When it comes to online health hacks, it seems I’m always going down a rabbit hole. Short clips on TikTok about boosting your well-being with a few easy steps are enticing — but there’s no guarantee they’ll work, or even be safe to try. I recently learned about a viral trend called the “internal shower” drink, which claims to act as a laxative. TikTokers are chugging these to relieve constipation and bloating.
Staying regular is important, and clearing your bowels is necessary before procedures like colonoscopies. But is this ‘internal shower’ doctor-approved or ill-advised? To get the scoop on whether the trend is safe to try at home, we consulted medical toxicologist Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD.
What is the internal shower trend?
Before addressing safety concerns, let’s define what the internal shower drink is. This makeshift beverage contains chia seeds, water, and lemon. Yep — just three ingredients that will supposedly keep your stools in tip-top shape as long as you’re drinking them regularly.
The reason? Chia seeds are packed with soluble fiber and mucilage (the substance that gives the wet seeds a gluey texture). These two fibers are credited with slowing down digestion, helping you avoid blood sugar spikes, and keeping bowel movements healthy. Chia seeds have many benefits, but you should still be mindful about how you consume them.
Is an internal shower drink safe?
Dr. Johnson-Arbor believes the occasional use of chia seeds in your diet is great — they’re full of fiber, after all. But she also recommends you speak with your doctor before starting any chia seed dietary regimen, including the internal shower. This is especially true if you have gastrointestinal conditions, asthma, or allergies.
“Chia seeds can absorb up to 15 times their weight in water,” she explains. “After they are swallowed, the seeds come into contact with fluids in our gastrointestinal system and enlarge in size.”
This effect caused esophageal obstruction in a patient who had consumed chia seeds and water, according to a 2014 American Journal of Gastroenterology case report. Ultimately, the patient underwent an endoscopy (a surgical procedure) for relief.
Dr. Johnson-Arbor also highlights a 2015 case report that showed how chia seeds could trigger allergies. “In one case, a person with a history of asthma and environmental allergies developed a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after consuming chia seeds as a way to lower his cholesterol levels,” she adds.
What does this mean for you?
Although chia seeds are a popular superfood, proceed with caution before trying the internal shower trend. “For social media trends that involve medical issues, I recommend that people discuss the concepts with their doctors before trying them,” Dr. Johnson-Arbor concludes.
She also notes that you can always contact Poison Control at poison.org or 1-800-222-1222 for non-judgmental, confidential, and expert advice on health hazards.