Flaxseed Oil: A ‘very useful’ seed for bowel health?

Flaxseed Oil: A ‘very useful’ seed for bowel health?

Flaxseeds have had a journey which spans across ancient civilizations that were initially used to produce fibre for clothing and other materials. The Latin name is Linum usitatissimum which means ‘very useful’. It was found to be highly versatile as every part of the plant is now utilized commercially, in the last few decades flaxseeds and flaxseed oil have become a popular functional food and have garnered attention due to its numerous potential health benefits.[i]

Flaxseed rich in omega-3

They are one of the richest plant sources of the essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) known as alpha linolenic acid (ALA) which we cannot manufacture ourselves so we must consume in our diet. We convert small amounts of ALA into longer chain omega 3 fats called EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) which are other members of the essential omega-3 PUFA family. This happens via enzymic reactions primarily in the liver. Our nutrient status can help or hinder this enzymic conversion as we need key nutrients such as Vitamin B6, C, Zinc, and magnesium to complete this process.

The other important PUFA’s are called linoleic acid (LA) which is the primary omega 6, with GLA and others a little further downstream in the omega 6 family. Both families, Omega 3 & 6 play an essential role in health and wellbeing and getting the right balance is important. A diet leaning heavily towards too much omega 6 oils (canola, sunflower, corn etc) can also inhibit the ALA to EPA/DHA conversion which is common due to the excess of processed foods consumed today. Age, gender, and genetics also can impact this process.[ii]

Vegan source of omega-3

For vegans, or those who do not eat fish nor take a vegan Omega-3 with its readily available source of EPA and DHA, taking flax (and other plants rich in Omega 3) is important. Flax seeds can be taken in a variety of ways from eating the seeds whole, or milled/ground which can be added to various drinks, meals, and snacks. However, flaxseed oil will bring a higher concentration of the plant source omega 3-fatty acids which have shown potential health benefits for [iii]

  • Cardiovascular health.
  • Eye health.
  • Skin health.
  • Energy production.
  • Hormone balance.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Brain health and more.

Flaxseed Oil and bowel health

Flaxseed oil may also help with constipation, which is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, with small hard pellet like stools. There can be other symptoms experienced such as –

  • Bloating and gas.
  • Pain and cramps.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Anal fissures.

The bowel is the major eliminator of wastes from the body. Our daily bowel movements not only remove digestive wastes but also dead bacteria, old hormones, lymph waste and more. Retention of bowel wastes can lead to overgrowth of bacteria, yeasts, parasites, toxins, and byproducts that can be picked up in the blood and lymph system and start to pollute and congest the rest of the body (naturopathically speaking). We may all have experienced transient constipation in our lives, perhaps through a temporary change of water, diet, or environment especially when travelling.  However, chronic constipation can be very troublesome and persistent. There can be many causative factors such as –

  • Diet.
  • Medications.
  • Use of antibiotics which disrupts our natural microbial balance.
  • Stress.
  • Inactivity.
  • Ignoring urges.
  • Low stomach acid.
  • Lack of enough digestive enzymes.
  • Depression/anxiety.
  • Food intolerances.
  • Mineral deficiencies especially magnesium.
  • Structural bowel issues.

Low fat diets can also contribute to constipation as we need healthy fats from whole foods such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, fish etc) to help stimulate the bowel which can improve what is called peristalsis which is a wave like contraction that takes place through the gut to push food and eventually waste out through the gut!!


Flax seed oil has been shown to act as a mild laxative and may promote regularity by softening the stool which can promote easier bowel movements. A supplement of flaxseed oil contributed to increasing the frequency of bowel movements whilst improving the consistency of the stool.[iv] Taking an organic flax seed oil may therefore help to improve transit time, also adding some daily  ground flax seeds if this is preferred. Flaxseed oil should never be heated as its delicate essential fats are sensitive to high cooking and will be destroyed, but there are still many ways we can add this into our diet. It is  important to source a cold pressed Organic flax seed oil that has been obtained by non-solvent extraction and found in dark glass bottles in glass bottles to protect the delicate oil and its constituents from light.


[i] Goyal A, Sharma V, Upadhyay N, Gill S, Sihag M. Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. J Food Sci Technol. 2014 Sep;51(9):1633-53. doi: 10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9. Epub 2014 Jan 10. PMID: 25190822; PMCID: PMC4152533.

[ii] https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/omega-6-vs-omega-3-fatty-acids/

[iii] Goyal A, Sharma V, Upadhyay N, Gill S, Sihag M. Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. J Food Sci Technol. 2014 Sep;51(9):1633-53. doi: 10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9. Epub 2014 Jan 10. PMID: 25190822; PMCID: PMC4152533.

[iv] https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/11/3/395#B41-healthcare-11-00395

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Elisabeth Philipps

Karen Devine

Karen Devine

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