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The ‘internal shower’ drink promises to cure constipation and bloating. Does it work?

The drink is essentially chia seed water, which can help get things moving, experts say.

You can always count on TikTok for a diet or fitness trend promising to transform your health. The latest viral health hack? The “internal shower” drink.

The hashtag #internalshower currently has more than 70 million posts with 228 million views on TikTok. The videos range from people trying the trend to relieve digestive symptoms like bloating and constipation to registered dietitians weighing in on its effectiveness.

So, what exactly is this drink that people claim will really get your bowels moving — and does it actually work?

To make the 'internal shower' drink you combine chia seeds with water and fresh lemon juice.
To make the 'internal shower' drink you combine chia seeds with water and fresh lemon juice.Getty Images

What is the "internal shower" drink?

The drink is a combination of water, chia seeds and lemon juice. The trend can be traced back to Daryl Gioffre, D.C., a celebrity nutritionist and author of "Get Off Your Acid" and "Get Off Your Sugar," whose "internal shower shot" consists of 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, 6 ounces of water, the juice of 1 slice of lemon and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

The recipe has morphed a bit as it’s gone viral on TikTok. The current recipe making the rounds is:

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • A cup of water

To make the "internal shower" drink, mix all the ingredients together and let them sit for five minutes until the chia seeds start to form a gel.

People claim that the drink has helped them battle constipation and reduce bloating, and that it subdues hunger, filling them up for hours after drinking it. One user said it feels like “it’s cleaning you out from the inside.” But others say the texture is weird, and it’s a bit hard to "choke down."

The health benefits of the ‘internal shower’ drink

Does this trendy sip really live up to the hype? 

“Theoretically, yes,” said registered dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth, nutrition expert and author of “Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen. “The chia seeds and water will help promote digestion and could help you go to the bathroom easier. And yes, the (alpha-linolenic acid) in chia seeds do fight inflammation when included in the diet regularly.”

The benefits of all three ingredients are well documented for overall health and gut health. So it’s not far-fetched that mixing the three together would deliver a health punch in a glass.

Chia seeds are packed with fiber, and 95% of people don’t meet the daily target for this nutrient. The soluble fiber in these seeds can help make your stool softer so it’s easier for you to go to the bathroom,” Samantha Cassetty, a registered dietitian based in New York City and the co-author of “Sugar Shock,” told TODAY.

“Water also helps move your bowel movements along. When you don’t drink enough water, your body borrows it from your stool to make up for the insufficiency. That creates hard stool that’s difficult to pass. But sufficient water intake can help keep bowel movements soft and may help relieve constipation. Lemons have antibacterial properties that may help prevent diarrhea. Plus, a high dose of vitamin C was found to promote beneficial shifts in the microbiome. The shifts were associated with less inflammation, which is a sign of good gut health. Of course, lemons are high in vitamin C.”

“The combo can potentially work because it’s bringing needed fiber and water, which helps alleviate constipation. And the soluble fiber in chia seeds may be especially beneficial for this purpose,” Cassetty added.

Want to try the "internal shower"? Start slow

If you’re new to this much fiber, start slowly and see how you do. Adjust the chia seeds so you’re starting with one to two teaspoons and then you can increase from there,” Cassetty advised. “Also be mindful of meeting your fluid needs. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t boil down to one drink. But if you tolerate it well and want to drink it daily, and you’re not exceeding your overall fiber needs, it should be OK. However, you can get too much fiber, and if you boost your intake too quickly, it can backfire and lead to constipation. That’s why I recommend starting slow.”

And don’t expect miracles to happen overnight: “Does it have the ability to decrease inflammation? Yes, it does, but only if you stay consistent with drinking it,” Brittany Carpenter, a registered dietitian nutritionist who addressed the trend in a TikTok video, told TODAY. “If you are using the internal shower to produce a bowel movement from occasional constipation, you may only need to drink it once. If you are looking to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits, you would need to drink it consistently, at least several times per week. Drinking it one time will not produce an effect strong enough to impact your long-term health.”

Other tasty ways to reap the benefits of chia seeds

“The most beneficial aspect of this ‘internal shower’ trend is found in the chia seeds. There are various ways to incorporate chia seeds into your everyday diet,” said Carpenter. She recommends a vanilla chia pudding: Combine 6-8 ounces of unsweetened almond milk with 1-2 dates in a high-powered blender. Blend until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons of chia seeds and a splash of vanilla. Refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight.

Largeman-Roth likes using chia seeds in pudding pops. Registered dietician Blair Cooley, who also addressed the trend in a TikTok video that's racked up 4 million views, demoed turning chia seeds into a jam from her cookbook, “10 Ingredients or Less". She defrosts 1 cup of frozen berries and mashes them down with a fork before adding about 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, 2 tablespoons of water and an optional dash of maple syrup or honey. "Once combined, place in your fridge for about an hour to let the chia seeds absorb the liquid and gelatinize, then you have a fiber-packed yummy jam!” she said. “I’ve been known to eat it right from the container."

Cassetty suggested other ways to put chia seeds to work in the kitchen:

  • Use them to garnish avocado and nut-butter toast.
  •  Stir them into hot or cold oats.
  • Add them to baked goods.
  • Mix them with other drinks, like unsweetened iced tea.

Are there any downsides to drinking the "internal shower"?

“The biggest issue is that increasing your fiber too quickly can lead to constipation, making you feel worse,” said Cassetty. “Also, too much fiber isn’t necessarily a good thing, so if this drink brings you over your daily targets, you may experience gas, bloating and cramping. Excessive fiber can also interfere with nutrient absorption, which may result in inadequate calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.”

Cooley agreed, stressing that focusing on your water intake is also key: “When it comes to constipation, I always say your best friends are the two F’s: fiber and fluids. Chia seeds pack an impressive amount of fiber and coupling that with water, you have a match made in heaven. If you are going to start incorporating chia seeds into your diet, depending on your daily intake of fiber, if you’re not drinking enough water to accompany the increase in fiber, it can bulk up your stool and cause constipation. So please ensure that you are hitting your daily water goals along with fiber!”

Largeman-Roth recommends sticking to no more than one 8-ounce glass of this mixture daily. “More than that could lead to stomach cramping and possibly diarrhea. Two tablespoons of chia seeds have 6 grams of fiber, which isn’t a crazy amount, but if you’re not used to a high-fiber diet, it could be too much all at once,” she said. She also cautions: "If you don’t wait until the seeds are fully hydrated, they could get stuck in your throat and block the esophagus. And this drink wouldn’t be advisable for children, babies or anyone with difficulty swallowing. People with diverticulitis should also avoid this drink.”

The bottom line

Can sipping an “internal shower” help get things moving? Possibly. And dietitians agree that most people could likely benefit from getting an extra dose of fiber, vitamin C-rich lemon and water. But they also caution against labeling it a miracle cure and say it may not work for everyone.

“This drink isn’t a magic bullet,” said Cassetty. “Healthy digestion also comes down to the other foods you’re eating and drinking, if you have a consistent exercise routine, which helps, how slowly you eat and thoroughly you chew, and how you de-stress.”

And chronic constipation is likely something you cannot cure with a drink. “It is important to note that if you have underlying reasons for the constipation, something I investigate in my clients, this drink may not work for you,” said Carpenter. “Underlying reasons for chronic constipation may include a diet low in fiber, intestinal methanogen overgrowth, lack of digestive enzymes, improper electrolyte and mineral balance, food sensitivities and more. My TikTok was filled with comments from people who it did and did not work for. This is a great example of how nutrition recommendations truly do need to be individualized.”

The general consensus is: It can’t hurt, if you enjoy it. “With anything, I will always say to check with your doctor prior to eating, especially if you have existing medical/GI conditions, allergies, etc.,” advised Cooley. “Start small, be mindful of any changes you notice and adjust from there!”