The C-word is certainly an unpleasant one. In fact, there’s nothing that makes you feel as uncomfortable and sick to your stomach. But as much as we dislike experiencing constipation (yes, this C-word), it’s pretty much unavoidable. While the old-school solution would be to head to the doctors, snack on some fibre-rich dates or do some light movement to stimulate your bowel movements, we’re now living in a time where TikTok seems to house the cure to most of our dilemmas.
Yep, amongst the sea of WIEIAD (for any non-TikToker, that’s short for ‘What I Eat In A Day’) videos and endless ‘Proffee’ how-tos (again for the non-TikTokers here, that’s a fat-burning protein and coffee drink), there seems to be no shortage of quick fixes and trending hacks associated with body transformations, detoxing and other diet culture terms. Case in point: the latest trend dubbed the ‘internal shower’.
Just like a normal, or should I say external(?), shower cleans the outside of your body, an ‘internal shower’ claims to clean your insides by flushing out your system, removing all toxins and relieving constipation quicker than you can run to the nearest bathroom.
The three-ingredient chia seed-based drink has racked up over 67 million views on the video-sharing platform, with many TikTokers filming themselves making and drinking the recipe to see if it actually lives up to the hype.
“I haven’t pooped in two days,” TikToker @jacvanek says in her video that has now gained over 386k likes and 25k shares, later revealing “it worked”.
Although intended to relieve IBS symptoms and help treat irregular bowel movements, hard stools and flatulence, TikTok users have shifted the discourse, now using the “crunchy little boba” brew as a weight loss trick. Surprise, surprise.
So, what exactly is the ‘internal shower’? And most importantly, how safe is this new TikTok trend? We break down everything below to find out whether this hack is fact or just pure… shit.
What is TikTok’s ‘internal shower’ drink?
The ‘internal shower’ drink requires you to follow the below steps:
- Add two tablespoons of chia seeds to at least 250ml of water
- Add the juice of at least one lemon
- Let the concoction sit for 10 minutes or until the chia seeds become gelatinous, then stir and drink it
- … Run to the bathroom
Some TikTokers add a pinch of salt to the mixture, which helps stimulate gut movements faster, and other users have also noted you must vigorously stir the drink every few minutes during the waiting period to avoid seed clumping and an unpleasant texture.
Where did the ‘internal shower’ trend originate from?
Celebrity nutritionist and author Dr Daryl Gioffre is widely touted as the creator of this fad. In a recent Instagram post, Dr Gioffre explained his “constipation reliever shot” is a “powerful concoction [he] created years ago to help [him] with his own gut issues.”
However, its roots have been linked to cultural appropriation, as TikTok user @_mimzilla (Mimi), and our pals at R29 Australia have highlighted.
“This is not a trend — this is an ancient Aztec and Mayan tradition,” Mimi explained in a video speaking about the roots of the drink.
She went on to explain that the drink has been around for centuries and is traditionally known as ‘Iskiate’ and ‘agua de chia’ (‘chia water’).
“These drinks are sacred”, Mimi concluded. “Please honour things the way they should be. Don’t rename them, get it right.”
How does the ‘internal shower’ relieve constipation?
How does a three-ingredient drink relieve constipation so quickly, you may wonder? It’s because chia seeds are a fibre powerhouse, explains dietitian and founder of Verde Nutrition Co, Chloe McLeod.
“Chia seeds are rich in fibre — two tablespoons will provide around eight grams of fibre, which is nearly a third of the average person’s daily needs. Adding water to fibre will help move food and waste along your digestive tract.”
It’s recommended the average adult woman consumes 25 grams of fibre each day and 30 grams for men, but most Australians don’t often reach those goals.
Additionally, chia seeds are also rich in protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and antioxidants. As for the lemon, it doesn’t serve any fibrous benefit but does provide a dash of much-needed taste (judging from the unpleasant facial expressions of many TikTokers skulling the drink down) and a hit of vitamin C.
Is this trend safe?
For most people, the ‘internal shower’ is unlikely to cause any real harm and can be a great solution if you’re not hitting your fibre targets.
But – and there’s a big but – it could actually end up having the opposite effect.
“Two tablespoons of chia seeds is a lot of fibre to be adding in at once,” McLeod warns. “It could make you more constipated and cause other upset gut symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, gas and pain.”
“If you don’t regularly eat a lot of fibre, you could end up uncomfortable and spending either too much or too little time in the bathroom.”
It’s also crucial to note that this trend has gained popularity because of its inherent link to diet culture, evident in TikTokers labelling the drink a “hormonal cleanse” and “post-weekend drinking detox.” But – and I cannot stress this enough – this will not undo any “damage” from eating and drinking unhealthily. If this is your sole purpose, think twice before falling prey to this trend as it can become seriously threatening to your health and even damage your body’s natural bowel movements.
On the other hand, if your goal is genuinely to relieve constipation, bloating or IBS symptoms when needed, this is an easy and quick solution to incorporate into your diet. Just be mindful to slowly integrate it into your regimen to avoid any discomfort or, ahem, explosive diarrhoea.
“I would suggest starting with a smaller serving, maybe two teaspoons of chia, in the same large glass of water and working it up over time,” McLeod advises.
What’s the bottom line?
We can look to TikTok and other social media platforms with confidence when it comes to entertaining dance routines, cute pet videos and helpful beauty product reviews. But health and wellness hacks that gain attention in this fast-paced (rarely fact-checked) digital space? The majority of these should be approached with a grain of salt since crucial information is easily lost in the hurricane of content being posted and shared.
Even if you’re not meeting your daily fibre intake, the ‘internal shower’ is just like any laxative and therefore shouldn’t be something you should rely on, especially for long periods of time. Instead, focus on consuming a diet full of fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water and focusing on gentle movements like walking and yoga.
Before making any changes to your diet, ensure you seek advice from your GP or another qualified health provider, who will be able to recommend the best solution for your individual needs.
Juna Xu is a freelance writer with a passion for all things health, wellness and beauty. Follow her on Instagram @juna.xu.