Teatox diets: a nasty way to lose weight

Proponents say teatoxing improves energy, clears up skin, boosts metabolism and promotes weight loss. Here's the catch.

Photos, iStockphoto.

Photos, iStockphoto.

The hype

Juice fasts are so 2014. The latest way to cleanse your body is the “teatox,” which supplements a low-calorie diet with large amounts of herbal tea. (The #teatox hashtag has over 300,000 posts on Instagram.) Proponents say teatoxing improves energy, clears up skin, boosts metabolism and promotes weight loss.

But is it true?

Tea is a broad beverage category, and includes those made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis shrub (both green and black teas come from this plant), as well as any number of dried herbs and fruit. While both green and black teas have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, and antioxidants in green tea may reduce your cancer risk, there is little research about the health benefits of the herbs in your average teatox blend.

Teatoxing might cause weight loss because the prescribed teas include senna, says Dr. Esther Konigsberg, medical director for Integrative Medicine Consultants in Toronto. “Senna is a laxative that works by irritating the bowels,” she says. This can result in diarrhea, which causes weight loss through dehydration – a dangerous condition that can lead to malnutrition. Popular teatox programs come in 7-, 14- and 28-day packs, extended periods which can prolong diarrhea, leading over time to electrolyte imbalances, depleted potassium levels, and heart irregularities. Prolonging diarrhea can also put you at risk for “rebound constipation” as your body becomes dependent on the laxative to produce bowel movements. In other words: not a sustainable (or pleasant) way to lose weight.

“There’s no strong evidence for detoxing at all,” says Konigsberg. “Our bodies detox all the time if we are exercising and drinking enough water.” For healthy people who are looking to lose weight and feel better, she says, a diet rich in whole foods and regular exercise is a safer and more permanent approach.

Other health hypes:
Why is everyone drinking maple water?
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