Thanks in part to TikTok's normalisation of the subject, we no longer wallow in our stomach problems in secret. We are now proud IBS girlies and we talk freely about having trapped gas.
These conversations align with the wellness industry's current fixation on gut health. "People are recognising the way our gut health affects many other bodily systems, e.g. mental health and skin health," the founder of JSHealth, Jessica Sepel, previously told Refinery29. "We are also getting more and more information on how the microbiome works from scientists these days, which has been the catalyst to take greater notice of the role of the gut."
Awareness and knowledge around gut health seem empowering from the outside, but there may be sinister, potentially toxic, undertones to the trend.
What is the internal shower drink?
Case in point: TikTok's latest wellness fad, the 'internal shower' drink. The drink combines two tablespoons of chia seeds, lemon juice and water, which is then rested for 10 minutes before it's drunk. It's said to stimulate your bowels and get you busting a number two in no time.
Is the drink actually good for you?
Chia seeds are packed with fibre — when submerged in water, they transform into a gel-like consistency, making the pooing process easier. It's recommended that adult women have between 25 grams of fibre every day — but most don't hit this target. On TikTok, IBS-focused dietitian Chelsea notes that two tablespoons of chia seeds equal approximately 40% of our recommended fibre intake.
“Too much fibre can often be an issue, so this is something that you need to be careful about. This is not a trend I would recommend that people do," scientist Nina Julia (B.Sc.Ed.) says.
She points to its links to diet culture because of its emphasis on being a 'detox' where TikTokers are labelling the drink as a 'post-weekend drinking detox' and a 'hormonal cleanse'.
"[They suggest that] if you increase your bowel movements, you can undo all the ‘damage’ you have done over the weekend. However, it just does not work like that. This trend can be seriously dangerous to your health and you should always follow your body's natural bowel movements."
Where did this trend come from?
Though celebrity nutritionist Dr Daryl Gioffre has recently been touted as the creator of this drink, its origins are potentially steeped in cultural appropriation.
He dubbed the drink a "constipation reliever shot" saying that it's a "powerful concoction [he] created years ago to help [him] with [his] own gut issues".
Traditionally known as 'Iskiate' as well as 'agua de chia' (which translates to chia water), it's a drink that has been around for centuries. "Please honour things the way they should be, don't rename them," she adds.
TikTok has become a go-to destination for quick fixes and trending hacks. As a consequence of this fast-moving digital space, critical information and nuance often gets lost in the sea of viral videos ('internal shower' has over 187 million TikTok views right now).
Wellness has its ties with slow living culture, which is antithetical to the convenience and speed we're continuing to chase. It feels at odds with Tiktok's obsession with virality, prompting the question, is wellness culture just making us sicker?