A cup of hot herbal tea may feel soothing to the soul, but instead of soothing the body, some herbal teas can make you sick.
This is especially true with so-called dieter's teas, herbal teas containing senna, aloe, buckthorn, and other plant-derived laxatives that, when consumed in excessive amounts, can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, chronic constipation, fainting, and perhaps death.
Consumers are warned to follow package directions carefully when using dieter's teas and other dietary supplements containing senna, aloe, and other stimulant laxatives. They should seek medical attention for persistent diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and other bowel problems to prevent more serious complications.
These products-bought in health food stores and through mail-order catalogs, for example-often are used for weight loss based on some consumers’ belief that increased bowel movements will prevent absorption of calories, thus preventing weight gain. However studies show that laxative-induced diarrhea does not significantly reduce absorption of calories. This is because the laxatives do not work on the small intestine, where calories are absorbed, but rather on the colon, the lower end of the bowel.
The stimulant laxative teas and dietary supplements that should cause the most concern contain one or more of the substances senna, aloe, rhubarb root, buckthorn, cascara, and castor oil. These plant-derived products have been used since ancient times for their ability to promote bowel movements and relieve constipation. Several, such as cascara, senna and castor oil, also are available as over-the-counter drug laxatives and are regulated as drugs.
Most consumers who use dieter's teas and similar products know that the products have laxative properties, according to health professionals familiar with the products, even though the product labeling does not specifically state the term “laxative. " Instead, the labeling may promote the product as a natural bowel cleanser. Sometimes it may not reflect the laxative qualities at all.
The product labels may not directly state that the products are for weight loss, although some allude to it. For instance, some products use the terms “dieter's, " “diet, " “trim, " or “slim" in their names. Others may carry information on weight-loss practices, mentioning consumption of the product along with the weight-loss practices. Some of the teas are labeled as “low-calorie. " Unless sweetened, they provide essentially no nutrients and no calories.
All consumers must follow the label instructions if using dieter's teas containing laxative ingredients.
The proper way to lose weight is to use more calories then are consumed. There are many other products on the diet market to use that do not contain laxatives and are much safer to use.
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