Detox teas might not be the booming business they once were, but that doesn’t mean the concept of using foods and drinks to ‘detox’ the body has gone to the wayside. While detoxing is advertised to keep your body in tip-top shape, these diets aren’t all they’re cracked up to be – especially in pregnancy.
Though some detox drinks are safe, they can include unpasteurized ingredients or cause a laxative effect- both of which are best to avoid during pregnancy. Detox diets are also very limiting and likely don’t provide adequate nutrition to support both mom and baby.
So while some detox drinks are technically safe, are there any benefits for pregnant women? I’ll break down the science surrounding detoxing, including if it actually improves health.
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Safe Detox Drinks While Pregnant
When it comes to diets or drinks, ‘detox’ is a misleading term. These drinks are meant to ‘cleanse’ your system as a way to boost your health. The misnomer comes from the fact that your body already performs these functions all on its own.
Detox diets are altogether unnecessary, including during pregnancy. Your body has its own innate detox system- your liver and kidneys. These organs work together to filter blood and wastes (urine), pulling any excess nutrients and the byproducts of food metabolism, out of your body for you to eliminate in the bathroom.
If you still want to try a ‘detox’ it is important to note that not all commercial detox products are safe during pregnancy. Detox juices tend to be cold-pressed and unpasteurized, so it’s best to avoid these due to the risk for food poisoning. Detox teas can contain unsafe herbs, which I’ll cover in greater detail below.
Though not marketed as true ‘detox drinks,’ beverages like pomegranate juice and ginger tea are high in antioxidants. Incorporating antioxidants can help to decrease inflammation and stress in the body and keep your system functioning its best (source: International Journal of Preventive Medicine).
Can I Drink Detox Tea While Pregnant?
Some teas are marketed as ‘detox’ teas. Herbal teas are a great caffeine-free way to stay hydrated, but ‘detox’ teas may contain unsafe ingredients.
Widely available brands of ‘detox’ tea use a blend of milk thistle, nettle, burdock, and dandelion root. While milk thistle and dandelion in particular have long been used to treat pregnancy symptoms, there is not enough evidence showing they are truly safe.
Nettle is another common pregnancy-related herb, however, it has been rated as ”likely unsafe” to use when expecting (source: American Pregnancy Association).
Beyond simply unsafe or questionably safe ingredients, detox teas can act as a laxative. Taking laxatives can lead to dangerous side effects such as dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Green tea is occasionally recommended as a ‘detox.’ The tea is high in antioxidant power, budget-friendly, and readily available in most shops. While detoxing is not necessary during pregnancy, if you feel so inclined to drink a ‘detox tea,’ then green tea is your safest option.
Green tea does contain caffeine and drinking large amounts is shown to decrease folate levels, so it is best to drink in moderation (source: Lamaze).
Can You Drink Detox Water During Pregnancy?
Just like detox teas, there are also detox waters. At their core, most detox waters are simply fruit/herb-infused water. Do-it-yourself recipes range from basic lemon and ginger to adding apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper.
Lemon, ginger, or mint detox waters may actually provide an unintended benefit- relief from morning sickness. These ingredients are common home remedies for nausea, and a cold lemon or ginger water will relieve nausea the same way a hot ginger tea does (source: Canadian Family Physician).
There are some ingredients to watch out for. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is added to many recipes and is an ingredient in many commercially available detox waters as well. Though diluted in water, the same cautions for vinegar apply here as well. To avoid foodborne illness, only choose products made with pasteurized vinegars (source: FDA).
If you are curious about other safe ways to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your routine, head over to our dedicated article on ACV.
Cayenne pepper might be the most unusual ingredient found in detox waters. While not unsafe during pregnancy, proceed cautiously if you or baby are sensitive to spicy foods or if you’re experiencing a lot of heartburn. Even in water, cayenne still packs a spicy kick that can quickly lead to discomfort if you’re not used to the heat.
Again, detox waters aren’t necessary to have a healthy pregnancy, and there is no evidence that they actually work. Any benefits are likely from just drinking more water overall, and not the ingredients infused into the drink.
Are Detox Diets Safe Before or During Pregnancy?
‘Detoxes’ are often promoted as a quick way to get back on the health train, and so it also comes as no surprise that expecting women wonder whether they can, or should, follow a detox in the months leading up to delivery.
Currently, there is no medical reason to ‘detox’ before giving birth, or any other time for that matter. Many ‘detoxes’ limit the amount of types of food you can eat, even if only for a short time.
Heading into the delivery room without adequate nutrition in the days prior could lead to a slew of unpleasant side effects, including low blood sugar, low blood pressure, and dizziness. Giving birth is already tough enough, so it’s best to skip the detox in favor of enjoying your regular balanced meals (source: NIH).
Some women presume that doing a ‘detox’ might help with conception. Likewise, there is no scientific evidence that supports following a ‘detox’ can increase your chances of getting pregnant.
While typical ‘detoxes’ include some antioxidant-rich foods, it’s not likely that partaking in a short-term diet will resolve any inflammation issues. Rather, you’re more likely to gain any fertility-boosting antioxidant benefits by including them in your day-to-day diet on a regular basis.
‘Detox diets’ are now more than just the cabbage soup diet of the 1980s- but that doesn’t make them any more nutritional sound. According to my internet search, the most popular detoxes right now are fasting, ‘green’ supplements, apple cider vinegar drinks, Whole30, and smoothie or juice cleanses (source: NIH).
‘Juice cleanses’ might be one of the most common ‘detox’ diets, with online and local shops even selling juice cleanse packages. While these diets do contain vitamins and minerals, they’re nearly devoid of fiber, protein, and fats- all important to maintain your health and the health of your baby.
One of the best things that you can do to keep your body’s natural detoxification system working is to drink adequate fluids. Water, herbal teas, juices, and even foods all count towards your daily total. During pregnancy, many women feel the urge to urinate more often, and this can be a major roadblock when it comes to drinking fluids.
If frequent trips to the restroom are keeping you from drinking water, try snacking on foods with a high water content. Watermelon, berries, popsicles, and even crunchy veggies are all hydrating (source: Cleveland Clinic).
For other ways to stay hydrated, check out our list of 10 drinks you can enjoy that aren’t water!
Though the pressure to ‘detox’ for health isn’t going away, it is also not necessary or beneficial for a healthy pregnancy. If you do choose to drink detox beverages, be mindful to drink them as an addition to your regular diet and double-check the ingredients list to avoid any unsafe ingredients.