TikTok isn’t just filled with choreography challenges and recipe fails. If you’ve spent more time than you’d like to admit scrolling through video after video, odds are that you’ve probably stumbled upon the latest viral TikTok so-called health trend.
People often turn to the platform to share their experiences with various health hacks and wellness tips that purportedly offer remedies for everything—from lowering inflammation to restoring your sense of taste. But just how legitimate are these claims? And are they worth implementing into your regimen? Proceed with plenty of caution, advises Parsley Health coach Erica Zellner , MS, CNS, LDN. “It’s not necessarily coming from a reputable source,” Zellner says. “A lot of people who don’t have strong backgrounds are putting out their own opinions on health and wellness.”
Be sure to also consider that if the content you’re consuming is directed at a wide audience, it’s not being individualized to you and your needs : “So it’s always good to run whatever health trend you want to try past your own doctor or health coach,” she says. “Ask whoever is directly working with you to see if it even makes sense in your own life.”
Zellner walks through some of the most common TikTok health trends, what makes them so popular, and whether they’re worth giving a try—or avoiding altogether.
Some TikTokkers claim that putting liquid chlorophyll—the substance that makes plants green—in their drinking water has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits . But the science is currently out regarding the efficacy of chlorophyll in that capacity, according to Zellner.
“We have no hard evidence saying it’s specifically chlorophyll, or it’s chlorophyll in the context of the plant, which also has different vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc.,” she says. “But it’s likely that you’re gonna get better benefits eating the entire [vegetable] that also happens to have chlorophyll than by having chlorophyll on its own.”
Struggling to kickstart your tastebuds? As a common side effect of COVID-19 , losing the ability to experience what your favorite foods taste like can be a nightmare situation for anyone. It’s no wonder more and more people are resorting to unconventional approaches to get their taste back. Burning oranges, however, is far from a cure-all.
“There’s absolutely no scientific reasoning behind this one,” Zellner says. “What leading experts think is happening is if you char an orange, you’re creating a very strong immersive experience for your olfactory senses. Some people may think, ‘Oh, I can miraculously smell again,’ but there’s nothing specific about burning oranges and healing that olfactory sense.”
In some corners of TikTok land, a clove of garlic is being peddled as a solution for a stuffy or runny nose . But no matter how terrible your congestion may be, leave the garlic for all those viral dinner recipes instead. Shoving the vegetable up your nose could have disastrous consequences.
“This is a no-go for me because you run the risk of getting it jammed and needing it professionally removed or—worst case scenario—surgically removed,” Zellner says. “There’s also a very small chance that if it gets stuck and you’re trying to pull it out, you could splinter pieces of the garlic, inhale it, and get it into your lungs. That would create a ton of problems.”
Placing cucumbers over your eyes has been an at-home spa “secret” for decades. Unsurprisingly, TikTokkers have created a new skincare use for the veggie: as a roller. Doing so can reportedly minimize the look of dark circles and hydrate skin. This trend is one that Zellner supports.
“The coolness of the frozen cucumber is going to calm down inflammation ,” she says. “The cucumber itself has a little vitamin C, which can potentially increase collagen levels—although you’re likely better off eating it than putting it on topically for that. But overall, this seems like a nice way to do some self-care and mindfulness, and it’s incredibly low-risk from everything I can see.”
While Zellner admits that this concoction—a blend of mixed berries with coconut water poured over—does sound “super tasty,” her biggest concern is that if you eat it as a meal, there’s a potential for a blood sugar spike and then crash. “At Parsley , we often talk with our patients about blood sugar balance and slowing down that blood sugar absorption,” she says. “Fiber, fat, and protein are the three things that help with that. Berries do have a decent amount of fiber, which is working in their benefit, but we don’t have fat or protein in there.”
Translation: This mixture probably won’t keep you feeling full for very long. Over time, you’re likely to get that blood sugar rise and crash. And you don’t want to start your day with a big blood sugar swing.
First thing’s first: according to Zellner, earwax serves a purpose, working to keep viruses, bacteria, and other residue out of the ear canal. It’s incredibly helpful, so the question is: Do you actually want to get rid of it?
“I would argue no, we don’t want to be regularly removing it,” Zellner says. “The best plan of attack—if you’re experiencing tons of earwax buildup—would be to visit with an ear, nose, and throat doctor, and see why your body is creating so much more earwax. There might be something else going on that needs to be addressed.”
Zellner doesn’t mince words with this TikTok trend: “Definitely a no-go,” she says. “From what it looks like, this can be really damaging to the tooth enamel. Dentists are only allowed to use up to 6% hydrogen peroxide—and that’s from a professional. Any more than this, and you’re risking enamel damage and irritation to the gums.”
Instead of taking matters into your own hands with a potentially unsafe substance, consult with a dentist about natural approaches to teeth whitening.
Like the aforementioned frozen cucumber, ice functions in a similar way to help calm skin inflammation. Plus, the gentle massaging sensation works to promote lymph drainage. “This is a good one,” Zellner says. “It’s a mindfulness moment—something you can do that’s going to feel really nice. Skin icing can also be beneficial for those with cystic acne, which is usually very painful and inflamed.”
Roll a few ice cubes into a soft cotton cloth and apply on your face in a circular motion for a minute or two.
Before you reach for the papaya and cutting knife, consider the very low odds that you have any parasites in your gut to begin with. Zellner says that unless you’re frequently traveling internationally, it’s unlikely you have any to get rid of. “Bottom line is that parasites are incredibly rare in the United States,” she explains.
Plus, papaya seeds haven’t been shown to be beneficial outside of a clinical trial setting. Eating a lot of them can upset your stomach, cause nausea, or result in heartburn. “You might make yourself sick off too many papaya seeds because that’s a ton of non-soluble or insoluble fiber ,” Zellner says. “So this is one I strongly suggest people don’t try on their own. Come see a doctor at Parsley , get some stool testing done, and we can design an appropriate protocol if you do, in fact, have parasites.”
Not all fire ciders and fire tonics—spicy concoctions of veggies, herbs and other spices— are the same. But generally, they’re made using various foods that can aid in supporting a healthy immune system , like cayenne, jalapeño, ginger, turmeric, and others. But just because those are the key ingredients, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to never get sick if you drink them all together.
“There’s no magic pill that is going to 100% keep you from getting sick,” Zellner says. “Especially if the rest of your diet and lifestyle aren’t supporting your health. Plus, fire cider is made with a number of spicy, acidic foods that may upset your stomach, particularly if you’ve got a sensitive digestive system , so use with caution.”
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