12 July, 2011
Flax Seeds & Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis can be a very painful condition that may include symptoms of abdominal cramping, abdominal tenderness and fever. Even bleeding from the intestines may occur. Due to the sensitivity of the inflamed areas of the intestines when suffering from diverticulitis, diet changes are often recommended. Foods that do not digest easily or can get stuck in the intestines usually should be eliminated. Flaxseeds in their whole form fall under this category.
Diverticulitis is an inflammation of the large intestines. In the book, "A Gynecologist's Second Opinion," Dr. William H. Parker explains that diverticulitis develops as a consequence of weakening in the walls of the intestines, where small folds and pockets appear in the intestinal wall. These pockets can trap stool and bacteria, and an infection can result. It is a common condition in both men and women as they get older, with 40 percent of people over the age of 60 suffering from this condition.
The main way to treat diverticulitis is to prevent inflammation, according to registered dietitian Peggy Stanfield in her book, "Nutrition and Diet Therapy." A high-fiber diet is often prescribed, including bran, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Pepper and chili powder, nuts and often corn are eliminated due to their harshness on the stomach. Flaxseeds, though high in fiber, are a questionable food when it comes to diverticulitis due mostly to their impact on digestion.
It is generally not recommended to eat any whole seeds if you suffer from diverticulitis. In her book, "The Flax Cookbook," registered dietitian Elaine Magee notes that small flaxseeds or their husks are not usually digested properly in the upper gastrointestinal tracts, and therefore are eliminated from the diets of patients with diverticulitis. This is a precaution against having these small pieces become lodged within a small pocket in the intestines. Whole flax seeds, in particular, have a pointy end. Grinding the flaxseeds may work in certain cases.
It is important that diverticulitis be diagnosed by a doctor before undergoing any dietary changes. You may need prescription medication to treat this condition. Also, working with a nutrition professional may be helpful in determining the best diet for you if you suffer from diverticulitis. Since flaxseeds are high in the essential fatty acid omega-3, if you cannot consume them, it is important to obtain omega-3s from other sources such as fish, particularly because they are anti-inflammatory.
- "A Gynecologist's Second Opinion"; William H. Parker, M.D.; 2003
- "Nutrition and Diet Therapy"; Peggy Stanfield, M.S., R.D.; 2009
- "The Flax Cookbook"; Elaine Magee, M.P.H., R.D.; 2002
- Photodsotiroff/iStock/Getty Images