Side Effects of Chia Seeds: The Other Side of Chia Seeds

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In the era of wellness trends and superfoods, chia seeds have emerged as a prominent player. Praised for their health benefits, these tiny seeds often steal the limelight. However, as we explore the world of chia seeds, it’s essential to acknowledge that even these nutritional powerhouses have their nuances. Like any dietary choice, chia seeds come with a set of considerations. While they offer many advantages when consumed thoughtfully, it’s essential to be aware of potential side effects. So, let’s take a balanced approach to understand chia seeds better and uncover the lesser-known aspects of their consumption.

Nutritional Profile of Chia Seeds

Chia seeds, derived from an herbaceous plant in the Lamiaceae family, have a long history of consumption dating back to ancient civilisations like the Aztecs and Mayans. These dried seeds, originating from regions in northern Guatemala and southern Mexico, have gained recognition for their nutritional content, which includes essential minerals, vitamins, fibre, and omega-3 fatty acids. While chia seeds are renowned for their health benefits, it’s equally important to be aware of their potential drawbacks and the recommended intake.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of chia seeds, let’s delve into their composition. Here’s a breakdown of the nutritional content found in every 100 grams of chia seeds:

Calories: 486 kCal

Carbohydrates: 42.1 g

Fibre: 34.4 g

Protein: 16.5 g

Fat: 30.7 g

Calcium: 631 mg

Magnesium: 335 mg

Vitamin A: 54 IU

Selenium: 55.2 µg

Phosphorus: 860 mg

Niacin: 8.83 mg

Folate: 49 µg

Potassium: 860 mg

Types of Chia Seeds 

Majorly there are three different types of chia seeds available. The classification is based mainly on its appearance.

Three different types of chia seeds are:

White chia seeds: It is a rare variety and is not readily available in the market. They are white, with a milder flavour and different texture than black chia seeds. 

Black chia seeds: It is the most common variety with a deep black appearance. It is readily available in the market. It has a nutty flavour and chewy texture. 

Grey chia seeds: It is a hybrid variety of white and black chia seeds. It’s not easily available in the market. This type has a unique combination of flavour derived from black and white chia seed variety.

Summary

Black chia seeds are the most common variety, with a nutty flavour and chewy texture. White chia seeds have a milder flavour and different texture than black chia seeds. Grey chia seeds are a hybrid variety of white and black chia seeds. Among the three types of chia seeds, there’s not much difference nutritionally. 

Potential Side Effects of Chia Seeds 

Chia seeds, despite their numerous health benefits, can pose specific side effects when consumed in excess or by individuals with particular conditions. Let’s explore these potential side effects:

Digestive Issues

Chia seeds are renowned for their high fibre content, which, while beneficial for weight management and overall health, can lead to digestive issues when consumed excessively. The soluble fibre in chia seeds has the remarkable ability to absorb water, expanding up to 12 times its weight. In individuals with conditions like ulcers, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel syndrome, excessive fibre intake can irritate the gut lining, potentially exacerbating these conditions.

Common digestive problems associated with excessive chia seed consumption include constipation (due to inadequate hydration), gas, abdominal pain, and bloating. In severe cases, a lack of proper hydration coupled with high fibre intake can lead to bleeding and inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. To prevent these issues, it’s crucial to maintain adequate hydration when including chia seeds in your diet.

Choking Hazard

Chia seeds have a unique property—they swell and absorb water when exposed to moisture. This characteristic, while beneficial for creating delightful chia puddings and beverages, can pose a choking hazard, particularly for young children and individuals with swallowing difficulties. 

When dry chia seeds come into contact with liquids (such as saliva or beverages), they rapidly expand. Consequently, consuming dry chia seeds followed by a glass of water may cause them to swell in the oesophagus, potentially leading to blockage and choking. To avoid this risk, always consume chia seeds soaked in liquid as part of a moist dish or as a part of a trail mix.

Drug and Chia Seeds Interactions

Chia seeds may interact with certain medications, particularly those used to manage common health conditions:

Diabetes Medications: Chia seeds have blood glucose-lowering properties, similar to insulin. Individuals with diabetes should closely monitor their medication dosage and chia seed intake to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and dizziness. Excessive consumption of chia seeds alongside diabetes medications can lead to blood sugar levels dropping too low.

Blood Pressure Medications: Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have natural blood-thinning and blood pressure-lowering effects. It can interfere with medications prescribed to manage high blood pressure, which often include blood thinners. Using chia seeds and blood pressure medications simultaneously may result in hypotension (low blood pressure) and related complications. Conversely, individuals with low blood pressure may experience adverse effects due to the additional blood pressure-lowering effect of chia seeds.

Allergy

While rare, some individuals may develop allergies to chia seeds, leading to allergic reactions. Symptoms may include itching of the tongue and lips, diarrhoea, and vomiting. In severe cases, chia seed allergies can trigger anaphylaxis—a life-threatening condition characterised by throat and chest tightness, breathing difficulties, and a drop in blood pressure.

Summary

Chia seeds, when consumed in moderation and with due consideration of individual health conditions, can be a valuable addition to one’s diet. However, it’s essential to be aware of potential side effects and take precautions to mitigate them. To prevent digestive discomfort, maintain adequate hydration, and gradually introduce chia seeds into your diet. Choking hazards can be avoided by soaking chia seeds before consumption. Individuals taking diabetes or high blood pressure medications should monitor their chia seed intake to prevent unwanted interactions. Lastly, while exceedingly rare, allergic reactions to chia seeds can occur, so it’s essential to be vigilant, especially if you have a history of food allergies. 

How Much Chia Can You Eat Daily?

Chia seeds do not have an RDA. As chia seeds are high in calories and high in fibre, limit the daily intake to no more than 1-2 tablespoons. A tablespoon of chia seeds can absorb approximately 70–100 ml of water due to its high water-absorbing capacity. 

Soak a tablespoon of seeds in a large glass of water overnight. The following morning, mix it equally with two to three bottles of water. Drink this water throughout the day after adding some mint leaves or a lime wedge.

HealthifyMe Suggestion

Chia seeds are frequently used as an egg substitute in vegan baking recipes. If you have a known allergy to chia seeds, make sure to thoroughly read ingredient labels or inform restaurant staff of your allergy when dining out. Chia seeds are actually safe and worth trying. Enjoy these power-packed seeds in moderation to avoid any possible harmful side effects. Chia seed water and chia puddings are easy ways to include them in your diet.

The Final Word

Chia seeds are a fibre-packed addition to a healthy diet. However, consuming excessive amounts can lead to medication interactions and upset stomach. They could be a choking hazard as well. Thus, moderation is essential because consuming too much could have negative effects. Should you encounter any adverse reactions following your use of chia seeds, discontinue the consumption and seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information, please contact our certified nutritionists Here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are chia seeds, and how are they typically consumed?

A. Chia seeds are tiny little seeds which are power-packed with nutrients. Consume chia seeds after soaking in a little bit of water. They form a gel-like consistency, which is easy to chew, and the chances of choking on the soaked seeds are less.

Q. Are there any side effects associated with eating chia seeds?

A. Yes, there are some side effects associated with consuming chia seeds, like digestive issues due to lack of proper water intake and excessive fibre. Excess consumption may lead to nutrient-drug interaction with diabetes and blood pressure medicines. People who are allergic may have some allergic reactions like rashes, bloating, vomiting, etc.

Q. Can chia seeds cause digestive issues or bloating?

A. Yes, chia seeds can cause digestive issues and bloating. Chia seeds are rich in fibre. If there is a lack of water, it does not help in passing out of the fibre from the digestive tract. It might lead to constipation, gas, abdominal pain, etc.

Q. Is there a risk of choking on chia seeds when they absorb liquid?

A. There is a risk only when you consume dry chia seeds and use water to swallow them. If one soaks them in advance, the chances of choking will be less.

Q. How can chia seeds affect blood pressure or medication interactions?

A. Chia seeds have omega-3 three fatty acids, which act as blood thinner. Taking it with other blood thinning agents in the body might cause hypotension, which may be dangerous. People who are suffering from hypotension should refrain from consuming excess chia seeds.

Q. Are there potential allergies or allergic reactions to chia seeds?

A. Yes, it is possible for some people to have a chia seed allergy, even though it is scarce. Symptoms of food allergies include vomiting, diarrhoea, and tongue and lip itching. Severe cases can result in anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that causes breathing difficulties and tightness in the chest and throat.

Q. Can chia seeds lead to weight gain or digestive discomfort?

A. Yes, if not consumed in the correct proportion, chia seeds can lead to weight gain because it is high in calories. Chia seeds may lead to digestive discomfort because of their high fibre content if there is a lack of water in the diet.

Q. What is the recommended daily intake of chia seeds to avoid side effects?

A. When taking chia seeds for the first time, one should begin with just one teaspoon, or five grams, of the seeds. Check to see if it suits the body and whether or not an allergic reaction might occur. One can raise the quantity gradually and slowly. One tablespoon, or 15 grams, is the safe limit for chia seeds. More than this could lead to issues.

Q. Do chia seeds have any interactions with medical conditions or medications?

A. Yes, chia seeds interact with medications for diabetes and blood pressure. Chia seeds, like insulin, have a lowering effect on blood glucose. It’s critical to keep an eye on the chia seed and medication dosages.

Q. How do chia seeds impact hydration and fluid balance?

A. Chia seeds impact hydration and fluid balance in the body due to the swelling-up property of the soluble fibre content present in it. It absorbs most of the moisture present in the gut, making it difficult to pass stool if there is a lack of water.

Q. Can overconsumption of chia seeds lead to nutrient imbalances?

A. Yes, overconsumption of chia seeds may lead to nutrient imbalances. Chia seeds contain phytic acid, which may inhibit the absorption of iron and zinc.

Q. What are the effects of chia seeds on blood sugar levels and diabetes management?

A. Chia seeds, like insulin, have a lowering effect on blood glucose. It’s critical to keep an eye on the chia seed and medication dosages. For people with diabetes, consuming too many chia seeds may cause hypoglycemia and vertigo.

Q. Can chia seeds be problematic for individuals with specific dietary restrictions?

A. Ye, chia seeds may be problematic for individuals with specific dietary restrictions, such as people with liver, kidney, and gallbladder diseases. Chia seeds have a high fatty and fibre profile, so they may not be well-digested and absorbed by people with these diseases.

Q. Are there specific populations who should avoid chia seeds?

A. People who are allergic to chia seeds should avoid it altogether. People with swallowing difficulties should also exercise caution. 

Q. What are some common myths or misconceptions about the side effects of chia seeds?

A. Some myths about chia seeds are that it is not a particularly good source of plant protein. Still, it is a decent source of fibre, calories, and healthy fats. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may assist in delaying the emergence of some tumours due to their anti-cancer properties. However, no research directly links chia seeds with cancer. Studies have suggested that it might be helpful. Research is ongoing despite the absence of evidence.

Research Sources

Chia seeds and digestive issues 

Choking hazard of chia seeds 

Chia seeds and allergy 

Chia seeds and diabetes 

Chia seed and blood pressure

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