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The Benefits of Chia Seeds for IBS

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Chia seeds are the new darling of the superfood world, and for good reason. High in antioxidants, phytonutrients, micronutrients, and minerals, a daily serving of as little as two tablespoons of chia seeds provides a significant amount of iron, magnesium, calcium, dietary fiber, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B1 (thiamine), and vitamin B3 (niacin).

Chia seeds come from the mint family of plants. They are the seeds of Salvia hispanica, native to Central and South Mexico and Guatemala. The small black or white seeds can be added to legumes, stews, or patties, or made into a savory caviar. But most popularly they are used in deserts or mixed with yogurt, berries and/or grains and refrigerated overnight to absorb the flavors and produce a delicious nutrient-dense, light morning pudding. 

According to a 2022 review, Chia seeds are a rich source of phytochemicals, which are plant-based chemicals known to promote health and help disease prevention. Chia seeds contain chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol, which are believed to have a defensive reaction for the heart and liver, and contain “age-defying and anti-cancerous properties”. 

Are Chia Seeds IBS-Friendly? 

When soaked, chia seeds swell and expand creating a mostly tasteless fluid-filled bubble-like gel, much like fish eggs. Chia is high in cellulose, a dietary fiber that stays intact as it passes through the small intestine, reducing constipation and supporting intestinal function. 

Chia seeds are also high in soluble fiber called mucilage, a gelatinous solution that is easily digested, making them a valuable source of general fiber and a welcomed addition to the diet for anyone suffering from the symptoms of IBS

Can Chia Seeds Help with IBS Symptoms?

Although chia seeds are not considered a cure or therapy for IBS, they do contain a multitude of beneficial properties for gut health that may help regulate bowel movements and digestion.   

Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and caffeic acid. Omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation in the intestines and improve the integrity of the intestinal barrier. As many IBS patients present with gut barrier permeability and low-grade inflammation driven by gut dysbiosis, chia seeds may help manage certain symptoms such as bloating, gas, pain, diarrhea, and nausea. Caffeic acid also provides antioxidant activities, helping to alleviate inflammation

How do Chia Seeds Affect the Microbiome?

A 2022 animal model found that consuming chia “improved intestinal morphology and functionality in young Wistar rats but was insufficient to promote significant changes in the intestinal microbiome in a short term of 35 days.” This means that while chia did increase the production of short-chain fatty acids, and improved fecal moisture, it did not affect diversity and abundance of intestinal bacteria. 

The good news is that chia seeds are a prebiotic food due to their high fiber compound, and prebiotic foods lay the foundation for the proliferation of healthy probiotics in the gut. Foods that encourage the growth of good gut bacteria are a welcome and necessary part of a gut-healthy diet, so if you enjoy them, they may be included in your diet in balanced amounts. 

Are Chia Seeds Fodmap-Friendly? 

Many IBS patients find it helpful to follow a low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that are not easily absorbed by the intestines. 

According to Monash University, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds are low in FODMAP. However, due to their high fiber content, moderation is advised. Excessive fiber may also affect the ability of the gut to absorb essential minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron from foods,

As is usually recommended when introducing new foods into your diet, it’s best to try a small amount and observe your body’s reaction over the next few days before slowly building up your intake. Allergies from chia seeds are rare.

Tips for Eating Chia Seeds

Chia seeds must be soaked. They can be added to any liquid for soaking, and are delicious when soaked in coconut water, coconut milk or cream, yogurt, or any milk of your choice. They are very sticky, so it is advised to have a toothpick handy when you’re eating them as they do get stuck between the teeth. But the benefits of including them are well worth it, as chia seeds are a valuable part of an anti-inflammatory diet for those suffering from IBS. 

Rebecca Bermeister

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Rebecca Bermeister

DISCLAIMER

This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or healthcare professional regarding any medical or health-related diagnosis or treatment options. The claims made regarding specific products in this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

Rebecca Bermeister

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