How to Eat Chia Seeds Without Getting Constipated or Bloated
In recent years, the nutrient-dense chia seed has taken the health food industry by storm – and rightfully so. Loaded with nutrients like calcium, omega-3s, iron and vitamin E, chia seeds can offer a wide range of health benefits (to learn more about the health benefits of chia seeds, check out the article Why Eating Chia Seeds is Good for You). However, some people have reported side effects, such as constipation and bloating, following the ingestion of chia seeds. Interestingly, other people have found the fiber-rich seeds to improve bowel movement, and in some cases, even cause diarrhea. Also the ancient Aztecs, who swore by the health benefits of chia seeds, used these 'super seeds' as a remedy for constipation.
Whether chia seeds cause or cure constipation depends largely on how you prepare and use them. In this article, we provide tips on how to prepare and eat chia seeds in such a way as to minimize their potential negative effects on your gastrointestinal health.
Tip 1: Start slowly
The gel-like consistency of soaked chia seeds is quite different from most foods we eat on a daily basis, and it may take some time for your body to adjust to these mucilaginous seeds. To incorporate chia seeds into your daily diet, start with a small amount and increase your intake gradually as your body gets used to the new food. This can help minimize your risk of experiencing unwanted gastrointestinal side effects such as hard stools or constipation, abdominal bloating, or diarrhea.
Tip 2: Use a Smaller Dose
Most producers and resellers of chia recommend a daily dose of 2 tablespoons, although some recommendations have been as high as 6 tablespoons of chia seeds per day. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that these dosages (2 - 6 tablespoons) may be way too high for some people. If you experience constipation or any other form of intestinal distress after consuming the standard recommended dose of chia seeds, consider adjusting the amount to 1 to 2 teaspoons.
Tip 3: Up Your Water Intake
Drinking more water may be the single most important tip for eating chia seeds without gastrointestinal side effects such as constipation and hard stools. These tiny seeds suck up moisture in your body like a sponge, and in order to compensate for the moisture, you will need to drink more water. Fruit juices and (most) herbal teas will also help fulfill your body's daily requirement for water, but be wary of coffee, tea and caffeine-containing energy drinks such as Red Bull, which have dehydrating properties.
Tip 4: Soak the Seeds
Yet another way to prevent chia seeks from causing constipation and hard stools is to pre-soak these fluid-absorbing seeds in water or other liquid before eating them. This way, the seeds will have soaked almost all the fluid they can absorb before entering your digestive system, so they won't suck up too much fluid from your digestive tract. The minimum time for soaking chia seeds is 10-15 minutes, and the recommended seeds-to-liquid ratio is 1:9.
Tip 5: Listen to Your Body
If you've followed all the tips provided above but still feel that chia seeds are causing gastrointestinal problems, listen to your body and stop eating them. Your intestinal tract may simply not be suited for processing these mucilaginous seeds effectively. Also, should you experience any other side effects from eating chia seeds, stop eating them.