?
• When is surgery necessary?

NOTE: Information presented here does not replace seeking advice from your physician.