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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Danger of Consuming Flax, my Gluten-Free Bake Mix and an Apology

Flax seedImage via Wikipedia
As many of you who read my blog know, Donna Hodach-Price and I worked on a gluten-free bake mix.  We were happy with the Gluten-free bake mix and it performed well, aside from the fact that some people may actually detect a "taste" from flax in baking.  To be honest, I didn't notice that at all, except perhaps in my cookie recipe, but then I used more than the suggested 1/4 cup.  My husband noticed an aftertaste and guess what, so does Donna.  So, that's not great, but I know many, many low-carbers use flax and love it for the fiber benefits and perceived health benefits such as Omega-3's.

I was in the city for a few days and had a few "funny turns".  Prior to leaving for the city, these funny turns would even sometimes visit me in the middle of the night.  The symptoms were weak, leaden-feeling legs (like walking on a bed), dizziness, balance feeling a little out of whack, sweaty palms and anxiety due to those odd symptoms, which incidentally made me feel that something was drastically wrong!  At one point when I felt at my most melodramatic, I thought for sure I must be dying!  I do have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis although I am mostly in remission.  I say mostly because I still take about 30 mg of natural thyroid hormone every morning.  There is a story as to how that outcome was achieved and anyone who is interested is welcome to enquire.  Such a simple way to get to better thyroid health and most doctors on this planet are totally unaware.  Anyway I first suspected low blood sugar and then I wondered about my thyroid, but my body temperatures soared to hyperthyroid levels the minute I increased my dosage, so it is not that.  I prayed about it and asked for revelation.  The next day I Googled my symptoms and they matched menopausal symptoms.

Later that day my longtime email buddy, Jan Ballas, made me realize that most of the symptoms were related to "hot flash" symptoms.  She sent me to a site that described the hot flash precisely and I had most of the symptoms, but my eyes alighted on the words tamoxifen (it was a breast cancer site) and that women taking tamoxifen might experience extreme hot flash symptoms.  Then I remembered immediately that flax meal is the tamoxifen of foods.  Sigh - of course, it will mess with my hormones!!  I am extremely sensitive to having anything mess with my hormones.  I tried progesterone and ended up having such a strange few turns that I had blurred vision and I mean really blurred vision.  When I was younger and on the birth control pill, I was miserable with all kinds of unwanted symptoms, such as depression, weight gain, sore breasts, moodiness and crying spells.  Those symptoms left seemingly overnight when I went off of it.  Several times during my life doctors wanted to put me back on the pill and more recently on bio identical hormones.  I always refuse.  That's ironic as here I shot myself in the foot recently by starting to include flax meal which is a phytoestrogen into my diet.

Younger people may not have this issue with flax and probably many people tolerate it just fine. My youngest son, however, who is building muscles via weight lifting was horrified that I had recently been feeding him phytoestrogens! Oh dear.  So..., back to the grindstone with the Gluten-free Bake Mix.  I'm thinking that using coconut flour in reduced amounts in the new bake mix might work, but this will need to be tested.  Meanwhile, there is a GF bake mix using coconut flour on my blog under bake mixes. 

I'm so sorry and I apologize profusely if anyone out there has suffered on account of the flax meal in my gluten-free bake mix.  I'm very grateful to have figured this out with God's help and that I can now pass on this knowledge to others.

Besides the obvious messing with one's hormones, flax meal also contains trace amounts of cyanide - a poison!  I didn't know that.  Cooking apparently destroys the cyanide compounds.  Here is an article about the side effects of flax seed meal.

I found this statement in a negative article about soy and the thyroid when I was looking into the effects of flax on the thyroid:  "Studies have shown that supplementing the diet with 1oz of ground flax seed but not with 1 oz of soy flour significantly alters the estrogen metabolism in the body. The end result is that there is a favoring of the less biologically active estrogen metabolites (2OHE1) in postmenopausal women"

This seems to indicate to me that if my body started using the less biologically active estrogen metabolites in the flax preferentially, then my body would make less real estrogen, and this would appear to my body as an estrogen withdrawal and to my body this would look like I was going through a severe menopause of sudden estrogen withdrawal each time I consumed enough flax. No wonder I was experiencing funny turns.  This conclusion  is corroborated by the next link where I found this:  microbial action of flax suppresses the effect of estrogen in mammals.

About the effect of flax on the thyroid: I'm not exactly sure, but I assume it is a goitrogen similar to soy.  Here is an interesting article on flax.  I don't think I will try chia seeds although some people can, if they like, to replace the flax meal.  These things always come back to haunt me it seems, so I'll stick with something like coconut flour that has been around for an age and is a name I recognize.


Ginny said...

That's an interesting reaction Jennifer! I've had just the opposite effect! Using flax has been a benefit to my in menopause along with natural progesterone. I guess we each have to find what works with our unique bodies. I've finally found relief from the horrible hot flashes that were making me feel like passing out sometimes, they were so bad, with natural progesterone and flax. The flax oil was instrumental in getting me back on my feet from CFIDS as well as helping my son get off prescription antidepressants and healing his brain. So it's just interesting to see it can be poison for one and life to another. :) For our family it's been a life saver.

Jennifer said...

Ginny, it is good to hear that for others it might actually be a beneficial addition to the diet. Thanks to you, I'll give the flax meal in my gluten-free bake mix as an option, but I'm going to have to find something else to replace the flax for my family.

Tonya said...

Another reason to limit your flax (and indeed fiber) consumption may be a more long-term benefit. I read this over at Dr. Eades blog not too long ago.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, Tonya. I did read that as well. :)

Laura said...

Well,I am hypothyroid and have had breast cancer and am on tamoxifen so generally what is good for one condition is bad for the other in my case. I do eat flax but avoid soy, wheat and grain products (the exception is oat fiber) My husband, hoever, is very reactive to flax so I am always modifying! Thanks for the links!

Jennifer said...

Laura, I'm so sorry to hear about the very tough health challenges you have had. My husband also has a problem with too much flax.

Natasha said...

Do you mind sharing the info about your thyroid experience? I'm in my mid-twenties and struggle with my thyroid. I'm on 2 grains of natural thyroid meds and would really like to know more :)

Jennifer said...

Natasha, you are gorgeous! Hope your wedding day is everything you hoped it would be. Just relax and enjoy each moment and memory.

Contact me at and I will gladly share my thyroid recovery with you. Do you have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, because that's what I have recovered from - not just simple hypothyroidism. There is a difference.

Anonymous said...

Chia seeds aren't a good option for those with hypothyroidism. Unless toasted (then they, like flax seeds, don't have the nutritive values raw does). I take natural thyroid . Easier. I'm allergic to nuts and no nut oils here, and don't do flax seed itself.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for that information. Are you allergic to all nuts? That makes things so much more difficult if you are low-carbing.

I also take natural thyroid hormone and have for many years; much better for me I've found.