Many people are familiar with the autoimmune disorder muscular dystrophy, or MS. There are also many other types of autoimmune disorders that affect people worldwide, causing similar symptoms of numbness, pain, and other signs related to nerve damage. Doctors and nutritionists recommend adding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet to reduce symptoms and possibly reverse the damage caused by these diseases. Flax seed may be the perfect addition to do just that, and here’s why.
Myelin Sheaths Protect Our Nerves
Myelin sheaths are insulators that cover the nerve fibers of the brain and central nervous system. During the course of an autoimmune disease, demyelination occurs, meaning that the myelin sheaths can become damaged or destroyed. Normally, these sheaths help the nerves send electrical impulses that tell our bodies what to do. When these sheaths are damaged, the messages from the nerves to the brain are stopped, resulting in a loss of function. This loss is responsible for the symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases and has also been linked to conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and autism.
Myelin sheath destruction can result from many diseases and conditions, but these are a few of the most common:
- Muscular Dystrophy, or MS
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or CIDP
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Diabetic Polyneuropathy
- Diabetic Amyotrophy
- Result of chemotherapy
- Toxic chemicals in environment
- Heavy metals
Regenerating Myelin Sheaths with Flax Seed
While there currently is no cure for MS or other autoimmune diseases, diet changes and alternative therapies can help to repair the myelin sheaths.
Fatty acids are the primary building blocks of myelin sheaths. Therefore, increasing fatty acid in the diet can provide the body with the basic component it needs to replace these sheaths. Omega -3 fatty acids can help to suppress inflammation, a precursor to autoimmune conditions, and can also help to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. Fatty acids can be found in many foods, but flax seed and flax seed oil top the list.
Flax seed contains the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids among these Omega-3 foods. The seeds also contain low amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, the ones that are not so good for you. In addition, they contain the phytoestrogen lignan.
Estrogen disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the production, release, transport, or metabolism of natural hormones. Since hormones may have a modulating influence on autoimmune disease, these estrogen disruptors may contribute to the development of an autoimmune disorder. Consequently, lignan rich flax seed may be able to counter the effects of the estrogen disruptors and lessen the chances of an autoimmune disease developing or progressing.
How to Include Flax Seed in Your Diet
Flax seed can be eaten as seeds, ground into powder, or used as oil, but it is best eaten with a protein so that the liver can release bile salts to properly digest these fats. Good protein sources include nuts, meats, eggs, and legumes.
Try including flax seed in these ways:
- Mix ground or whole flax seeds into yogurt or cottage cheese
- Add ground or whole flax seeds to granola, oatmeal, or cereal
- Mix ground or whole flax seeds into mustard, mayonnaise, hummus, and salad dressings to use in sandwiches, salads, or other dishes
- Add ground or whole flax seeds to baked goods, such as muffins, bread, and cookies
- Add seeds or ground seeds to smoothies and shakes
- Use flax seed oil as an alternative to cooking oil in many different foods
While flax seed is not going to be a cure for such debilitating diseases as MS and other autoimmune disorders, including them in a proper diet of whole, natural, and organic foods can be nourishing to not only your nerves but to the rest of your body too.