The “internal shower” drink that’s said to be a cure for constipation is getting millions of views on TikTok. But is it safe? A Northern Virginia doctor is weighing in.
The concoction involves mixing chia seeds with water and lemon. The National Capital Poison Control Center warns that adverse health effects may occur after consuming chia seeds.
“Consumption of large amounts of chia seeds can result in an accumulation of chia seed gels and can cause obstruction of the human gastrointestinal tract — at least one individual has required hospitalization due to this,” the National Capitol Poison Control Center website says.
Chia seeds have to “be taken with enough liquid,” said Dr. Alexander Jow, a gastroenterologist with Kaiser Permanente who practices in Springfield, Virginia.
“Chia seeds are a mostly insoluble fiber, but it can absorb a really high amount of water content. So it can absorb about 12 times its weight in water,” Jow said.
Chia seeds are a good source of protein, iron, minerals, antioxidants and omega fats and fiber.
“While fiber is really important for combating constipation, sometimes you can have too much fiber,” Jow said. Chia seed is a very high-content fiber source, “but if you’re not used to getting that much fiber, sometimes having too much fiber all at once can certainly cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating, indigestion, gas symptoms; and they can actually also worsen constipation in some cases.”
There have been cases of people choking after consuming Chia seeds with little or no water.
“In one case report that was several years ago, actually, someone took a high amount of dry chia and then drank water afterward, and then it expanded in his esophagus and created a esophageal obstruction. So, those are kind of more extreme cases,” Jow said.
What about that TikTok trend though?
“If it’s done in the way that the TikTok video was recommended, which is that it’s mixed with eight to 10 ounces of water, which is adequate hydration with it, for the most part, it probably will be tolerated. But you do have to make sure that you hydrate well when you take that much Chia content.”
Before trying the more extreme chia seed “internal shower,” there are natural remedies, including a healthy diet and drinking enough water.
“It’s summertime, people get dehydrated. Certainly, dehydration is a risk factor for constipation,” Jow said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes fiber can help control blood sugar, protect your heart, maintain digestive health, and keep you feeling full to help with weight management.
Jow said most adults should be getting about 25 to 34 grams of fiber in their daily diet half of which sould come from whole grains, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pastas, whole-wheat breads, oatmeal and barley. “These are whole grains; these are high in fiber. And if you’re taking these on a daily basis, you probably are avoiding a lot of issues with constipation,” he said.
Jow recommends eating about 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit in a typical 2,000-calorie daily diet.
When should you consult your doctor about constipation?
Jow said its abnormal to have no bowel movements for a prolonged period of time. Also unusual is rectal bleeding and significant abdominal pain.
“These are things you should be actually talking to your doctor about, because these could be signs of something more serious. You do want to make sure we’re not missing things like colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease,” he said. “And certainly talk to your doctor before doing any of these things (such as the “internal shower”) if your symptoms are prolonged.”