My feet, it seems, are a medical marvel.
I don’t get colds too often. The average adult gets 2-4 colds per year, but I haven’t had a real cold in about 2 years. Until last Friday, that is, when I awoke with the surefire signs of a coming cold. Often I can fight them off, but this time I was done for.
Like any good social media flog, I mentioned my malady to the world and prepared myself for the onslaught of good wishes, virtual hugs, and sincere prayers that were going to be sent my way. They came, but with them came something new, something unexpected.
At some point, my feet became kidneys.
Yes. Kidneys. Or livers, or spleens. Any one of those fantastic filtration organs we have that pull toxins from the blood and excrete them in various ways. According to the several sources on the interwebs, my feet can now do this (although, to be fair, sometimes onions are required).
Now before you go all woo-woo and accuse me of being an anti-alternative-anything neo-con, let me say that I don’t have any problem with naturopathic or homeopathic remedies when they have a basis in fact. Let’s look at three items I was given by friends regarding my cold virus, and my feet.
Example One: Some friends told me that, to counter the fever that sometimes accompanies a cold, I should put cold compresses on my feet. This is an old, well-established measure that is quite efficacious. Blood vessels in the feet and ankles are quite near the skin, and thus easily affected by application of cold towels or massage with aromatics or spirits like rubbing alcohol. These cool the blood at the feet, and help lower the patient’s overall temperature, thus combating high fever.
Example Two: A few friends told me of the “cold sock treatment” for congestion. Before bed, put ice-cold socks on your feet, and then some dry wool socks, and you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and clear-headed. I was skeptical of this, but a quick search showed me the mechanism behind it, which is similar to the fever-treatment above. Known as a “heating compress,” (meaning that the body must heat it up), it increases overall circulation, thus reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system through increased blood flow. Naturopaths recommend this as an adjunct to other remedies, but they do say that it works best when done for three days running. My comment on that is that, after three days with a cold, I’m generally feeling better on my own but, as a supportive treatment, I can see its value.
Example Three: If I put disks of cut onions in my socks when I go to bed, it will cure me of my cold. Here’s where my WTF-O-Meter starts to peg out.
Someone, somewhere, had the bright idea of putting disks of cut onion on the soles of their feet, held in place by socks, and left them there overnight. The next morning, the onions looked brown, and the person felt better. The only logical deduction (?!?) they could make was that the onions had absorbed all the toxins from their body. Through their feet.
That’s right. Somehow, not only did the soles of this person’s feet (arguably the toughest, thickest skin on the human body) suddenly become a porous filtration system capable of excreting toxins, but they only did so in the presence of cut onions. Ignore the fact, of course, that virii are not toxins, per se (the argument being that by removing toxins you boost your immune system, blah-di-blah-blah) and ignore the fact that cut fresh onions are neither particularly absorbent nor more liable to absorb toxins than anything else (such as, say, oil, dirt, sloughed skin cells, etc.); just take it on faith that:
Feet + Onions = Kidneys
“But they used cut onions to combat the plague!” I’m told. Yes, they did. They also shot off guns in the house thinking the smoke from the gunpowder would keep the plague at bay. They also wore long stork-masks to filter it out. They also bled patients to the point of death. They also made concoctions of mercury.
It’s this sort of fact-free, science-optional bushwah that gives alternate methods a bad rap. When I pushed back against this particular method, the response was “What could it hurt to try?” This is exactly the wrong response. True, if I tried it, at worst I would be out one onion, a good night’s sleep, and a clean set of sheets, but why should I bother? What is it about this method that has any basis in reality?
This sort of “Why not?” response is the perfect entrée for knee-jerk behavior and non-critical thinking, and it should be shunned from all quarters.
Alternate medicine is not all quackery, but a lot of it is unsupported/unproven by scientific study, and a lot of it is no more or less effective than the placebo effect. For my money, I see no point in even considering a treatment that has no cogent theory behind it, or flies in the face of incontrovertible fact. The human body is a remarkable and mysterious thing that we understand poorly at best, but we do know some things about it, and one of those things is this:
Feet are not kidneys.