By Beth Netter, M.D.
Omega-3 fatty acids help support health and healing in almost every cell in the body. Flax, a phyto-nutrient (plant nutrient) rich in Omega-3’s, is readily used by the body to naturally support healthy cells in the brain and heart. It is rich in both DHA and EPA.
Flax is one of the best sources of lignans. The lignan properties help the body to decrease inflammation and oxidative damage caused by stress, toxins, bacteria, viruses and cancer. So flax may help heal the effects of arthritis, cancer, skin damage (inside or outside the body), or immune system deficiencies.
Flax has a high fiber content so it keeps the bowels running smoothing and alleviates constipation. Notice what your skin looks like the next time you are constipated. Then try adding daily ground flax seeds to your diet. Drink at least 1-2 glasses of water a couple of times each day. Then notice: What happens to your skin? Your bowels? Flax has been used to help alleviate gastritis, enteritis and colon damage precipitated by chronic laxative use.
Flax forms a mucilage which supports a balanced blood sugar. It may decrease the risk for diabetes.
Flax helps to decrease total cholesterol and LDL ( “bad”) cholesterol, and is part of a regimen to lower the risk for atherosclerosis.
Why Flax is Great for Women
Flax is a phytoestrogen which means it is a plant that can support an estrogen and progesterone balance in the body. Flax is considered to be an “adaptogen” in that it knows how to adapt to what the body needs in order for body and mind health to be at its best. In Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book, the Wisdom of Menopause, she notes that phytoestrogens do not tend to cause estrogenic tumors to grow. Instead, these smart plants bind to estrogen receptors and exert, potentially, an anti-cancer effect by limiting the overgrowth of cancer cells. For women, flax, through its adaptogenic effect, may help balance estrogen levels by wisely raising levels of estrogen when it is low or by lowering estrogen levels when it is too high. By consuming 1-2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed on a daily basis a woman may be able to be “naturally” relieved of hot flashes, depression, anxiety, night sweats or other symptoms experienced by some women during menopause. Flax seed and flax oil are also used to help women alleviate difficult PMS.
And if that wasn’t good enough… There are no known adverse effects due to flax consumption.
Flax as food and medicine
Flax can be consumed as the freshly ground flax seed. The amount of flax seed in “flax bread” will probably be quite low. In an inexpensive coffee grinder just plunk in 1-2 tablespoons of flax seeds and grind away. Add the freshly ground meal to any vegetables, quinoa, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, fruit, or just stir into a glass of water. Remember to drink plenty of water whenever ingesting a high-fiber food. The bowel needs the fluid to maximize the health effects of the fiber. One of my favorite breakfasts is: quinoa, flaxseeds, soy lecithin, a cut up fig, and almond milk. It’s so tasty and full of pH balancing (alkalizing) foods to help decrease oxidative stress and inflammation.
You can also take 1-2 tablespoons of flax oil daily. However, you will not get the fiber that the ground seeds offer. You will still receive the benefit of the Omega-3 fatty acids and other body balancing/healing properties. So why not use a little of both?! Make sure to keep your flax oil in the refrigerator and occasionally check to make sure it hasn’t gone rancid. Flax oil may also be taken in capsule form. You can take up to 1,000 mg a day.
I will be sharing more natural holistic therapies like these at the Women’s Wellness Week at OMEGA Institute in June and again in September, 2009. For more information go to www.eomega.org