Flaxseed Oil Heals Bleeding Gums, Again

In response to this post, which went up three months ago, a reader named Tara has just written:

I started taking 2 TB of flax oil daily about four days ago and now my gums are barely bleeding at all after I brush and floss. My gums were red, swollen and would bleed after I brushed and flossed and are now pink and healthy looking.

I’ve had this problem for years and I could not understand why it would keep happening even though I was consistent with my dental routine. I take the berry flavored Barlean’s flax oil mainly because it tastes good and so I look forward to taking it- if it was gross I would not be consistent with taking it.

Anyhow, thanks for the information! I wish dentists would look into this but they probably won’t so I’m glad that you do.

I agree about the Barlean’s, by the way. Their Omega Swirl flaxseed oil does taste good. The Omega Swirl webpage does not list healthy gums as one of its benefits. Instead it lists a bunch of benefits, such as “Heart Health” that are nearly impossible to verify.

Someone recently told me something fascinating about flaxseed oil: It made it much easier to kneel on the floor.  Before he started taking it, his knees would hurt after a few seconds. Now they don’t. I don’t remember my knees hurting quickly but I consume 66 g/day of ground flaxseed (= about 2 T flaxseed oil) and can kneel without pain for minutes.

The tiny fact reflected in Tara’s comment — an easily-available supplement (flaxseed oil) quickly cures a common problem (bleeding gums) but hardly anyone knows this — is  a devastating comment on our health care system.

1. Dentists haven’t managed to figure this out. Flaxseed oil is not an obscure supplement. Dentists are not making money giving people much worse advice (“floss regularly”).

2. Nutrition professors haven’t managed to figure this out. Omega-3 is not an obscure nutrient. Nevertheless, the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines says omega-3 fats are “essential” but says nothing about how much you need. Inflammation is believed to be the cause of many diseases, including heart disease. By getting this one thing  (minimum omega-3 intake you need to be healthy) right, the USDA could do a world of good. Instead they tell people to eat less animal fat (“consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids”).

To be fair, professional researchers are starting to figure this out.  A 2010 study of 9000 people found that “participants in the middle and upper third for omega-3 fatty acid consumption were between 23 percent and 30 percent less likely to have gum disease than those who consumed the least amount of omega-3 fatty acids.” With the right dose, I believe gum disease becomes 100% less likely. But at least they noticed a connection.

 

15 Responses to “Flaxseed Oil Heals Bleeding Gums, Again”

  1. Tuck Says:

    Interesting. I’ve also noticed that gum bleeding has decreased almost to nothing since fixing my diet by eliminating wheat and seed oils.

    I never take flax seed oil, however, although I do eat a lot of fish and macadamia nuts (which are another source of vegetable-omega-3 oils). And lots of pastured meat.

  2. Rashad Says:

    To be fair, I think in most people brushing and flossing DOES reduce bleeding gums, at least that is true for me. When I’m lazy about flossing, I get bleeding gums, when I start doing it regularly, about a week later my gums stop bleeding. So part of the problem is that I think many dentists view the problem as “solved”.

  3. Leslie Says:

    Hi Seth, I’m wondering if you have tried comparing flax seeds to chia seeds? And do you get much omega 3 from other sources, like fatty fish?

  4. Tim Beneke Says:

    Once again, add me to the list of people who find that 2-3 tablespoons of flax seed oil a day improves both my gums and joint pain.

    I suffer intermittent knee, hip and now shoulder joint pain and find after doing a few days on and then a few days off consuming the flax seed oil that there is substantially less pain when I take it. And yes bending down and picking something up is a much less painful experience when I’ve been doing the oil. I don’t like the taste of the oil and don’t want to, since I also use it as weak-tasting calories in my weight loss efforts. I swallow it quickly in water with my tongue outside (under) the glass and immediately drink some strong green tea afterwards to mask the taste. It is work to do this, but well worth it…

    Onwards with more self experimentation! Pooling the efforts of even a small number of self experimenters, we seem to be able to come up with a lot of solutions to problems that high falutin scientists are blind to.

  5. Seth Roberts Says:

    Thanks, Tim, those observations are very helpful. As you say.

  6. Seth Roberts Says:

    Leslie, I have not compared flax seeds to chia seeds. Flax seeds are much easier to get. When I’m in Beijing, I rarely eat fatty fish. I first discovered that flaxseed oil (just a few capsules) improved my balance when I was in Berkeley. At the time I ate fatty fish (salmon) regularly, once or twice/week. My initial observation was that a relatively small amount (by my current standards) of flaxseed oil noticeably improved my balance (measured by how easily I could put on my shoes while standing). Eating fatty fish (or anything else) had never done that.

  7. Seth Roberts Says:

    Rashad, that’s a good point. I found the same thing as you: if I flossed enough, my gums stopped bleeding. However, I don’t think flossing changed them from red (inflamed) to pink (not inflamed).

  8. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    Tim, with regard to your procedure for taking flax oil: I take about four tablespoons — straight — every day around noon, as part of my Shangri-La diet regimen. I do not make much effort to mask the taste. Sometimes I chase the oil with water, but I don’t always do it, if I’m busy. Still works for me.

  9. David Says:

    Seth, I agree regarding flossing. I am a regular flosser who never had bleeding gums, yet I did have inflammation which manifested itself in the form of periodontal pockets. I was told the pockets were the result of genetic bone loss. As I posted previously on your blog, I significantly shrunk these pockets between visits to the dentist (6 months) by drinking flaxseed oil.

    On a different topic, I’m wondering how (if) you reconcile the ideas of people like Chris Masterjohn who believe that the degeneration of PUFA is what drives atherosclerosis. I know flaxseed oil helps my gums, and I have a hunch it may help with my degenerating lumbar disc, but I am concerned about the seemingly contradictory effect on my vascular system. Thoughts?

  10. Seth Roberts Says:

    “I know flaxseed oil helps my gums, and I have a hunch it may help with my degenerating lumbar disc, but I am concerned about the seemingly contradictory effect on my vascular system.” My advice: go with what you can see (“helps my gums”), don’t worry about untested theories. I like Chris’s work but I doubt he has convincing evidence of that theory.

  11. Jon K Says:

    Hi, I tried posting a question before and it appears to have not gone through. so I’ll try again.

    Have you noticed any increase in hair loss/thinning as you changed your omega 3 consumption? There appear to be several people (40+) who posted on a hair loss blog with the observation that increased flax/fish oil produced significant hair loss/thinning. Several of the comments were from women, which I found interesting. Less clear was the effect of ground flax seed, which contains lignans, vs flax oil. Some claimed it thickened hair, others that it thinned. Since you’ve used both methods for a long period, I’m wondering if you could give your observations. Also, anecdotally, there appears to be a link between turmeric intake and an increase in hair loss. What is it with anti-inflammatories that could potentially have this side effect?

    (the fourth google hit for “flax seed hair loss” contains a blog post where most of the comments I’m referring to come from, though they appear in many other places across the web)

  12. Seth Roberts Says:

    “Have you noticed any increase in hair loss/thinning as you changed your omega 3 consumption?” No I haven’t.

    Why anti-inflammatories should increase hair loss — if they do — I have no idea.

    One of my students is measuring hair loss. He is also working on a study about inflammation. Perhaps he will be interested in studying this.

  13. Sade Says:

    Interestingly, the opthamology industry seems to be catching on to the importance of Omega-3′s. I’m not sure what they have to do with eye health, but at my doctor’s office it is the only “medicine” that he advertises on his walls.

  14. Dan Says:

    Have you heard of Oil Pulling for dental hygiene? It involves pulling/swishing 1 teaspoon of sesame seed through your teeth first thing in the morning. Just google “oil pulling” and you will find links.

  15. Kevin Says:

    This is an interesting, yet positive, reaction to taking flaxseed oil. I’ve always know flaxseed oil was an excellent plant-source of omega 3 fatty acids and their anti-inflammatory effects. I wonder if these effects would occur if you took an omega 3 fish oil or other sources of omega 3 fatty acids? Nevertheless, I definitely agree with the use of omega 3 supplements; our bodies cannot make these essential fats so it’s very important we get these healthy fats in our diets.