Side Effects of Flaxseed Meal

Written by michelle epperly
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Side Effects of Flaxseed Meal
Whole flaxseed are ground to make flaxseed meal. (flax seeds close-up image by Konstantin Sutyagin from

Many people turn to flaxseed meal for its healthy benefits. Flaxseed meal can help in many ways with it's high fibre content and antioxidant properties. However, it is important to be aware of the side effects when taking flaxseed meal as a dietary supplement. Being aware of some of the side effects will help you get the most out of the benefits of flaxseed meal.

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High Fiber Side Effect

Flaxseed meal is very high in fibre, more so when it is raw. Eating large quantities when starting out can cause a laxative effect. Diarrhoea and cramping are the main symptoms. Everyone's digestive system is different, so the best way to avoid this side effect is to start with small amounts and increase over time. People with irritable bowel syndrome should be especially careful when adding fibre to their diets, including flaxseed meal.

The Risk of Oxidation

Flaxseeds have a very high amount of unsaturated oil that can go rancid or oxidate if not stored correctly. This is especially true in flaxseed meal because it is ground, exposing the unsaturated oils that are susceptible to oxidation. This can cause food poisoning when consumed. When stored in a cool dark place (refrigeration is best), flaxseed meal can keep for up to two months; flaxseed oil keeps for a few weeks, while whole flaxseed can keep up to one year in these conditions.

Hormonal Effects

Flaxseed meal contains phytoestrogen a consumable oestrogen that is found in many foods including soybeans. These hormones can effect oestrogen levels in the body. Pregnant women need to be careful when consuming phytoestrogen due to risk of premature birth. Babies and children should not take large quantities of flaxseed meal due to the risk of spiked hormone levels. Although there are many benefits to phytoestrogen, scientists are looking at the long term effects on the body.

Cyanide Poisoning

Flaxseed meal contains very small amounts of cyanide compounds that, when taken in large doses (more than 10 tbsp a day), can cause cyanide poisoning. Cyanide poisoning stops the cells' ability to use oxygen and is very similar to the symptoms of suffocation such as weakness, shortness of breath, headache and in severe cases coma, seizures and death. Cooking flaxseed destroys the cyanide compounds.

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