Isagenix , skinny tea, flat tummy tea- if you’re a fan of Dr. Oz and his miracle diets, you’ve probably heard these names. These dietary supplements claim to “flush out” the system for a quick and easy weight loss solution boasting how they’re easy to use, require no dieting and you’ll see quick weight loss, boundless energy and improved overall well-being. Sounds too good to be true.
I looked into three of the major brands of teatoxes and two “flushing” dietary supplements to get the “skinny” on how they work. While there are tons of examples on the market, today we’ll be specifically chatting about:
How Isagenix, SkinnyTeas and Weight Loss Supplements “Work”
While it may not sound very sexy, all of these supplements are essentially just fancy, expensive laxatives. Some of these products even claim that “months or years of toxins build up in your intestinal tract and clog up your system”….umm, what? We have some snazzy organs called kidneys and a liver that cleanse our bodies everyday. Let’s get into the specifics of how these laxatives like isagenix work.
All three tea companies contain a morning regime and an evening routine with a month’s detox package coming in at around 70 bucks…for tea! Moving past this crazy price tag lets look at what’s in them. The morning routine contains ingredients like ashwaganda root and nettle leaf and claims to be energizing. These aren’t necessarily dangerous ingredients, but there really isn’t much evidence to their “energy-promoting” claims. Also, usually I find calories (aka. energy) to be energizing- but alas, there’s no calories here. The evening tea is claimed to be the cleansing aspect by flushing out waste (no pun intended) thanks to the tea’s main ingredient, the senna leaf, a natural laxative. So yes, a very expensive laxative treatment which may or may not have health risks. We’ll get into that a bit more later.
Flushing Supplements (Isagenix)
These two rely on magnesium as their natural laxative of choice. Unlike Senna leaf, magnesium is important for hundreds of bodily processes including energy production and developing strong bones, and The National Institute of Health recommends a daily intake of magnesium for women of 320mg per day with an upper level of 350mg per day. Once you exceed the upper limit, magnesium can easily have a laxative effect. Phillips Milk of Magnesia has been a traditional magnesium supplement to treat constipation, clocking in at 500mg of magnesium per tablespoon with a recommended serving of 2-4 tablespoons. Oy, that will certainly flush you out pretty good. Isaflush, an Isagenix product, on the other hand a bit more “mild” with a dose of 200mg and a recommended 1-2 capsules per day. Isaflush by Isagenix also contains another laxative (black walnut) so it’s hard to compare them directly for strength. Either way, they’re obviously both going well above the recommended limit for daily magnesium, and this isn’t even taking into account what you eat.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on Laxatives
Let’s start with those senna leaves in teatoxes. Senna is a known stimulant laxative and contains a chemical called sennosides, which aggravates your bowls and makes you need to go…fast (Here). Senna has been traditionally used and proven safe for emptying the bowels prior to a colonoscopy, but that’s not something anyone usually would want to put themselves through by choice (Here, here). The National Instititute of Health stated that there isn’t enough evidence to say senna leaves promote weight loss, although they do state that they may be unsafe when taken for more than two weeks or in high doses. Most of the teatoxes promote an initial 4 week dose but don’t recommend an upper limit on how often to “teatox.” That’s a recipe for people to overdo it. The most recent study I could find on the long-term safety of senna was from a rat study, which isn’t ever strong evidence. Two older studies stated senna may be linked to liver damage when used for more than 3 months, but again the evidence isn’t strong (Here, here).
Magnesium laxatives like those in the flushing supplements (isagenix) are a saline laxative that works by drawing water from the body into the intestines which softens the stool and increases contractions to help you go (here). Aside from the obvious, they have some not-so-sexy side effects including stomach cramps, diarrhea and gas (here).
Long-term use of laxatives in general, whether they’re natural or not, can have detrimental permanent side effects such as constipation, bowel dysfunction, bleeding in the intestines, electrolyte imbalances, dehydration….the list goes on. Even using laxatives for more than a week can cause dependence, leading to a weakened colon.
It’s also important to note that certain groups should not be using these laxative supplements, ever. If you are pregnant, nursing, under twelve years old, have any gastrointestinal condition, diarrhoea or potassium deficiency these products are definitely not for you.
So we know HOW they work, but DO they actually work (at least the way we hope? Let’s look at each claim.
Weight Loss on Isagenix and Skinny Tea
Isagenix and skinny tea and other weight loss supplements may cause short-term weight loss, although this isn’t a loss of fat- sorry guys. It’s mainly due to the quick emptying of the bowel and fluid loss. If we think back to elementary school and how digestion works, by the time food has reach our bowels it has already been broken down and partly digested. And just as these supplements don’t provide effective short-term weight loss, the literature doesn’t support their long-term weight loss effectiveness.
One of the common bad side effects of Isagenix and other products is dehydration, which can have a negative impact on your metabolism (see how to speed up your metabolism). Lets remember that laxatives have important purposes for those suffering from constipation or undergoing a colonoscopy, but for the general population hoping to drop a few pounds, it isn’t a good bet.
I’m going to keep this point short and simple, your body is an amazing powerhouse for detoxification. It doesn’t need much help with this. Do you have your two kidneys? Awesome, every time you pee, you’re detoxing. Do you have a liver? Fantastic, it’s working hard to remove toxins from your body right now. Have you gone to the bathroom recently? Give yourself a pat on the back- you just got rid of waste!
The only aspect any of supplements like isagentix that would increase your energy is the small amount of caffeine (less than that in a cup of coffee) in some of the teas. If this is your rationale for purchasing a supplement, it’s much cheaper to make a cup of coffee for less than $1.
Improved Overall Health and Well-Being
Well, you’ll be going to the bathroom more often, but I wouldn’t say that denotes an improved health statement.
As with all dietary supplements, caution must be taken with what you’re putting in your body. The harmful side effects these laxative isagenix and skinny tea supplements can cause may in fact be permanent. Plus, there isn’t enough research to make any strong conclusions on the safety or effectiveness.
Here’s the bottom line:
1.Teatoxes and magnesium supplements are essentially just expensive laxatives
2.In small doses, these isagenix laxatives have been shown to be safe- one “flush” isn’t going to kill you (if you feel like dropping the amount of cash a person usually spends on groceries every week to make you go to the bathroom more often)
3.If you like tea, drink it! But pairing that with a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and water will give you all the antioxidants and fibre you need to promote and maintain a healthy weight and bowels- double bonus!
4.Your body does an awesome job of cleansing and flushing itself daily, and naturally. Up your fibre and fluid intake and voila, you’ll be going to the bathroom on a regular basis!
So what is the solution then?
I would urge you to ask yourself is why you’re considering using a teatox or isaflush product.
For cleansing? Refer back to Abbey’s How to Cleanse & Detox.
For weight loss? Try Abbey’s Best Weight Loss Diet.
Do you want to look better? We’ve got some great Tips for Loving Your Body.
Now this may to start to sound like I’m being biased, but its evidenced-based people! Ready to start cleansing? Try eating some flavourful berries with a big glass of water for your next snack- let’s get cleansing.
Contribution by AK Dietetic Intern Tiffany Schebesch
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.