As someone who has dealt with “plumbing” issues for as long as I can remember, I’m intrigued (and tempted) by any wellness hack that promises better digestion. But because I’ve researched all things gut health like it’s my job, I’m also skeptical of any sounds-too-good-to-be-true trend. So when I came across the “internal shower” on TikTok, I naturally had to dig deeper. The water, chia seed, and lemon juice concoction has been touted to “shower” your digestive tract and help move things along, but does it check out? I probed the creator of the elixir, Dr. Daryl Gioffre, and asked other health experts for their opinions on whether the “internal shower” is a fading fad or worth all the hype.
What is the “internal shower?”
Although the coined term couldn’t be more obscure, the drink itself is straightforward and simple: six ounces of water, two tablespoons of chia seeds, and a squeeze of organic lemon. You’ve probably heard of chia seeds but may have never tried the so-called superfood. The little (usually black) seeds are packed with antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids, and they form a gel-like consistency when mixed with liquid. While they’re taking center stage in the latest TikTok wellness sensation, chia seeds have been a staple in the ancient Aztec and Maya diets and used for their health benefits for centuries.
Dr. Daryl Gioffre, celebrity nutritionist, author of Get Off Your Sugar and Get Off Your Acid, and the brains behind the viral beverage, came up with the recipe after years of suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and bouts of constipation, diarrhea, and bloody stools. “I started experimenting and realized that two tablespoons of chia seeds was the perfect amount for my gut-healing tonic, as it gave me 10 grams of fiber (about 30% of our required daily intake) and the same amount of omega-3 fatty acids as four ounces of salmon, which is essential for lowering inflammation in the GI tract, a big component of constipation,” Dr. Gioffre said. To get the most out of the shot, Dr. Gioffre suggested taking it on an empty stomach: a minimum of 30 minutes before eating and at least 90 minutes after.
How does it work?
If you’re still not convinced that the chia seed is all that it’s cracked up to be, sit tight. “Chia seeds are an incredible source of both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, which makes them great for constipation,” explained Erin Judge, a registered dietitian specialized in digestive disorders and founder of Gutivate. “Soluble fiber helps with softening and forming stool so it can pass more easily through the bowels, and insoluble fiber provides roughage to the stool to increase gut motility, or the speed stool moves through the intestines.”
Combining the nutrient-rich supplement with water, in this case, is where the magic happens. “The internal shower trend is simply hydrating chia seeds and consuming a significant portion quickly,” Judge stated. “Not only will the chia seeds start stimulating movement in the intestines as they move through, but the water will also aid in movement. For those who are constipated, this may help stimulate movement that releases stored stool, or what’s backed up in the colon, and help with regularity as the chia seeds continue to move through the entire GI tract.” Dr. Hendriks, a board-certified physician and functional medicine practitioner at Salvo Health, added that lemon juice, the third ingredient of the beverage, contains citric acid, which can stimulate the stomach to produce gastric acid to help digestion. TikTok gimmick or not, chia seeds and lemon are going in my well-being toolkit.
Should you try it?
The viral trend has over 189 million views and counting on TikTok, so it’s probably worth a shot (pun intended), right? “If you are looking for ways to increase your fiber and fluid intake, I see no harm in giving this a shot, but there are probably some more fun and tasty ways to achieve the same goal,” Dr. Hendriks answered. “My one caution is that an abrupt increase in fiber intake can lead to gas and bloating for some people, so gradually increasing these fiber-rich foods and monitoring for symptoms is important.” Judge cautioned that for those who have gut inflammation, damage to the gut, or diverticulitis/diverticulosis, the chia seeds may cause even more irritation, which could lead to severe pain and diarrhea.
If the “internal shower” is not your kind of #TikTokMadeMeDoIt, Jenn Baswick, a registered dietitian, certified intuitive eating counselor, body image coach, and founder of The Intuitive Nutritionist, suggested adding chia seeds (one tablespoon to start) to foods that are already part of your diet, like yogurt, oatmeal, or a smoothie, or gradually incorporating other sources of fiber to your meal rotation (think: whole grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds). Dr. Hendriks recommended replacing chia seeds with flaxseed, which has a slightly lower total amount of fiber content and a greater percentage of soluble fiber, if you experience gas and bloating when consuming chia seeds. But you can’t go wrong with good ol’ fruits and veggies. “One of the best ways to increase your fiber intake is by consuming two to three more servings of colorful fruits and vegetables per day, so you not only get the gut-friendly fiber but all of the health-promoting phytonutrients as well,” Dr. Hendriks said.
As with any wellness hack, there’s no one-size-fits-all cure-all. Judge expressed that it may be best to consult with a registered dietitian who specializes in digestion for a more personalized approach. Baswick left us with this final piece of advice: “Take a step back, question its credibility, do some research from credible sources, like registered dietitians and doctors, and ask yourself if it’s really worth it or enjoyable for you and your body to do. Don’t force yourself to drink something just because it’s trending on TikTok.”