How to take and side effects

Flaxseed for constipation is a remedy that works for some people. Anyone wishing to try flaxseed to relieve constipation can add it to their food or use it in supplement form.

Flaxseed, also called linseed, is gaining recognition as a functional food. This refers to food or food ingredients that may offer health benefits or disease prevention.

Some people take flaxseed to relieve constipation. If a home remedy like flaxseed does not work, seeking a medical evaluation can help identify any existing underlying cause and possible solutions.

This article discusses flaxseed for constipation, how to take it, side effects, and other considerations.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) states that flaxseed contains fiber. As an undigestible carbohydrate, fiber adds bulk to stool and makes it easier to move through the digestive tract.

For many people, fiber-containing foods like flaxseed help to relieve constipation.

What does research say?

There have been a few studies that support the efficacy of flaxseed for constipation.

A 2018 study consisting of 53 participants with type 2 diabetes examined the impact of baked flaxseed cookies on:

  • constipation
  • weight
  • lipids
  • glycemia

Some participants received the flaxseed cookies, and others received placebo cookies. After 12 weeks, the flaxseed cookie group experienced improvements in all measured areas, including their constipation symptoms.

A 2019 review mentioned a subsequent trial similar to the flaxseed cookie study. In this trial, flaxseed outperformed the fiber called psyllium in relieving constipation symptoms.

A 2015 study involved people experiencing constipation while undergoing kidney dialysis. In the study, flaxseed oil outperformed mineral oil and olive oil for improving stool consistency and increasing bowel movement frequency. The starting dose was 4 milliliters (mL) per day, with adjustments made as needed.

In a 2020 randomized trial, participants with chronic constipation received either flaxseed flour with meals or doses of the laxative lactulose. People in both the flaxseed flour group and the lactulose group experienced improvement, but the data indicated the flaxseed provided the most benefit.

The National Health Service (NHS) suggests two or three daily servings of flaxseed and fluids. They suggest that people take 10–15 grams (g) of flaxseed along with 150 mL of liquid, such as milk, juice, or water.

A person can also sprinkle, stir, or bake flaxseed into a wide range of foods and beverages, such as:

  • cereal
  • yogurt
  • sandwiches
  • soups
  • smoothies
  • milkshakes
  • cookies
  • cakes
  • granola bars

If a person makes baked goods using flaxseed, it is important they remember to hydrate adequately for the extra fiber.

Does the form of flaxseed make a difference?

Flaxseed is available in several different forms:

  • seeds
  • powder
  • oil
  • flour
  • tablets
  • capsules

If a person is taking flaxseed for constipation, they may wish to avoid taking flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is a more concentrated source of essential fatty acids but is missing the fiber that can be beneficial in helping to relieve constipation.

Ground flaxseed contains 1.91 g of dietary fiber per tablespoon and is easier to digest than whole seeds, which may pass intact through a person’s intestines. Whole flaxseed has a longer shelf life but is easy to grind as needed using a small coffee grinder.

How fast does flaxseed work for constipation?

It may take 12 hours to several days before the use of flaxseed for constipation takes effect.

Possible flaxseed side effects include:

  • gas
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • stomach pain
  • allergic reaction

To reduce the chance of side effects, a person can:

  • start with a small amount of flaxseed
  • increase their intake gradually
  • ensure they are properly hydrated

Consuming large amounts of fiber-containing food like flaxseed without enough water may lead to an intestinal obstruction.

Certain people should not use flaxseed for constipation without first discussing it with a doctor. These include:

  • people under 12 years of age
  • those who live with a gastrointestinal condition
  • people who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • those with current or a history of hormone-based cancer

Flaxseed may interact with some medications. Anyone taking medication who wants to try flaxseed for constipation should speak with their doctor first.

Flaxseeds that are raw or not ripe may contain compounds that are potentially toxic.

There are numerous home remedies that may help to relieve constipation. These include:

  • Hydration: Adequate water intake can soften stool and make it easier to pass.
  • Exercise: Researchers theorize that exercise alleviates constipation symptoms because of the way it stimulates abdominal muscles and increases intestinal transit speed.
  • Herbal tea: Senna, peppermint, and ginger are examples of herbal teas that may help relieve constipation symptoms.
  • Prebiotics: Prebiotics improve bowel movement frequency and stool consistency by increasing the presence of beneficial intestinal bacteria.
  • Magnesium: The supplement magnesium citrate works as a laxative by drawing water into the bowel to soften the stool.
  • Potassium: The intestinal muscles require potassium to contract, and constipation is a symptom of potassium deficiency.
  • Diet: Increased dietary intake of foods like high fiber fruits and vegetables can ease constipation.

The following are some frequently asked questions about flaxseed and constipation.

Can flaxseed prevent constipation?

Regular consumption of flaxseed may reduce a person’s chance of developing constipation.

Adding 10–15 g of ground flaxseed to food items two or three times per day can provide the dietary fiber needed to promote regular bowel movements.

Can flaxseed cause constipation?

Consuming too much flaxseed can worsen constipation. Flaxseed intake without enough hydration can also cause or exacerbate constipation.

Can chia seeds help relieve constipation?

According to a 2022 review, chia seed fiber adds bulk to stool the way that flaxseed does. This can reduce constipation and support gastrointestinal tract health.

People wishing to try chia seeds for constipation should soak the seeds in water first so that they do not expand unexpectedly in the intestinal tract.

Flaxseeds contain fiber, which can improve stool consistency. For many people, this stool bulking effect reduces their symptoms of constipation.

Anyone wishing to try flaxseed for constipation should check with their doctor first if they have a gastrointestinal condition or if they are taking any medications.

Flaxseed is easy to add to a wide array of foods and beverages. People taking flaxseed for constipation should also ensure they drink enough fluids to avoid unwanted adverse effects.

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