Who remembers the famous "detox foot-baths" that were the talk of the industry around ten years ago? The detox foot-baths were precisely that, a foot-bath with warm salt solution that had two electrodes connected to a battery. One would place both feet inside the water and the battery was turned on, after ten minutes or so the color of the salt solution turned brown and emitted the distinctive odor of chlorine gas.
The enthusiasts would shout “Eureka!” while simultaneously pointing to the color and odor as sure signs that the body, which had undergone years of toxic insults through the improper diet of soda, processed foods, laden with high salt, fats, sugars as well as the consumption of the dreaded pharmaceuticals, was slowly but surely fighting back by releasing these toxins into the solution. Moreover, the chlorine odor was a confirmation of the detoxification process of the body.
The detox foot-baths sold like hot cakes and everyone was taken in, many a naturopath had these in their clinics and one had to pay ridiculous fees for a 15 minute treatment.
Science is a pleasurable profession, it is dynamic and vibrant and yet simple and transparent and open to testing by all. That is the beauty of science; every theory is ready to be disproven. That is how science progresses; it evolves by testing the current theory through countless experiments and this involves getting your hands dirty and perspiring a lot! Remember, science is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. It irks me to see that many of the so-called nutritional or health “experts” who have rarely done any scientific experiments short of high school science are nevertheless extolling the virtues of such phenomena as detox foot-baths, which have little or no scientific basis.
There is no detoxification process operating in the detox foot-baths. Rather, it is a simple case of electrolysis; the process which occurs when an electric current passes through salt solution via the battery. The brownish color is due to the iron electrode releasing iron ions (sorry about that) into the solution just like corrosion of iron. Since iron is a brownish/reddish color, that is the color imparted to the solution. What about the chlorine odor? Again, there is a simple chemical explanation. The salt solution is composed of sodium chloride, another name for salt, and electrolysis causes the sodium and chlorine (more accurately called chloride) ions to separate from each other with the chloride ions ending up at the positive terminal of the electrode and forming chlorine gas! End of mystery. No science, no detoxification, only charlatanism operating here.
This is just one example, but there are others like the detox “patches” or “slimming patches” which are all unscientific. Yet they continued to be sold without question. How does this portray our industry in the eyes of the regulators or the scientists and medical doctors?
Detoxification is a perfectly scientific process that can aid the well being of an individual, but this requires change of life style, one’s diet, regular exercise, living in a stress and pollution free environment and of course nutritional supplementation. The best way to detoxify is by getting the cells, more specifically, the liver and kidney cells, to be invigorated or stimulated.
The liver is the major organ for detoxification, it breaks down toxic substances and stores substances or metabolites. The kidney cells are also important because they are the key organ for excretion and getting rid of toxins before they can build up and cause damage.
Another tissue involved in detoxification is our digestive tract. Not only does the digestive tract break down, lubricate and provide digestive enzymes, the large intestines or the colon harbors vast reserves of bacteria, some good and others harmful. It is imperative that care is taken to ensure that the friendly bacteria greatly outweigh the not so friendly bacteria. This can be achieved through selecting a probiotic that has been clinically tested. Many products on the market are kitchen-sink formulas with a bunch of friendly bacteria thrown together. These combinations are often never tested and may not be able to survive the stomach acids, bile salts. There is also the danger that the bacteria are not compatible with each and can ‘cancel’ each other out.
Another key aspect of detoxification involves stimulating the phase II enzymes, a large family of multifunctional enzymes that virtually act as the gatekeeper to the cells’ health. These enzymes quickly act by adding various groups (like methyl, glucuronide or sulphate etc) to any chemical they encounter both foreign as well as native or endogenous compounds like hormones, making these compounds more soluble and thus removing them from the system via the kidneys. A number of natural products can powerfully stimulate these enzymes but the most potent are the isothiocyanates which are derived from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and bok-choy and are further converted in the body into sulforafane, the most known and potent stimulator.
It is only through the application of scientific principles applied to the field of nutrition that one can genuinely achieve detoxification, not through some hokey, quick-fix approach.
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Dr. Traj Nibber is the Director of AOR, he has a degree in Pharmacy, a Masters in Toxicology and a PhD in Pathology. Dr. Nibber founded AOR to clear the misdirection prevalent in the nutraceutical world, and provide people with highly effective, research backed products.