How Bad is it Really to Try a Teatox?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Drinking tea has many amazing health benefits, but a tea detox (aka "teatox") — an herbal tea blend that claims to help you lose weight, fight bloat and improve immunity — is a different story.

"Your body is always getting rid of harmful compounds, so relying on a tea that is pumped full of ingredients that could negatively affect your body is a waste of time and money."

They Mess With Your Gut and Electrolyte Balance

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Many teatox blends are made with senna and senna leaf — a natural laxative that can have you running to the bathroom. As a result of the laxatives and diuretics in these teas, you can experience abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, gas, nausea and diarrhea, Rofheart says.

But if you don't have these known health issues and start drinking teas that have diuretics and laxative ingredients, they can negatively affect your body's normal digestive and detoxification process.

"Teatoxes can create electrolyte imbalances, cause damage to the kidneys and possibly, long-term damage to the digestive tract because they promote loose bowel movements and excessive urination," says Amber Trejo, RDN, dietitian and founder of Naked Wellness.

They Can Make You Extra Jittery

Guarana and yerba mate are common ingredients in teatox blends because they naturally have caffeine, which also has a mild diuretic effect.

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And while caffeine has been shown to increase your metabolism slightly, it's not enough to promote significant weight loss because your metabolism drops back to its normal rate after the caffeine is metabolized, Trejo says.

"Caffeine additives used in teatoxes may have extremely high amounts of the stimulant and cause caffeine overdose. This is associated with increased risk of health issues including dizziness, insomnia, irritability, hormonal imbalances, irregular heartbeat and seizures," Dunn explains.

FYI, the FDA recommends taking in no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day.

They Can Interact With Medications

Laxative and diuretic ingredients can also interact with certain medications you're taking.

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For example, they can interfere with the medication digoxin, which is used to help treat heart failure, wafarin (a blood thinner) and estrogen, Dunn says. "Yerba mate also interacts with several medications, including lithium (prescribed to those with mood disorders), antibiotics and some asthma drugs."

In addition, ginseng in these teas can interact with medications prescribed for depression and diabetes, as well as immunosuppressants, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Because ginseng can increase bleeding, it can pose a danger to those taking blood thinners too, Trejo says.

Some people who take ginseng also report having diarrhea, insomnia, headaches, rapid heartbeat and blood pressure fluctuations, Rofheart says.

"Licorice root is another popular ingredient in these tea blends that can have a negative effect on your blood pressure and should be not taken if you're on any loop diuretics or thiazides," Trejo says.

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That's why it's very important for you to speak to your doctor about any herbal teas and supplements before introducing them into your diet.

They Might Be Linked to an Increased Risk of Cancer

Although occasionally drinking yerba mate isn't likely to have any risks, some research has shown that drinking large amounts of it — particularly when it's really hot — is associated with an increased risk of cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Taking in a lot of yerba mate over a prolonged period of time has been associated with the incidence of lung, mouth, stomach, esophageal, laryngeal and bladder cancer," Rofheart says.

One possible reason is that hot yerba mate has polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — the same ones you're exposed to from eating grilled or smoked meats. PAHs are chemicals that can cause changes in DNA, which are linked to an increased risk of cancer, per the National Cancer Institute.

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But, the review notes that PAHs are often hydrophobic, so they may not transfer in drinks. In other words, more studies are needed to determine whether you can get PAHs from drinking yerba mate. To play it safe, avoid drinking large amounts of yerba mate in teatox blends — and if you drink it on its own, enjoy it occasionally and at cooler temperatures.

They Can Lead to Nutrient Deficiencies

People who are following teatoxes often forego eating enough food because they are looking to lose weight, so not only are they in a calorie deficit, but they may also have nutritional deficiencies.

"Because the laxatives in the teas can irritate the digestive tract when taken in excess, you also risk not absorbing all the nutrients from your food because the transit time is sped up," Trejo says.

"Calorie- and nutrient-wise, it's not where you want to be if you're an athlete. It's not going to help with performance because you're not taking in enough protein and carbs to repair muscles and replenish energy. So you have to ask yourself, even if it helps you lose weight, what does that mean for your body composition if you're losing muscle?" Dunn says.

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Teatoxes can also lead to disordered eating patterns because they encourage you to ignore your hunger and fullness cues. "This may happen because once someone stops drinking these teas and gains the weight back, they will start thinking the teatox is what works for weight loss, thus instilling a fear of food," Trejo says.

So, Is It Really That Bad to Try a Teatox?

It's a really bad idea. In fact, you should avoid them completely because they're likely a waste of your money, they don't have proven health benefits and they can put you at risk for a variety of health issues.

"As a weight-loss dietitian who has been helping people lose weight over the last decade, there is nothing quick or easy about weight loss, and there is nothing good about jeopardizing your health for the sake of losing a few pounds that will come back," Trejo says.

The truth is that the ingredients in these teatox blends aren't regulated, so there's no sure way of knowing what's really in them and how they can affect your body.

Focusing on exercising and following a nutritious balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, dairy and healthy fats will ultimately help you lose weight without pooping and peeing your brains out.

Read more on: livestrong


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