Ban the teatox: Detox teas are ‘utterly toxic’ says campaigner

By Nikki Cutler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | Liza5450
Getty | Liza5450
A recovered casualty of anorexia and bulimia is calling on the UK government to ban the sale of detox teas without a prescription, after she was hospitalised as a result of disordered eating and 'detox' tea abuse.

Emma Whittaker was 17-years-old when she was diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia, about one year after she first discovered 'detox teas' through Instagram.

Encouraged by an image of a slim and happy influencer drinking the tea she started buying the product from her local shop and it wasn't long before she realised the 'detox' effect was, in fact, a laxative.

"Senna is the key ingredient in the majority of these products," ​she says on her campaign webpage​. 

"It's a strong, natural laxative medication used to treat constipation. It irritates the stomach lining and can cause cramps and diarrhoea, which in turn will lead to dehydration, disruption of the body's electrolyte balance and subsequently can cause serious heart problems."

The mental health activist says she finds it 'amazing' that brands can get away with branding laxatives as a 'fun, girly' way for younger people to lose weight and it's a trap she 'completely fell into'.

"Putting a laxative in a tea bag and a cute box, handing it over to a celebrity and taking a photo of their plastic surgery enhanced physique is not clever marketing, it's disgusting." 

She admits she drank around double the amount recommended on pack – one every night as opposed to every other night - and she suffered severe consequences.

"These products resulted in the temporary loss of my bowel control on multiple occasions, serious stomach cramps, heart issues and many emergency trips to A&E.

“These teas did not cause my mental health illness but they still had a significant part to play.​”

Whittaker, now 23, points out that approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder and says ‘it's about time we started taking eating disorders seriously’ ​by ensuring these teas are only available from a pharmacy if a patient has been medically advised and prescribed by their GP.

"I don't want these products to be available to teenagers or young adults in shops. If someone needs serious help in achieving weight loss, they should be seeking professional advice from their GP, not drinking detox teas falsely advertising health benefits with no scientific backing.

"These products claim to 'detox' the body. There is no evidence that detox products or diets remove any toxins from your body. Furthermore, your body is capable of cleansing itself through the liver, faeces, intestines, lungs, urine, and sweat.

“Unless someone is suffering from IBS, constipation or other medical complications - they should not be consuming laxatives in any form."

Her campaign has been met with huge amount of messages of support online from many health professionals, plus nearly 2,000 petition signatures.

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