Chia Seed Allergy Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Chia seed is one of the most nutritious seeds that everyone should eat to maintain a healthy body and well-being. This seed contains omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, fibers, vitamins, and minerals. All these nutrients are enjoyed by people who consume chia seeds regularly. Unfortunately, not all can readily enjoy chia seed and its benefits because there are people who are allergic to it. This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, tests, and treatments for chia seed allergy.

Chia Seed Allergy Causes

Chia seed allergy is a type of food allergy, which is an exaggerated immune response triggered by substances found in food. Substances that trigger allergic reaction are called allergens. Proteins are the most common allergens found in foods like chia seeds.

Although rare, some people can be allergic to chia seeds. Their immune system mistakenly identifies a protein in chia seed as dangerous foreign body similar to viruses, bacteria, and toxins.

Thinking that the protein is going to attack the body, the immune system triggers an allergic reaction causing the appearance of symptoms.

Symptoms of Chia Seed Allergy

The symptoms of chia seed allergy are similar to the symptoms of food allergy which include hives, wheezing, abdominal pain, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, fainting, stomach cramps, vomiting, nasal congestion, nausea, runny nose, itching of the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, and lips, and swelling of the eyelids, face, lips, and tongue. These symptoms usually begin within two hours after eating.

The life threatening symptoms of chia seeds allergy are tightening of the lungs, drop in blood pressure, and swelling of the lungs.

Diagnosis

After experiencing symptoms, you can be tested if you are indeed allergic to chia seeds. Your doctor will perform skin test or blood test.

In skin test, a substance from chia seed is made to scratch on the skin. The appearance of rash or bump in the skin can confirm chia seed allergy.

In blood test, the amount of immunoglobulin E is measured in blood. A rise in immunoglobulin E indicates a recent allergic reaction.

Besides skin and blood test, a provocative (challenge) testing can also be done. In this test, the patient is allowed to eat a small amount of chia seed but under medical supervision as this test provokes severe allergic reactions.

Treatments

The only proven treatment for chia seed allergy is to avoid eating chia seed. Discontinue eating chia seeds if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above. Then ask your doctor to administer allergy tests on you to determine if chia seed triggers allergic reaction into your body.

Antihistamines can be taken to relieve the symptoms. Epinephrine shot should be administered if the symptoms are already serious (e.g. tightening of the lungs).

 

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

wayne coates April 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Having worked with chia for 20 years I have never seen any documented evidence about such an allergy. In fact just the opposite, tests have shown no allergies in even nut sensitive people.

When such a claim as chia being an allergen and no data or source of data is provided one should immediately question the source and authenticity of the claim.
For more technical information on chia go to http://www.azchia.com/research

Wayne Coates

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Shane April 5, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I have started taking chia seeds about a week ago. I get hives after I take the seeds in water soaked for 30 min. I thought I might be detoxing or the like. I will get rashes on my hands and stomach. My hands will itch for hours on the front and back. I do not have any other allergies to speak of. Any info would be great.
Thanks

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admin April 6, 2011 at 8:03 am

If you continuously experience those symptoms after eating chia seeds, you better ask your doctor to test you with chia seed allergy. If you indeed have allergy, you need to stop eating chia seeds. It is the only treatment. Thanks for visiting this site.

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Michelle MacKany June 7, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I experienced anaphylaxis and was rushed to an er where i was treated for many days after having what i estimate to be LESS than a teaspoon of my toddler’s organic juice bag which containted three ingredients: butternut squash, apple, Salba. Further allergy testing indicated that I am highly allergic to anything within the sesame family, including chia. Be careful, folks!

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Gretta May 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Chia CAN cause an allergic reaction, however uncommon! I ate chia seeds for the first time last night and experienced my first ever severe allergic reaction to food. I thought I was having an asthma attack initially, but it did not subside with time or the use of my inhaler. My asthma has never been severe or required emergency medical attention, but that is what it initially felt like. My lungs got tighter very quickly over the coarse of about 1 minute and my throat began to tighten. Once I realized I was having an allergic reaction and not an asthmatic episode (closing of throat and no response to inhaled steroid medication for breathing) I quickly chewed some benadryl tablets while dialing 911.

I am fine. The allergy pills did the trick and no serious medical attention was required. I will be having a proper allergy test by my naturopath and physician to be sure that was the cause, but the only other ingredients in what I had were all things I had eaten before with no allergic reaction at all (buckwheat, hemp seed & sea salt). I have never eaten anything that had chia in it, nor do I have any nut or seed allergies. I am very disappointed because I have heard so many positive notes about chia’s nutritional benefits, but I think it is very important to note that an allergic reaction absolutely IS possible…..even in somebody like me with no known food allergies.

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Tiffany July 11, 2011 at 1:02 am

I had the same experience after eating chia seeds… About 10 min after eating I became faint, rapid heart rate, tongue and throat swelling… I, too, took benadryl right away and went to the ER… It took steroids to decrease the swelling of my tongue and throat. I have no known food allergies… until now. It was the only new thing that I have started in my diet… I will see an allergist to confirm. I am troubled by the sites selling chia that claim there are no allergies known to chia seeds when I have found numerous reported incidents.

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Julian May 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I think I have experienced a sever allergic reaction to these seeds. I bought some a few weeks ago and started to suffer bloating and stomach cramps. I had no idea what so ever that the Chia seeds might have anything to do with it. I was treated for Giardia (a parasitic infection of the intestine) and all my symptoms seemed to go away nicely. Until I started back on the Chia seeds. Now simply eating a teaspoon of them gives me severe diarrhea, bloating and stomach cramps. It’s a shame they have this effect on me because they are meant to hold many health benefits.

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v July 14, 2011 at 3:10 am

I never been allergic to anything untill i eat the chia seeds. It gave me hives all over my neck and chest seconds of having it. So yes it can give you an allergic reaction. This is the first allergic reaction i ever had.

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sam September 3, 2011 at 10:06 pm

I do have food allergies, but only certain fruits and ragweed. Purchased chia seeds from local health food store unaware that I would have any problems. Within 5 minutes of eating I was swelling head to toe, hives all over, weezing, mouth and entire face swelling. Had to go to ER to get IV benadryl and steroids. My worst allergic reaction yet.

Oh well! Just another food item I cannot eat :(

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Rebella October 25, 2011 at 7:29 am

I had my first ever allergic reaction after eating a chia/flax mix, and I know I’m not allergic to flax. My eyes were crazy itchy, and started to produce jelly, and I got hives all over my face and back. I went to the hospital and it went away with benadryl. First for me!

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marva November 8, 2011 at 4:30 am

Salvia hispanica is very common, these side effects are ignored by so many and it’s important to point them out. The commercial media stresses out it’s benefits and it’s high vegetable omega 3 levels, ignoring the reason for which it’s not as common in Europe as it is in the US. Many mix it up with the clary sage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7l2Z7H_xIg though they are very different in the agriculture level and the fatty acid profile.

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Roberto Mejia November 30, 2011 at 10:41 am

I found this site when I was looking for a site linking Chia and Runny Nose. My nose is running like crazy! Where’s my box of tissues??? So I too have been using it but if I used up to 3-4 Tbsp, I had no reactions. Now I took like 1/4 cup soaked in one sitting, and woke up with runny nose and on and off all day. Extremely rare for me. I never get sick (colds, sore throats, NOTHING), and maybe get runny nose slightly for a little bit but this is an ALL day runny nose! As I sit typing, my head hangs over a small garbage can as my nose drips into it. In a way I feel that good feeling like your body is cleaning itself out. So in a way, I think if there are no other harms, as I have no other symptoms, maybe I can use this as way to detox Chemtrails out of my nasal passages and stimulate my lymphatic system. However, I am SO glad I found this out sooner than later since I was about to make a big order of Chia seed, like 30-50 lbs. Now I will probably buy more Quinoa instead. I already got like 10-12 lbs of that and hear it stores pretty good.

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Ian January 10, 2012 at 10:04 am

I tried Chia for two days, first day no problem, second day some stomach discomfort, mainly a bloated feeling, third day bad stomach cramps and nausea and a feeling like my skin is burning. I stopped eating it for a few weeks then tried it again. Same result. I was only having 2 tablespoons per day. Looks like I must be allergic.

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Diane February 26, 2012 at 1:28 am

I had no problem with chia seeds at first…adding 1-2 tbs to my morning shake and an extra glass of water afterwards just in case. After about a week or two I started to experience painful bloating, stomach pain and nausea. At one point I projectile vomited after eating my smoothie. I had no idea what the problem was since I had no problem the first week or two. Finally I stopped the shake altogether and felt fine. Then I started it again with flax and had no problem. I then added back the chia and and had the same problems. I guess I am allergic. Stinks because I’m going vegetarian and I really wanted to be able to take advantage of all the health benefits.

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kate February 29, 2012 at 5:22 am

Yesterday I tried chia seeds for the first time, I drank 1tbsp mixed into a water bottle. Today my nose has been running like CRAZY and i’ve been sneezing like a maniac. I’m allergic to hay, could there be a connection between the two?

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Janeen Covlin April 7, 2012 at 3:25 am

I have almost the same story as Diane. No problems at first, forgot about it for a week or so, then had some again, started vomiting for about 1.5hours, then the diahrea started with it for another 2 hours, just pouring out massive amounts of water after my real stool was long gone. Also major stomach pain. Finally my husband took me into the hospital I had no life to sign the admitting papers, hold my head or feet up in the wheel chair.
No detectable pulse, or blood pressure for a long time, I was ICE COLD. There where all kinds of doctors and nurses there trying different things to get a response, but NOTHING. and when the nurse said a prayer over me, I kind of mentally realize that this was serious but didn’t have the energy or emotion to care. they had 2 IV’s going into me as fast as they could, trying to get my blood pressure up enough to give me Epiniphrine. When they finally got a reading, they gave me it…THAT’S when I THOUGHT I was going to die!! (felt like my chest and head where going to blow right off!!) but I guess it saved me. Took me the rest of the day and evening to get my kidneys working again and to warm up (with 17 hot blankets!) 10 IV bags later!

At the time I thought it was food poisoning from a cucumber I salvaged. But 2 days later, I made some stirfry that I attempted to thicken with chia seeds…vomited twice, hours later.

2 days after THAT…I mixed up a glass of water and chia seeds. For some reason I had a REALLY hard time getting it down, my body just did not want to pick up that glass and drink it. But I forced myself. 2 hours later I was vomiting again! 5 Times! I hadn’t put 2+2 together before but now I was starting to see a pattern…I took the bag of chia seeds with me into the hospital to mention the idea. THey didn’t think it could be from that.
Gave me antibiotic prescription (which I didn’t take) and that was it.

I felt fine between bouts and I feel fine now.

When I read about allergies to chia…it’s mostly respitory stuff and hives. I didn’t have any of that…just what I described. So is it an allergy or what?? I wish someone would tell me what’s going on…I’m not to anxious to try it again just to confirm!

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Bonnie Gannett November 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I sent to my chiropractor today and was having a hard time breathinh. He adjusted me and i was breathing ok again but had a weird reaction to the adjustment. He told me to call back if it didnt calm down in a cpl hours. Thankfully it passed. Iave been feeling weird in my chest last few days. Im going on week 2 of chia. I wonder if it has anyrhing to do with it? My husband and i both have had runny or stuffed noses but they go away so I didnt think much of it. Reading this stuff now im wondering as im having a hard time going to sleep right now after being up almost 24 hours

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eian_lim December 1, 2012 at 11:57 am

im on my 2nd day of chia seeds and all ive experience so far is runny nose, which is why i googled it and brought me to this website. although im not so sure if im allergic or not, upside i dont think i have carb cravings at all.

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SA December 21, 2012 at 12:09 am

Janeen, I have experienced nausea as well as wheezing and rapid heart rate with nasal drip immediately after eating chia seeds. My nausea came on with a dense, heavy feeling in my lower stomach, sans cramping. I know it was chia as I made sure it was the only new thing each time I tried it. Sometimes the symptoms were more intense, sometimes more mild. It did not follow a progressive sequence (meaning, if I had chia last week and again today, it’s not as if last week’s symptoms were less than today’s). I also always took a rather small amount, embedded on flakes of cereal or in trail mix. I’d say 1-1.5 cups of cereal or trail mix, speckled with chia seeds. Now, I just avoid chia; even if my reaction is mild, I don’t want it!

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Ralina February 3, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Hi everyone,

I too suffered a severe allergic reaction to chia seeds with stomach cramps, vomiting and fainting. Went to ER. Tried them again and same reaction. Same for a friend in another state.

It appears that people with a low diamine oxidase (DOA) have this problem with digestion. Some assistance can be gotten with Mangosteen, Yerba Mate tea, and coconut oil. I would offer that you may need to raise levels of DOA in order to digest this wonderful seed. Best of luck.

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Georgia March 3, 2013 at 8:06 am

Hello there,
I’m writing because I’m not sure if I should be worried. A couple of days ago a friend of mine was telling me about chia seeds and let me have a bite of her chia pudding (made with coconut milk and honey). The next day I woke up and ONE of my eyelids was swollen. I see above that this is one of the reactions possibly caused by chia seeds. I really would like to include chia seeds in my diet but not sure if I should tread lightly. I did go to the doctor and he couldn’t figure out what it was either. He told me to put a hot compress on it in case it was a sty (which he couldn’t find a bump for) and take Claritin or Benadryl in case it was an allergy. I took one Benadryl that same evening and the next morning my eye was a bit more swollen. I used a hot compress 3 times that day and by the end of the day my eye was better. On the third day, I woke up and my eye was puffier that the morning before. I haven’t had chia seeds since, but wondering if I should or shouldn’t. Any ideas or thoughts? Thanks in advance.

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Ross March 23, 2013 at 4:31 am

Ive had bloating,acute cramping and loose stool off and on for weeks now. Finally isolated the problem and its for sure the chia seed! I wouldn’t wish the pain on my enemies. I thought anything from giardia to food poisoning to ulcer and anything in between. Had stool samples done,nothing. No symptoms,no chia for 2 weeks. Decided to do a juice cleanse with my girl who eats chia every day we added some to our first batch, 3 sips later cramps and diareaha to show for it. Careful with this stuff.

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Heather Kauffman May 8, 2013 at 10:12 pm

My 15 month old had some toddler food that had Selba (Chia seed) in it. She had had all of the ingredients before except the Selba. Each time she had it had severe vomiting within 1 hour (I unfortunately did not make the conection until the 3rd time, just thought there was something wrong with the first 2 pouches she had). She vomited all of her stomach contents for a good hour or more after she started. She has not been eating very well for about a week following this last reaction and reading here, she may be having some cramping and bloating. She was seen by her Pediatrician, who had not heard of this seed let alone an allergy to it. I am going to pass some of this info on to them! She has been ordered an epi pen just in case her syptoms worsen with accidental exposure. So we are avoiding nuts and seeds until age 2 on recommendation of the allergist that the pediatrician consulted. We are avoiding Happy Tot products, Super Grain Selba is in a lot of these products. Hope this helps someone!

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~Joshua May 9, 2013 at 12:28 am

Yay, I was fine taking chia for a few weeks and then I started getting stomach cramps something awful. I think my appendix was having a negative reaction to them as well. Tests at the doctor take so long though that by the time they got around to doing them I was pretty much fine. Happened to me three times before I concluded it was the chia. Ate a little bit by itself for breakfast and that’s when I knew.

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Darren Brown May 9, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Taken chia for 6 months no problem. the one day had 2 tablespoons in a pint of water as usual and experienced the worst stomach pain ever for about 5 hours (no diarrhea or vormiting). I intitially thought I had eaten some bad fish the day before. Next day I took chia and again intense stomach pain for 5 hours. I had nothing else to eat that day so relised it must be the chia. The packet had been open a few weeks but refridgerated. I guessed it may have gone off so I threw it away and bought a new packet however this time as I was a bit scared I only took half a teaspoon in a pint of water, and again 5 hours of intense pain. I guess I can’t take it again but this really annoys me as I had it for the first 6 months with no symptoms and I really do want to take this superfood for its high fibre, omegas and protein benefits.

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Marva Kerr May 17, 2013 at 10:40 am

I had chia seeds for the first time last Thursday night, by 1 A.M Friday morning I woke up with hives and itching all over. Got to the emergency room at the hospital with my tongue swollen my mouth could not close. they had to give me oxygen and Benadryl IV

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Canella July 24, 2013 at 1:36 am

I tried Chia seeds for the first time today, they were handed out at a Marathon Expo. I decided to put the Chia seeds in with my applesauce and 2 hours after I ate I felt nauseated and vomited. I do not plan to continue take these again.

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TTT October 17, 2013 at 1:59 am

I am glad I am not alone, although I only feel flush and my face turned visibly red. I believe it is an alergic reaction and will seek testing. I have never been alergic to any food before, including sesame seeds. Thanks again for the forum and the posts.

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Lori November 19, 2013 at 2:14 am

Ate 1T of chia seeds on salad for first time 6:00pm last night, trying to increase fiber and omega 3 in diet. Woke this morning at 3:30am with headache and full blown asthma attack. Did two nebulizer treatments and took prednisone I have on hand. Still have a mild wheeze in my lungs and will go to dr. if not clear this afternoon.

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Allison November 20, 2013 at 5:52 am

I tried chia seeds for the first time today. Two pinches into my 3 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt with honey. I have had Greek yogurt before and the honey, just chia seeds were the new ingredient. Went for a walk on a trail with two little ones and then literally 2 hours from eating the chia seed mixture I had bad cramping! I didn’t know if I was going to make it back to my car or would have to stop at a stranger’s home to use their bathroom. Ended up needing to go to someone’s home in the neighborhood because (tmi) I could not stop it from coming out! Then after what felt like buckets of sweat I was okay and could get in my car to leave to go home. Made it to my parking spot then had to run to the side if the road to throw up. Two pinches and this happens?? There should be warnings. So bummed I can’t eat it since it boasts of so many helpful qualities. That totally wiped out my morning! Thankfully it wasn’t as bad of a reaction like some who had to go to the hospital! I do have an msg allergy…wonder if they have any connection??

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mimi February 19, 2014 at 7:48 pm

heloo everyone…
I would like to know if anyone feels pain in elbows , knees or a waking up with hands trapped??? difficulty in moving them as usual…after using chia ?
I am diabetic and it works with sugar levels…but I realize after eating them this happens…
thanks and have a lovey day

mimi

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