Detox Teas: Why You Should Avoid Them

Detox teas are one of the most prominent health fads you can come across on social media. They promise to "cleanse" your system, get rid of "toxins" in the body and speed up your weight loss.

Some of the popular brands include Skinny Mint, SkinnyMe, Flat Tummy Tea, Slendertoxtea, Bootea, and Skinny Teatox. Over the past few years, their products have gained much popularity thanks to endorsements from A-list celebrities and healthy-living bloggers on Instagram.

While the marketing efforts were successful in associating detox tea with the #fitsporation side of social media, do they deliver on the promises they make?

What the Kardashian-Jenner seal of approval does not reveal is that, in addition to ingredients like herbs and antioxidants, these teas often contain a laxative known as Senna. 

It works by irritating the lining of your colon, making it contract more than usual, and forcing out "essential water and electrolytes along with fecal matter," according to London-based nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert. In other words, you are mostly losing water weight by dehydrating yourself.

"While this loss of bulk can make you feel and look slimmer short term, it has no impact on fat loss, because calories from food are absorbed in your small intestine long before it gets to the colon," she stated.

Many women who have tried these teas have complained of side effects like stomach cramps, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, disruptions in their menstrual cycle, and more. The problem is that Senna — which is approved for treating constipation or emptying the bowels before surgery — should only be used for a short period.

When used beyond two weeks, they can affect the functioning of the bowels and make you dependent on laxatives as your body builds a tolerance. In the long run, they may have serious, damaging effects on organs like the heart and liver. 

But detox tea brands tend to encourage prolonged use or regular stints of cleansing and detoxification, a tactic that works on social media when combined with appealing photos and captions.

Using buzzwords like "detox" and making half-truth claims about weight loss is quite easy as they are not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration. Experts have warned against the use of any product which presents itself as a "miracle" or a quick-fix remedy.

"Nothing will magically detox your digestive tract — which includes your colon — unless your diet has a large percentage of plant-based fibers," said Stella Metsovas, a gut health specialist and certified clinical nutritionist.

Even when celebrity endorsements seem tempting, remember that they cannot make up for the lack of scientific evidence. Stick to the safer and healthier alternative of following a nutritious diet and meeting physical activity guidelines.