The appeal of a “detox tea” is 100 percent understandable: drink, and done. Take a sip, reset, kick start healthy habits, shed a few toxins and maybe a few pounds by simply drinking a steaming cup of the good stuff twice a day. But does it really work?
Celebrities like Khloé Kardashian say yes. The reality star turned jean queen took to Instagram (for a fee, of course) a couple of month ago to praise Flat Tummy Tea, a two-step detox tea she claimed left her “feeling sooo good today.” “Cleanse starts Monday, right?” she joked to her 61 million plus followers, telling them “I ain’t about nothing but results.”
The woman who kick-started the whole revenge body trend (and currently hosts its namesake reality show) does truly seem to be all about results when it comes to health and fitness these days. After her inarguably rough divorce from NBA star Lamar Odom, the curvy Kardashian dropped 35 pounds by following an intense fitness regime and diet makeover. But how much of those results can really be credited to detox tea? Not much, it turns out.
“Detox is a scam,” Louis J. Papa, M.D., an internist and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, tells Yahoo Beauty. “You can’t detox your body. It has a very sophisticated system that has developed over millions of years to filter out what we don’t need. Detox sounds good but it’s not something that can be done.”
“A relatively healthy human body does the job of removing what the body needs to get rid of quite well,” agrees Michelle Dudash, RDN, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families. Rather than look for a quick fix, Dudash recommends focusing on a healthy diet that supports the body’s natural detoxification process, specifically by drinking enough water, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (especially those like broccoli, cauliflower and berries, among others), consuming enough protein, and eating fermented foods like pickled vegetables, kefir and yogurt.
Oh, and definitely up that fiber intake to at least 25 grams per day: “High fiber foods like lentils, black beans, whole grains, fruit with edible skins, and vegetables keep the digestive track moving along. Soluble fiber even helps ‘clean out’ the cholesterol,” she explains.
While Flat Tummy Tea, which claims to stop you from feeling bloated and sluggish (“bluggish, they’ve coined it), is not packed full of fiber, it is packed full of what Dr. Papa says looks like “a lot of really delicious stuff. But it’s all stuff that you can cook and eat, there is no reason that you have to drink it in a detox tea.”
The tea regimen comes in two parts: a daytime tea filled with “natural ingredients that have been traditionally used to help support your metabolism, give you an antioxidant energy kick and get your digestion ready to start the day on an all-natural high,” and a nighttime one made from “natural ingredients that have been traditionally known to work together to help get (and keep) that tummy flat” by helping to “detoxify your intestinal tract free of built of toxins and reduce water weight.”
What are these ingredients, exactly? Some of them, like peppermint and licorice root, have been used to aid digestion in the past. “Some patients do well with peppermint oil to really help their reflux,” says Dr. Papa, while “licorice root has sometimes been used to help with constipation and what not. The problem is that sometimes, in large amounts, licorice root can affect kidney function and your acid-based metabolism.” Green tea, which is contained in the daytime detox tea, has many known health benefits. But when it comes to weight loss, Dr. Papa says the results are inconclusive. “There were some studies to show that individuals that drink green tea were able to lose weight,” he explains. “But we don’t know if that was because they were just filling up with fluid, or if it was the green tea itself, specifically.”
What else do the teas contain? Laxatives, to put it simply. “Detox teas may help reduce bloating via laxative effects, which isn’t recommended for regular use,” says Dudash. Flat Tummy Tea’s nighttime brew does indeed list Senna, a gentle, FDA-approved herb that is found in many over-the-counter laxatives, among its ingredients. While “there is probably nothing wrong with using a product containing this if you’re feeling a bit constipated from travel, dietary changes, and change in sleep schedule, it would be wise to first consult first with your physician” rather than dive in head first in search of results, warns Dudash. “A tea that contains laxative ingredients could cause you to lose some weight quickly, but not necessarily in the healthiest of ways. First, it causes you to have bowel movements, which, yes, you are physically losing weight. But to do that on a regular basis is not sustainable. A laxative also causes you to lose water and possibly become dehydrated, which is also not beneficial in the short-term or long-term.”
Also, prolonged use of laxatives like senna can disrupt the potassium balance of the body. “Potassium is an important electrolyte that regulates fluid levels in the body, blood pressure, and muscular performance,” explains Dudash, “and senna used with other stimulant laxatives, like rhubarb, which is also in this product, can cause a further drop in potassium levels, which is not a good thing for most people.”
Bottom line? When it comes to any health and wellness product, “just because it’s natural, do not assume that it is a safe thing,” warns Dr. Papa, though he notes that the Flat Tummy Tea is probably not dangerous. “The actual ingredients that are going to be in a tea are going to be so small that the actual effect is going to be diluted.”
So go ahead and drink up if you like, just be prepared to put in some sweat alongside those sips if you want to see results.
“Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts,” he explains. “Wellness takes work. We have known forever, and it still holds now, that a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, combined with healthy choices of protein, regular exercise, and adequate restful sleep, is the foundation to maintaining good health for the rest of your life. If you want to have a cup of tea in the morning and evening, go ahead. But you still have to do the work.”
Something Khloé, who has been nothing if not open about her body-positive propensity for hitting the gym, likely understands.
Yahoo Beauty reached out to FlatTummy Tea for comment but did not hear back.
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