But TikTok has also developed into a place where people claim to find solutions for gut health issues — from bloating to chronic conditions like inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). The focus on gut health has become increasingly popular in the sphere of self care and overall health and wellness, but do the trends circulating on TikTok really work?
Here are some of the main gut health trends on #GutTok — and a breakdown of the medical evidence around them.
Products that reduce bloating
There’s an obsession with bloating on TikTok, and finding ways to counter it (the hashtag #bloatingtips has millions of views on TikTok). In many videos racking up thousands of views, TikTokers try different products, supplements and foods claiming some reduce and others worsen bloating.
But in most cases, supplements that claim to improve health or reduce things like bloating don’t have proven medical evidence behind them. In particular, the Bloom Nutrition Greens & Superfoods product “lacks proven results and the concentration of each ingredient is likely too small to confer any significant health benefits,” registered dietician Ellie Busby wrote on HealthCanal.
“Healing gut” claims
TikTok also harbors an obsession with the idea of “healing your gut” – though that can mean a number of different things depending on who you’re speaking to.
In some videos, TikTokers list out seemingly “healthy food” options like Kind bars or Naked juices that in fact turned out to be “damaging” to their guts. Instead, they suggest trying other options – different brands of snacks or types of foods.
Others reference vague “stomach issues” as being the reason to cut out things like gluten, processed foods or caffeine. Even more users tout a variety of products or “health foods” that supposedly cured them.
Much of the hype around “healing the gut” stems from an increased attention in recent years on the microbiome – or the body’s ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms that help fuel various parts of the body.
Microbes in the microbiome can be either helpful or harmful, according to Harvard Health, and play complex roles in stimulating the immune system and synthesizing certain vitamins and amino acids.
That’s where things like probiotics and diet come in. According to Harvard Health, probiotics are often effective in specific situations, such as after someone uses antibiotics, which can deplete normal bacteria in the intestines. However, the multi-billion dollar probiotic industry often makes claims about probiotic supplements that are unproven.
“Because probiotics fall under the category of supplements and not food, they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.,” Harvard Health notes. “This means… a probiotic pill may not contain the amounts listed on the label or even guarantee that the bacteria are alive and active at the time of use.” Most other supplements are also not regulated by the FDA, so take their claims with some discretion.
There are some types of food, however, that are generally considered good for a healthy microbiome. Those may include vegetables, fruits and legumes that are high in fiber — such as garlic, onions, artichokes and asparagus – as well as beans and whole grains. Foods that are good sources of probiotics, meanwhile, include fermented foods like kimchi, pickled vegetables or yogurt with live active cultures.
Still, there are a lot of unknowns about the microbiome and it’s currently being researched for its link to diseases – and how diet plays a role in influencing it.
From gut health to clear skin
In a video with more than one million likes, TikToker Grace Wagner posted photos of her “gut health journey” – which ultimately led to her experiencing clearer skin.
While it’s unclear whether Wagner’s “gut health journey” directly impacted her skin and helped her clear up acne, there is burgeoning evidence that there may be a link between the microbiome and skin.
According to a 2018 study published in Frontiers in Microbiology, researchers found that “through complex immune mechanisms, the influence of the gut microbiome extends to involve distant organ systems including the skin.”
The study also noted that probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics may help in preventing or treating some inflammatory skin diseases, such as acne vulgaris and psoriasis. Still, the researchers concluded that more research is needed.
Lemon and ginger shots
One video with more than 100,000 likes references a “gut healthy” morning beverage consisting of lemon and ginger shots mixed with water. While this may not be a cure-all for all stomach issues, research partially backs up the idea that ginger is good for you.
One 2021 study published in Frontiers in Microbiology found that short-term ginger intake had “substantial effects” on gut microbiota in healthy participants. But that study concluded that more research is needed to confirm the results.
Still, medical experts — such as those at Johns Hopkins Medicine — generally agree that ginger can be helpful for some people when it comes to nausea relief and helping food along in the digestive process. In other words, you can’t go wrong with some extra lemon and ginger in your diet.
30 day gallon challenge
Generally speaking, drinking more water is usually good for you – even though it’s unclear whether it will directly impact your stomach issues. One TikTok trend has encouraged people to try a “30 day gallon challenge” in which they drink a gallon of water every day for 30 days, then report back on any changes they’ve noticed.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, drinking a gallon of water a day is typically not harmful for the average, healthy person.
However, some people with certain conditions — like congestive heart failure or end stage kidney disease, can’t process water correctly and need to limit their water intake. Drinking too much water can impact those conditions or, in rare cases, lead to hyponatremia — when the body’s sodium levels drop to dangerously low levels.
Otherwise, however, the Cleveland Clinic notes that drinking plenty of water can help with digestion, improve skin, help curb cravings and improve energy.