Flax Seed - Is it really safe?

by (90) Updated April 02, 2014 at 4:03 AM Created March 09, 2012 at 1:20 PM

I see a lot of people eating primal/paleo include flax seed in their diets. It's something I'm a bit leery of and am looking for some studies on the effects of flax, especially on the reproductive system, but the effects in general as well. (P.S. I'm pregnant.)

On March of Dimes website, they warn against flax seed:
"Flaxseed is a source of omega-3 fatty acids. But some medical experts recommend that women avoid flaxseed and flaxseed oils during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Some animal studies have shown that flaxseed can be harmful during pregnancy. Little research has been done in humans. But because we know so little, it's wise to avoid flaxseed if you are pregnant or breastfeeding."

And I know several dog breeders that avoid dog foods and supplements with flax because they had trouble with the breedings being successful when they used products with flax. I know we are humans, not dogs, but it makes me wonder how if and how it effects humans.

Yet I've also seen flax recommended on various websites as a "fertility food", and they suggested women take it if they were trying to get pregnant.

Is there any good, solid information out there about this?


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18794 · March 09, 2012 at 2:45 PM

Funny enough, flax seeds aren't actually high in Omega-3 FAs. They are high in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is a precursor to Omega-3 production in the body.

Flax is suggested for pregnant women because some people believe that it basically is high in Omega-3. In regards to this, it's (probably) not bad to have a good source of ALA, but it certainly isn't bioavailable Omega-3.

As your article suggests, there may be some aspects of flax that are dangerous.

102 · March 09, 2012 at 2:45 PM

NO, Flax is not safe, nor are any PUFA in the diet in quantities over 5% of calories. The marketing of poly unsaturated fats through fish oils, ALA, and other oils are simply based on fallacy. Truth is, developing a "deficiency" for essential fatty acids is desirable. Scientists have been debating whether EFA's are essential for decades. In essence, they are a very new food. We've only been able to access most PUFA sources for less than 100 years through canola, fish, and other seed oils. Creating them takes a processing that we didn't have, and which couldn't have enabled us to consume the amount of PUFA, which they now consider optimal, or sufficient. The only exception are tribes and indigenous people from cold climates, such as the inuit, and eskimos, which consumed a good bit of PUFA. People who lived closer to the equator, historically had low pufa in the diet, got most of their fat from red meat, coconut, and low fat fish. But historical evidence is beside the point. There's obviously been dozens of species who adapted to a new food source and thrived, so what gives??? Well, in vitro, in vivo, animal studies, and other current science tells us the whole story. Not only do PUFA oxidize easily in the body, react with iron, and other heavy metals, they create an overabundance of prostaglandins, which modulate both inflammatory processes, and aromatase (converting testosterone to estrogen), they inhibit the thyroid gland, which stops the process of steroid synthesis, raising serum cholesterol to high levels, and with PUFA, subjecting the already high levels of cholesterol to oxidation. Not only are seed oils inherently estrogenic, as you can see, they increase the bodies production of estrogen, which upregulates inflammation, the cancer process, and heart disease. Hormones should be in a balance, dictated by you and your body, not by some factory or corporation 1000 miles away, and certainly not by ignorant use of endocrine disrupting foods. PUFA works inside the body much like it works outside, they oxidize, forming free radicals, and free fatty acids. PUFAs are used as paint varnish because their strong ability to oxidize, pulling in oxygen and becoming sticky, sticking to walls, for years, even decades! The less PUFAs consumed, the less free radicals made, the less oxidative stress and the less antioxidants needed. Seems like you have your answer: No, flax seed is not good for you.

7989 · April 01, 2014 at 9:18 PM

I would NOT ingest flax while pregnant. The phytoestrogen component is REAL no matter what anyone says to the contrary. When I first adopted this way of eating, I made a daily flax-based muffin. After about a month or so I started bleeding. At first it was just spotting, but became gradually heavier and heavier, and I became quite anemic. The bleeding went on for 8 weeks, my doctor was no help "probably peri-menopause". So I started researching what might be causing the bleeding and found that flax can be associated with excessive female bleeding. I stopped the flax and 48 hours later the bleeding stopped, too.

Perhaps stopping bleeding at the time I stopped flax was coincidence, but if you are pregnant I would not take ANY chances. I do have PCOS, so I might be more sensitive to estrogen than most, but my experience tells me there is an active hormonal impact to ingesting flax. A little here or there, perhaps, but I don't think it was common to eat significant amounts of flax seed on a daily basis. So I would generally suggest skipping it until you have given birth and are done nursing. Then if you want to experiment with flax it's up to you.

Medium avatar
0 · April 01, 2014 at 12:42 PM

Steven, why in the world would you take the time to type a response just to criticize someone? Last time I checked we live in a country where people are free to do what they want, this includes our diets! If you don't agree with someones choices, DON'T DO IT! It's as simple as that.

Medium avatar
0 · April 01, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Steven, why in the world would you take the time to type a response just to criticize someone? Last time I checked we live in a country where people are free to do what they want, this includes our diets! If you don't agree with someones choices, DON'T DO IT! It's as simple as that.

19504 · March 09, 2012 at 6:44 PM

No need to consume flaxseed oil. However wild salmon is a good choice.

102 · March 29, 2012 at 2:28 AM

All seeds are estrogenic. Why? Because think about what they are. Little tiny uteruses!!! They are full of estrogen. The top estrogenic foods are seeds/legumes/beans. http://www.totalityofbeing.com/FramelessPages/Articles/estrogeninfoods.html

You paleotards are getting on my last nerve!!! Eating friggin nuts and seeds, but you guys demonize beans. What the hell do you think nuts and seeds are? They're pretty much beans, but keep telling yourselves otherwise.

www.raypeat.com- these are all the sources you'll ever need to prove to yourself that essential fatty acids are not essential. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/fishoil.shtml http://raypeat.com/articles/nutrition/oils-in-context.shtml

If you're still not convinced, let this thought sink in: in all the tropical countries in the world, closest to the equator, barely anybody gets "essential fatty acid" requirements. How the hell are you gonna get your EFA's when you are eating coconuts, fruit, and lean fish all day. The polynesians, melanesians, and kitivans are all eating this way right now.

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