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Chia seeds side effects

Potential side effects and disadvantages of chia seeds

Chia seeds offer numerous health benefits, but excessive consumption may result in adverse effects. Learn more in this article.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
Chia seeds disadvantages: Potential side effects
Last updated on January 16, 2024, and last reviewed by an expert on September 26, 2023.

Chia seeds are a great nutritional addition to your meals. However, consuming them in excess might interfere with certain medications and they can be a choking risk.

Chia seeds disadvantages: Potential side effects

Originating from the Salvia hispanica plant, chia seeds are both nutritious and versatile.

You can find them in various dishes like puddings, flapjacks, and layered desserts.

One cool feature of chia seeds is their capacity to soak up liquids, turning into a jelly-like substance. This makes them a popular choice for thickening recipes or even replacing eggs in vegan baking.

Beyond their culinary uses, chia seeds stand out for their remarkable nutrient content and potential health advantages.

Still, it’s important to note that while they’re beneficial for most people, overdoing it can lead to some unwanted reactions.

This article delves into the potential downsides of overconsuming chia seeds.

The goodness of chia seeds

A key reason many include chia seeds in their diet is their rich nutrition. They’re packed with fiber, protein, beneficial fats, and essential minerals.

A mere 1 ounce (around 28 grams) of chia seeds can fulfill up to 42% of your daily fiber need. Plus, you get a healthy amount of phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and omega-3s.

Moreover, they have a strong antioxidant presence, which helps combat oxidative damage and might lower chronic disease risks.

Given their nutrient density, it’s no surprise chia seeds are tied to numerous health perks.

Research showed that a diet with nopal cactus, soy protein, oats, and chia seeds led to weight loss, reduced blood fats, and less inflammation.

Furthermore, chia seeds are among the top plant sources for omega-3s. Omega-3s can boost “good” HDL cholesterol, lessen “bad” LDL cholesterol, trim down blood fats, and combat inflammation.

When enjoyed in the right amounts, chia seeds can uplift your health.

Summary: Chia seeds, filled with fiber, protein, omega-3s, antioxidants, and essential minerals, can support weight management, diminish inflammation, and balance cholesterol levels.

Too many chia seeds might upset your stomach

Chia seeds are rich in fiber, offering 11 grams for every 1-ounce (28-gram) portion.

Chia seeds: Nutrition, health benefits, and downsides
Suggested read: Chia seeds: Nutrition, health benefits, and downsides

While fiber is vital for health, aiding digestion and nourishing gut-friendly bacteria, too much of it isn’t always a good thing.

Overconsumption of fiber can lead to stomach discomforts like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.

The risk of these problems rises if you eat a lot of fiber without drinking enough water. Water helps fiber move smoothly through your digestive system.

Those with conditions like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease should be cautious. When they’re having a flare-up, they might want to cut back on chia seeds and other high-fiber foods.

While long-term high fiber intake can guard against such inflammatory bowel conditions, during active flare-ups, it’s wise to limit fiber temporarily to ease symptoms.

For the majority, to avoid digestive problems, it’s best to gradually introduce fiber into the diet and stay well-hydrated.

Summary: Consuming lots of fiber can sometimes lead to digestive discomforts. Individuals with certain bowel conditions might need to be extra cautious with chia seeds during active symptoms.

Chia seeds can pose a choking hazard

While chia seeds are generally safe, they can pose a choking risk. This is particularly true for those who have trouble swallowing.

The risk arises from chia seeds’ ability to expand up to 10–12 times their size when they encounter water.

Suggested read: 6 super healthy seeds you should eat

While this expansion trait is handy in recipes, it can be dangerous if the seeds block the throat.

An instance was recorded where a 39-year-old individual swallowed a spoonful of dry chia seeds and then drank water. The seeds expanded inside his throat, causing an obstruction. He had to seek emergency medical attention to clear it.

To stay safe, always pre-soak chia seeds for at least 5–10 minutes before eating. Those who have swallowing issues should be extra careful with chia seeds.

Summary: Due to their ability to swell significantly in the presence of water, dry chia seeds can pose a choking risk. Always soak them before consumption, especially if you have difficulty swallowing.

Chia seeds have a rich content of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a kind of omega-3 fatty acid mainly found in plants.

We all need omega-3 fats in our diets, as they promote brain health and are good for the heart.

People who don’t eat fish can benefit from ALA since it can change into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), even if in tiny amounts. You can primarily find these active omega-3 forms in seafood.

While omega-3s are usually seen as health boosters, some research suggests a link between ALA intake and prostate cancer.

A significant study involving 288,268 men pointed out that consuming ALA might increase the chances of advanced prostate cancer.

Another study highlighted that individuals with high omega-3 levels in the blood faced a greater prostate cancer risk than those with lower levels.

Yet, the findings aren’t consistent. Some studies suggest that ALA can actually guard against prostate cancer.

A review of five different studies revealed that those consuming at least 1.5 grams of ALA daily had a lower prostate cancer risk than those consuming less.

Suggested read: 11 proven health benefits of chia seeds

Another extensive study with 840,242 participants found that consuming more ALA was linked to a reduced prostate cancer risk.

However, it’s vital to note that these studies only examined the link between ALA and prostate cancer without considering other influencing factors.

More research is essential to clarify the connection between ALA and prostate cancer risk.

Summary: There’s mixed evidence regarding ALA intake and prostate cancer risk. Some suggest it increases the risk, while others believe it might reduce it. More investigations are crucial.

Allergic reactions to chia seeds

Though rare, some individuals might have an allergic reaction after consuming chia seeds.

Signs of food allergies can range from vomiting, diarrhea, and lip or tongue itchiness.

In extreme scenarios, allergies might cause anaphylaxis, a serious condition leading to breathing issues and throat and chest tightness.

There have been instances of chia seed allergies, albeit rare.

In a particular case, a man aged 54 ate chia seeds to manage his cholesterol but soon faced symptoms like dizziness, breathing difficulty, hives, and swelling.

If you try chia seeds and notice any allergic reactions, stop eating them and seek medical advice immediately.

Summary: Though uncommon, chia seeds can cause allergic reactions in some people, manifesting in symptoms like stomach issues, itchiness, or even more severe signs. If you notice any symptoms, it’s best to consult a medical professional.

Potential medication interactions with chia seed consumption

While chia seeds are generally safe, if you’re on medications for blood sugar or blood pressure, it’s wise to watch your intake.

Consuming chia seeds in large amounts might alter the effectiveness of some of these medicines.

Medications for diabetes

Research indicates chia seeds can significantly reduce blood sugar levels.

This is probably because chia seeds are fiber-rich, which can delay sugar absorption into the bloodstream, helping in stabilizing blood sugar.

For many with diabetes, moderate chia seed consumption can be beneficial in managing blood sugar.

But, remember that insulin doses are tailored for individuals to manage blood sugar fluctuations.

Consuming too many chia seeds might cause a drop in blood sugar, which might need some adjustments in your diabetes medication dosage.

Suggested read: The 7 best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids

Medications for blood pressure

Chia seeds also have properties that help in reducing blood pressure.

A study revealed that consuming chia seeds for a span of 12 weeks led to a drop in blood pressure, along with signs of reduced blood sugar and inflammation.

This is because these seeds are packed with omega-3 fats known to have properties of blood thinning and can help in lowering blood pressure.

In a study involving 90 individuals with raised blood pressure, omega-3 supplements over eight weeks lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 22.2 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 11.95 mm Hg. But, note that the participants were undergoing dialysis, so this finding might not apply to everyone.

Though people with high blood pressure might appreciate the blood pressure-lowering benefits of chia seeds, these seeds can intensify the effects of blood pressure medications, which might lead to extremely low blood pressure.

Summary: Chia seeds have the ability to reduce both blood sugar and pressure. If you’re on related medications, it’s crucial to adjust your chia seed intake to avoid potential conflicts.

Overall thoughts on chia seeds

Chia seeds are nutrient-dense and have numerous health advantages, making them a beneficial part of most diets.

But it’s all about balance. Consuming them in excess can have drawbacks.

If you’re just starting, try 1 ounce (28 grams) a day, and see how your body reacts before gradually increasing the amount.

Stay well-hydrated as you up your fiber consumption, and remember to soak chia seeds for a short while before eating.

If taken in moderation, chia seeds can be a great component in a well-rounded diet.

But always listen to your body. If you notice any adverse reactions after consuming chia seeds, it’s best to pause and reach out to a health expert.

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