Your Friday Dose of Woo: A healing footbath of woo

i-e7a12c3d2598161273c9ed31d61fe694-ClassicInsolence.jpgLast night, seeking to expand the name of Orac rather than his waistline, I did a skeptical meetup with a local skeptics’ group to discuss the topic of quackademic medicine. A fine time was had by all (at least as far as I can tell). What that means, unfortunately, is that I got back too late last night to have time to prepare a helping of new insolence that you all crave. (And you know you do crave it so.) Fortunately, the archives are here and chock full of excellent woo to republish from time to time, perfect for this situation, and I’m taking advantage of them now. The installation from Your Friday Dose of Woo that I’m about to repost dates back almost three years, and it’s such a “classic” that I can’t believe I haven’t reposted it before. If you haven’t been reading at least since the summer of 2007, it’s new to you, and if you have been reading that long, thanks and I hope you enjoy seeing this gem again. If not, well, nobody’s perfect, not even Orac. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but it is true nonetheless. I’ll be back with new material soon.

After over a year of doing Your Friday Dose of Woo, I can’t believe I’ve never come across this one before. Sometimes there’s a bit of woo that comes my way that’s so off the wall, so unexpected, the claims for which are so unrelated to reality that it startles even me. Moreover, unlike truly over-the-top woo like quantum homeopathy, DNA activation, or the SCIO, this one is utterly brilliant in the simplicity of its concept. It also makes me wonder about whether certain alties have a thing about feet. We know they have a thing about “detoxification” (without, of course, ever being able to identify what these “toxins” that have to be removed might actually be). We even know that they’ve at least once combined a thing about feet with a thing for detoxification in the form of miracle foot patches.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, then, that someone has taken this concept to a whole new level:

Although we cannot make any Health claims, below is what others have used the Foot detox units for.

I’m sorry, but I have to interrupt here. What is it about woomeisters that they have to lie about “not making any health claims” for their products? Do they really think that this “disclaimer” fools anyone?

Never mind. On with the woo:

It is used as an Ion foot bath to cleanse, balance and enhances the bio-energy [the vital energy force present in the breath of bodily fluids]. This energy is the electro-magnetic force that is stored within the body and utilized by our cells. Chinese medicine refers to this energy as the “chi”. The complex energy fields permeate and realign the body’s energy field while improving oxygen levels. While the Ion Detox Foot Bath is widely used to increase energy [both physical and mental energy], vitality, and stamina, at the same time, it is used to purge [Ionic detoxification] the body of toxins, chemicals, radiation, pollution, synthetics, and other foreign material trapped in the skin layers that have clogged up the body’s systems of elimination.

Now we’re talking, people! It’s a footbath of woo! And this is what it can do for you (or so the manufacturers claim):

Its internal cleansing is believed by many to include parasite cleansing and liver detoxification, which results in less body fluid retention, reduced inflammation, improved memory, greater bladder control, a more balanced pH, a stronger immune system and significant pain relief, including headaches, gout and arthritis pain. We stand behind our Ion foot bath detox machines 100%.

All this from a soothing footbath! But how, pray tell, does it work? They’re only too glad to tell you:

As believed in Reflexology, each foot is actually a channel, a conduit, through which your body attempts to cleanse itself of toxic wastes and heavy metals that are building up in many parts of your body. During the foot bath, you will actually see the cleansing process take place as the water interacts with a compound electric current and magnetic field structure. This body cleansing process results in the correct frequency required for cells to return to a healthy state, and to release waste that has been bonded to them over the years. This Ion Foot Detox (Ionic detoxification) therapeutic procedure also enhances the effects of other therapies.

What an extraordinary claim! Surely they have evidence to support it! At least, you’d think so, wouldn’t you? And they do. Just look:

i-e3e2842efa88f1f7db2c1d416545202b-detoxbefore_aftersm.JPG.jpg

Or, even more convincing, check out this video here:

Digustingly amazing, isn’t it? Surely that guy’s feet couldn’t possibly be that dirty, could they? Or maybe there’s something to this woo. In only thirty minutes, the water went from clear to a disgusting brownish-red color so thick that you can’t see through it (although the nasty skeptic in me can’t help but point out that, early in the video, the water seemed to turn orange more from the edge of the bath than from the feet). What could the explanation be? Before we get to the bottom of this mystery, let’s tak a look at what the woomeisters say about this color:

Basically, the Foot Detox is based on electrolysis…When the Foot Detox “array” starts to work in the water, apart from the changes in the pHs, some of these substances can come to light as being present in the water. This is one of the reasons for the color changes and the release of small quantities of different gases like oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine and some sulphurs. The “arrays” are metallic and will release waste and will result in an electrolytic reaction which will in turn cause it to corrode. Another influencing matter is what we introduce into the water, lets say our feet. These have their own properties such as acidity or alkalinity. One can also find germ, bacteria, yeast infections and parasites. The skin can also contain remnants of soap, creams, dyes and fibers. There will also be a release of substances from the sebaceous glands and dead cells. All these factors combined will influence the color change. Last of all we have the internal condition of the body which will influence and manifest themselves in the water. Here we need to take into account sub dermis conditions, the capillary microcirculation and other internal influences that can be emitted through the largest human organ, our skin…

OK, thus far we have ionic detoxification woo. Not bad. But something’s still missing. After all, ionic detoxification sounds too–scientific. I know, I know, it’s a load of pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo designed to impress those without much knowledge of chemistry, but it’s still lacking that certain something, something that will propel it into the highest reaches of woo. If I were a woomeister, what would I add? What would add just that right bit of “mystic”-sounding science that alties love so much? Certainly an appeal to quantum theory might be an option, but that might be too obvious. Wait a minute! I know:

Detox Foot spa treatments are an unusual therapy, based on the research of the medical scientist Dr Royal Rife and is a type of aqua detox. It aims to improve, among other things, liver and kidney function through an electro-magnetic detoxification process carried out on the feet. The treatment is normally given by placing your feet in water in which an “array” will be activated. When the Ion Detox is activated it produces ions (positive and negative) This caused movement and Any time you have electrical movement you will have a magnetic field. A magnetic field will vary in force. This variance is called a wave length or FREQUENCY will cause a VIBRATORY RATE OR TONE.

Mentioning Dr. Royal Rife is a good start for amping up the woo. But I think that the last sentence suggests what this woo needs to distinguish itself:

In other words, the Detoxifying Foot Bath is currently charging our body with all the negative charges; aim to stimulate, improve, and stabilize the Bio-Energy of our internal organs; thus reaches the objective of Self-Detoxification.

OK, it’s getting warmer, more woo-ey, so to speak. Let’s see what else:

Every element has a different FREQUENCY OR VIBRATION. Every plant has a different wave length and thus a different vibration. We are made from the same thing that plants are made from: out of the dust of the ground. So, every organ of the body has a different vibration. Think of the body as a symphony orchestra. It plays together harmoniously although all the instruments have a different pitch. What happens when the body instrument is out of tune? We need to tune it up. How do we do this? We feed the body the plant, herb, or use the Ion Foot Detox to resonate which resonates through the water. The Foot Detox is designed to strengthen organs, glands, and other bodily systems.

Awwwwright! Now we’re talkin’ serious woo! Detoxification, bio-energy, “resonating” with the vibrations of the universe, this woo has it all. And all for the low, low sales price of $1,077, marked down from $1,677. Now there’s a bargain! But if that’s a little too rich for your blood, there is a less expensive version for $577; so the Foot Detoxx Store’s got your back.

But all is not well in woo-ville. No, sadly, it’s not. Let’s wander on over to someplace where we’d expect that there would be receptive minds willing to believe these claims and try out a little foot detox, someplace where the denizens are so credulous when it comes to all claims that smack of alternative medicine or that castigate “conventional medicine.” Yes, I’m talking about the Curezone. Even there, where only the most credulous dwell, there is discontent:

I recently saw my wife and several friends get duped about supposed benefits of an Ionic Detoxification Unit. Don’t get suckered into buying or paying for a session in an ionic detoxifcation foot bath! Guess what, the water turns “toxic” colors whether your feet are in there or not, because it is just the corrosion of the electrodes that causes the water to change color. The manufacturer below says that “sales pitches” are used to make people think that different colors mean different toxins were ionically removed from the body through the soles of the feet; in reality it is just the results of passing an electic current between electrodes in a conductive solution of water. Their own studies (backed by other independent fraud investigation analyses) find only what you would expect to find in water where electrolysis took place, ie, no “toxins” released from the body were found.

Think about it, how likely are your feet to start “leaking toxins”, if that happened then you’d find that happening in whirlpool spas etc. It doesn’t happen.

Those of you who are selling these or selling sessions in them should at a minumum stop charging for the sessions since they are worthless and you do not want to ripoff your clients do you? …Don’t sell them based on anecdotal evidence alone, and don’t be part of the scam! If you’re selling them based on anecdotal evidence then try running the unit with no one in it to verify what the manufacturer says below, and stop using that sales pitch.

Holy crap. It’s a woo-meister with a touch of skeptical thinking and, even more remarkably, some morals. Truly, DoubtIt (the person who posted the above bit) doesn’t belong in this business. And what on earth is someone like this doing on the CureZone forums? Not surprisingly, DoubtIt’s message was not exactly welcomed with open arms by the denizens of the CureZone discussion boards. Of course, this explanation for the color change makes perfect sense. Indeed, given that the water seemed to be turning to the color of rust, the above explanation mirrors my first thought about what was probably really going on. It also reminds me a lot of the explanation for the disgusting things people using “liver cleanses” fish out of their own poo. Here as for liver cleanses, the very treatment creates the “evidence” of its success, even in a healthy person and, in the case of this footbath, even without a person! The funniest thing about this woo is that a person’s feet are almost certainly far dirtier after this footbath than they were before it, meaning that the woomeisters get a person to pay to put his feet in progressively more dirty water.

This latest bit of woo makes me wonder if there’s anything so ridiculous that the credulous denizens of CureZone won’t believe it and support it when it’s revealed for a scam.