Blog Post

Why "Foot Detox" Systems Can't Clean Out Anything but Your Wallet

MP writes: "I need some advice about 'foot detox.' I think it is snake oil but can’t convince my daughter it is a hoax."

You're right, MP, foot detox is a total scam but don't hold it against your daughter. The people who sell this stuff to the public are very convincing and unless one has the time and energy to research it, they will have no reason to doubt what they're being told.

Sense About Science, a group of British scientists, issued this statement about the whole "detox" fad, which includes a variety of foot baths, socks, tablets, body wraps, diets, the eating of Nettle Root extract or other herbs, and drinking "oxygenated" water.

"They waste money and sow confusion about how our bodies, nutrition and chemistry actually work," they said.

This explains why there is no scientific proof to support any of the claims made by purveyors of foot or any other detox system. Even the term "detox" is meaningless in this sense because the body is perfectly capable of clearing out its own harmful substances. For instance, the gut prevents bacteria and many toxins from entering the body and the liver is charged with breaking down harmful chemicals which can then be excreted by the kidneys.

When it comes to foot detox systems, such as those that use an electric current to supposedly draw toxins out of the body, Stephen Lower, a retired faculty member of the Department of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University, says they make no chemical sense at all. These systems require one to place their feet in a bowl of water to which a bit of salt has been added and then a small electric current is passed between two electrodes immersed in the water, which soon becomes discolored. The discoloration is not from toxins in the body but from electrolytic corrosion of the metal electrodes, which are usually made of iron, nickel and copper, all of which decompose into colored ions. These colors vary with the amount of salt in the water and the pH of the solution.

"To someone who knows no chemistry, it can be quite impressive to see all these evil substances color the water various shades of brown, green, blue as the current works its magic. Sometimes you see flecks of solids and bubbles of gas appear as your body is 'cleansed.' Well, this is an old parlor trick, a nice chemistry-classroom demonstration and, of course a highly profitable scam."

He goes on to explain that there is no way an electric current passing through the body can distinguish between "good" or "bad" molecules, most of which are electrically neutral anyway. In addition, the skin is impermeable to all but a few chemical substances and there is no evidence that any that are found inside the body can pass through the skin to the outside, with or without the help of an electric current.

Then there's the foot pad method which is attached to the soles of the feet before bedtime and supposedly draw toxins out of the body during sleep. Many of these pads claim to employ "far infrared" radiation to work their magic, a term that is a favorite for all kinds of quack remedies. Others claim to draw the toxins out of acupuncture meridians that are believed to connect all of the important bodily organs to the soles of the feet. However, as you'll read from our Reflexology blog, and this article on energy medicine, there is no scientific support for meridians, acupuncture, reflexology or the "energy" that underlies them so it's safe to say the foot pad systems are a total waste of money.

The bottom line is that the only thing these detox systems clean out is your wallet.

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