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Always Soak Your Chia Seeds Otherwise It Can Lead To Disastrous Results

Ch-ch-ch-chia-nges, turn and face the strange.


Dr. Beccy Corkill


Dr. Beccy Corkill

Custom Content Manager

Beccy is a custom content producer who holds a PhD in Biological Science, a Master’s in Parasites and Disease Vectors, and a Bachelor’s in Human Biology and Forensic Science.

Custom Content Manager

Heap of highly nutritious chia seeds inside a glass bowl. Chia seeds or Salvia hispanica, also called Salba chia or Mexican chia, are the edible seeds of a flowering plant from the mint family.

Chia seeds can increase up to 27 times their weight when put into liquid. 

Image credit: Trending Now/

In the last few years, there has been a growing trend in chowing down on some chia seeds – normally in ice-cold smoothies or, for the fancy, on top of creamy yogurt parfaits. On some health sites, it recommends that you pre-soak the seeds before consuming them, but, unfortunately for one person, they did not listen to that advice.

Back in 2014, a case report described a 39-year-old man who came into the emergency room with bad pain in the top of his stomach and couldn’t swallow anything (including his own saliva). It turned out that 12 hours before he went to see the doctors, he swallowed a tablespoon of dry chia seeds and they proceeded to chug down a glass of water.


Chia seeds are nutritious minute nuggets of fiber and protein and come with many wild and wonderful health benefits. Along with being high in omega-3 fatty acids, people take them as a way to promote weight loss, while also improving glycemic control and cardiovascular health. They are also a blast from the past, as they used to be part of the terracotta “pets” that children (or fun adults) used to grow seeds onto, to make a nice green, bouncy hair-do.

One of the attributes of these seeds is that when added to water they form a hydrogel capsule which ends up absorbing up to 27 times their weight in water. Often, that may be seen as an advantageous point as this can cause people to feel full. However, in this case, the doctors found a clumpy gel blockage. These were the seeds that had expanded post-ingestion after the immediate consumption of water and in turn, blocked the esophagus.  

“It was a gel of these seeds, the consistency was similar to Playdoh – not solid, but not a liquid. That's what made it very difficult to remove the obstruction – we initially tried using an adult endoscope...We tried to push the mass or gel of chia seeds through to the stomach. But because of the consistency, the seeds would just go around the scope,” lead author Dr Rebecca Rawl told wbur.

After many attempts to try and dislodge this gel mass, the team finally used a neonatal gastroscope to push small amounts of chia seed gel into the stomach. They did this until the giant chia blob was all in the stomach.


This is a very rare account (the first of its kind reported), but it is recommended that people should not be eating the seeds dry – it is best to let them expand fully in some liquid before consuming.

The report is published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.  


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