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Flax and Fecal Flora

The trillions of good bacteria in our gut can be thought of as an additional organ, metabolizing, detoxifying, and activating many crucial components of our diet. The formation of lignans from phytonutrient precursors found predominantly in flax seeds is one such example.

March 30, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to deanfotos66.

Transcript

Flax has the highest content of lignans of all plant foods used for human consumption. The reason lignans is in quotes is because flax doesn’t actually contain lignans—just like broccoli doesn’t actually contain sulforaphane. Flax does contain lignan precursors, though, which the good bacteria in our got turn into lignans which we then absorb so lignans are more of a team effort.
We used to think our colon was just some transit tube that absorbed excess water. Now we know it houses what could be considered an entirely separate organ inside the body, our gut flora, our trillions of good bacteria The densest concentration of microbes found anywhere on Earth.
Exceeding the metabolic capacity of our liver by a factor of a hundred, our good bacteria detoxify some compounds, and activates others, boosting their bioavailability.
In fact that may be why urinary tract infections have been associated with breast cancer risk. The rounds of antibiotics may be wiping out some of the good bacteria that are helping you take advantage of all the wonders of a plant-based diet.
I think most people only tend to think of their gut bacteria when there’s a problem, but having good gut flora is more than just avoiding diarrhea, it’s about maximizing our absorption of phytonutrients in our diet.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please also see yesterday’s video if you missed it. For another video on what our friendly flora can do, check out Gut Flora & Obesity. The sulforaphane story I refer to in this video can be found in The Best Detox. And for those craving more, there are hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects. Note that the bladder infection study I reference is open access and can be downloaded by clicking on the link above in the Sources Cited section.

Please also check out my associated blog posts for some more context: Breast Cancer Survival and SoyHealth Food Store Advice: Often Worthless or WorstHow to Enhance Mineral AbsorptionBoosting Gut Flora Without ProbioticsTreating an Enlarged Prostate With DietFlaxseeds for Prostate CancerFlax and Breast Cancer Prevention ,Treating Breast Pain with Flax Seeds, and How Probiotics Affect Mental Health

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please also see yesterday’s video if you missed it. For another video on what our friendly flora can do, check out Gut Flora & Obesity. The sulforaphane story I refer to in this video can be found in The Best Detox. And for those craving more, there are hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects. Note that the bladder infection study I reference is open access and can be downloaded by clicking on the link above in the Sources Cited section.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/thea/ Thea

    I’m hoping that one of the videos coming up tells us how to create/support those gut bacteria. If I remember correctly, in other posts on other videos, you didn’t seem all that impressed with “probiotics”.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/ghulstyle/ ghulstyle

    thank you Dr Greger for another insightful video, i truly enjoy all of you videos on nutrition and they are so accessible too.
    Is there anything comparable like your site in regards to other lifestyle factors for prevent disease and healthy living eg anything on stress reduction or exercise etc?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/alexandra-georgiadis/ Alexandra Georgiadis

      Hi! I think a great resource might be Dr. Dean Ornish’s program “The Ornish Spectrum”. There is a lot of very useful information. Once on the home page, if you scroll over the “proven program” section you’ll see a link for stress management. I hope you find this useful! Here is the link: http://www.ornishspectrum.com/

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/sillysallysue/ SillySallySue

    Great video, as usual! For some great probiotic tips and insight, Dr. Greger previously referred us to the advice of one of his medical mentors, Dr. Michael Klaper. Here’s the link: http://doctorklaper.com/answers06.html

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/thea/ Thea

      SillySallySue: Great link!! Thanks for posting it.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/chewy/ chewy

    so is flaxseed a good thing to add to my vegan low fat diet(mcdougall plan) to prevent colon polyps and other bowel diseases?there is a history of colon cancer in my family-my cousin,uncle,grndmother died of it but they were all carnivores eating meat ,dairy. i have been vegan for 20 years(i am 44) and very conscientious of my vegan diet-no sugar,flour at all. just vegetables,beans,fruit ,brown rice,air popped popcorn and plain unsalted brown rice cakes.2Tablespoons of ground flaxseed

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please also check out my associated blog post, Breast Cancer Survival and Soy!

  • Becky

    I just read this about Flax- http://azchia.com/flax_seed_health_benefits_concerns.htm what do you think?

  • stacy

    I was diagnosed with dysbiosis (specifically Klebsiella and low beneficial bacteria) and colitis, so would a probiotic be beneficial or not? If so, what are good ones to use and for how long?

    Also what is the consensus on Digestive enzymes?  I was diagnosed with pancreatic/gallbladder insufficiency (basically, I dont make adequate enzymes), so would a digestive enzyme help or hurt?  If it is recommended, which type is best (animal-based, plant-based, fungal-based…and what brand? Fungal kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies, lol)

    How do i fix these issues naturally?  It seems like all doctors (even holistic ones) want to do is dole out loads of supplements!

  • Carl

    If I have had the right side of my bowel removed will this effect my ability to break down, transpose and absorb these nutrients?

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

       Sorry to hear about the loss of part of your colon. Although it will effect your ability to handle some fiber most of the nutrition absorption comes before the large intestine in the small intestine which we have evolved to be much larger then our closest relatives the great apes. It is estimated that we get only 10% of our caloric needs from bacteriologic breakdown of fiber in our large intestine. You fortunately didn’t lose all your colon. It would be nice to have good studies on populations that have had GI surgery but few exist and none relative to your situation. I would follow the best diets to avoid further loss of body parts not only in the gastrointestinal tract but other organ systems as well. Best wishes.

  • daisy

    is 2Tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily a good amount?

  • Mary

    Can you lead me to the video…How to get and maintain good gut flora?

  • xena

    I am 6 weeks pregnant and take a spoonful of flaxseeds everyday to help with bowel movements. Now I just read somewhere that they can be harmful for pregnant women. Is that true?