Flaxseed (known as linseed in some countries, including the UK) is simply the seed of the flax plant, grown in places such as North America and Canada. Flaxseed is often recommended for constipation, because the seeds contain a high percentage of fiber. They also swell up when they meet water to form a type of gelatinous substance which can soften bowel movements and make waste food easier to pass. Therefore, they may be useful for general IBS symptoms as well as constipation.
The seeds are either swallowed whole with water or soft food such as yogurt, or they are ground up and sprinkled on food. Some people also soak their seeds in water overnight and then drink the mixture in the morning - the seeds will have swollen during the night.
REVIEWS OF FLAXSEED
Review by Sally
I was diagnosed with IBS about 11 years ago. My symptoms fluctuated between diarrhea and constipation with lots of cramping. Over time, I found that some adjustments helped lessen my symptoms (avoid large or greasy meals, don't eat red peppers) but I would still have regular problems maybe once a month with cramping and urgent need of a toilet.
About two years ago I started to add golden linseed (also known as flaxseed) to my morning porridge (oatmeal). I now have one or two IBS attacks per year! This has changed my life! I no longer fear running long distance. I don't carry around my radar key for access to disabled toilets. I feel pretty much how I did pre-IBS!
I admit that my breakfast can be a bit repetitive (35g oats, 2g linseed, skimmed milk, fruit) but it's worth it for the freedom it has given me! A bag of linseed from the supermarket costs about one pound in the UK and lasts me months. I am so glad I tried them.
Review by Kathy
I use flaxseed oil supplements to help treat my depression, so when I saw sprouted flaxseeds in the store (I was given a small sample with some yogurt, it was quite yummy) I thought it would be a better/more natural alternative. After putting some on my yogurt every morning for about a month, I started getting horrible cramping about an hour after eating. I couldn't figure out what was going on until I stopped the use of the seeds. Then the cramping went away. I'm back to the capsules, and much happier for it.
Review of Burgen soya and linseed bread by Ursula
Twenty years after my diagnosis (caused by some foods such as most fruits, and stress) with nothing that alleviated the problems of alternating diarrhea and constipation (in the early days I lost over two stones in weight - I looked great but felt like I was dying) I have suddenly and purely by chance discovered Burgen soya and linseed bread on a supermarket shelf. There are other brands but this is the one I saw first.
The soya content put me off as it can cause me problems with digestion, but I took a chance and suddenly my insides work so much more efficiently than they ever have. Reduced the discomfort and bloating, and started proper, regular and painless evacuation! Wonderful.
I know it's the bread because sometimes I can't get any, and on those days the early morning problems are back again but go away the morning after I've eaten at least four slices of the bread, which is very tasty. I have it in sandwiches at work and it is much cheaper and more satisfying than buying something ready made.
I suspect it's the linseed, but flax (same thing) in tablet form doesn't have the same effect so perhaps it's the mixture of the two. I have read numerous articles by so-called experts over the years that contained so much nonsense and ill-informed claptrap I'm sure that some of them had never really experienced or knew what IBS is at all.
However, I would say that probiotics of any sort are anathema to my IBS - one little bottle gave me six weeks of constant pain - I couldn't recommend that to anyone.
Review by Gail
I began suffering with constipation over 10 years ago. I had bloating, severe pain on the right-hand side, and bleeding. On a good day I passed sheep droppings, on a bad day it was rabbit droppings. I rarely passed a normal stool. I went for days on end without passing anything at all.
I had a barium enema exam and was diagnosed with diverticulosis and IBS. My IBS was stress-related. My Aunt recommended Linusit Gold, purchased from health food shops, and now available in some UK supermarkets. I purchase a 1kg bag of golden linseeds from my health food shop, it works out cheaper. Flaxseed is similar but I find the golden seeds are better for me.
If taken as per instructions, it works by swelling in the intestine and bulking out the stool, like fiber but without the associated wind. It's great for people whose symptoms are aggravated by a high-fiber diet. It also coats the intestine wall with oil and eases the passage of stool.
It took a couple of weeks but the seeds were soon visible and making a difference. The stool was still compacted because of the IBS, but the seed was starting to encourage a more normal peristalsis movement because it was bulking out the stool. I persevered and the pain in my right side stopped as the oily coating allowed things to heal and so the bleeding stopped.
The only thing that caused a problem was the sense of urgency once the large soft stool hit my back passage, I needed to go, and I needed to go now! This wore off as my body got used to it. Feeling more comfortable I was able to work on the stress, and ultimately considered myself IBS symptom-free.
I always take the seed, although I have gone from three tablespoons to two desert spoons. If I suffer bouts of stress, like Christmas, my symptoms flare up, I increase my consumption until I have the stress under control again, and then it's life as normal.
The seeds are best taken with milk, dairy, rice or soya, swallow whole, put it in your porridge or yogurt. Drink at least a quarter pint of liquid with it and drink plenty throughout the day, as this allows it to swell properly.