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When it comes to lists of the world’s healthiest foods, chia seeds are on it – but, if you’re adding them to your diet in an attempt to embrace the benefits of chia seeds, there’s something you need to know – chia seeds can cause bloating! Here’s why and how to stop it …
This article was reviewed by Jennifer May, Clinical Nutritionist. See more about her and our editorial accuracy process here
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Why Can Chia Seeds Cause Bloating?
I discovered this quite some years ago when chia seeds were still a bit exciting and new and every PR out there was putting them in bars and puddings.
I would try these things and then puff up like the proverbial balloon. But, 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.’
On top of this, chia seeds 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 the gut bacteria in your digestive system to go a bit haywire – with bloating a common symptom. Eating too many chia seeds in one go can also lead to diarrhoea for the same reason.
Those are the two main reasons why chia seeds cause gas and bloating, but you might be wondering if there’s anything else to blame
Do Chia Seeds Contain Gluten?
They don’t – so, if you do bloat after eating chia seeds, gluten is not the reason behind it. However, if you’re eating chia bars, chia puddings or other prepared goods with chia in them, double-check the label to make sure they don’t have any gluten in them.
Are Chia Seeds FODMAP-Friendly?
FODMAPs are a type of sugar that can ferment in the gut leading to a lot of gas and bloating.
Eaten on their own, chia seeds are classed as a low FODMAP food, with a suggested portion of 2 tbsp unlikely to cause any gas or bloating, according to the team at Monash University.
However, if you’re consuming your chia seeds via the drink chia fresca, or via chia puddings or any other form containing agave as an added ingredient then, you might get symptoms after consuming the drink that you’re blaming on the chia – but actually, it’s to do with the agave.
Agave is high in fructose and even just 1 tablespoon is classed as a high FODMAP food.
Try the drink without agave and see if still causes you problems – if not, the fructose was your issue, not your chia seeds. If you still get bloating, it’s like to be the seeds
Honey is also another FODMAP food that you might add to chia drinks and it too can be the actual cause of your bloating.
Do Chia Seeds Cause Constipation?
They can – and this could also be a reason why they trigger bloating.
Now, this might surprise you as normally foods with as much fibre in 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). However some people with IBS can find chia seeds cause constipation instead.
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.
You can download some templates below and don’t forget to check out our post on writing a good food diary.
How to Stop Bloating from Chia Seeds
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, if you just 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 if this happens in your stomach it 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.
You can also pop a spoonful into a bottle of water. They turn into a gloopy gel onto which you can 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.
Soaking seeds is a better idea than 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. About 1 tbsp of chia seeds is all you need a day and to start with try spreading this out throughout the day by adding a sprinkle to each meal and you’ll reduce the risk of your gut bugs having a chia party.
Can The Internal Shower Cause Bloating?
The internal shower is a Tik Tok trend drink made from chia seeds, lemon juice and water that it’s claimed will ‘cleanse’ your system (spoiler, it won’t)
When this drink trend hit TikTok, this post got a sudden surge of interest – probably from people bloating after drinking their internal shower!!
It’s pretty easy to see why. It contains A LOT of chia seeds and, so even though they’re soaked in liquid, which normally helps reduce bloating, that many consumed at once if you’re not used to a high-fibre diet is likely to be a recipe for bloating.
Admittedly, plenty of people consuming it do find that they do go to the toilet quite soon after drinking it – aha, it must be a miracle cleanse, you’re saying – yeah, not so fast.
While it might sound like the chia seeds go marauding straight through your digestive system like some kind of detox army annihilating toxins in their path, that’s not what happens.
While it’s true that the fibre in chia seeds is likely to make you more regular, the effects of this aren’t instant. Instead, as nutritionist Molly Warner told us in our article on keeping a symptom diary for bloating, the rapid results of the internal shower are actually more likely to be triggered by the fact that it’s a thick gloopy drink.
When this enters the stomach and the chia seeds start to expand further, the stretch receptors in your stomach will actually tell your bowel ‘food, incoming, get rid of the last lot’ – causing you to need the bathroom. The same thing happens every time Mr Wellness Nerd drinks psyllium husk!
It’s not any magic detox cleansing your system (there is nothing that cleanses your system better than your kidneys do), it’s basically just your body’s way of making some room.
How Long Does Bloating From Chia Seeds Last?
Most bloating only lasts 2-3 hours, after this point, the gas starts to naturally dissipate.
If you want to speed things along a bit quicker, try drinking some peppermint tea, going for a walk or doing some other gentle exercise – for some more specific tips, check out our guide on quick ways to reduce bloating here.
Oh, and if your bloating doesn’t go up and down. If it’s also accompanied by symptoms like loss of appetite, changes in bowel habits or pain, then please do see a doctor just to make sure it’s not anything that needs some extra attention.
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 it’s 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 – have antioxidants and just 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.
So, there you have it – the reason why chia seeds can cause bloating and how to fix it if it affects you. If you have any more questions, drop me a line in the comments
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.