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Ask Tufts Experts August 2018 Issue

Q. I heard flaxseeds can cause side effects. Should I stop eating them?


Mizina | Getty Images

Flaxseeds are generally well-tolerated in reasonable quantities.

A. Samantha Brown, a master’s candidate and dietetic intern at Tufts University, Frances Stern Nutrition Center, reassures that flaxseeds are generally safe and well tolerated. “But consuming too much ground flaxseed may cause gastrointestinal distress including bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and nausea. There have also been reports of intestinal blockage. To help to avoid these side effects, flaxseed should always be consumed with plenty of fluid and mixed with other foods.

“Flaxseeds are an excellent source of lignans and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Lignans may help protect against hormone-related cancers, although this has yet to be established. Flaxseeds also provide protein, potassium and both soluble and insoluble fiber.”

“There is no established optimal flaxseed intake level. One serving is about one tablespoon, ideally ground before consuming. You should talk to your doctor before adding significant amounts of flaxseed to your diet if you have diabetes, blood dyscrasia, a gastrointestinal condition, low blood pressure, or if you are on blood thinners. “

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