Six-year-old Maverick of Altoona, Iowa was rushed to the emergency room last Friday night by his parents because he was enduring severe stomach cramps. His mother was concerned because Maverick had no prior history with constipation or gastrointestinal pain. Initially she tried to relieve his pain by rubbing peppermint oil on his belly along with applying a heating pack; however, the symptoms continued without reprieve. They finally made the decision to take him to the hospital where they took an x-ray and found two blockages in his colon. After an in-depth discussion with the doctor it was concluded that the obstructions were probably due to over consumption of chia seeds!
Maverick is a young lad who loves chia seeds and has been known to eat them by the spoonful. His mother thought they were a healthy after-school snack. He usually eats them in his yogurt but sometimes will consume them plain. Approximately 48 hours prior to the onset of his symptoms he ate about a ¼ – ½ cup of chia seeds and only consumed his regular intake of water. His mother was not aware, until their recent hospital visit, that chia seeds required adequate consumption of water in order to properly digest.
After spending hours in the emergency room, incurring a large out-of-pocket medical expense and watching her son in pain for hours, this mother is demanding proper labeling on chia seed packaging to ensure others don’t have to go through this trauma ever again. The mother reported, “I never thought a healthy snack could go so wrong. I thought I was doing a good thing by including chia seeds in his diet.”
Maverick’s mother is insistent the FDA should act upon this issue soon because it bears a similar health risk as ingesting psyllium husk without the proper amount of fluids. If you review the FDA labeling guideline on foods containing psyllium husk it states that the following warning is required on the packaging: “NOTICE: This food should be eaten with at least a full glass of liquid. Eating this product without enough liquid may cause choking. Do not eat this product if you have difficulty in swallowing.” (1)
According to the FDA labeling guideline notated in the Code of Federal Regulations, in order for a similar notice to be required on food packaging, a “viscous adhesive mass must be formed when the food is exposed to liquids.” Therefore, chia seeds clearly fall under this product label requirement because they become a gelatinous mass when introduced to fluids. (1)
Maverick is at home in stable condition but it could take weeks to clear the gummy chia seed blockages from his bowels. He is taking small doses of Miralax and his mother is watching his stools closely and monitoring any further cramping. She said it will be awhile before he can eat chia seeds again and that she will have to monitor his serving size and water intake very closely.
If you want to learn how to safely and deliciously incorporate chia seeds into your diet we have plenty of recipe resources for you here. Remember to drink plenty of water alongside chia seeds. We suggest limiting your daily intake of chia seeds to no more than 4 tablespoons. Feel free to share your favorite way to eat chia seeds in the comments below!
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