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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Will linseed (flaxseed) oil help with symptoms of Crohn's Disease?

My boyfriend's mother suffers with Crohn's Disease (although fortunately she is not needing medication at the moment). She has started to take Linseed oil after hearing it may help with her symptoms. She adds a couple of tablespoons a day to yoghurt, cereal etc.

She has asked whether there are any bad effects of taking linseed and what the evidence is for its use. My initial feeling is that as she feels it is having a positive effect, it doesn't matter whether it is placebo or not but was wondering whether you had any information and thoughts about it?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

flaxseeds and flaxseed oil

There have been some reports that healthy oils such as fish oil and flax seed (linseed) oil might have benefit in those with Crohn's Disease. That evidence is not all that great and there is no recommendation at this time for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease to take such supplements.

There is evidence that some people may benefit from such oils, but that's not been conclusively established. The good news is that review of the literature reveals very little dangerous side effects from taking fish oil or flax seed oil.

The one thing to know is that if one is going to consume whole flax seeds, they must be crushed first to release the oil - otherwise they will simply pass through the body.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet