People have been trying to rid their bodies of what they believe are toxins for thousands of years.
Some historic “detox” practices include bloodletting, enemas, sweat lodges, fasting, and drinking detoxification teas. These practices were even used as medical treatments up until the early 20th century.
Like all dietary supplements, the ingredients in detox teas aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And recently, some teas and other “detoxifying” weight loss products have been found to contain dangerous drugs and chemicals not advertised on the packaging.
So, while some detox teas may contain normal tea ingredients like tea leaves, others could contain toxic or allergy-triggering substances, including drugs and medications.
Be sure to speak with your doctor before attempting to use any detox product.
Generally, teas are a widely consumed and generally healthy beverage.
However, experts agree more research is needed to fully understand the effects of green tea on weight loss.
As for detox teas, there are no clinical studies proving they’re a good tool for weight loss.
Most detox teas are sold with instructions for diet and exercise during what could be a “cleansing” period of a week or more. These instructions may recommend healthy eating, or eating very little.
Often, companies selling detox teas and other products recommend vigorous exercise, which they claim may help expel toxins from the body.
Eating more healthfully, or eating very little, in addition to more exercise may result in weight loss. In other words, losing weight while drinking detox teas may not be a result of the tea but because you’re reducing your caloric intake and increasing your caloric output.
What’s more, detox teas often contain high levels of caffeine. While caffeine is found naturally in most teas, high levels of caffeine act as a diuretic. Diuretics trigger the body to expel water through urine and bowel movements. They can make you lose what’s known as “water weight.”
Detox teas may also have a laxative effect, speeding food through your digestive tract. This can give your abdomen a slimmer, flatter look.
But detox teas don’t cause real or lasting loss of excess fat from the body. Instead, they can dehydrate you.
Some detox teas are harmless mixes of tea leaves no different than regular teas. But others contain additional ingredients that could harm your health. Such ingredients may include:
- powerful herbs, like senna
- high levels of caffeine
- illegal chemicals, like ephedra
The ingredients in detox teas are designed to give you energy. They may also send you rushing to the toilet frequently. Emptying your colon and bladder often may result in a small amount of weight loss.
But what you’re losing is mostly water — not toxins. This isn’t a safe and effective way to lose excess weight.
While these teas contain chemicals meant to “speed” you up (like ephedra) and be more active (a better way to lose weight), they can cause dangerous problems, like:
Read on to learn more about the side effects of detox teas.
Senna is an herbal laxative supplement used to treat constipation. It’s usually safe for most people when used in moderation. Continuous use or taking senna and other laxatives in large quantities isn’t recommended.
Senna and other laxatives are often found in detox teas. They can cause severe diarrhea. Diarrhea can become dangerous if prolonged, as you may end up becoming extremely dehydrated.
Using laxatives over the long run can also disrupt your normal digestion. This can lead you to become reliant on laxatives in order to have normal bowel movements.
Abdominal discomfort, cramps, bloating, gas, and nausea
Detox teas commonly cause abdominal pain and discomfort. Cramps, bloating, gas, and nausea are also common while consuming detox teas.
The high levels of caffeine and laxative ingredients usually cause these symptoms, as they put stress on the digestive system.
Going to the bathroom more often means your body will contain less fluids and could become dehydrated. Dehydration can reduce the levels of electrolytes in your blood.
Electrolytes are important for your muscles to function. An electrolyte imbalance can trigger muscle spasms and an abnormal heart rhythm, both very serious issues.
Effects of too much caffeine intake
As mentioned, detox teas often contain high levels of caffeine. This can cause other negative side effects besides dehydration, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. These include:
- ringing in the ears
- fast heart rate and breathing rate
Too much caffeine can also cause severe sleep issues. Generally, consuming up to 400 milligrams of caffeine — the same amount in four or five cups of coffee — is considered safe for healthy people.
However, detox teas may contain much more caffeine than is recommended in a single day. This can lead to problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
Detox teas may contain herbs and other substances that can interact with certain prescription and over-the-counter medications you may be taking.
Diarrhea from the detox tea may also decrease the efficacy of your medication, as it rushes it through your system without being absorbed.
This is a common concern with hormonal birth control, which must be taken daily in order to be effective.
Other substances in detox teas, such as grapefruit, may magnify the effects of any medications you’re taking and cause serious side effects.
While green tea does have many health benefits, detox teas aren’t a proven weight loss method. What’s more, their ingredients lists aren’t regulated by the FDA. This means a detox tea sold online or in a store could contain possibly dangerous ingredients.
There have been reported cases of drugs, toxins, and other harmful substances found inside detox teas sold in the United States.
In one high-profile case in 2014, investigators found the antidepressant drug fluoxetine (Prozac) inside a Japanese detox tea called Toxin Discharged Tea. This drug can cause serious and life-threatening side effects, especially when it’s taken with other medications.
Detox teas are a widely sold product marketed to help your body expel toxins. In reality, many detox teas just lead to water weight loss by sending you to the bathroom more often.
Detox teas don’t contain regulated ingredients. They may contain powerful herbs, laxatives, high levels of caffeine, medications, and even illegal drugs that can cause severe health problems or even death.
Avoid teas and other products sold for “detox” or weight loss purposes. The best way to stay healthy is to stick to a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise, drink lots of water, and get enough sleep every night.