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Weight loss side roads: Detox teas

Published:Monday | June 13, 2016 | 12:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence

When Jennique Small* noticed that she was gaining a few pounds, she started a weight-loss system with healthy eating and exercise - but soon fell off the wagon. Citing the culprit as her lack of time to exercise, a friend introduced her to an organic detox tea that promised to flush her system and result in weight loss.

"I assumed that it would be a good start to boost my workout regime as I was planning on starting the gym again," Small told Flair.

She drank the tea, day and night for a week, and actually saw results.

"My stomach was going down and I was not going to the bathroom particularly frequently. I went twice a day and that was it," she stated.

While this worked, she admitted that she only did it for a week.

"The results were good, but I was a bit sceptical about something that showed results in one week. Where did the fat go? While I liked it, I became paranoid and did not want to be dependent on it to lose weight. But I must admit that if I start gaining weight I might consider drinking it for another week, just as a boost like I did before," she confessed.

It appears that Small's scepticism was justified as Dr Garth Rattray confirmed that these teas are not particularly healthy.

"As a general rule, dietary teas can be unhealthy for many people. These teas have several herbs and often include caffeine and senna. Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase the heart rate and, therefore, cause significant harm to any person with certain heart conditions that require that the heart rate be kept low. Taking caffeine can cause the heart to literally

race out of control or precipitate dangerous or deadly arrhythmias. An increased heart rate could also precipitate a heart attack in vulnerable patients," he told Flair.

"Senna is a laxative, and certain bowel conditions require that patients avoid laxatives totally. Furthermore, regular use of laxatives can mask underlying serious bowel pathology. Laxative overuse can also render the bowel insensitive to laxatives that a doctor may prescribe in the short term. Laxatives cause loss of vital fluid and electrolytes. Extended use can cause serious harm."

But Dr Rattray was keen to explain that the term detox tea is used very loosely.

"Detoxing is a very nebulous term that cannot be substantiated and, therefore, remains unproven. There are other ways to rid the body of unwanted 'toxins' - water, vegetables, fruit, exercise and roughage," he explained.

"The possible long-term effects include chronic dehydration, sustained increased heart rates, heart disease, loss of muscle mass, confusion, organ failure. These are dependent on the individual user, how much and how often the person uses these teas, and their pre-existing medical conditions," he added.

* Name changed