inFact with Brian Dunning inFact with Brian Dunning



Promoters of quack products are always saying you need to detoxify your body. What does that really mean?

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Our bodies have kidneys and livers that remove toxins and other waste from our systems, but in the past few years, clever marketers have said "Forget all that, you need our magic pills and potions to detoxify your body."

It should be very telling that they never happen to mention what these supposed "toxins" are, or what your doctor should look for in a blood test to see whether you have them. They simply assert that we're all full of toxins, and that buying their miracle product is the key to health.

One such product is detoxifying footpads. Stick them to your feet overnight, and they supposedly draw toxins out of your feet, turning the pads brown. In fact they turn brown because they contain wood vinegar powder, which always turns brown when exposed to moisture, such as a sweaty foot. Your skin's sweat glands manufacture and excrete sweat, nothing else.

Special detox diets or cleansing regimens are another one. Drink nothing but our magic cleansing juice for a week to clear the toxins out of your system. Basically this is just fasting, and when you fast, your body partially shuts down in order to retain its resources. Instead, if you want your liver and kidneys working at their optimum, simply eat well and drink a lot of water.

Another product is detoxifying footbaths. Put your feet in the salt water, turn it on, and it draws so many toxins out through your feet that the water turns brown. In fact, the water turns brown simply because the metal electrodes quickly shed rusty iron. The water turns just as brown even if you don't put your feet in it at all.

The all-time best is the claim that we all have toxins building up inside our bowels, given the illustrious name mucoid plaque, which you can flush out by taking a special herbal detoxifying pill. Sure enough, a big rubbery snake comes out in the toilet. Why? Because the contents of the pill itself polymerize inside your large intestine, making your next bowel movement -- which otherwise would have been normal -- all rubbery. Yes, people really do sell this.

There's a reason that medical textbooks don't have chapters on detoxification. Eating well and exercising is going to do a lot more for you than spending money on magic pills and rituals invented by marketers. Don't get ripped off.

— Brian Dunning

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References & Further Reading

Chappel, M. "Colon Therapeutics 23-Oct-03." US Food and Drug Administration, 23 Oct. 2003. Web. 25 Dec. 2009. <>

Fang, Hsai-Yang. Introduction to environmental geotechnology. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1997. 434-437.

Goldacre, Ben. "Be fit: The detox myth." The Guardian. 8 Jan. 2005, Newspaper: 9.

Lordan, Betsy. "FTC Charges Marketers of Kinoki Foot Pads With Deceptive Advertising; Seeks Funds for Consumer Redress." Federal Trade Commission. Federal Trade Commission, 28 Jan. 2009. Web. 25 Dec. 2009. <>

Moores, S. "Experts Warn of Detox Diet Dangers." NBC News., 18 May 2007. Web. 3 Nov. 2012. <>

Singh, S., Ernst, E. Trick or treatment: the undeniable facts about alternative medicine. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008. 226-227,308.


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