The Truth About Detox Tea That Marketers Don’t Want You to Know

It’s important to know how that ‘teatox’ really works.
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It’s important to know how that ‘teatox’ really works.

It's pretty impossible to peruse Instagram these days without seeing at least one public figure promoting some version of a "flat tummy tea." Reality star and model Kendall Jenner has popularly stated that during fashion week, she drinks around a dozen detox teas daily. And with their bare midriffs on display, it can be tempting to believe these products really are as miraculous as they sound.

But as much as we'd like to believe in quick-fix diets, detox teas for weight loss are no more than a fad. The ingredients contained within these detox teas have two notorious functions: suppressing the appetite and working as a laxative (more on these below).

Detox teas are segregated from the typical green or white tea, as their specified marketed purpose is to make you lose weight through a “teatox” regimen. While some teas are certainly legitimately beneficial, detox teas claim a scientific-backed stance, when there is actually little to no scientific testing performed for them. Here’s what you need to know.

Laxative Properties 

Senna leaf is a product commercialized in detox teas, as its primary function is its laxative properties. The artificial stimulation of "detoxification" by juicing or detoxing is actually unnecessary as the liver, kidney, lymphatic system, and skin already naturally do this for us. If your body was unable to detoxify itself, there would be something physically wrong and it would be advisable for you to go to see a medical professional right now.

There is an extensive list of side-effects to consuming Senna as whole foods author Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD explains, "while it can be helpful as a night-time drink…taking Senna for too long can cause vomiting, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration." This research has been supported by the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database stating that side effects of detox teas can be "abdominal pain and discomfort, cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, and diarrhea; excessive use can lead to potassium depletion and other electrolyte abnormalities, which can trigger muscle spasms and an abnormal heart rhythm."

Dehydration is actually the causal effect of electrolyte imbalance, so a healthier option would be components like water and lemon.

In terms of dependency, MedlinePlus reports that "Senna should not be used for more than two weeks because it may lead to dependence on the supplement for normal bowel movements." Becoming dependent on detox teas for your body to go through its natural detoxifying processes should be enough of a reason to stay away—that is unless you want to spend all weekend and office hours running to the loo.

Other laxative ingredients found commonly in detox teas are Magnesium hydroxide and cascara.

Appetite Suppressors

Many detox teas have the ingredient Garcinia—also synonymous with Cambogia, Malabar tamarind, and hydroxycitric acid or HCA—in which WebMD warns of the potential side effects of consuming this ingredient longterm. It has been said to cause "nausea, digestive tract discomfort, and headache" and in the name of appetite suppression.

They also warn that those who are pregnant or breast-feeding should stay away from the substance because of the lack of clarity surrounding its effects. 

Effects on Contraception

Controversially, women reported becoming pregnant even though they were on the pill when consuming detox teas in conjunction. Scientific evidence has shown to reduce the effectiveness of the Pill, namely because of the tea's laxative properties. Though information can be found on at least one detox brand's website, this information is not displayed on the packaging for this or similar detox tea products.

Water Weight Loss 

While detox teas make you lose water weight, you will not lose fat. The effects are temporary. Once rehydrated your body will put the weight back on. Detox teas are only a short term (and dangerous) fixture to losing weight.

Better “Detox” Methods For Your Body

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a family doctor and expert on ethical evidence-based nutrition and weight management, says, “It’s important to note that there’s virtually no regulation in the supplement industry and consequently, you never really know what you’re getting.” It is the same with the dairy and sugar industries reducing just how bad they are for you, and detox teas seem to take the same stance. Additionally, since the results from a detox tea diet are not permanent, it can lead to eating disorders. You’ll be wasting money and risking your health.

For Similar (and Healthier) Results at a Cheaper Price

Sip green tea which contains certain antioxidants like EGCG—it's known to prevent certain illnesses and research suggests it can also boost metabolism. Chamomile tea is best for soothing acne-prone skin, and it helps with digestion. For dry skin, lavender tea has calming and enriching components. However, even herbal teas drunk in excess can be harmful, so don’t replace a healthy diet with tea—two to three cups between meals will do.

Author Jack Kerouac once wrote, “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” If you really want to achieve a healthier weight, do it the right way: exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and eat healthy. You'll have to be patient, but it will be worth far more than a short-term, harmful solution that doesn't honor your health as an individual.

Photo Credit: The 5th