What Gut Health Experts *Really* Think About Those Gut Health Hacks on TikTok

Gut health hacks seem to be everywhere on TikTok, but sifting through the good and the bad is truly a job for the pros. We spoke to a gastroenterologist to get their honest opinion on which trends to try and which to skip.

TikTok offers a wide variety of wellness advice (like hair slugging, fat-burning treadmill workouts, and tongue scraping). It can be a mixed bag of total gems and total passes. One example: #GutTok, which has racked up 651M views. Many gut health hacks trending on the app have influenced users to change their diets and daily habits drastically. While some advice found on #GutTok can be beneficial, like eating fermented foods and taking a daily probiotic, many trending claims aren’t supported by research—and some are actually dangerous. That said, gut health is critical to your overall health, and many evidence-based practices can boost your microbiome. We spoke to gut health experts to find out what TikTok hacks are worth trying—and which ones you should steer clear of.

What’s All the Fuss About Your Gut, Anyways?

gut health myths

“There is truth to the old saying of ‘you are what you eat,’” says Rosario Ligresti, MD, chief of the gastroenterology division at Hackensack University Medical Center. “Gut health is implicated in disorders of everything from the nervous system to the immune system, and a healthy gut plays a pivotal role in your overall well-being.”

When your gut health is compromised, Dr. Rosario explains it could result in a host of symptoms and disorders including:

Disorders of gut health can also promote the development of autoimmune diseases; cancer; and heart disease. 

While that list may have you rushing to open TikTok for gut health advice, proceed with caution. Read on to see what a gastroenterologist thinks about some of TikTok’s gut health hacks.

gut health hacks tiktok

Below, experts give their honest opinions on some of the most popular gut health hacks online.

1. Drinking Bone Broth for Gut Health

The Verdict: Try it.

Bone broth is liquid made from boiling animal bones and connective tissue over a long period of time to release nutrient-rich gelatin. (It differs from other broths or stocks that take less time and may be made by boiling meat and vegetables.)

Proponents claim drinking bone broth can heal your gut. While the liquid won’t solve your digestive problems, it does contain good for you ingredients. “Bone broth contains several substances that have individually been shown in clinical studies to support gut health,” says Jennifer Martin-Biggers, PhD, MS, RD, vice president of scientific affairs at HUM Nutrition. “But as a whole, there is no research that bone broth supports gut health.”

Bone broth is rich in, glycine, proline, magnesium, potassium, glucosamine, and glutamine, all of which are healthy for you and your gut. It also contains glutamine, one of the most nutrients in bone broth. One research study showed that one gram of different types of animal broths contained different amounts of glutamine. Turkey broth contained the most with 4.185 mg of the amino acid glutamine in 1 g of bone broth. So in 8 ounces of turkey broth, there is around 1 gram of glutamine. “Glutamine helps to preserve gut structure and the mucosal lining of the gut,” explains Dr. Martin-Biggers. “Clinical studies of glutamine, however, use supplementation of 15 to 30 grams per day. So the bone broth is providing a bit of glutamine, but not enough on its own for the clinically supported benefits.”

Additionally, store-bought broth can cause more harm than good: “Store-bought bone broth can often contain heavy metals, especially lead,” Dr. Ligresti says. Toxins like this are extremely detrimental to your gut’s health and can cause major issues down the line.

2. Giving Up Gluten Forever

The Verdict: Skip it.

One of the most popular gut health hacks on TikTok? Give up gluten immediately and indefinitely. But gluten isn’t the enemy. “People with celiac disease should 1,000,000 percent remove all gluten from their diet as gluten, even in trace amounts, can cause damaging inflammatory reactions in their guts,” Dr. Martin-Biggers says.

So what if you don’t have celiac, but you feel sick after eating gluten? You might have a sensitivity. “Some people have a sensitivity to gluten called nonceliac gluten sensitivity that may cause various health complaints, but is more difficult to diagnose,” she adds. “Research estimates that around 6 percent of adults in the US have some level of gluten intolerance.” 

If you’re experiencing gut issues, you may be more sensitive to gluten because it triggers the release of zonulin in some individuals, which contributes to the breakdown of the tight junctions in your gut lining. But maybe people find that they’re able to return to eating gluten after they’ve healed their gut, so you won’t have to banish all grains forever

But if you don’t land in any of the categories mentioned above, Dr. Martin-Biggers says you absolutely shouldn’t cut gluten out of your diet. “If you have health concerns and continually problematic gut health, you should work with a medical professional educated in gastrointestinal health to ensure you are correctly evaluated and any gut problems you have can be addressed appropriately,” she says.

3. Juicing to Heal Your Gut

The Verdict: Skip it.

Juicing for weight loss was very popular in the early 2000s, but with the decade having a resurgence in popularity, juicing seems to have resurfaced, too. This time, TikTokers are claiming going on a juice cleanse can heal your gut. While one small study of 20 healthy participants found that there was an increase in intestinal microbiota associated with weight loss after three days of consuming only fruit and vegetable juices, more research is needed to confirm any long-term benefits of juicing for gut health. (Plus, it’s been debunked by dietitians as an overly-restrictive diet.)

But will it heal your gut? Not exactly. There is no evidence showing that juicing can heal the gut. “In reality, you should not juice and instead, eat whole fruits and veggies or puree them into a smoothie to make sure you get all of the fiber from whole produce,” Dr. Martin-Biggers says. “Your gut loves fiber and so do your gut microbes. Juicing can provide vitamins and minerals that are generally good for health, but on its own is not a gut health cure.”

4. Take a Shot of Apple Cider Vinegar to Heal Your Gut

The Verdict: Try it.

There might be some truth to this hack. “ACV is generally harmless as long as it is used correctly,” Dr. Ligresti says. “It may help with weight loss, lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and ease acid reflux. The dosage is 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons daily.”

However, taking a shot of straight ACV isn’t gut-friendly. “If you do choose to drink ACV, you should dilute it with water,” Dr. Martin-Biggers says. “If you drink ACV on its own, it can cause damage to your esophagus due to its acidity—especially if you drink it each day.”

5. Drinking Chia Seed Water for Constipation

The Verdict: Skip it.

Feeling backed up? The “internal shower” drink is everywhere on TikTok as a quick fix for constipation. It involves mixing two tablespoons of chia seeds into a glass of water, adding lemon juice, and drinking in one sitting. After an hour or two, social media users say they feel the urge to go to the bathroom. “Chia seeds are very high in fiber and, like any fiber supplement, will aid colonic motility,” he explains. “They do so by attracting water (soluble fiber) and helping to add bulk to bowel movements,” explains Dr. Ligresti

But before you go ahead and make an internal shower drink for yourself, Dr. Martin-Biggers says to proceed with caution. “Incorporating the amount of fiber from a large dose of chia seeds can make you feel bloating and have loose stools (aka diarrhea) if you are not used to higher amounts of fiber,” she says. Plus, there’s a risk of choking on the chia seeds since they expand in water.

While it may be helpful in a pinch, approved over-the-counter laxatives are a safer bet in the long run. Or, if you’d like to incorporate chia seeds into your daily diet, try adding them to a smoothie or parfait.

And remember that chia seeds might not be the answer to your GI problems. “Constipation can be caused by a myriad of factors, including some very serious ones that require medical intervention,” Dr. Martin-Biggers says. “Some of the best and simplest things people can do first if they are constipated are drinking more water and getting more activity—like going for a walk.”

6. Drinking Aloe Vera to Heal Your Gut


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The Verdict: Skip it.

Aloe vera is rich in amino acids, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, and E—plus it contains minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, chloride, and zinc. But the real reason everyone is using aloe vera for gut health? It can help with constipation. “Aloe vera has a strong laxative effect and was once an over-the-counter drug for constipation in the US but was removed due to lack of safety data on consistent use for this effect,” Dr. Martin-Biggers adds. “Short-term use of aloe as a laxative is possibly safe, but it should be used cautiously.”

“This may be beneficial in patients with ulcerative colitis, however, the data are very scarce and inconclusive,” Dr. Ligresti says. Dr. Martin-Biggers adds that aloe vera gel has been studied for treating other GI disorders like IBD but yielded inconsistent effects.

Again, if you’re dealing with constipation, your best bet is to ensure you’re hydrating, eating fiber-rich foods, and getting in movement.

7. Eating Boiled Apples For Better Digestion

The Verdict: Skip it.

One TikToker went viral for showing her at-home gut health hack: boiling apples for better digestion. Apples are one of the best sources of naturally-occurring pectin in the diet. “When you cook down an apple, it releases pectin,” explains Dr. Martin-Biggers. “Pectin is a prebiotic fiber that has associated health benefits,” she says. “High doses of pectin can help with constipation and diarrhea due to its fiber content, however, ingesting high amounts of pectin can actually cause bloating in some people.”

But loading up on apples may not be the most practical gut health hack, anyway. “To get large amounts of pectin you will need to cook down lots of apples, so you would be consuming a lot of calories and sugars in addition to the pectin itself.” 

Love making applesauce, though? By all means, give it a try!

8. Stop Snacking to Rest Your Digestive System

The Verdict: Proceed with Caution

Meal timing can impact your gut health in serious ways. That’s because the migrating motor complex (MMC) leads the charge when it comes to digestion. The MMC is a system of waves that move food through your system. This process of muscle contractions, called peristalsis, takes between two to four hours to complete one cycle and begins about an hour after eating.

Social media users claim that snacking will majorly disrupt the digestion process (and therefore the gut microbiome). But snacking alone is not the issue—it’s about how your time your food. Eating around every four hours will allow a full cycle of the MMC to complete between meals for proper digestion. That could be a snack or a meal.

It’s important to honor your hunger cues and give your body the nourishment it needs (which means snacking when you’re hungry between meals). Plus, going too long without eating can actually cause a buildup of gas in your stomach and cause bloating.

“There are myriad other things going on in your body when you eat and when you do not eat that contribute to your gut health—I would not recommend stopping snacking just out of concern for this,” Dr. Martin-Biggers says.

9. Drinking Olive Oil Can Improve Your Gut Microbiome

The Verdict: Skip it.

Repeat after us: You do not need to drink your olive oil. Social media users are downing this kitchen staple like a shot of bad tequila in an effort to boost gut health. While there is some research linking olive oil to better gut health, the results aren’t concrete enough to draw this conclusion. “Olive oil might also be beneficial for improving the gut microbiome, but we need to learn more,” Dr. Ligresti says.

Olive oil contains various nutritionally beneficial components like types of fatty acids and phenolic compounds that, in individual studies, have been shown to support different health outcomes (cholesterol and cardiovascular disease risk in particular). There have also been numerous studies evaluating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil as being beneficial for health through effects on inflammation as well. Additionally, studies in animals have shown improvements in the gut microbiota when fed olive oil. One small study in adults with high cholesterol also showed an increase in a beneficial strain of gut microbe—however, it should be noted that in that study, subjects consumed both olive oil and additional polyphenols. 

“Overall, there are benefits to olive oil, but drinking it to just improve gut health may not be advisable, especially considering it is high in calories,” Dr. Martin-Biggers says. “One tablespoon has around 120 calories, so I recommend using it in your cooking and as part of your meals instead of drinking it separately.”

10. Taking an L-Glutamine Supplement to Heal Your Gut Lining

The Verdict: Proceed with Caution

L-glutamine is an important amino acid in your body: It is a building block of protein and a critical part of the immune system. It also plays a special role in gut health (mainly reinforcing cellular connections in the gut)—especially during injury and illness. It’s found in many foods but especially rice and corn. “During times when your body cannot produce enough of it, supplementing it can be beneficial,” Dr. Ligresti says. “During healthy times, however, your body produces all it needs.” So, unless your L-glutamine levels are low or your doctor has specifically recommended it, you likely don’t need to supplement.
If you’re looking for a supplement to help boost your gut health, try taking a probiotic instead (like HUM’s Gut Instinct). It’ll help promote good bacteria in your gut microbiome and improve your overall digestion.

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