Warning: Chia Seeds Can Cause Bloating (Here’s How to Stop It)

The Huffington Post website recently teamed up with a heap of nutrition researchers and listed what they believe are the 50 healthiest foods. Number 46 was Chia Seeds. This made me happy as I’ve been eating rather a lot of them lately in the form of some chia seed bars.

About three hours later it was a case of ‘hello great big bloated stomach.’

At this point, I discovered there’s something you need to know when eating chia seeds – and that is they can cause bloating.

Chia seeds on a spoon

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Why Can Chia Seeds Cause Bloating?

My stomach swelling episode coincided very handily with a conversation I was having with nutritionist Yvonne Bishop Weston for work and so I mentioned it to her.

She told me she wasn’t hugely surprised. ‘Because chia seeds are so small if you don’t chew them very well they can get into the gut whole which means it takes time to break them down –  and while they do, they can ferment. When this happens, the fermenting chia seeds cause gas which leads to bloat.’ 

How to Fight Chia Bloat

So, does this mean you have to give up chia if it makes you bloated?

Not necessarily. ‘It’s possible to eat chia seeds and lower the risk of bloating, but you have to chew them well, or even better, grind them up before you eat them or buy ready-milled chia seeds as this creates finer particles that your body finds easier to digest’ says Yvonne.

Another option is to soak the seeds before you eat them. Chia naturally swells when it meets liquid and this happening your stomach can also be another reason for chia seed bloating.

If you soak them first though, they have already soaked up some liquid and therefore  don’t have the same effect.

You could either try ready-made chia puddings (like Chia Pods) or try making a chia pudding by soaking the seeds in milk, coconut milk or almond milk overnight. 

Soaking seeds is a better idea that simply trying to wash them down with water – this has caused problems for people with swallowing difficulties in the past and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

It’s also good to build up your chia intake slowly. Another reason why chia seeds might cause bloating is that you’re suddenly eating too many of them in one go. About 1 tbsp of chia seeds is all you need a day – add a sprinkle to each meal and all will be fine. 

Chia are very high in fibre. There’s over 9g in 1 ounce (28g) – and the sudden massive increase in the fibre levels in your diet can cause your digestive system to go a bit out of sorts – with bloating a common symptom. Try cutting back with how many you eat in one go and see if that reduces your symptoms.

Eating too many chia seeds in one go can also lead to diarrhea for the same reason.

Do Chia Seeds Cause Constipation?

They can. Which might surprise you as normally foods with as much fibre in it as chia would be good for keeping things regular (in fact, a dose of chia seeds is a great solution to constipation on the keto diet). But some people with IBS can find chia seeds cause bloating.

You see while in most of us chia seeds would make the bowels more regular, others find that they can actually make IBS-C, the type of IBS association with sluggish bowels worse. And just as chia seeds cause gas if they hang around your system too long, the same thing happens if you don’t regularly move your bowels.

So, if you know you’re prone to constipation, keep a symptom diary to see if they are triggering any kind of flare up.

Why Would You Want to Eat Chia Anyway?

For those of you who still think ‘furry green haired pet’ when you hear the word Chia, here’s a brief outline of the health benefits of chia seeds and why they’re good for you.

Chia seeds came originally from Central America where its rumoured they made up a staple part of the ancient Aztec diet. They are the seeds of the Salvia Hispanica plant, a member of the mint family.

They come in two different colours – white and black. Nutritionally there’s barely any difference between the two – although white chia seeds can cost a little bit more.

Both types of seeds are packed with omega 3 fats (weight for weight they contain more than salmon – although, admittedly it’s a lot easier to eat large portions of salmon) contain fibre – two teaspoons full provides 5g plus they have antioxidants and those two teaspoons also provide 5 per cent of your daily calcium, eight per cent of your vitamin C and one per cent of your daily iron. 

No wonder celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Miranda Kerr swear by them.

I interviewed Miranda once and she told me, ‘Chia seeds are packed with protein and I find they really help me maintain my energy.’ Not surprisingly for someone who is regularly papped and probably doesn’t want to be caught with a rapidly expanding waistline, Miranda was already up on the soaking plan. She puts hers in goat’s milk yoghurt.

You can also pop a spoonful into a bottle of water. They turn into a gloopy gel onto which you add a little lemon or lime to make a drink called chia fresca.

Don’t add too many though or it’ll go solid, this explains why chia is very, very good at keeping you full. When I was eating the seeds on yoghurt for breakfast I wasn’t hungry at all by lunch – normally I’m starving by noon.

Where to Find Some Awesome Chia Recipes.

Want some more ideas on what to do with chia? Check out these chia cookbooks.

The Chia Cookbook by Janie Hoffman. Hoffman owns chia brand Mamma Chia and this book contains some of her favourite recipes – and even has some chia cocktails which sounds like my new favourite way to consume it!

Chia Crazy Cookbook. Author Cherie Schetselaar has seven children – and using her recipes she’s even got them into eating chia – which I think deserves some kind of prize!

Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood: Wayne Coates, the author of this book was the first person I ever spoke to about chia and he’s one of the people responsible for bringing it to western attention. This book explains all about the history of chia, why it’s good for us and gives some recipes for using it.

Who is The Wellness Nerd?

My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.

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