Video: Why detox foot baths are scams

posted in: Science vs myths | 0
Chronic Lyme celebrity Yolanda Hadid and her detox foot bath

One of the top myths about the human body is that people need to “detox”. Fortunately, our bodies naturally remove toxins so they can’t harm us.

If important organs like your liver and kidneys stop working, you need a hospital, not shady “detox” products!

A chemistry magic trick

“Detox foot baths” are marketed as removing toxins through the feet, but this is not possible. Generally, the skin on your feet is too thick for anything to get through.

After the so-called “ionic detox” device is activated, the water in the foot bath turns shades of red and brown. This disgusting mess is claimed to be “toxins” but is actually the product of a simple chemistry trick: rust from electrodes conducting electricity through the water.

That’s rust?

There’s a little more to it. Dr. Stephen Lower, PhD, a professor of chemistry, explains further:

The color, of course, comes from electrolytic corrosion of the metal electrodes. These are usually made of iron, nickel, and copper, all of which decompose into colored ions. These colors will vary with the amount of salt present and the pH of the solution, and they can be changed and greatly intensified by the substances that either added to the bath before use, or are present in the “soaps” often used to prepare the patient’s feet.

By-products of the electrolysis process are bubbles of hydrogen and chlorine gases (both of which are dangerous in confined spaces) and sodium hydroxide, commonly known as “lye”. The latter tends to soften skin, allowing it to flake off, pick up various colors on reacting with the metal ions, and complete the illusion that one usually pays dearly for.

Test it for yourself

The water changes color with or without a pair of feet, as revealed in an impressive exposé by Inside Edition:

Adam ruins detox cleanses

The TV show Adam Ruins Everything produced an entertaining segment on Why Detox Cleanses are a Rip-Off. Adam Conover aptly states:

The fact is, toxins aren’t even a special type of chemical. It’s just become a trendy buzzword.

Fun fact

Unlike some bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli, Borrelia Burgdorferi do not produce toxins. Lyme disease is caused by the body’s response to the B. Burgdorferi bacteria.

That’s why it is clearly incorrect when chronic Lyme patients claim that their negative antibody tests are from Lyme “hiding” from the immune system. The reason chronic Lyme patients usually test negative is because they don’t have Lyme disease.


Inside Edition: Detox Foot Bath Investigation

Quackwatch: The Aqua Detox Scam

Kennedy DA, et al. Objective assessment of an ionic footbath (IonCleanse): testing its ability to remove potentially toxic elements from the body. J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:258968.

Dr. Edzard Ernst: Six signs you are being treated by a quack

Dara Mohammadi: You can’t detox your body. It’s a myth. So how do you get healthy?

Science-Based Medicine: The Detox Scam: How to spot it, and how to avoid it

Science-Based Medicine: “Detox”: Ritual purification masquerading as medicine and wellness

Respectful Insolence: IonCleanse foot baths: The confluence of antivaccine nonsense and cancer quackery

Respectful Insolence: A “clinical trial” of foot bath “detoxification”

The Atlantic: The Dangers of Snake-Oil Treatments for Autism (discusses IonCleanse by AMD Facebook groups)

Video: Ionic foot detox electrode scam. How it works.