Chia Seeds and Dysphagia: A Cautionary Case Study
the MPR take:
Chia seeds, rich in alpha-linolenic acid and high in fiber and protein, have become a popular health food item but should be used with caution by patients with dysphagia or known esophageal strictures. Rebecca Rawl, MD, MPH, from Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC describes a case study of a 39-year-old male patient with asthma and seasonal allergies and a long history of intermittent dysphagia to solids. He presented with the acute onset of persistent, severe dysphagia that had worsened over the preceding two weeks. The patient had swallowed a tablespoon of dry chia seeds followed by a glass of water 12 hours before presentation; an emergent esophagogastroduodenoscopy showed complete distal esophageal obstruction with a gel of hydrated chia seeds. Because dry chia seeds can absorb up to 27 times their weight in water, Dr. Rawl advises that patients should never consume dry chia seeds because they may expand and become lodged in the esophagus. Patients with dysphagia, known esophageal strictures, or any history of swallowing problems should use chia seeds with caution; if the esophagus becomes impacted due to expanding chia seeds, removal using endoscopic extraction tools may be necessary.
The use of chia seeds as a health food item has become more popular over the last several years.