The Truth About Detox Teas

Lifespan Blog Team

Celebrities have been endorsing products for years. They appear on television ads, billboards, magazines, and in recent years, social media. A troubling trend that has been taking social media by storm is the promotion of products that are potentially harmful, either physically or psychologically.

It’s no secret that a major concern for consumers, particularly women, is their physical appearance. With the rise of quick-fix weight loss products and crash diets, some argue that these methods are actually quite unhealthy and ineffective in the long term. That is exactly the debate that was sparked on social media when one particular actress addressed celebrities who promote detox teas.

What are detox teas?

The detox teas - sometimes referred to as “teatox” or “flat tummy teas” - that are being heavily promoted on social media claim to be natural and packed with healthy ingredients, such as Chinese oolong tea, mate leaves, peppermint, ginger, and lemongrass. However, there is one ingredient that has doctors concerned: Senna leaf. Senna can typically be found in laxatives and is one of the main reasons why detox teas are successful in quick, but temporary, weight loss.

What are doctors saying?

Most physicians agree that the best way to lose weight remains maintaining a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, and staying hydrated. These teas promote “detoxing” the system, or flushing the body of toxins, when our bodies perform that function on their own already.

Drinking these on a regular basis for a long period of time will cause digestive problems. The consistent use of the laxative stimulates your bowels, signaling your body to stop performing that function itself when it becomes dependent on the stimulant for so long. When you stop drinking the detox tea, you can feel constipated and may be forced into using laxatives to regulate bowel motion.

Dr. Vincent Pera, medical and program director of the Center for Weight and Wellness, weighs in on the effects of ingredients like caffeine, which is often found in detox teas: “Should the detox tea contain stimulants, there may be elevation of heart rate and blood pressure along with a possibility of feeling on edge, jittery and anxious. This may be concerning for individuals suffering from hypertension, cardiac illness, arrhythmias and some psychiatric illnesses.”

Another troubling result of detox tea use is dehydration. The teas contain diuretics that make you lose a lot of water, which is why you might see the scale drop by 5 lb. or so for a few days. “It seems that detox teas can promote weight loss, but probably not much of the loss is actual fat loss. The fluid loss, or diuretic effect, of these products can be substantial. However, with the diuretic effect can come the loss of sodium, potassium and other important elements needed by your heart and muscles in order to function properly,” Dr. Pera says.

How are they harmful psychologically?

The secondary issue of the constant advertising of these teas is the negative self-image it promotes. Social media, the main avenue for this particular product, has been known to contribute to negative body image as it is. Much of the debate surrounding diet trends discusses how the commercialized standard for physical beauty is toxic and harmful to those who may already feel insecure. Celebrities reinforce this narrative by essentially telling their followers that they can all look like them by buying this product (for which they will receive a percentage of the profits), when in reality, it is most likely that their physical forms are due to a rigorous diet prepared by a personal chef and an exercise regimen designed by a personal trainer.

Consumers should always be careful when buying products on the internet—particularly from social media, and particularly products that you put into your body. Keep in mind that under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, the makers of dietary supplements like these teas do not need approval from the Food and Drug Administration before selling their products. There are other, healthier ways to lose weight that don’t involve potentially harmful ingredients.

Dr. Pera reminds us that “when it comes to various methods for losing weight, if it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true!”

Visit our experts at the Center for Weight and Wellness if you have questions about weight loss options.

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