I saw this coming. I hate to say, “I told you so,” but I’ve been warning about this for a long time. Low-carb and Paleo diets are taking the blame for a problem caused by eating too much flax.

Naturopath, Dr. Lara Briden, gave a presentation at The Ancestral Health Society of New Zealand symposium on women’s reproductive health. She reported that she was concerned about the number of young women who have lost their periods on a low-carb diet. “It is real and it is happening,” she says on her blog. She surmises that it may be due to “inadequate starch that signals the hypothalamus that there is not enough food to reproduce,” or it may be an “adaptive starvation response,” or it may be via leptin or the microbiome.

Eating a low-carb diet with lots of good, natural fats enhances fertility; vegetarian and vegan diets have the opposite effect but many people following low-carb and Paleo diet plans are eating huge amounts of flax. It is used in low-carb breads, snacks, and baked goods to replace wheat and gluten. Because it is one of the few plant sources for the precursor of omega-3 fats, many doctors recommend it as a health food, some even set minimum daily requirements for it!

Plants mimic the hormones of mammals as a way to defend themselves against predators. These hormone disruptors can have serious side effects, but the biggest danger from flax is to pregnant women who may miscarry or have children with birth defects in their reproductive systems. Plant estrogens are the plant’s revenge–we kill their babies, they kill ours. As Thor Hanson said, “A seed is a baby plant, in a box, with its lunch.”

I recently had a Tweet from a young woman who had suffered seven miscarriages (that information was part of her ID). The same Tweet included a link to her favorite recipe. It was a bread recipe that called for two cups of flax. Another woman reported having three miscarriages in one year after starting a Paleo diet with lots of flax. She switched to a new doctor who told her to cut out the flax and subsequently became pregnant and delivered a healthy child.

It is common knowledge that soy contains estrogen. It is routinely used as a hormone replacement for treating menopause symptoms, but many people may not realize that flax contains a lot more of these hormone-like chemicals than soy. According to Web MD, flax contains 800 times as many phyto-estrogens as soy, more than any other plant food. The Weston A. Price Foundation warns that a baby given soy formula gets the equivalent of five birth control pills a day; that means a baby fed on flax formula would get an amount equal to 4,000 birth control pills a day!

There may be a place for flax when used as a treatment for a medical condition, but as with any potent medicine, the dose is important and we need to be aware of its side effects before we eat it or give it to our children.

Call to Action:
The World Health Organization is now pushing us toward a plant-based diet and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, due out soon, are going to echo that advice. In South Africa, a country that has experienced a ten-fold increase in diabetes in one generation, fitness expert, Prof. Tim Noakes, is on trial and the Health Professions Council of South Africa is going to extraordinary lengths to discredit him. (His “crime?” He sent a Tweet to a new mother suggesting that she wean her baby on low-carb, natural-fat foods rather than cereal.) Nutritionist, Jennifer Elliott, was expelled from the Dietitians Association of Australia and lost her right to practice her profession in New South Wales for recommending a low-carb diet for a diabetic patient. Anyone who questions traditional dietary advice can expect the same kind of persecution. Let’s not give them any more ammunition to use against the healthful, low-carb lifestyle.

Please share a warning about the over-consumption of flax with your contacts and post a comment on any site that sells it or advocates it as a “super food.” You can also send a message to any company that sells products that contain high levels of flax suggesting that they add a warning to their label.

For more about flax, read my review of Wheat Belly http://carbwars.blogspot.com/2013/02/wheat-belly-cookbook-review-is-flax-new_3.html

Photo of flax featured above from Wikipedia. 

(c) Judy Barnes Baker

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Judy Barnes Baker

The working title for my first book was, “You’ll Never Know What You Are Missing.” It summed up my goal: to make eating for health synonymous with eating for pleasure. Once you discover the secret, you will find that the very best food for weight management, longevity, the treatment and prevention of disease, and over-all health and happiness is also the most sumptuous, satisfying, and indulgent way of eating the world has to offer. You are invited to the feast. Enjoy!
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