My Bad Night: Chia Seeds and Stomach Pain

Yesterday, I overdid it on chia seeds. Ouch.

I’ve been eating chia seeds for years with no problems at all. But yesterday, a few hours after drinking a chia seed drink, I started to get horrible stomach cramps.

Photo: Dominika Komender
Photo: Dominika Komender

I had no other symptoms — no chills, no fever, just pain. I ate dinner, which made it worse. And, by evening I was in severe pain. Nothing seemed to help — not peppermint tea, not lying down, not even my trusty hot water bottle.

I did a little bit of research and found out that I had made a mistake, which led to my suffering.

At lunch, I had sprinkled some dry chia seeds  all over my salad. Then I also made chia seed iced tea. When I made the tea, I messed up: I didn’t let the chia seeds soak long enough to absorb all the liquid. Doing a little research, I found that chia seeds suck up water and expand to almost 10 times their original size.

So, if you eat them dry and you don’t drink a lot of water, or if you don’t let them soak enough, then they expand in your stomach. That means they’re absorbing water from your body, which causes a tummy ache, bloating and gas.

I was up all night, unable to sleep but almost doubled over from pain if I got up. I did drink a big glass of water. I wasn’t sure if it was too late, but it seemed to help a little bit.

So, here’s what I did wrong:

I ate dry chia seeds on my salad without drinking a glass of water. Then, I drank my chia seed tea even though I knew the seeds hadn’t absorbed their full amount of liquid. This caused my gastrointestinal distress.

Here’s how to avoid stomach pain after eating chia seeds:

  1. Start slow. If you’re new to chia seeds, start out by introducing small amounts into your diet. I’d recommend starting with a half teaspoon in a smoothie or soup. If you don’t experience any side effects, slowly increase the amount over time.
  2. Drink water. If you’re eating dry seeds, drink plenty of water with your meal. Just based on my experience, I’d suggest you use no more than a teaspoon (maybe even half a teaspoon) sprinkled onto your food at one time.
  3. Make a chia gel. One way to make sure your chia has fully absorbed all the water it’s going to is to make a gel that you keep in your fridge. Then, you can add a scoop of gel to your food instead of adding dry seeds.
  4. Grind your chia seeds. Some people who have had digestive problems after eating chia have had success in avoiding further issues by grinding their seed. I haven’t done this, but it’s something to try.

Have you had any stomach issues after trying chia seeds? If so, were you able to resolve the issue? How? Leave a comment & let us know.