For the last 10 years or so there have been plenty of sources touting the wonders of flax seed and oil. I myself jumped on the bandwagon back then because of all the wonderful things I was reading and hearing. But then I learned about how fragile the oil content of the seed is and how if flax isn’t processed, bottled and stored properly, it can go rancid very quickly. I also started hearing more about phytic acid and I wondered why no one seemed to be mentioning this issue when they were talking about all of flax’s pluses. So I’ve actually eaten very little flax in the last 5 or 6 years, but was wondering if maybe I’d over-reacted.
Well, I just came across a fairly comprehensive article that addresses some of the concerns I’ve had, plus ones I hadn’t even thought about. It’s by Megan Stevens for Food Renegade, and if nothing else, it goes to show that you can easily be eating things you think are healthy for you, but if you don’t know all the facts, then you may be in for some rude awakenings. I’m finding out more than ever that nutrition is a complicated and complex issue; you need to do your due diligence and you need to make sure what you are eating is really what your body wants and needs.
However, when I started the GAPS diet this was, in part, called into question. I learned that flax should be eaten in moderation and I plan to share with you why.
Since that time, four years ag.o, I have also read accounts and studies about flax that raise a few more red flags. Let’s look at 5 reasons to exercise caution and moderation when it comes to flax.
THERE ARE 5 MAIN POINTS OF CONCERN WHEN IT COMES TO CONSUMING FLAX:
- Is flax an efficient form of fatty acids?
- Does flax cause changes in hormone levels?
- What are the phytate levels in flax?
- Does flax actually reduce inflammation?
- How is flax grown?
Years ago, when I was a vegetarian, I put two heaping tablespoons of flax seed meal on my morning granola every day. Reminiscent of the wheat bran that was marketed as healthy in the 1980’s, I was adding this supplement to my food, trying to get extra omega-3 fatty acids into my diet.
MYTH – FLAX IS A GOOD SOURCE OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
As Chris Kresser explains,
Fish contain a variety of fatty acids, but the ones that are believed to confer the majority of the benefits are the long-chain omega-3 fats eicosapentanaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fats are found exclusively in seafood and marine algae… it is also possible for the body to synthesize EPA and DHA from the short-chain omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is found in plant foods such as flax… However, research clearly indicates that the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is extremely limited. Less than 5% of ALA gets converted to EPA, and less than 0.5% (one-half of one percent) of ALA is converted to DHA. (emphases mine)
The human body does not produce EPA and DHA on its own and flax consumption cannot meet the body’s need for these vital fatty acids. Consuming fresh fish, and some forms of algae to a lesser extent, are the recommended means of obtaining these nutrients. (Refer to this post if you’re trying to get more fish into your diet.)
NEXT QUESTION – WHAT ARE YOUR ESTROGEN LEVELS?
Flax contains phytoestrogens called lignons. As a result, flax can increase estrogen levels and have a blood-thinning effect, lengthening one’s menstrual cycle or causing mid-cycle bleeding. Those who already have high levels of estrogen, who then consume regular amounts of flax seeds or flax oil can experience symptoms including fibrocystic breast tissue, depression, and the aforementioned bleeding.
Many women report heavy periods while consuming gluten-free flax crackers or flax baked goods, unaware of the correlation. Those with low or moderate levels of estrogen may not be affected at all by regular consumption of flax.
Another example of how flax affects hormone levels is seed cycling, a natural method for women to intentionally support the different stages of their cycle. In this scenario flax is used from the 1st day of menstruating until ovulation, to support the body’s production of estrogen. Up to 2 T. daily is recommended. We can see why eating the same volume of flax seeds throughout one’s cycle would cause a hormonal imbalance.
Like all seeds (and nuts) flax contains phytates. This compound can be neutralized by soaking with most seeds and nuts, but flax becomes sticky and soaking isn’t effective. Ranking high in phytate content, flax should be eaten in moderation to prevent mineral depletion, the result of eating a high-phytate diet.
DO FLAX SEEDS REDUCE INFLAMMATION?
All omega-3s reduce inflammation. But as we’ve discussed above, very little omega-3 fatty acid is derived from flax seeds. Therefore, touting flax as a major anti-inflammatory is misleading. Nonetheless, the soluble fiber in flax can help reduce inflammation to some extent.
ORGANIC FLAX- A CROP
Lastly, as with all purchases, our consumerism affects the supply of goods. Buying organic flax, boycotting the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, is a priority for me. Here’s why:
Flax is a popular crop for farmers to choose to grow. With flax oil now being recommended by practitioners and flax seeds being put in many commercially made cereals, not to mention being used by more home cooks than ever before (and as a food supplement), flax demand is on the rise.
Buying organic flax sends a message of demand to farmers that it’s a safe crop to grow, (in lieu of conventional flax) – that they will be able to sell their product come harvest time.
While it’s convenient to grab a bag of Bob’s Red Mill flax from Trader Joe’s, I recommend looking twice. If it’s not organic, what kind of farming is your purchase supporting?
The Weston A. Price foundation does acknowledge the health benefits of flax, recommending up to a 1/2 tsp. flax seed oil daily, the equivalent of which is 1 1/2 tsp. flax seed meal daily. Tim Boyd writes, “Flax oil is fine if it is a good quality and in small amounts… People are taking too much flax oil…Remember to always store flax oil in the refrigerator.”
I personally appreciate baking with flax seed meal. It is one of several ingredients I use in my grain-free baked goods to achieve a certain texture and moistness. So I am not down on flax.
But I do value understanding it as a complex food— both one from which we can derive benefits and one which I will not exalt to a higher nutritional platform than is accurate.
I am also aware of my hormone levels and prefer to eat flax during the first half of my cycle, as I know personally I have a tendency toward estrogen dominance and flax does affect me adversely if eaten too often or universally throughout my cycle.
What about you? What are your experiences with this charming seed that, while truly healthy, must not be misunderstood or over-consumed?
(Author Megan Stevens is in the process of publishing her first cookbook titled Eat Beautiful: Grain-free, Sugar-free & Loving It.)
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And here are a couple of free health-related resources for you. This first one is an interesting-sounding event I signed up for that some of you may be interested in, too, especially if you are sensitive to EMFs and other electrical radiation like I am…..
Thursday, 7th May at 1:00 p.m. EST (10 AM PST or 6 PM GMT) Lloyd Burrell is interviewing Dr. William LaVelle. Dr. LaVelle is a founding director of the original California Acupuncture Association. While maintaining a general practice for the last ten years he has taken particular interest in the effects of his therapies with regard to the effects of EMFs on health.
Lavelle explained to Burrell that people were coming to see him with a wide range of issues—a bad back, a sore shoulder, a bad knee, heart issues, Achilles tendon etc.—and he started muscle testing (i. e. using kinesiology) them to test their reaction with a cell phone or other EMF device.
Here’s the thing: he found that everyone he tested was electrically sensitive.
Over time he developed a therapeutic treatment to treat this electrical sensitivity. He’s termed this technique “Natural Brain Firewall Activation”.
Natural Brain Firewall Activation
It’s a gentle, two stage, hands-on procedure that initially works on the cranial bones to coordinate movement and create more space for the brain. This is followed by a fine tuning of the atlas with the occipital bone and the other cranial bones. Both stages utilize key acupuncture points.
Dr. LaVelle believes that throughout a persons life there is a minute expansion and contraction of the skull that possibly acts as a frequency generator or generator of life energy.
He believes that his technique works by stimulating these higher frequencies (the brain’s natural firewall), which can then harmonize and neutralize adverse frequencies.
Why Weren’t You Born With Your Firewall Activated?
You probably were. According to Dr LaVelle our Firewall becomes de-activated as the result of our stressful, toxic environment. Stress, trauma and toxicity can damage tissues and adversely affect underlying neural control patterns. This in turn impacts our physiological processes.
Dr. LaVelle’s technique expands the space between the brain and the skull and allows for better brain function because of increased cranial amplitude and motion. He believes that before activation EMFs are able to penetrate the skull in a way that weakens the nervous system. Firewall activation provides more space for the brain by the increased micro movement and expansion of the skull.
Long Term Relief
Dr. LaVelle claims that everyone who has been tested a year or more after Brain Firewall Activation is “still holding.” One of his patients still tested strong after four years. Another patient came back after seven years and still tested strong against the normally weakening effects of EMF radiation from her cell phone and smart meter.
If all this sounds interesting to you (it certainly does to me!), you can click here to sign up for the free interview. There will also be a replay available for 24 hrs to those who have signed up. You can access the tele-seminar via your computer or telephone and can submit questions ahead of time. You can do this in 2 ways:
- before the day, by clicking here and sending your question (if you’re not sure what time the tele-seminar starts, the page has a countdown timer).
- on the day of the event, by putting your question directly to Dr Lavelle
Related Self-help Health posts:
Another free event to check out……
Trudy Scott is putting on another season of the Anxiety Summit. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, social fears, food addictions, this free summit is for you.
You will discover the connections between anxiety and real food, why broths and sauerkraut are brain food, the good mood benefits of red meat, sardines and pumpkin seeds, the impact of toxic mold, parasites and SIBO, eating for hormone balance, why all grains may be a problem, GABA and serotonin, social anxiety and pyroluria, mind/body medicine, histamine, nature, gluten, micro-nutrients and much more!
The summit runs May 6th – 20th and you can find out more and sign up here.
And don’t forget about the Essential Oils Revolution (mentioned in a previous post) that will be starting in just a few days on May 11th. I can’t wait! If you haven’t already signed up, you can learn more about the event, bonuses offered, and presenters here.
p.s. Be sure to subscribe to Self-help Health so you don’t miss any future posts. Also check out the To Your Health page at my website Evolution Made Easier and blog of the same name for more helpful information, tips, tools and resources.
Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.