The Flax of Life

August 18, 2011
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

78367523Are flaxseeds the next breast cancer cure?

What makes flaxseeds so special can be spelled out in one word and that’s L-I-G-N-A-N-S.

Lignans—which are 800 times more concentrated in flaxseeds than in any other plant—are well recognized as mini miracle workers. They not only kill viruses but they also help to knock out type 2 diabetes, lower LDL cholesterol, and help to reverse atherosclerosis. But their real claim to fame is in the arena of cancer where recent studies featured in the Health Sciences Institute Newsletter ( August, 2011, volume 16, number 2) have shown that flax hull lignans prove to be major players in halting the spread of breast, prostate, and lung cancer.

According to the Health Sciences Institute, researchers have found an 82% decrease in the spread of metastatic lung tumors, a 71% reduction in the protein that causes aggressive cancer growth, and a 31% increase in cancer cell death in just 30 days among people regularly consuming concentrated flax hull lignans.

While there are many different types of lignans, the most researched is an enterolactone type lignan that is also known as SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglucoside). SDG helps to inhibit the formation of blood vessels that tumors form in order to keep the cancer alive. In two heaping tablespoons of Cold Milled Flaxseeds from Omega Nutrition, you will be getting 350 mg of this super potent SDG lignan. In addition, you will be benefiting from 10 grams of soluble fiber to stabilize your blood sugar and reduce the amount of carbohydrates absorbed by our bodies for effortless weight loss. When cold milled flaxseeds come in contact with liquid, they become soft and jellylike, making them highly useful as an intestinal cleanser and bowel regulator.

The alpha linolenic acid (ALA) content of flaxseeds also provides stand-alone benefits of its own. In several studies of breast cancer risk, the higher the concentration of ALA in breast tissue, the lower the risk of manifesting breast cancer. Moreover, if the breast cancer arises, the higher the breast tissue concentration of ALA, the lower the risk of cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

Flaxseeds have been a staple of my Fat Flush programs for decades—from two to four tablespoons daily. For those in perimenopause and menopause, the lignans in flaxseeds can have a positive effect on eradicating symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, as well as reducing ovarian dysfunction, balancing menstrual cycle changes, and helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone density. The benefits of lignans match those of Tamoxifen, the anti-cancer drug used for breast cancer.

As an added bonus, Fat Flushers who faithfully adopt the flax habit consistently remark about having glowing skin, luster-rich hair, and strong nails.

Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

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  1. Elle Haight

    Is this the whole flaxseed, ground flaxseeds or both?
    Thank you.

  2. Robert Fauth

    Is the flax seed raw or can it be heated and eaten with a cereal like oatmeal?

  3. Karen

    Where can you buy this Cold Milled Flaxseeds besides here ? If you have a blood sugar and cholesterol problem, how do you eat this?

  4. Miriam

    Whole flaxseeds – shell and all are in the product referenced above as the SDG lignan is well represented and only found in the shell or hull.

    It is important to grind up the flaxseed to extract all the value and the Omega 3s. It can be added to oatmeal and any other cereal for that matter.

    Cold Milled Flaxseeeds are available nationwide. The Omega brand is UNI KEY’s favorite thus far.

  5. Marie

    Thanks for this information. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago. My oncologist told me not to use flax seed especially during chemo.
    However, now I use 3 tablespoons a day. My question is—does flax act like an aromatase inhibitor (like tamoxifen) or does it encourage the synthesis of estrogen–ie. as in remove hot flashes? I’d like to have more estrogen in my system like estriol to help slow bone and memory loss while avoiding the kind of estrogen that encourages tumor growth due to my history (estrone, etc.) but am wondering if I’m doing myself a favor or causing harm by taking 3 T. of ground flaxseed per day?
    Also, what is your opinion about using Barleen’s flaxseed oil in addition to ground flaxseed?
    Thanks, Marie

  6. Sharon

    Can you have 2 tablespoons of Flaxseeds and 1 tablespoon Chia seeds in the same day? I have been adding Chia seeds to my Smoothies and using Flaxseeds in my second smoothie if I have one.

  7. Janet

    I use flaxseed oil regularly (along with fiber products) — is there something absent in the oil that I need?

  8. Cheryl

    Great to know! I was using flax in my life-long cocktail but switched to the chia seeds. They just went down better. I use flax oil, with lignans, in my shakes. Last time I had blood work done, after just 6 months, my cholesterol dropped 44 points effortlessly. 32 points of that was from LDL. I won’t give up the chia seeds but will make the effort to add more ground flax to my diet.

  9. Miriam

    Great questions, ladies. A product made from concentrated flax hull lignins that contains all the various healing compounds – beyond just the SDG content – found in the hull would be the best bet for those who are interested in stopping the aromatase enzyme which triggers breast cancer cells to multiply. The hull of the flaxseeds contains the healing lignans – they not found in measurable amounts in the oil.

  10. melanie

    I had been usung flax seeds when I began Fat Flusah way of eating years ago.Then I switched to chia seeds because I thought that chia seeds were even healthier than flax seeds and easier to eat to get the full benefits. So now I am wondering if I should switch back to flax seeds.

  11. Miriam

    Chia and flax can be alternated to get the benefits of both 🙂

  12. Marie

    Thanks for the info Miriam. What I’m wondering about though is does the aromatase function of flax seed block all estrogenic activity? If so how would it help with hot flashes? Aren’t hot flashes caused by a lowering of estrogen in one’s system?

    Also, while I’m interested in blocking estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2), but was hoping NOT to eliminate estriol (E3). I’ve read that estriol can actually be protective against breast cancer, bone loss, and dementia. I’m just wondering if flax seed might be something to avoid if one doesn’t want to eliminate all 3 types of estrogen from one’s system. Have you read any research on this?

  13. Sarah

    Are you eating raw flaxseeds? Didn’t Ann Louise say that it was better to toast them because they can affect your thyroid? How do you toast them?

  14. Joan

    I’ve recently been diagnosed with a low grade, estrogen sensitive breast mass. Can flaxseed help to slow a tiny spot found only on an MRI? Also, How can I receive the estriol needed to avoid dementia while avoiding estrogen?

  15. Sierra

    to toast flaxseeds: spread them on a cookie sheet and put them in a 250 degree oven for fifteen to twenty minutes 🙂

  16. liz

    Joan, as the blog mentions the flax seed can be helpful to balance extra estrogen which might be helpful to you in your situation.

    Estriol is naturally produced by your body. A Salivary Hormone test could help determine if in fact your level is low.

  17. Elizabeth Good

    Fantastic column! And great questions. Sounds like you might even need a part 2 to address the many issues/concerns. 😉

  18. Lisa

    I used to use freshly ground flax seeds, then I read somewhere that the lignans interfere with the functioning of tamoxifen (which I am taking after estrogen receptor positive breast cancer). Is this true?

  19. Elaine


  20. Gina

    I have tried to introduce flax seeds (ground and whole) and chia seeds to my diet on several occasions and keep turning up with diverticulitis. Any suggestions? It sounds like most of the benefit comes from the seeds, but maybe I should stick with flax oil.

  21. liz

    The high lignin Flax oil is very helpful. Usually the cold milled flax seeds are ok for people with diverticulitis but if it is not working for you then I would suggest trying the Super GI Cleanse, The function of the fiber is to clean out your intestinal tract and the Super GI Cleanse does a great job.

  22. karen

    I have some old whole flaxseeds up in the cabinet. I too switched to chia seeds. What I’m wondering is, do flaxseeds go rancid? How would I know if mine went sour? If I toast them would they be ok?

  23. Sierra

    Generally, if the flax seeds have been kept in a cool, dry place, they will last for a very very long time. Toast ’em up! You’ll be able to tell if they’re bad 🙂

  24. Flax is Good

    I think that flax seed is a great food storage item. You can make a lot of stuff with it and like Sierra said above me, if they’re kept in a cool, dry place, they last a long time!


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