Can Chia Seeds Ease Constipation?

chia seeds being scooped
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Although the chia plant is most famous for its use as a Chia Pet, people are starting to discover the health benefits of its seeds. In fact, some people claim that adding chia seeds to their diet has eased their symptoms of chronic constipation. Let's take a look at what research has to say about the health benefits of chia seeds.

What Are Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds are little black and white seeds that are about the size of poppy seeds.

They are the seeds from the plant, Salvia hispanica L. Long cultivated for use in Mexico and Guatemala, chia seeds have more recently gained popularity in other countries due to the fact that they are a good source of omega-3 fatty acidsantioxidants, and dietary fiber. Chia seeds are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Food manufacturers have begun to add chia seeds to cereals, baked goods, fruit juices and yogurt.

Chia Health Benefits

Based on their high level of omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are thought to help to ease inflammation and promote cardiovascular health. With their high level of antioxidants, chia seeds may help to reduce the risk of cancer. Last, their high fiber level suggest that they may have digestive health benefits and reduce the negative impact of sugar on blood sugar levels.

It is important to note that there is little research that directly ties chia seeds to these purported benefits.

Some preliminary studies have shown mixed results in terms of chia seeds promoting weight loss. Other preliminary studies have shown that eating chia seeds can result in a reduction in triglycerides and postprandial blood sugar levels, both of which would support the notion that chia seeds are good for cardiovascular health.

Can Chia Seeds Ease Constipation?

I have heard numerous positive stories from IBS patients as to how chia seeds have had an extremely positive effect on their systems. Unfortunately, to date, it does not appear that any studies have been conducted to shed some research-based light on the subject. We can make an educated guess based on the fact that flaxseed, which shares similar omega-3 qualities, has some limited research support for easing constipation.

Why might chia seeds help constipation? When chia seeds absorb water, they take on a gel-like consistency. This may help with optimal stool formation, in other words, keeping stools more moist and easy to pass. In addition, much of the fiber in chia seeds is soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is thought to be the more tolerable form of fiber for people who have IBS.

The limited research to date has not shown any negative side effects of eating chia. So, unless you have an allergy to the seeds, they might be worth a try.

How to Eat Chia Seeds

Here are some tips for incorporating chia seeds into your daily diet:

1. Start slowly to allow your system time to adjust.

2. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, limit your intake to three tablespoons per day.

3. Make sure to drink plenty of water.

4. Unlike flaxseed, chia seeds do not need to be ground in order to benefit from their nutritional components.

5. You may want to pre-soak the seeds prior to eating to maximize their gel-like qualities.

6. You can add chia seeds to smoothies, eat them as a pudding, sprinkle on cereal or salad, or incorporate them into baked goods.

Sources:

Ali, N. et.al. "The Promising Future of Chia, Salvia hispanica L." Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2012 2012:171956.

"Basic Report: 12006, Seeds, chia seeds, dried" Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Website accessed November 16, 2014.

Tarpila, S. et.al. Efficacy of ground flaxseed on constipation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research 2004 2:119-125.

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