Side Effects Linked To Eating Chia Seeds: Overview
Chia seeds are small, black seeds derived from the Salvia Hispanica plant, native to South America. These seeds may be tiny, but they are making a huge impact in the health food industry. As reported in Nutrition Business Journal, the chia seed market is growing at a whopping 239%—they are expected to be a $1.1-billion industry by 2020. Chia seeds are loaded with beneficial nutrients, such as fiber, iron, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E.
A case report presented by a North Carolina gastrointestinal doctor describes a disturbing case of chia seed consumption gone wrong. A 39-year-old man was hospitalized and given heavy anesthesia after consuming a tablespoon of dry chia seeds and a glass of water. Chia seeds have the ability to absorb up to 27 times their weight in water; in this particular case, they expanded post-ingestion and blocked the man’s esophagus.
When the man arrived at the hospital, he complained of pain at the top of his stomach and was unable to swallow anything, including his own saliva. The hospital staff took him in for an upper endoscopy—a procedure where a thin scope with a light and a camera are used to look inside the upper digestive tract. Image results revealed puffed up chia seeds were the cause!
The doctor on duty advised that chia seeds shouldn’t be eaten dry—they should be expanded in liquid first.
Chia Seeds and Stomach Pain
According to Wayne Coates, author of Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood, some people might experience symptoms of cramping from eating large amounts of chia seeds, mainly because the seeds absorb water from the stomach during digestion. Coates suggests this reaction could be offset by simply drinking more water.
Tips for Eating Chia Seeds Without Experiencing Pain
1. Use smaller doses: Most producers of chia seeds recommend a daily dose of two tablespoons. If you experience constipation or other intestinal issues after consuming the standard dosage, try adjusting the amount to one tablespoon a day.
2. Start slowly: If you are planning on incorporating chia seeds into your diet, start with small amounts first and increase the amount as your body becomes more comfortable with it. This will help minimize the risk of side effects, such as hard stools, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.
3. Soak the seeds: To avoid intestinal issues, pre-soak the seeds in water for about 10–15 minutes before eating them.
4. Increase your water intake: To avoid gastrointestinal side effects associated with eating chia seeds, drink more water. Similar to a sponge, chia seeds suck up moisture in your body—so you will need to replenish your body with more water. You can also try sugar-free fruit juices, and some herbal teas. Avoid caffeine and energy drinks, as they can further dehydrate your body.
5. Listen to your body: Not everyone’s intestinal tract is suited for processing chia seeds effectively. If you consistently have gastrointestinal problems after eating chia seeds—then stop eating them.
A Delicious Way to Consume Chia Seeds
For an extra boost of energy in the mornings, try making your own chia citrus beverage! All you need is a teaspoon of chia seeds, one-and-a-half cups of water, three tablespoons of lemon juice, and honey to sweeten. Mix the ingredients together in a glass, wait for 10–15 minutes, and then stir and enjoy!
Sources for Today’s Article:
Zimmerman, R., “Chia Seed Alert: Superfood, Yes, But they Landed One Man In the ER,” Common Health web site, October 24, 2014; http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/10/chia-seed-alert-superfood-yes-but-they-landed-one-man-in-the-er.
“How to Eat Chia Seeds Without Getting Constipated or Bloated,” healwithfood.org web site; http://www.healwithfood.org/constipation/chia-seeds-cause-relief.php, last accessed September 4, 2015.
Basaraba, S., “Do Chia Seeds Have Side Effects?” About Health web site, last updated December 16, 2014; http://longevity.about.com/od/everydayantiagingfoods/f/Do-Chia-Seeds-Have-Side-Effects.htm, last accessed September 4, 2015.
Daniells, S., “Chia boom: With 239% growth, chia category set to hit $1 bn by 2020,” FoodNavigator-USA web site, last updated November 22, 2013; http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/Chia-boom-With-239-growth-chia-category-set-to-hit-1-bn-by-2020, last accessed September 4, 2015.