Chia seed is known for its nutritional and medicinal properties. However, allergic reaction to chia seeds is not too common, but it does occur. Although, chia seeds are popular due to their huge benefits, but the chia seed allergy is a current concern and symptoms of its allergic reaction can be fatal and life threatening.

What is chia seed allergy?

Chia seed allergy is basically a hypersensitivity reaction to chia seeds that occurs due to the consumption of it in excess. Chia seeds act as an allergen in some individuals, which is otherwise popular as a healthy choice.

Causes

Chia seed allergy is mainly caused due to malfunctioning of the immune system. Most of the individuals do not react to chia seed and are absolutely okay consuming it on a regular basis while the immune system of some react adversely to chia proteins by recognizing them as foreign pathogens and launching attack against them. This is done by the production of antibodies. These antibodies (Immunoglobulin E) engulf the foreign proteins and signal the immune system to release histamines and other harmful chemicals triggering allergic reactions throughout the body.

Allergic reaction to chia seed is also triggered due to cross-reactivity either between chia seed and certain foods that are close to chia taxonomically or in some other way such as thyme, oregano, mustard and sesame. Thus, if an individual is allergic to any of these, it is obvious that he would be allergic to chia seed as well.

Symptoms of chia seed allergy

Like most food allergies, symptoms of chia seed allergy are widespread. Mild symptoms include the following:

  1. Skin rashes
  2. Watery eyes
  3. Hives
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Gas
  6. Bloating

Severe symptoms due to chia seeds

Severe symptoms include the following:

  1. Swelling of tongue, mouth and throat
  2. Troubled breathing
  3. Nausea or vomiting
  4. Extreme form of diarrhea

Chia seed allergy can be fatal

Chia seed allergy can be of fatal, life-threatening form. It is known as anaphylaxis and is marked by the following symptoms:

  1. Severe drop in blood pressure
  2. Decrease in lung function
  3. Flushing
  4. Severe rashes
  5. Fainting or loss of consciousness

Diagnosis of Chia Seed allergy

Chia seed allergy is a rare occasion, hence if allergic symptoms persist, it is necessary to get it diagnosed for appropriate treatment. Assuming it to be some other disorder would lead to wrong treatment and worsen the consequences. For a confirmed result, seeking help of the formal diagnostic centers is the wisest thing to do. Chia seed allergy diagnosis is done with the help of skin prick or skin scratch test. A small portion of the skin is either pricked with the help of a needle or scratched and a small amount of allergen extract is applied over the pricked or scratched skin to check for the emergence of rashes or bumps. If the result is positive, it is a confirmed case of chia seed allergy.

Risk factors

Anyone can turn allergic to chia seeds, but there are always some dominant factors, which heighten the risk of developing allergic reactions.

Such factors are discussed in detail:

Geographical location

Chia seed is considered as ‘super food’ in many geographical locations in the recent era due to its amazing health benefits. However, its popularity is still confined to Central and Southern America probably due to its easy availability. Hence, the people out there are at greater risk of developing allergic reactions to chia seeds as compared to people dwelling anywhere else in the world.

Frequency of chia seed intake

It has been found that chia seed intake is more in people suffering from heart diseases and those who acknowledge its medicinal properties. The risk of developing allergic reactions remains more in them as compared to people who do not consume chia seeds.

Complications

It is simpler to manage the complications of a known form of food allergy whereas chia seed allergy greatly remains unknown or uncommon. There is a danger associated with rarely occurring allergies that they are left undiagnosed for a longer time and accordingly untreated. If proper treatment is provided immediately after the onset of symptoms, chances of complications reduce up to a considerable extent.

Chia seed allergy if left untreated for a longer time period, leads to fatal symptoms including life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction. Complications demand a trip to the emergency room for adequate treatment and follow-ups.

Allergies associated with chia seed allergy

If chia seed allergy is detected in an individual, it is mostly recommended to avoid other members belonging to the family of chia seeds as well due to strong possibility of cross-reactivity. Allergic reactions to all these seeds such as oregano, mustard, thyme and sesame can be considered to be allergies associated with chia seed allergy.

Treatment of Chia Seed allergy

Allergists usually advise a patient of chia seed allergy to avoid consuming chia seeds in order to prevent him from facing hazardous consequences in future. As a preventive treatment, it is also recommended to avoid mustard, sesame, oregano and thyme.

The symptoms of chia seed allergy can be treated with the help of anti-histamines. These are available easily over-the-counters. Severe symptoms are mainly dealt with prescribed steroid medications. Anaphylaxis reaction is treated with epinephrine (adrenaline) injections. As a preventive measure, individuals prone to anaphylaxis are suggested to carry auto-injectors of epinephrine along with them almost all the time. For their treatment to be complete, close monitoring is essential which can only be made possible with a trip to emergency room.

Dietary changes and caution

Food allergies can be greatly avoided by being a little more cautious about diet. Likewise, allergic reactions triggering from chia seeds can be reduced marginally by being on a regimented diet devoid of chia seeds. Besides chia seeds, all the associated seeds of the same family should not be included in the diet. Nutritionists might suggest emphasizing on a diet comprising of chia seeds due to its enormous health benefits but those who are allergic to them should consult their nutritionists for alternatives.

Mustard and oregano have great usage as spice. While dining out, special care should be taken so that these are not present as ingredients in the dish of choice. One might be on an elimination diet in terms of Chia seed free food but consuming any of these associated seeds might possibly put him at risk of developing allergy. While purchasing any foodstuff, labels should be read without failure.