Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Detox your brain - Botswana Guardian

I’ve now twice seen a simultaneously hilarious and depressing bit of nonsense on DSTV, along, probably, with the rest of southern Africa. A Home Shopping spot dedicated to the amazing “Detox Foot Pads” from a company called Remedy Health for just R169.95. Apparently you stick these pads to the soles of your feet at bed time and they apply warmth to the reflexology points and "detox your body while you sleep". The advert claims that this boosts your immune system. According to the personal testimonials from a range of grinning faces you wake feeling refreshed and with "less toxins and impurities". (For now I’ll ignore the fact that I think they mean "fewer", not “less”.)

According to the various buffoons presenting these pads they generate "far infra-red radiation equivalent to a full cardiac workout". The graphics they showed of two glowing feet were apparently "Thermo X-Rays" that showed "the incredible effects". Actually it looked more like a kid's drawings of feet with wobbly orange spots but maybe I'm too cynical and perhaps "Thermo X-Rays" are a bit of medical technology I've missed over the years.

Unfortunately they fail to point out that what they say is just complete rubbish.

To begin with there’s the reflexology angle. Reflexology is based on the notion that the soles of your feet are somehow connected to every other part of your body. Stimulation of specific spots on your feet can remedy problems in related organs of your body. However, it overlooks the fact that these connections simply don’t exist. They’re not there. Nowhere. They are as imaginary as the supposed benefits that reflexology offers.

Bring me an anatomy textbook and we can fail to find these mythical connections ourselves.

Then there’s the issue of “detoxing” through the soles of your feet. The advert shows some used foot pads and, amazingly, they are all blackened with what we are told are the toxins extracted from your feet. No chance that the dirt could just be from dirty, sweaty feet is there? Feet are actually horribly grubby things. Why do you think they smell so bad if not washed?

My initial thought was that the marketers of this nonsense assume that we are just gullible but the more I think about the hints about boosting your immune system the angrier I become. Don’t forget people like Mantho Tshabalala-Msimang, the Minister of Health in South Africa who recommends beetroot as a remedy for AIDS? It was also Tshabalala-Msimang who at one point circulated around her Ministry a pamphlet explaining how the CIA and aliens were behind the pandemic.

The danger is that this sort of nonsense from national leaders opens up the victims of the pandemic to all sorts of charlatans and con-artists. Look at people like Matthias Rath and what he's been up to all over the world, claiming that ARVs make things worse, that HIV and AIDS aren’t connected at all and that if you buy a few vitamin pills things will get better. We are very lucky in Botswana that, when it comes to HIV/AIDS, our politicians, health professionals and community groups haven’t fallen victim to this criminal nonsense

While I think that satellite TV, newspapers and the internet are wonderful things they also have the ability to spread deception, dangerous conspiracy theories and outright lies. Detox foot pads may be a relatively innocent example but they are not that far from things that threaten our welfare, maybe even our lives.

Sometimes the detoxing we need is not of our bodies, but of our brains.