Every facet of the social media site gets its own Tok-ified nickname—#DisneyTok, #MomTok, #FrogTok—and the nausea inducing moniker #GutTok is where everyone is now posting about gut health, The New York Times reports. Videos include influencers ranking their top probiotics, TikDoctors explaining what IBS is, and most chillingly, before-and-after videos of bloated stomachs.
It’s yet another TikTok trend that masquerades as a “health-focused” initiative but could actually be causing more harm to our bodies than good. Case in point: #GutTok’s obsession with aloe vera shots. Yes, it may seem like oral aloe is doing some good because it’s “clearing you out,” but that laxative effect can also cause painful cramping and, even worse, according to WebMD, cause electrolyte imbalances in your blood, stain your colon, and potentially prevent the absorption of any other medications you might be taking.
It’s not just the aloe, either. TikTok is pushing cucumber juices, bone broths, and sweet potato soups to supposedly help you with your self-diagnosed stomach issues. And while each of these foods might have its own nutritional merits, the main goal behind recommending them is simply to give you diarrhea.
This isn’t the first time the social media app has purposefully prompted users to shit themselves. Last summer, people were downing frozen honey like crazy, and because our bodies aren’t used to ingesting honey in the quantities this particular approach allowed, it caused some extreme digestive issues. Not just diarrhea, but, according to dieticians, an extremely severe and painful form of diarrhea. And people were doing this on purpose. For the clout.
Earlier this year, NyQuil chicken was making the rounds. Hopefully we don’t have to tell you why poaching your food in drowsy-formula cold medicine is a bad idea (and not particularly delicious), but it’s actually the cooking method that might leave you bathroom-bound here. Some videos showed the chicken being boiled for as little as five minutes, which is almost certainly not enough time to get rid of all that pesky salmonella. The combo of undercooked chicken and way too much NyQuil is an intestinal disaster that could land you in the hospital.
And while the Mac N Hot Cheetos TikTok from last year might not be the most dangerous trend out there, it represents a long list of recipes that are designed for internet shock value, food that tests the limits of your mortal being rather than nourishing the body. Maybe fans of Flamin’ Hot flavors genuinely did enjoy it, but that doesn’t make the end result any less scatological.
We’ve said it before and we’ll likely have to say it again: do not trust TikTok. Scrolling through the latest hashtag could be dangerous, especially when it comes to matters of your health and body. It’s best to consult an IRL doctor or nutritionist or dietician to help you out.
If you are worried about your gut health, you can start by simply subbing in some ingredients and dishes that will keep your intestines at bay. Stanford University released a study last year detailing foods that boosted microbiome diversity (the more different kinds of bacteria, the better for a settled stomach), decreased inflammatory proteins that often lead to IBS, and improved overall immune responses in the digestive system.
Stanford’s clinical trial highlighted the best foods for your gut:
- Fermented cottage cheese
- Kimchi and other fermented vegetables
- Vegetable brine drinks
- Kombucha tea
It’s important to note that the trial included these items in each subject’s diet—no one was living on kombucha and kimchi alone. This is not an all-or-nothing set of recommendations; finding ways to fit fibrous and fermented dishes into your already established routine is enough. And if you’re ending up on the toilet right after every meal, please, please, please ditch TikTok. Cutting it out of your diet just might be the best thing for your hashtag gut health.