In recent years, a number of lymphatic drainage products have hit the market that claim to extract toxic heavy metals and negative ions through the soles of the feet, via the kidney meridian. The primary methods of foot detox are ionic foot baths, which manufacturers claim drain lymphatic toxins into a basin of water, and stick-on gauze pads filled with herbs, worn on the soles of the feet overnight.
Foot Detox Patches
The many manufacturers of foot detox patches claim their products drain the body of toxins such as heavy metals and even cellulite. The pads, often touted as weight loss products, are stuck to the soles of the feet before going to be bed and removed upon waking, at which point they tend to be greasy, foul-smelling and dark in color. Foot pad manufacturers claim that these are lymphatic toxins trapped in the pads. Foot detox patches frequently contain oak or bamboo vinegar, shellfish-derived chitosan and the mineral tourmaline. One of the first companies to sell foot pads, Kinoki manufacturer Xacta 3000, has been charged with deceptive advertising by the Federal Trade Commission and the product has since been discontinued. Other brands of detox foot patches remain widely available.
Ionic Foot Baths
Retailing for up to $3000, ionic foot baths allow clients to soak their feet in salt water through which low-voltage current is transmitted via an electrode assembly called an "array." According to DeviceWatch.com, Aqua Detox International claims its foot baths produce an array of positive and negative ions, which "resonates through the body" and stimulates cells to heal themselves while releasing toxins such as heavy metals. The water in an ionic foot bath changes colors as the user soaks, which manufacturers claim is proof that the lymphatic system is being drained and toxins are being released.
Claims About Lymphatic Drainage
Among the toxins foot patch manufacturers claim their products remove via the lymphatic system are aluminum, smog, nicotine, fluoride, lead, asbestos, parasites, arsenic, mercury, copper, barium, nickel, gold, cobalt, steel, chlorine, formaldehyde and titanium. Foot pad creators claim their products can treat a multitude of ailments, from migraine headaches to cellulite to depression. Ionicfootbathproducts.com claims its foot baths, which sell for up to $495 as of 2010, can inactivate viruses, bacteria, yeast and fungus, balance the immune system, purify the lymph nodes, enhance nutrient absorption, increase body flexibility and cause weight loss without the need for diet and exercise.
Experts on Ionic Baths
Seeking to debunk ionic foot bath manufacturers' claims, "Guardian Unlimited" reporter Ben Goldacre conducted an experiment in which he placed two metal nails in a bowl of salt water and used a car battery to send current through them. As he suspected, the water turned brown and formed sludge on top, just like an ionic bath after a foot detox. Goldacre then sent a colleague for a foot detox and asked him to collect water samples from his ionic bath. Laboratory tests of both water samples proved that the change of water color was the result of increased iron content. These results indicate that the color change of the water is due primarily to rust precipitation from electrode corrosion rather than to toxins drawn from the feet.
Experts on Foot Pads
Scientists, doctors and consumer advocates like ABC's "20/20" correspondent John Stossel have overwhelmingly denounced foot detox patches as a scam, stating there is no physiological mechanism by which lymphatic toxins or body fat can be drawn out through the skin of the feet. As for the foot pad manufacturers' claims that the pads turning brown and taking on a foul smell proves they work, "Los Angeles Times" reporter Chris Woolston states in a September 22, 2008, article that applying saline solution to the pads produced the same discoloration and smell as applying them to his feet. Dr. George Friedman-Jimenez, the director of the Bellevue/New York University Occupational and Environmental Medicine Clinic in New York City, states in an interview with ABC's "20/20" that any perceived benefits from detox patches were probably a result of the placebo effect.