What is the 'internal shower' and is it harmful?

TikTok’s new trend vows to flush out toxins and clear the bowels but is it just another fad? We asked the experts
What is the 'internal shower' and is it harmful?

Chia seeds, the key ingredient of the 'internal shower' are high in fibre, antioxidants, and Omega-3.

I have finally reached that age where everything younger people do makes no sense to me — I judge their actions and behaviours without hesitation, and browsing the IKEA catalogue has become a new kind of middle-aged foreplay.

39 is an in-between age, not yet 40, not quite 30 either. It’s an age where you begin to wonder whether you have any right to be on platforms like TikTok and then you see Gerry Adams shuffling about to 'Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile' as if he’s shuffling off this mortal coil, and you begin to think that maybe, you’re not too out of place after all.

There is one thing, however, that is always on my mind and that is my bowels; the movements, the regularity, and the ability they have to completely derail a perfectly enjoyable afternoon perambulating the countryside with no public toilet in sight.

While toilet-related things, in general, are still somewhat of a taboo, (you never hear someone disclose the machinations of their weak sphincter at the Tipperary water cooler) a new TikTok trend is getting people talking about bowel and gut health.

The internal shower is a new drink that is doing the rounds on TikTok, and people are swearing by its efficacy in alleviating constipation. It involves mixing two tablespoonfuls of chia seeds and the juice of half a lemon into a glass of water. There are currently over 228.1m views on the social media platform and many credit Dr Daryl Gioffre as the creator, a chiropractor nutritionist and founder of a range of anti-acid products he sells online. 

The 'internal shower'  combines chia seeds with lemon and water, and claims to evacuate the bowels. 
The 'internal shower'  combines chia seeds with lemon and water, and claims to evacuate the bowels. 

Before I take the plunge and purge my own insides, I put a poll on Instagram asking my followers whether they had tried it. 29% had, so I contacted Rachel from Kildare to ask about her experience.

“It was like I was in a different body,” says Rachel. While the results weren’t immediate for her, she did have a bowel movement the next morning and felt relieved.

“Don’t expect instant results”, she told me, it happened overnight for her. “That was about a month ago and I’ve been regular every day since. I suffered so bad. No more laxatives.” 

While the trend seems harmless enough to a lay person, anything that garners so much widespread attention on social media has the ability to become ‘a fad.’ I'm thinking of the Kylie Jenner lip challenge as one particularly harmful instance. 

Dr Ann-Marie Eustace Ryan is a gut health expert and a consultant gastroenterologist at Tipperary University Hospital. While the internal shower may be a passing trend, it’s a great starting point for opening up honest conversations about gut health, says Dr Eustace Ryan. Fibre is prevalent in chia seeds and is an essential factor in maintaining good gut health, she says. It lowers cholesterol and reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular disease. People with Parkinson’s can also experience some relief from a high-fibre diet, says Eustace Ryan since the muscles that affect body movement are stifled.

“I honestly don't think it will do any harm and it could just do quite a bit of good. I’m more into a healthy, balanced diet. It’s all about fibre really; all our health, our future health, our present health.” 

Dr Eustace Ryan advocates for a healthy, balanced diet and advises not to rely on ‘fads’ like the internal shower.

“Eating fibre all the time is the only way to assure that you'll have good health for your life. It's 90% how you live and 10% genetics. Even if both your parents have died in their 40s of heart disease, you're not definitely going to get it, if you alter your lifestyle accordingly.” 

Blaithin O’Neill is a registered dietician and sports nutritionist based out of West Cork Wellness Clinic in Skibbereen. Chia seeds are an excellent source of soluble fibre, says O’Neill. When chia seeds are mixed with water, they expand and transform into a gel-like paste, says O’Neill. This action also takes place inside the body, says O’Neill and the chia seeds attract waste materials in the body, like hard stools that are causing blockages.

“So basically, it’s a detox from constipation, things like chia seeds or even flax seeds soften the stools, and it's easier to go to the toilet.” 

Chia seeds also have high levels of Omega-3, says O’Neill, something she recommends her clients to look for, whether that’s in natural sources or in a supplement. While O’Neill believes that the drink is not harmful, she is mindful that it may encourage unhealthy preoccupations with opting for a “quick fix” rather than adopting a balanced approach.

“I think it's probably too extreme. You don't need to necessarily have a drink full of chia seeds in order to help digestion. You can simply incorporate those foods into your diet and drink plenty of fluid.” Instead of drinking the chia seeds, she recommends putting them on your overnight oats with chia seeds or in smoothies.

O'Neill says downing chia seeds in water and lemon in one go can be unpalatable and recommends adding the seeds to overnight oats or fresh chia seed puddings, like this one with chocolate, bananas and cashew.
O'Neill says downing chia seeds in water and lemon in one go can be unpalatable and recommends adding the seeds to overnight oats or fresh chia seed puddings, like this one with chocolate, bananas and cashew.

As someone who suffers with gut and bowel issues, I am worried that taking the drink may be too much fibre all at once. O’Neill says that introducing a huge amount of fibre into your diet all of a sudden can lead to abdominal pain, bloating, gas or discomfort. It should be approached with caution, she says, especially if you are not used to fibre in your diet.

What about removing the chia seeds and just opting for lemon and water? It’s certainly not harmful, but there is also no evidence to support the theory that it aids digestion and neutralises acid. There’s no fibre in lemon water, says O’Neill but certainly if someone enjoys it, it won’t have a negative, or indeed any significant impact on your digestive system.

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up