While it has been around for ages, there has been a recent surge of Instagram obsession with detox teas or “teatox”. With multiple celebrities (Vanessa Hudgens, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears…even Nicki Minaj is in on it) posting cutesy pictures holding up their mugs of tea and preaching about how it “flattens your tummy” and “makes weight disappear” all without having to put forth any effort, hundreds of thousands of young women have decided to give it a go. There are several problems with this, so let’s just start with the actual tea itself.
Detox teas boast that they are made from 100% natural ingredients. And it’s possible that they are. Doesn’t mean that side effects are nonexistent. I’ve found that all detox teas contain senna. Senna is an FDA-approved nonprescription laxative. Okay, so it’s FDA-approved. That’s all fine and dandy. However, there are very real dangers when it comes to using laxatives. First of all, you can develop a dependence. You can suffer from electrolyte and mineral imbalances, severe dehydration, and chronic constipation. There’s also a risk of internal organ damage and an increased risk of colon cancer. Another common ingredient in detox teas is guarana. This is a plant that is often added to energy drinks. Some side effects of guarana are: insomnia, nervousness and restlessness, stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, tremors, delirium, and diuresis (increased or excessive production of urine). The caffeine content of guarana can also worsen diarrhea. Combine that with a known laxative and you’re in for a shit day…literally.
If you’re still not put off by the whole thing, read on.
Detox teas combine diuretics with caffeine (a known diuretic). This triggers the loss of water weight. I’ve read that two cups of water equals one pound on the scale – so while you might appear slimmer and feel lighter, you’re not losing anything of actual substance. Any fat that was there before you started pounding your detox tea is, you guessed it, still there. While the caffeine in the tea aids in the loss of water weight, can possibly suppress appetite, and give you a boost of energy, it can also lead to not getting enough shuteye. Insufficient sleep has been shown to trigger excessive eating, weight gain, and can even slow your metabolism.
Now, as detox teas are solely marketed towards (young) women, it’s important to know that it can mess with your menstrual cycle and birth control. While the scientific reasoning behind this period disruption remains unclear, there are several online forums and teatox reviews documenting the same experience. As far as messing with birth control, forgive me for being crass here, but basically if you take the pill in the morning, you’re gonna be shitting it out due to the laxatives. BooTea, a popular teatox brand fell under attack last year after a string of women reported unwanted pregnancies. While, in their online FAQ, it does state that it may affect the accuracy of your birth control, the warning is missing on the actual label/packaging. Irresponsible? Immoral? You betcha.
The whole “do nothing and lose weight” mentality is nothing but a perpetuation of sketch diet pill commercials. DoHydroxycut and Lipozene ring any bells? You wouldn’t take those pills, so why is detox tea any different? Is losing a couple of pounds of water worth all of the potential side effects? Especially since once you stop drinking the tea, you’re going to gain everything right back.
Listen. The bottom line is that nothing, not even seemingly innocent tea, is going to make you miraculously lose weight if you don’t have a healthy diet and regular exercise. If you want to detox your digestive tract, then make sure your diet contains plenty of plant-based fibers. Maintain a healthy balanced diet of at least 1,200 calories, drink plenty of water, and MOVE. It will naturally and safely ‘detox’ your system, while helping you lose actual weight, and keep it off. Put the tea down, and pick yourself up.