Even those with the healthiest digestive systems sometimes need a little extra help. As usual, a TikTok trend has a hack for this problem as it does with many minor inconveniences. A detoxing drink being called an “internal shower” consists of water, two tablespoons of chia seeds and lemon. Although chunky and seemingly unappetizing, TikTokers everywhere have been chugging the concoction in the pursuit of a productive bowel movement. According to nutritionists, it might be worth a try, but they have a few words of warning to go with it.
“Actually, this trend isn’t too crazy and can have some benefits for digestion,” says nutritionist Jennifer Hanway. First and foremost, gut health expert Kellyann Petrucci, ND, points out that water, the biggest part of the drink, is essential to digestion. “Water serves as the body’s waste-removal medium. It makes stool softer, which can prevent constipation. Water also helps break down food so your body can absorb nutrients efficiently,” says Dr. Petrucci. “Lemons have been shown to increase both gastric secretions and emptying rate. In other words, lemons can help your body break down and digest foods more efficiently.”
However, the star of the drink is the chia seeds. Noom Coach Ashley Bannister, RD points out that chia seeds’ most essential currency is that they’re high in fiber. “Chia seeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. These two fibers work together to prevent constipation. Fiber helps make bowel movements soft and easy to pass, and it keeps things moving through you quickly,” explains Miranda Galati, MHSc, RD, owner of Real Life Nutritionist. Hanway says they can also help to lower LDL cholesterol levels. The recipe calls for two tablespoons of chia seeds which equates to approximately 10 grams of fiber. This is about 40 percent of the daily recommended intake for women and 25 percent of the daily recommended intake for men, says Galati.
While the “internal shower” can be beneficial, it can also have some side effects. “Ingesting a large number of chia seeds at once can also lead to uncomfortable bloating,” warns COO of Omni-Biotic Hannah Kleinfeld. “So that’s a potential risk to keep in mind when trying this drink.”
“This popular trend may help get your bowels moving and improve regularity, but like most wellness trends on TikTok, it’s not as magical as some make it seem,” says Galati. The “internal shower” can be beneficial from time to time, but Kleinfeld notes that it’s just a short-term solution rather than a long-term approach to better digestion and gut health. Hanway also advises against drinking this concoction daily. She notes that chia seeds can swell in the GI system and cause digestion to slow down too much, which makes it imperative to consume a lot of water when you do consume the drink.
“Eating too much fiber, too quickly, can worsen constipation, bloating, gas and other uncomfortable symptoms. Fiber can be particularly bothersome if your body isn’t used to getting it in such large amounts,” warns Galati, so she suggests taking it slow if your diet isn’t already rich in fiber. “While chia seeds are a wonderful source of fiber, this cocktail might offer too much at once and have the opposite impact of what’s intended. I recommend starting with one to two teaspoons of chia seeds in a full glass of water. If your stomach isn’t bothered after a few days, try increasing the number of chia seeds slowly.”
If you’re looking for a long-term solution, Kleinfeld suggests a high-quality probiotic supplement, like Omni-Biotic Balance ($63). “Probiotics are the good bacteria that our bodies need to function well. Stress, certain medications, processed foods and alcohol diminish the good bacteria in our gut, leading to digestive discomfort and other health issues. By taking a probiotic supplement, you are replenishing the good bacteria in your gut,” she explains.
Galati suggests trying chia seeds on yogurt, toast or in a chia seed pudding for a tastier way to add fiber to your diet. “The ‘internal shower’ likely won’t be too enjoyable or effective if that’s your only source of fiber in your day. Fiber is more powerful and comfortable when you eat it consistently throughout all your meals and snacks,” says Galati.