A video went viral recently as it showed the harmful effect that chia seeds can have on the food pipe of a person. In the video, Dr Sermed Mezher can be seen explaining how chia seeds can be harmful. “Chia seeds are a popular superfood known for their impressive ability to absorb water and expand to up to 27 times their original volume when fully hydrated. This unique property makes them a valuable addition to a healthy diet, providing a rich source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and various essential nutrients.”

Dr Sermed Mezher showed the harmful impact of chia seeds on a person’s food pipe.(Instagram/@drsermedmezher)

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Dr Sermed went on to explain that the person consumed water after consuming chia seeds, which made the chia seeds soak up the water and expand, choking the food pipe. “It’s crucial to soak chia seeds in water or another liquid before consumption, allowing them to fully hydrate and expand outside the body. Typically, letting them soak for about 20-30 minutes is sufficient. This ensures that they are in their safest and most beneficial form for ingestion,” he added.

Dr Saiprasad G Lad, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Hepatologist and Therapeutic GI Endoscopist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai, in an interview with HT Lifestyle, further addressed the potential risks of consuming chia seeds.

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Potential Risks and Precautions

Water absorption:

Chia seeds can absorb a significant amount of water, up to 12 times their weight. This property allows them to form a gel-like consistency when soaked.

Adequate fluid intake:

To prevent the seeds from expanding in the oesophagus or stomach and causing discomfort, it is essential to consume them with plenty of fluids, such as water, milk or milk alternatives.

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Risks of inadequate fluid intake:

Digestive issues and bloating:

Insufficient fluid intake can cause chia seeds to expand in the stomach, leading to discomfort and bloating.

Cramps and constipation:

The high fiber content combined with inadequate hydration can result in constipation and abdominal cramps.

Food bolus impaction:

Food bolus impaction refers to a condition where a mass of food, in this case, swollen chia seeds, becomes stuck in the esophagus.

Medical emergency:

Food bolus impaction requires prompt medical intervention. An endoscopic procedure may be necessary to either remove the bolus with a basket or push it into the stomach using endoscopic instruments.

Endoscopic removal:

A medical procedure using in endoscope may be necessary to either remove the impaction with a basket tool or push the food bolus into the stomach using specialised instruments.

Risk of aspiration:

If the chia seeds enter the trachea, they can cause choking, which is a medical emergency. This situation can block the airway, leading to difficulty breathing, and in severe cases, it can be fatal if not treated promptly.