Chia Seeds and Constipation

Bowl of yogurt with blueberries, bananas, strawberries, and chia seeds

Verywell / Zorica Lakonic

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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. See what research has to say about the health benefits of chia seeds.

What Chia Seeds Are

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 acids, antioxidants, 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.

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.

Their high fiber level suggests 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.

Additional 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.

Research on Chia and Constipation

While there are anecdotes of IBS patients saying chia seeds have had an extremely positive effect on their systems, there don't yet appear to be research studies to back this up. Flaxseed, which shares similar omega-3 qualities, has some limited research support for easing constipation.

The reason chia seeds may work to ease constipation is that they take on a gel-like consistency when they absorb water. This may help with optimal stool formation, keeping stools moister 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:

  • Start slowly to allow your system time to adjust.
  • According to U.S. dietary recommendations for protein intake, about 5 oz. each week should come from nuts, seeds and soy products—including chia seeds.
  • Make sure to drink plenty of water.
  • Unlike flaxseed, chia seeds do not need to be ground to benefit from their nutritional components.
  • You may want to pre-soak the seeds before eating to maximize their gel-like qualities.
  • You can add chia seeds to smoothies, eat them as a pudding, sprinkle on cereal or salad, or incorporate them into baked goods.
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