If you’re a woman and have a Facebook and/or an Instagram account, you’ve come across someone celebrating their supposed weight loss due to some combination of the words “tea,” “tummy,” “flat,” “booty” and/or “fit.”
That’s because someone in your life or your follow list, eager to figure out “the secret” to a leaner body, has decided to plunk down an exorbitant number of dollars for a product that promises to “detoxify your intestinal tract free of built-up toxins and reduce water weight,” claiming that these are “two of the main reasons why some days you look and feel five months pregnant.”
These teas are often little more than an overpriced version of the exact same tea sold in your local grocery store (for 10% of what it sells for online), and that’s if you’re lucky. The ingredients — often a blend of black tea and green tea with something called either cassia or senna — are always the same, because those three ingredients are the key to the only actual effect of the tea, which is the water weight loss and extreme amounts of toilet time.
Senna, also referred to as cassia, is a natural laxative, breaking down everything it comes in contact with inside your digestive tract and sending it right out your backdoor. And, because taking cassia or senna in these amounts essentially triggers a forced form of diarrhea, it also forces your body to get rid of any excess water it might be holding onto.
Green tea’s reputation for “boosting metabolism” is legendary in fitness spaces, regardless of the fact that it is almost entirely oversold. Black tea is a common filler for any kind of specialized tea. All three of these are going to be found in any “detox” tea — possibly alongside some other ingredients with nasty side effects.
That’s because these teas, often produced and manufactured in countries with far less stringent ingredient standards than even the U.S., are much like the items hawked by the supplement industry: produced with lots of fillers. Some of those fillers, which are often not listed on the labels, are allergy-inducing items like wheat and rice; others, like St. John’s wort, can interact negatively with medications. Some ingredients can lead to liver and kidney problems, or worse — and that is certainly not the kind of weight loss any tea consumer is looking to buy their way into.
Because taking cassia or senna in these amounts essentially triggers a forced form of diarrhea, it also forces your body to get rid of any excess water it might be holding onto.
What is most offensive about these “teas” is that they are often flacked, if not straight-up sold, by high-follower-count celebrities, like the Kardashian-Jenner clan, because the companies that make them are looking to prey on the insecurities of those celebrities’ female followers, who are eager to receive the kind of attention those celebrities have. (The celebrities themselves, well, at best they’re doing it for the paycheck.)
The reason that women who receive attention for their beauty are the ones being paid to promote these products is because their looks — some of which are genetic and some of which are enhanced by surgery, make-up, lighting and supportive undergarments — enhance the elusive promise of the teas. Having these “influencers” as clients helps convince people that they, too, can achieve a fantasy if they just… buy their overpriced tea.
What’s more, the idea of “cleaning out your insides” as a means of achieving a flatter tummy is not only dangerous, but reminiscent of disordered eating behavior.
Laxatives have their place in medical care, as any person who has been prescribed opioids could tell you. But disrupting your digestive process for the goal of a flatter tummy, with a product the actual purpose of which is to cause dehydration and potential malnourishment, is dangerous thinking.
And never mind how the idea of “built-up toxins” completely belies everything medical science knows about anatomy and biology: Your liver and kidneys are the most reliable detoxifiers you could possibly have.
The idea of “built-up toxins” completely belies everything medical science knows about anatomy and biology.
Everything about the digestive tract, from your saliva to your colon, is structured to prepare everything you consume for detoxification. If something is sitting inside you and isn’t killing you instantly, then guess what? It’s not toxic, by definition — but it’s definitely “toxic” to scare people into dropping crazy money for overpriced Lipton mixed with a laxative chew.
A brief scroll through the tea-related hashtags on Instagram will show you an extreme imbalance in the number of women versus men taking supposed advantage of the products. These brands know what they’re doing — right down to the pink packaging. The combination of celebrity, fame and the social pressure to be thin all combine to sell an otherwise dangerous product to young women who might find a moment of fame easier to achieve than, say, a livable wage.
It’s one thing to have a fitness goal, and set about on a focused journey to achieve it. Eating better, being more active and staying on top of your mental health are integral to a healthier life. But sacrificing your internal health for an external goal is dangerous. If a product promises to do things to your body through causing diarrhea and dehydration, then guess what? You don’t need that product.