You’ve probably seen posts about detox teas in your social media feeds. You know which posts we’re talking about — an influencer holds a bag of tea next to their flat belly with a caption like, “Love this tea!” or “So yummy and easy!”
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But can a detox tea — a.k.a. “teatox” — really help you lose weight?
Short answer: No. Here’s what you need to know about detox tea, what it can do to your body, why it’s not the best option for long-term weight loss, and what to do instead.
What Is Detox Tea?
Detox teas are often marketed as a 14-day or 28-day “cleanse.” According to the companies who sell it, detox tea is a blend of herbal ingredients designed to boost metabolism, reduce bloating, flush out toxins, and increase energy.
The more accurate description of detox tea, however, is just regular old tea with a few extra ingredients. A few common ingredients include:
- Senna — an herb with a laxative effect
- Guarana — a plant with a stimulant effect
- Caffeine — a stimulant and diuretic
- Dandelion root — a weed that’s believed to aid in digestion
Do Detox Teas Actually Work?
Any weight loss you experience after drinking detox tea is water weight, Gorin says — not fat loss. And that means your “results” are likely to be temporary.
There’s no concrete evidence that sipping a detox tea will lead to long-term weight loss. Whether or not you actually lose weight while drinking it depends heavily on your lifestyle, exercise habits, and diet. Even detox tea companies are quick to note (in small print, of course) that their teas are meant to be used in conjunction with healthy eating and regular exercise.
Here are three more reasons to think twice before trying detox teas.
Detox Tea Isn’t Effective for Weight Loss
“There aren’t magic bullets when it comes to eating a healthy diet and losing weight,” Gorin says — and detox tea is no exception.
Research suggests the catechins in green tea may help with weight loss and weight maintenance — but that’s true of any unsweetened green tea. There’s no credible scientific research linking detox teas to weight loss.
Detox Tea Can’t “Detoxify” Your Body
Ignore those #detox hashtags. Why? Because your body detoxes itself — hello, liver and kidneys!
“The liver works to neutralize potentially harmful [toxins] and eliminate those from the body, and the kidneys filter out waste,” Gorin explains. “The healthy body does a remarkable job of regulating itself and doesn’t need to be detoxed under normal circumstances.”
The best way to support your body in its natural detoxification process: Try to eliminate processed foods from your diet. Eating healthy foods can help alleviate the strain that’s put on your liver and kidneys when you consume copious amounts of junk food.
Regular Tea is a Better Option
Though some ingredients in detox tea can have health benefits — like green tea leaf, ginger, and lemongrass — the combination of diuretic and laxative herbs in many detox tea blends can cause some unpleasant side effects.
You’re better off enjoying a regular old cup of unsweetened green, black, or herbal tea without the unnecessary additives. Drinking tea is a healthy habit — and combined with healthy eating and regular exercise, it may help you reach your weight-loss goals — but “that could be said of any unsweetened tea, not necessarily a detox tea,” says Gorin.
Does Detox Tea Make You Poop?
Yes. A common ingredient in detox tea is senna, an FDA-approved natural laxative used to treat constipation and induce bowel movements.
Senna is particularly popular in detox teas marketed as a “nighttime blend,” and there’s a reason many products warn against sipping the nighttime tea before a date or special event. To put it bluntly: You’re going to want some privacy and easy access to a toilet.
Why Detox Tea Can Be Bad for You
When consumed in excess, laxatives can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects like abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, gas, or cramps, says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, in Jersey City, NJ. Chronic laxative use can also lead to low potassium levels, which in turn can cause muscle spasms or abnormal heart rhythm.
And laxatives aren’t the only potentially risky ingredient. Those energy-boosting claims often come from a blend of stimulants, including caffeine, green tea leaf, yerba mate, and guarana (a plant with seeds that contain four times as much caffeine as coffee beans).
Why Are There So Many Brands of Detox Tea?
As detox teas grow in popularity, you’re probably seeing more and more celebrities lining up to hawk their favorite brand (or, more accurately, the brand they’re paid to promote).
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The commercial appeal is understandable — who wouldn’t want to reach their weight loss goals just by sipping tea twice a day? But the truth is, there’s no magic elixir that can help you lose weight — at least not without a healthy nutrition plan and regular exercise to go along with it.
Should You Try Detox Tea?
No. The advertisements for detox tea are compelling, but there’s no single food or drink capable of detoxing your body or curing your weight-loss woes. The best way to support your body’s natural detoxification process is by eating healthy foods and staying hydrated.
Instead of tossing all your eggs (and money) into the overhyped detox tea basket — and risking the unpleasant side effects — Gorin says it’s better to focus on the tried-and-true combo of regular exercise, adequate sleep, staying hydrated, moving more throughout the day, and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
“A balanced diet includes a mix of fruits, vegetables, protein-rich foods (such as eggs, chicken breast, beans, and milk), whole grains (like brown rice and quinoa), and healthy fats (like avocado and olive oil),” says Gorin.
And if you’re in the mood for tea, stick with regular unsweetened tea.