Flaxseed – Miraculous Anti-ageing Divine Food
(Published in Dr India April, 2013)
|What is Flaxseed and how can it benefit me? I was faced with this question when I started hearing about Flaxseed not long ago. It became a ‘buzz word’ in society and seems to be making great role in increased health for many. I wanted to join that wagon of wellness and so I researched until I felt satisfied that it could help me, too. Here are my findings.
Flaxseeds are slightly larger than sesame seeds and have a hard shell that is smooth and shiny. Their color ranges from deep amber to reddish brown depending upon whether the flax is of the golden or brown variety. Botanical name of flaxseeds is Linum usitatissimum, the flax plant, which has been widely used for thousands of years as a source of food, clothing and decorating houses (paints, varnish, linoleum flooring etc.). Usitatissimum means useful seeds. The crushed seed makes a very useful poultice in the treatment of ulceration, abscesses, deep-seated inflammations and even skin cancers.
Nutritional value per 100 g. RDA = Recommended Daily Allowance
Flaxseeds have become very popular recently, because they are a richest source of the Omega 3 essential fatty acid; known as Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), lignans and fiber. People in the new millennium may see flaxseed as an important new food super star.
Flaxseed also increase oxygen consumption at the cellular level resulting in increased energy and stamina, and feeling of well-being. In fact, there’s nobody who won’t benefit by adding flaxseed to his or her diet. Even Gandhi wrote in his book: “Wherever flaxseed becomes a regular food item among the people, there will be better health.” In the 8th century, French king Charle magne even passed a law requiring his people to use flax seed so that they would be healthier.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid – Anti-entropy Factor
The omega 3 fatty acids include the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (18:3 n-3) and longer chain metabolites Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA 22:6 n-3) & Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA 20:5 n-3). In Omega 3 acids, the first double bond is located on the third carbon from the methyl end of the hydrocarbon chain. For omega 6 fatty acids, it is located at the sixth carbon. Generally speaking there are two primary benefits omega-3 fats have on our bodies include:
Cellular Membrane Components:
The outer membrane of human cells act as a gateway allowing raw materials in, and processed materials requires a constant turnover of PUFA’s to remain functional . Omega 3’s are an essential part of this replenishment . A shortage of Omega 3 reduces the ability of cells to efficiently perform their function, leading to nutrient starvation and chronic inflammatory illnesses.
Production of Eicosanoids :
Omega 3 is also converted into another class of chemical called eicosanoids, (a specific chemical/ hormone group which are essential to regular functioning of healthy cell) the most critical of which are prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are important for the regulation of inflammation, pain, swelling, blood pressure, heart function, gastrointestinal function and secretion, kidney function and fluid balance, blood clotting and platelet aggregation, allergic response, nerve transmission, steroid production and hormone synthesis. If the omega-3 prostaglandins produced are either lacking or unbalanced, leading to dysfunction of these vital bodily activities.
It turns out that both the omega-3 and omega-6 pathway utilize the same enzymes, so both have to compete for these enzymes. The N-6 Dihommogamma-Linoleic Acid (DGLA) can be converted to either the anti-inflammatory PG1 or into arachidonic acid (AA). Conversion of DGLA into PG1 does not require any enzymes, but conversion of DGLA into AA requires the enzyme delta-5 desaturase. In diets high in omega-3, most of the delta-5 desaturase will be busy in the omega-3 pathway; very few delta-5 desaturase will be available to convert DGLA into arachidonic acid, and subsequently, Pro-inflammatory PG2. So DGLA ends up being converted into the anti-inflammatory PG1.
Both groups of prostaglandins perform vitally important functions and supplement each other through complex and multi-faceted interactions. For centuries ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 was perfect e.g. 2:1 or even 4:1 (very ideal ratio). But after the global switch to industrial agriculture and processed foods it is 20:1, 40:1 or more (!!!). This throws the body into the state of chronic inflammation, giving rise to a whole array of inflammation-related chronic diseases, including thrombosis, arthritis, diabetes, atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, cancer and asthma.
There is only one crucial condition that must be fulfilled if the entire system is to work well and promote health. This condition is B A L A N C E. For the prostaglandin pathways to run smoothly, the intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids must be well-balanced, within the 1:1 to 4:1 range.
Lignans is Superman
Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits, fiber-like benefits, and also act as phytestrogens. Among all commonly eaten foods, flaxseeds is the #1 source of lignans on earth. Flaxseeds contain about 7 times as many lignans as the closest runner-up food (sesame seeds). They contain about 338 times as many lignans as sunflower seeds, 475 times as many as cashew nuts, and 3,200 times as many lignans as peanuts.
When flaxseeds are compared with other commonly eaten foods in terms of their Antioxidant value flaxseeds rank 9th among 100 commonly eaten foods, much higher than blueberries or olives. Lignan has immunostimulatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-lupus and anti-viral effects.
The most important lignan in flaxseed is secoisolariciresinol diglycoside or simply SDG. When eaten SDG in flaxseed is converted by bacteria in the colon to the mammalian lignans-Enterolactone and Enterodiol.
While lignans have an estrogen-like action, they are considerably weaker than our endogenous estrogen, and act as hormone balancers. An important feature of these plant hormones is that they do not stimulate reproductive tissue. In conditions which are linked with excess estrogen (such as PMS, unhealthy breast tissue and breast cancer) lignans compete with a woman’s own estrogen, having an estrogen lowering effect.
In conditions associated with declining estrogen levels such as menopause, lignans have the opposite effect, increasing levels of estrogen. This balancing action is due to their ability to competitively lock onto our body’s estrogen receptor sites. Consequently, lignans are used to reduce symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and breast tenderness. Flaxseed has been found to substantially increase milk production in women who are not producing enough milk to nurse their infants. It is also beneficial in habitual abortion, sterility and often clears up breast engorgement. Other condition where lignans may be helpful due to their estrogenic effect includes bone health, prostate conditions, hair loss and acne. According to Acatris, a 50 mg daily dose of SDG is sufficient to deliver the health benefits associated with flax lignans.
The discovery of flaxseed as a lignan storehouse came by just a chance says Kenneth Setchell, PhD, Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati. In a study in 1978, he and his colleagues unexpectedly found lignan levels in one patient several hundred times higher than had ever been seen before. When asked the patient told that he baked his own bread and always added flaxseed.
Dr. Danial Daves, Director of A.R.A.I proposes that flax hull lignans be considered for the worldwide treatment of AIDS/HIV. His research shows 97% success rate for AIDS sufferers who consume 1/2 tablespoon a day of flax hull lignans. The Flax Lignans supercharge the depleted immune system and gives an AIDS sufferer a new life, new hope and a future. He says Lignan is a superman.
Atherosclerosis plaque consist only of monocyte-derived immune cells macrophages and T lymphocytes. Their presence in arterial walls provides evidence that the atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease. Flaxseed inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, eicosanoids, cytokines and platelet-activating factor derived from arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and thus reduces inflammatory responses. One way that Alpha Linolenic Acid helps the heart is by decreasing the ability of platelets to clump together, a reaction involved in the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), it acts as natural aspirin.
Flax seed helps to lower high blood pressure, clears clogged coronaries like a sweeper, lowers high blood cholesterol, bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and raises good HDL cholesterol. Intake of flaxseeds has also been shown to decrease the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol in several human studies and to increase the level of apolipoprotein A1, which is the major protein found in HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol). Three small clinical trials found that adding 38-50 g/d of flaxseed to the usual diet for 4-6 weeks resulted in modest 8-14% decreases in LDL cholesterol levels.
Flaxseeds prevent clot formation in arteries, which may result in strokes, heart attacks and thrombosis. Omega-3 Fatty acids present in Flaxseed appear to enhance the mechanical performance and electrical stability of the heart and to protect against fatal arrhythmias.
Flaxseed – Diabetes Terminator
Flax for diabetes is a zero carb whole grain food and helps stabilize blood sugar levels for longer. Let me explain you the sweet maths. 14 Gm of Flaxseed contains 2.56 gm, protein 5.9 gm fat, 0.97 gm Moisture and 0.53 gm ash Total is0.97+2.56+5.90+0.53=9.86 gm. The Remaining amount 14 – 9.86 = 4.04 is Carb, and by subtracting fiber (3.8 gm) we get actual sugar value 4.04-3.8=0.24. 0.24, which is comparatively negligible amount so practically Flax is called a ZERO carb food. (Remember fiber belongs to carbs but is not absorbed in the intestines and does not raise blood sugar level)
Omega 3 makes your brain feel satiated and helps stop food cravings! Flax is an excellent source of fiber – helping you feel fuller for longer. Flax lignans help heal the body lessening or preventing complications from diabetes. Protein in flax helps the body get nutrition that takes longer to digest and process helping provide more nutrition for longer. Flaxseed is an easy thing to add as part of a balanced diet and can make dramatic differences in your blood sugar as well as overall health. In a University of Toronto study, flaxseed bread was shown to lower blood sugar by 28% within an hour vs. those who ate otherwise similar bread with no flax content.
Digestive System – Funda of Fiber
Flaxseed is rich in both soluble, insoluble fiber and mucilage (the unique soluble fiber that is very soothing and cleansing to the digestive tract). Flax fiber is an excellent food for friendly bacteria in the intestine which keeps disease-causing organisms in check. Consumed with plenty of pure water, flax seed softens the stool and makes bowel elimination easier, a blessing to those with any level of constipation. The researcher concluded that flaxseed relieved constipation more effectively than psyllium husk. Taken for inflammatory bowel diseases like Irretable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis or ulcerative colitis flaxseed can help to calm inflammation and repair any intestinal tract damage. In addition, the Flaxseed may prevent painful gallstones from developing and even dissolve existing stones. Finally, flaxseed has been shown to reduce risk of colon cancer.
Rejuvenates Skin, hair and nail
The essential fatty acids in flaxseed are largely responsible for its skin-healing powers. Dry skin, acne, rosacea, eczema dandruff and psoriasis often respond to the Flaxseed’s anti-inflammatory actions and overall skin-soothing properties. It is a fountain of youth. You look years younger to your age. The abundant omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed have been shown to contribute to strengthen and fortify hair. It prevents and sometimes reverses premature graying of hair. Similarly, the Flaxseeds work to nourish dry or brittle nails, stopping them from cracking or splitting. Flaxseed oil makes skin very soft, fair, moist and attractive. Flaxseed has anti-wrinkle effect. Flaxseed is internal and edible cosmetic. It is natural manicure and pedicure. Help clear up and even help heal sunburns more quickly.
CNS – Flax is Sim Card of Mind
Think of your brain like the engine in your car. It needs oil just like your car does. Omega 3 is that oil. It helps things to run smoothly and efficiently. In the function of development of our brain, Omega 3 is vital for memory and performance, and it is needed for the transmission and reception of brain signals. In addition to the structural benefits in the brain that Omega 3 adds, it aids in the communication between brain cells.
The Flaxseed is a feel good food, keeps your mind cool and you stay cheerful. Negative thoughts stay far away from you. You don’t become angry. Your mood is always elated and positive. This is super anti depressant. Studies showed that it improves hostility in early teens and criminal behavior in prisoners. Flaxseeds are essential for the function and structure of the brain and improve cognition, memory learning skill and concentration. Flaxseed is SIM CARD of mind’s circuit (Mnemonic of flaxseed benefits on mind). Here SIM means Serene, Imagination & Memory and CARD denotes Creativity & Concentration, Alertness, Reading writing & thinking ability and divine. Flax has been scientifically proven to treat depression, diabetic neuropathy, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and proven to improve the behavior of Schizophrenics. Flaxseed can improve eyesight and perception of colors. Colors look bolder and vivid. Life becomes simply more colorful.
Answer to Arthritis
The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage within the joint begins to wear away and bone rubs on bone. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, where the immune system attacks the synovial lining of the joint, causing pain, rigidity and deformity. Flaxseeds slowly heal these inflammatory joint diseases.
The flaxseed may help to prevent swelling and inflammation of the prostate. Symptoms of prostate enlargement, such as urgency to urinate, may lessen within few weeks as a result. The EFAs also play a role in keeping sperm healthy, which may be of value in treating male infertility, and they can improve erectile dysfunction. Many patients reported that it delayed their ejaculation times.
Obesity – Flax reshapes your body
Flaxseed help fight obesity. Adding flaxseed to foods creates a feeling of satiation (feeling of fullness and satisfaction following a meal). The essential fats in flaxseed cause the stomach to retain food for a longer period of time as compared to no-fat or low-fat foods. Furthermore, flaxseed stokes the metabolic processes in our cells much like a furnace, once stoked, the cells generate more heat and burn calories.
Dr. Budwig Cancer Protocol
Discussion about Flaxseed is never complete without highlighting achievements of Dr. Johanna Budwig, top European cancer research scientist. She proposed Flaxseed oil and cottage cheese diet for prevention and treatment of cancer, arteriosclerosis, strokes, cardiac infarction, enlarged prostate, arthritis and even immune deficiencies. Thousands of cancer patients have been helped by her protocol with 90% documented success rate. Testimonials can be found for almost every type of cancers, even late stage. Dr. Budwig has assisted many seriously ill individuals, even those given up as terminal by orthodox medical practitioners, to regain their health through a simple regimen of nutrition. Dr. Budwig has been nominated for a Nobel Prize 7 times, but was not given because of her refusal to use radiation or chemotherapy. According to the US Department of Agriculture, flaxseed contains 27 identifiable cancer preventative compounds.
Best of the Best for Body Building
The fatty acids in flaxseed are the starting point, or the mortar and bricks for manufacturing all other fatty acids and hormone precursors necessary to support and build strong lean muscles, while prolonging stamina required for endurance sports. Beyond providing essential nutrients flaxseed provides valuable fuel required by today’s high intensity athlete. Flaxseed increases energy, vitality, stamina and shortens recovery time for fatigued muscles after exertion. It has 18% high class proteins.
Nowhere have the benefits of flaxseed oil for athletic performance been more publicly demonstrated than in preparing Hilary Swank for her as a boxer in Clint Eastwood’s film, Million Dollar Baby. Grant Roberts (her Fitness Trainer) had the task of adding at least 10 pounds of lean muscle to her already lean physique in just nine weeks. In addition to an intense training and lots of practice, he gave her eight or nine tablespoons flaxseed oil daily. Surprisingly, Swank’s hard work added more than 20 pounds of muscle in that time.
According to Roberts, nutrition represents 60 percent to 70 percent of the effective input to building lean body mass. The remaining 30 percent to 40 percent of positive results arise from a judiciously-designed exercise program.
Flaxseed has received an overwhelming response from the athletic and bodybuilding community. An article entitled “Best of the Best”, published in the bodybuilding and health enthusiast magazine Muscle Media 2000, claims flaxseed as “the hottest idea in bodybuilding” and “a surprising new category of bodybuilding supplement.” Mr. Dan Duchene in his column “Ask the Guru”, also writing for Muscle Media 2000, and ranked flaxseed as the number one bodybuilding supplement compared to all other available products.
Ways to include flax seed and flax oil in home cooking
- Sprinkle ground flaxseeds onto your hot or cold cereal.
- Add flaxseeds to your homemade chapatti, cookie or bread recipe.
- To pump up the nutritional volume of your breakfast shake, add ground flaxseeds.
- To give cooked vegetables a nuttier flavor, sprinkle some ground flaxseeds on top of them.
- Add a tablespoon of flaxseed oil to smoothies.
- How much should be taken in a day – The recommended daily dose for most people is approx. 30-50 gm.