As much as I hate to admit it, I have officially become that girl who learns just about everything from TikTok. From recipes to beauty trends to life hacks, my TikTok FYP feed is a wealth of information that I can’t seem to get enough of. It also never fails that the weirdest trends seem to garner the most attention—the viral “internal shower drink” being no exception.

If you have yet to join TikTok and haven’t heard of the internal shower drink, it’s a mixture of two tablespoons of chia seeds soaked in a cup of water with the juice of one lemon. You’re supposed to let the drink sit for 10-15 minutes before drinking it, so the chia seeds swell up with water, and then… you chug. From what I’ve seen, it’s not a very pleasant taste or texture to ingest, but the purpose is to create an “internal shower” that washes out your bowels. Mhm, you read that right.

Featured image by Kate Zimmerman Turpin.

Image by Michelle Nash
Linda Shiue, MD
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Linda is a practicing physician in San Francisco, where she also founded a popular vegetable-forward teaching kitchen to inspire people to cook for health. She studied anthropology and medicine at Brown University, with fieldwork in rural Sichuan, China, and Singapore, continued her medical training at the University of California, San Francisco, and learned about plant-based nutrition at Cornell University. She is the author of Spicebox Kitchen: Eat Well and Be Healthy with Globally Inspired, Vegetable-Forward Recipes, published in 2021.

The first time I saw a creator on TikTok sipping on the internal shower drink, I didn’t give it much thought. Why not just add some chia seeds to your smoothie or take magnesium? Then it popped up on my feed again. And again. And again. So, I decided it was time to do some research and find out if this internal shower drink is A) worth the hype and B) safe to drink.

Because of her unique expertise in the marriage of food and medicine, I interviewed Linda Shiue, a San Francisco-based internal medicine physician, chef and author of Spicebox Kitchen, to dig deeper into the safety and the science behind the internal shower drink. 

Read on for my interview with Dr. Shiue and my personal experience with trying the internal shower drink. 

Image by Dagny Piasecki

Is the internal shower drink safe? If so, how often can you drink it?

The internal shower drink is simply two tablespoons of chia seeds softened in a cup of water with a squeeze of lemon juice. For most people, this should be safe to drink daily. This will vary based upon how much fiber is already in the person’s diet, because increasing any source of fiber can cause gas and painful bloating if done too quickly. Adding fiber gradually should avoid this problem, as your digestive system gets used to digesting the additional fiber.

The only other caveat with chia seeds is to make sure you allow them time (at least five minutes) to absorb the liquid. There is one case report in the medical literature of a patient who developed an obstruction in his esophagus after consuming raw chia seeds, because they later expanded when he drank liquid afterwards. Also, anyone with a history of intestinal or bowel obstruction should consult their doctor to determine whether the internal shower drink is safe for them.

Image by Michelle Nash

What are the benefits of the internal shower drink?

This drink is meant to be a laxative. But the insoluble fiber may also lower your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and by making you feel fuller, may help with weight loss. Chia seeds are also a good source of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acids.

Does the internal shower drink really work? How long does it take to feel the effects?

The internal shower drink is supposed to function as a laxative, and as with any treatment, the experience will vary. But theoretically (and anecdotally from people I’ve spoken with who’ve tried it), it should be effective for this purpose. The internal shower drink, like all bulk-forming laxatives, can work within 12 hours, but more typically within a couple of days.

Image by Michelle Nash

What do chia seeds do for the body?

Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, with about 10 grams in a two-tablespoon serving. The fiber in chia seeds is mainly insoluble fiber, which turns into a gel when combined with water and helps form bulkier, softer stools that are easier to pass. (Oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium husk—as found in Metamucil—also contain soluble fiber.) 

Image by Kristen Kilpatrick

I watched TikTok after TikTok about the proper way to drink the internal shower drink and think I followed the directions to a tee. I let the mixture sit for 15 minutes in the fridge, added a tiny bit of honey to help the taste, and chugged it on an empty stomach (minus a cup of coffee). The taste honestly wasn’t awful, as it just tasted like lemon water.

The texture, however, is a different story. It was chunky.

If you have a strong gag reflex, this is not the drink for you. Regardless, it wasn’t terrible and I got it down without too much of a fight.

I drank it at 11:30 a.m., ate a balanced lunch at 1:00 p.m., and waited. After three hours, nothing had happened. A few people on TikTok experienced immediate results, so even though Dr. Shiue said it could take 12 hours, I was impatient. On hour five, there was a “movement,” but nothing crazy. Given I wasn’t constipated when I drank it, the internal shower drink probably just didn’t have as dramatic/notable of an effect on me. It’s worth noting that a lot of people who are trying this internal shower drink may be doing it to get more followers on TikTok, and at the end of the day, the reactions that we are seeing may not be their true, unedited reactions that they would otherwise have if the camera was not around.

Will this be something I do again? Probably not, unless I truly have a need for it. I don’t think that people with regular bowel movements really need to incorporate the internal shower drink into their diets. Maintaining a healthy level of fiber from other foods and/or adding chia seeds to other recipes should be enough. However, if you’re feeling constipated or want a good system reset, this drink will do the trick.

Have you tried the internal shower drink? Let us know in the comments below.

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Linda Shiue