When you want to lose weight fast, it's tempting to consider quick fixes, like a 10-day detox tea diet or a tea detox cleanse, but while these things may provide immediate gratification in the form of lost water weight, they're not sustainable and that weight usually comes back.
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There's a healthy way to fast, though: by using a strategy called intermittent fasting. When you incorporate intermittent fasting, you can drink herbal tea during your water fast window, but you also have to include plenty of healthy foods.
Tea Detox Cleanse Dangers
The dietary supplement industry is a multi-billion-dollar business. In 2015, Americans spent a total of $2 billion just on different types of weight-loss supplements, which are the most common subgroup. Not only are many of these supplements ineffective, but they can also actually be dangerous.
A lot of tea detox cleanses that promise weight loss and the removal of toxins from your body actually contain laxative-type herbs, such as senna, and diuretics, like nettle or dandelion leaf, as their main ingredients.
The laxative ingredients trigger bowel movements (sometimes urgent ones) that also cause you to lose water, electrolytes and minerals. As described by the Mayo Clinic, diuretics work by pushing your kidneys to release more sodium into the blood and then triggering your body to release that sodium and the water that it's dissolved in.
These factors together may result in lower numbers on the scale, and they might make you feel thinner because you're less bloated, but ultimately, you're just losing water weight and, as the National Eating Disorders Association makes clear, setting yourself up for dehydration.
If you're drinking only weight-loss tea and fasting for one week, you can develop severe dehydration that can cause weakness, tremors, blurry vision, fainting and kidney damage. In severe cases, dehydration can even cause death. The promise of quick weight loss can be appealing, but in cases like this, the juice isn't worth the squeeze, so to speak.
The Science on Fasting Safety
A report published in _BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine _in February 2018 took a detailed look at fasting to determine whether it was safe for the average person. In this review, researchers looked at 768 cases of medically supervised water fasting that lasted only two days. They found that, even in this short period of time, participants experienced several uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Back pain
- Pain in the fingers and toes
- Abdominal pain
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
Although the severity of most of these cases was labeled as mild to moderate, two participants experienced severe dehydration that resulted in hospitalization. Keep in mind that these participants were fasting without including "detox" herbal tea during the water fast. If they had included the tea, too, they might have lost weight, but the adverse effects likely would have been more severe.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Although complete fasting for one week is something that should be done only in a clinical setting under medical supervision, you can include a type of fasting called intermittent fasting in your weight-loss plan. Instead of going days without food, intermittent fasting involves alternating periods of eating with periods of not eating, or fasting.
One of the most common types of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 method, also called time-restricted feeding. During this type of fasting, you'll alternate a period of 8 hours of eating (your feeding window) with a period of 16 hours without food (your fasting window). For example, on a 16:8 intermittent fasting plan, you may decide to eat between the hours of 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. and then fast between 8 p.m. and 12 p.m.
During your fasting window, you can drink water and any noncaloric beverages, like seltzer, coffee and tea. Just make sure to enjoy your coffee and tea black, as added cream or sugar can break your fast and negate the benefits.
Read more: 13 DOs and DON'Ts of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting and Insulin
The idea behind intermittent fasting is to give your body a break from food so that your insulin levels can go down. When you eat food, especially carbohydrates, insulin levels rise to allow your body to use that food for energy. The problem is that insulin carries any excess food you eat into the cells and stores it as fat.
When you restrict food temporarily through intermittent fasting, you give your insulin levels a chance to go down and it forces your body to use the food, or sugar, that's already stored in your cells as energy. If you let this happen long enough, eventually your body burns off its own stored fat, instead of relying on food for energy, and you can lose weight.
Other Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
But intermittent fasting isn't just about weight loss. It also helps you cleanse your body more effectively than a tea detox cleanse can. Intermittent fasting triggers a process called autophagy, which is a deep cellular cleansing. Your body is constantly breaking down old, dead and sick cells and releasing them into your blood. If these cells aren't cleansed from the body, it can lead to chronic diseases, like cancer.
When you stimulate autophagy through intermittent fasting, it helps cleanse your body naturally and reduces the effect of stressors on it, without the laxative or diuretic effects that teas can trigger. If you're looking for a way to lose weight and improve your health without the potential of severe dehydration, intermittent fasting may be a better option than simply drinking tea and fasting for one week.
You can still drink tea during your fasting window when intermittent fasting, but you may want to consider an herbal tea or a green tea, instead of a detox tea that pushes excess water and electrolytes out of your body.
Read more: 10 Slimming Tips to Get You Ready for Summer
Intermittent Fasting Cautions
Although intermittent fasting can come with several health benefits and may be a happy medium for those who want to incorporate fasting but don't want the potential dangers of water or tea fasting, there are some groups of people who should avoid it. Don't incorporate intermittent fasting if you:
- Have diabetes
- Have a history of eating disorders that involve unhealthy restrictive patterns, such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa
- Use medications that require you to take them on a full stomach
- Are in a period of active growth (like puberty)
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
Of course, even if you're healthy, you should always talk to your doctor and get the OK before trying something like intermittent fasting.
- Clinics: "Autophagy and Intermittent Fasting: The Connection for Cancer Therapy?"
- BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Is Fasting Safe? A Chart Review of Adverse Events During Medically Supervised, Water-Only Fasting"
- Preventive Medicine Reports: "Household Expenditures on Dietary Supplements Sold for Weight Loss, Muscle Building, and Sexual Function: Disproportionate Burden by Gender and Income"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Diet Review: Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Intermittent Fasting: Surprising Update"
- Cleveland Clinic: "What Can Tea Really Do for Your Health? 3 Myths, Debunked"
- National Eating Disorders Association: "Laxative Abuse"
- Mayo Clinic: "Diuretics"