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For promoting bowel regularity, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of whole or ground flaxseed is taken one or two times per day, accompanied by a full glass of water. When used to treat other health conditions, it is used in amounts of 30 to 35 grams (1 to 2 ounces) per day.
Although it is not suitable for cooking, flaxseed oil (unlike fish oil) can be used in salads. Some doctors recommend that people use 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of flaxseed oil per day as a supplement in salads or on vegetables to ensure a supply of essential fatty acids. Some conversion of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) does occur,8 and this conversion can be increased by restricting the intake of other vegetable oils.9
For those who wish to replace fish oil with flaxseed oil, research suggests taking up to ten times as much ALA as EPA.10 Typically, this means 7.2 grams of flaxseed oil equals 1 gram of fish oil. However, even if taken in such high amounts, flaxseed oil may not have the same effects as fish oil. But, flaxseed oil will not cause a fishy-smelling burp (a possible side effect of fish oil).
In addition to its presence in flaxseed oil, small amounts of ALA are also found in canola, soy, black currant, and walnut oils. Small amounts of lignans are present in a wide variety of foods of plant origin.
ALA deficiencies are possible but believed to be rare, except in infants who are fed formula that is omega-3 deficient. Lignan is not an essential nutrient, so deficiencies are not possible.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.