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Grave warning issued over popular health food

Experts have issued a warning about a common mistake some people make when eating chia seeds.


Experts have issued a warning about a common mistake some people make when eating chia seeds.

The antioxidant-rich superfood is known to improve digestion and ease constipation – but, if consumed without liquid, can form “a concrete-like mass in your digestive tract”, which can lead to them getting stuck.

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Numerous videos suggesting eating and drinking chia seeds have gone viral recently after many claimed the seeds could be used to aid dieting.

“Chia seeds can absorb up to 27 times their own weight in water, so please don’t eat it dry, or you’ll be seeing a GI doctor soon,” gastroenterologist at California’s UCLA Health, Dr Wendi Lebrett, said in a popular video on TikTok.

In the clip, Dr Lebrett shared an image of a ball of chia seeds impacted in a person’s oesophagus – the passage that connects the mouth to the stomach.

To avoid such an incident, she advised drinking plenty of water while eating chia seeds, and to always soak them first, “otherwise it can form a thick, gloopy concrete-like mass”.

Dr Lebrett also referred to a 2014 report published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, detailing the case of a 39-year-old man with impacted chia seeds in his oesophagus.

The patient, who also suffered from asthma, presented at a hospital in North Carolina, complaining he was having trouble swallowing.

About 12 hours before seeking medical attention, he told doctors he’d swallowed a tablespoon of dry chia seeds – with tests confirming a “gel of hydrated chia seeds” had obstructed his oesophagus.

The man ultimately required an endoscopy to push the chia seeds into his stomach and resolve the blockage.

Left untreated, an oesophageal blockage can lead to difficulty swallowing, inability to eat, trouble breathing, and tearing of the oesophagus.

“Patients should never consume dry chia seeds. They can absorb many times their weight in water and expand and may become lodged in a patient’s oesophagus, especially if there is a history of swallowing problems,” the report’s authors said.

“However when used properly, chia seeds are safe. They should only be mixed with sufficient amounts of liquid to allow them to expand before consumption.”

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