What Are The Side Effects Of Chia Seeds?

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Can Eating Chia Seeds Have A Downside?

The tiny chia seeds are a superfood that help with weight loss, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Each serving gives you a healthy dose of fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. But they may bring on constipation, flatulence, diarrhea, and an allergic reaction. Chia seeds can also thin your blood. New research suggests they aggravate prostate tumor formation. The raw seeds are a major choking hazard. Grind them or soak them overnight.

Chia seeds, a superfood dating back to Aztec times, are now enjoying a rebirth of sorts. They feature in every nutritional A-list as a rich source of fiber, omega-3 fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Granted, chia seeds are a great source of nutrition as part of a balanced diet. They are also constantly marketed as a weight-loss aid and wolfed down in large quantities by weight watchers. But you can have too much of a good thing, and this superfood is no exception. Here are some side effects of chia seeds you need to watch out for.

6 Side Effects Of Chia Seeds

1. Can Cause Constipation Or Diarrhea

Chia seeds are very high in fiber content – at nearly 11 gm per ounce serving, it takes care of a sizable chunk of the American Dietetic Association’s recommended fiber intake of 38 g for men and 25 g for women for the day.1

Soak 1 tbsp chia seeds in 1 cup water overnight before you have them. Or grind them and use in smoothies.

But a high-fiber diet doesn’t work for every body type. Too much fiber in one go can lead to flatulence, constipation, and diarrhea. It’s a good idea to eat chia seeds with a lot of water or soak them first. Soaking makes it easier to digest them. It also offers the added benefit of releasing all the nutrients stored inside.2

2. Can Prevent Blood Clotting

As they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds can act as natural blood thinners, preventing your blood from clotting.3If you are already taking blood-thinning medication like warfarin, steer clear of chia. For the same reasons, avoid chia seeds right after a surgery to avoid excessive bleeding.4

3. Can Make You Choke

Chia seeds have gained notoriety as a choking hazard. As one Time magazine report highlighted, incorrect consumption can lead to complications.5When you don’t pre-soak your chia seeds or eat them without roasting, you run the risk of gagging or choking on them. You may even end up in the ER as a result.

If you eat raw chia seeds, they can absorb water (about 27 times their dry weight) in your food pipe, grow large, and clog up the food pipe, choking you.

Why? Because the seed when dry and unroasted absorbs as much as 27 times its dry weight in water. When this happens it turns gelatinous and expands hugely, plump with water. This sticky mass can get stuck in your esophagus, making you choke.6

4. Can Trigger Prostate Tumors

The case for and against chia when it comes to prostate cancer isn’t closed just yet. While some research indicates it could decrease the risk of prostate tumor growth, other research contradicts this. For instance, one study indicated that consuming foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like chia seeds, could trigger the formation of prostate tumors in men. This could imply an increased incidence of prostate cancer.7

Recent research says chia seeds increase prostate tumor formation. Don’t overindulge.

But previous research had a contradictory view. Researchers claimed that the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid did not increase prostate cancer risk and believed it even marginally decreased the risk.8The jury is still out on this one, but you may want to hold off on binging on chia.

5. Can Worsen Your Diverticulitis

People with diverticulitis develop bulging sacs or pockets called diverticula along the lining the large intestine. These get inflamed and try to push out through the colon wall, causing pain, usually on the left side of the abdomen, bloating, or diarrhea.9While one cure for diverticular diseases is a high-fiber diet, and chia seeds are high in fiber, you should avoid them when an attack is underway.10 Many complain that these tiny seeds get stuck in the diverticula and inflame them.

6. Can Set Off An Allergic Reaction

Chia seeds have a lot of protein in them and that’s bad news if you are allergic to the protein in chia. A 100 gm serving has about 16.54 gm of protein.11For those with a nut or seed allergy, chia seeds may be off the table.

Reactions can range from skin rashes and hives to watery eyes, vomiting, and diarrhea. Also watch out for repetitive coughing, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, and a hoarse throat. You may also feel dizzy. As inflammation flares up in the larynx, tongue, and mouth, you could find it difficult to talk and even breathe.12 If your allergy is more severe, you may go into shock, your pulse may weaken, and your skin may turn pale or blue.13Get tested to check anyway.

How Much, How Often?

On the whole, the chia seed is a powerhouse of goodness. No wonder every nutritionist loves it. Ayurveda also recommends adding chia to your regular diet, conscious of its high-fiber effects. But since the superfood is still not fully understood, additional studies will be needed before it can be declared safe for consumption by those with certain conditions like high triglycerides and low blood pressure, and even pregnant women.

Just ensure you don’t rely only on chia for your daily fiber intake. If you are aiming to lose weight, having more of it won’t help you lose much. After all, you will have added on extra calories from the seeds as well. Typically, 1–1.5 tablespoon taken up to twice a day should be fine for most people. That’s the equivalent of a 20 gm serving that has 139 calories each time.14

References   [ + ]

1. Slavin, J. L. “Position of the American Dietetic Association: health implications of dietary fiber.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 108, no. 10 (2008): 1716-1731.
2. Eswaran, Shanti, Jane Muir, and William D. Chey. “Fiber and functional gastrointestinal disorders.” The American Journal of Gastroenterology 108, no. 5 (2013): 718-727.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids. University of Maryland Medical Center.
4. Healthy Food Trends: Chia Seeds. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
5. You’ll Never Guess What Chia Seeds Can Do To Your Esophagus. Time (2014).
6. Watch It Grow: Esophageal Impaction With Chia Seeds. American College of Gastroenterology.
7. Brasky, Theodore M., Amy K. Darke, Xiaoling Song, Catherine M. Tangen, Phyllis J. Goodman, Ian M. Thompson, Frank L. Meyskens et al. “Plasma phospholipid fatty acids and prostate cancer risk in the Select trial.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 105, no. 15 (2013): 1132-1141.
8. Carayol, Marion, Pascale Grosclaude, and Cyrille Delpierre. “Prospective studies of dietary alpha-linolenic acid intake and prostate cancer risk: a meta-analysis.” Cancer Causes & Control 21, no. 3 (2010): 347-355.
9. Diverticular disease and diverculitis. NHS.
10. Break the Diverticulitis Cycle. University Health News.
11. Seeds, chia seeds, dried. USDA.
12. García, Jiménez S., Vargas C. Pastor, M. de las Heras, Maroto A. Sanz, F. Vivanco, and J. Sastre. “Allergen characterization of chia seeds (Salvia hispanica), a new allergenic food.” Journal of investigational allergology & clinical immunology 25, no. 1 (2015): 55.
13. Food Allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
14. Chia seeds and nutrition. Columbia University.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.