1. Detoxing and Relieving Constipation
Being on a ketogenic diet has some amazing health benefits for the body, but there are some precautions to take when weight loss begins to happen this quickly.
When you are in ketosis, you know that fat is being mobilized to be used for energy. However, any fat-soluble toxins that have built up over time and are stored in fat will also be released. Fat soluble toxins can come from herbicides/pesticides on non-organic foods, body products (makeup, lotion, etc), cleaning chemicals, and plastic water bottles and storage containers.
(You can read more about how to get plastics out of your home in “Decrease Your Risk of Phthalate Exposure”, and to learn about some alternative cleaning products: “Decrease Your risk of Chemical Exposure”)
As the body releases fat and anything else that has been stored in the fat, it will eventually get dumped into the intestines for elimination. It is EXTREMELY important to add fiber to your diet to keep that elimination process moving along or those toxins sit in the intestines and get reabsorbed into the blood circulation. Ew.
Ground flax seed is a superior choice for a fiber supplement because it also contains other phyto-nutrients that are soooo beneficial.
2. Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid-ALA)
Flax seed has the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids from a plant source—chia seeds are a distant second. This type of omega-3 is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). There is some concern that ALA is not efficiently converted to the other essential omega’s—DHA and EPA.
This is true, but there are studies that show ALA has its own effect on the inflammatory processes, and some ALA will get converted to DHA or EPA. The conversion rate will be different for each person. For more reading on fat in a ketogenic diet, please see this post.
So, while it is not the same quality of omega-3 that we can get from fish or krill oil, it does have its place. It is especially important for those who choose not to eat animal products.
I know this might upset some carts, but statistics show that vegetarians have the same rates of mortality due to all causes as meat eaters with only 2 exceptions: some data showed vegetarians had a 50% increased risk of dying from breast cancer, and over twice the risk of dying from degenerative brain diseases. Why? Too much inflammation. One of the reasons—not enough omega-3’s and too much omega-6’s. So, if you don’t eat fish or fish oil supplements, a couple of tablespoonfuls of ground flax seed will help you fix that ratio.
For more information on fat please read the “Good Fat/Bad Fat” post.
3. Menopausal Symptom Relief and Hormone Balance
Lignans are phytochemicals called polyphenols that are in many plant foods. Flax seed is the richest source. These polyphenols have weak estrogenic effects on the body. When they bind to estrogen receptors, they compete with other, more potent estrogens—both natural and xeno-estrogens from the environment, so that those potent estrogens can’t exert an effect on the tissues.
Phyto-estrogens (phyto=plant) can therefore compete with more potent estrogens and decrease their effects in the body. In breast cancer prevention, the most recent studies show that pre-menopausal women don’t get the same positive effect that post-menopausal women do. In one study, there was no statistical significance of flax seed supplementation at all, until the data on post-menopausal women was separated out from pre-menopausal women. That showed that post-menopausal women had a 15% decreased risk of breast cancer with flax seed supplementation! Every post-menopausal woman should be supplementing with ground flax seed.
4. Decreased Risk of other Diseases
Diets high in lignans are also associated with decreased rates of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Endometrial cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Colon and intestinal cancers
5. Skin and Hair Health
Increasing healthy oils like ALA in the diet helps to nourish and hydrate the skin and provides oils for shiny hair. Nourishment that comes from the inside out!
6. Increased Intestinal Bacteria
Studies consistently find that flax supplementation increases good bacteria in the gut. Fiber is the food (prebiotics) for the bacteria (probiotics). That bacteria then help to convert the plant omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, in to more potent omega-3’s EPA and DHA. Beautiful design!
How To Use Flax Seed
Whole flax seed is not broken down in the intestines efficiently—the hull is just too hard. The problem is, once the hull is broken, all that omega-3 fatty acid can oxidize which makes it unhealthy. Here’s how you can use flax seed at its best:
Buy the seed whole and keep it in the freezer or fridge until you’re ready to grind it. Use a spice grinder or old coffee grinder to make enough for a month or two and store it in a container in the freezer or fridge.
When you first add fiber to your diet, it’s best to go slow. Start with 1 tablespoonful in a cup of unsweetened, diluted cranberry water. Stir it in and drink it down while stirring.
You can also sprinkle the meal on salads, into yogurt, or into a green low-sugar smoothie.
If you have been constipated, and aren’t used to fiber supplements, begin with one tablespoonful daily and work your way up to 2 tablespoonfuls daily or 1 tablespoon twice daily—however it fits into your schedule.
Increasing your water intake is essential when increasing fiber. You can worsen constipation by not increasing water.
Making Cranberry Water
This is my take on a recipe that I got many years ago from a book called The Fat Flush Plan by Ann Louise Gittleman.
Add 1 or 2 tablespoonfuls of unsweetened cranberry concentrate to an 8-ounce glass and dilute with 6 to 7 ounces of water. Unsweetened cranberry juice is very tart, so adjust to your taste. Add in your freshly ground flax seed, and…down the hatch!
Your intestines and your body will thank you!