If you’ve been on TikTok lately, then you’ve probably seen the internal shower drink trend, which consists of consuming a glass of water with half a lemon and two tablespoons of chia seeds first thing in the morning. The tag #chiaseedwater has 64 million views, and the hack claims to boost hydration, promote weight loss, and aid constipation. However, does this trend actually work?
According to Healthline, chia seeds are tiny, black and white seeds from the salvia hispanica plant and are high in protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and antioxidants. Chia seeds also have vital micronutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and B vitamins. When chia seeds are in water, they absorb the liquid and can expand up to 12 times their original size, resulting in a gelatinous mixture and chewy texture.
But why do the chia seeds need to be put in water? Justine Chan, a registered dietitian, tells Her Campus, “The benefits of putting chia seeds into water is that it will expand and eventually form a gel. This sticky gel is what picks up all the cholesterol in your body. It also slows down digestion which helps with blood sugar balance and keeping your appetite at bay.”
Nora Minno, a registered dietitian, tells Her Campus, “One of the biggest benefits that comes with drinking chia seeds in water is the possible increase in one’s heart health. Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower triglyceride levels. Because of this, chia seeds have been linked with reducing one’s risk of developing heart disease. However, to get these benefits, you don’t just have to drink chia seeds in water — you can simply include chia seeds in your diet somewhere, like in smoothies, salads, yogurt, etc.”
Chan adds, “Compared to other super seeds like flax and hemp, chia seeds are the winner for fiber, at eight grams in two tablespoons. You get all the benefits without having to grind the seed, unlike flax.”
But why is fiber important? According to registered dietitian Veronica Rouse, “It is plant food that isn't digested or absorbed. Instead it passes through our body relatively intact. This is important to help remove waste like extra hormones that otherwise would be reabsorbed into our body if they weren't eliminated.”
TikTok creator Michiko.suzuki claims in one video that chia seed water promotes brain health, is high in omega-3 fatty acids, is a great source of protein, increases energy, contributes to weight loss, and is high in antioxidants. But can drinking chia seed water actually cause you to lose weight?
First, it is important to keep in mind that making weight loss a health goal may be damaging unless regulated by your doctor or physician. We should all remain skeptical of diet culture and its potential for toxicity and fatphobia. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the idea behind drinking chia seed water for weight loss stems from the fact that the wet chia seeds will enlarge in your stomach, since they expand up to 12 times their original size. By taking up space in your stomach, they can prevent you from getting hungry. This, in turn, might cause you to eat less and ultimately lose weight. When digestion slows, the body releases blood sugar at a lower rate. The slower release of blood sugar prevents spikes and valleys in blood sugar, which cause increased appetite. However, as noted by Everyday Health, chia seed water isn't a magic potion that will cause you to drop a ton of weight — you probably won't notice a huge change.
As for the purported "cleansing" benefits, Dana Ellis Hunnes, a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, tells Her Campus, “Our livers and kidneys are the cleansing areas of our body. They filter our blood and remove toxins daily. So, cleanses are not really necessary. However, having all the healthy fiber and water that is in a water with chia seeds can help keep you regular and therefore can help you feel like you're cleansing your insides.”
Registered dietitian Shena Jaramillo adds, “What they are doing, however, is adding fiber to help things flow smoothly in the digestive tract as well as helping to take cholesterol back to the liver.” So while chia seeds are healthy for you, it may not literally “cleanse” your insides, making the “internal shower” nickname a misnomer.
However, no single food, including chia seed water, can replace a well-balanced diet, so while chia seed water may be a part of a healthy diet, you cannot rely on it to obtain your health goals. Individuals also should not consume large amounts of chia seed water, according to Healthline. If you're not intaking enough water, the high fiber and absorptive quality of chia seeds may increase your risk of constipation when consumed in large amounts (constipation due to high fiber intake is typically related to not drinking enough water). Furthermore, the fiber in chia seeds may result in an upset stomach for those who do not already have a lot of fiber in their diet. The best option is to start consuming minimal amounts of chia seeds and chia seed water and gradually increase your intake.
It is vital to constantly question health and nutrition advice from the internet, especially TikTok, because anyone can post anything. Consult a registered dietitian before making drastic changes to your diet.