This post is a reprint of one of our most heavily read and shared SpaCast blog posts, dated February 4, 2008. The issue of whether ionic detox foot baths (and now, detox foot patches) offer any real benefit was one of the most hotly debated subjects ever printed on our spa lifestyle network.
When we launched a new format for our spa directory and blog, we were unable to store and republish our readers’ original 200+ comments.
The most alarming comment in the pro column was made by a woman who claimed she was sold on the positive benefits when she could see live maggots in her foot bath.
We continue to receive inquiries from people who are still looking for the original SpaCast scam or Science post, and asking if our position has changed.
Here is our original response to the question — are iconic foot baths scam or science?
A Reader asks us:
Is the Detox Foot Baths really helpful? The spa that I use is now pushing them at $45 for a 30 minute session and guarantees I will be amazed, but I am really dubious. The name of the city was held until February 4, 2008.
Many organizations within the scientific, medical, aesthetic and alternative health care communities disagree with the benefits of an ionized foot bath. We don’t like the idea of a spa or facility guaranteeing results, it’s the offer of a guaranteed detox that troubles us.
This is a fairly common description of the process offered by two different websites.
Ion Footbath Detoxification:
This is the most relaxing way to get rid of the toxins present in the body. You just have to sit on the chair, with your feet dipped into the water container. A flow of warm water will flow under your feet and the positive and negative ions in the water will attach themselves to the toxins present in the body. Toxins that are insoluble will also dissolve in this water.
Ionic Body Cleanse:
A gentle and effective way to detoxify, cleanse and balance the body by drawing the impurities out of the body through the feet. As your feet soak in the ionic foot bath, your body will undergo an amazing cleanse of years’ worth of stored toxins.
An ionater in the water-filled footbath is said to be the basis for the process. Positive and negative ion are taken up into your body through your pores when the polarity is reversed periodically. Your cells are supposed to release oil, acid, fat, heavy metals, and other debris and waste which have accumulated in your cells and bloodstream over your lifetime, if the ion in the water encourages your cells to release it. As your cells release the toxins, again through osmosis, the toxins are carried out of your feet and back into the water, turning it a bright rust color, or a murky brown, or some other dramatic shade that makes you say “Eww.”
In the last few years, manufacturers have provided merchants with a colorcoded chart which is used to evaluate the murky color of the water after a foot bath session. One could compare the colors of the water and the toxins on the chart to determine which toxins had been removed.
There are many websites that claim that the method of detox can help with a lot of diseases, from parasites and worms to AIDS, Herpes, and Cancer. There is a video on the internet about the process.
It sounds too good to be true. It is too easy to be real. We think that is the case.
There are a lot of websites that promote the benefits of this treatment. The treatment providers and dealers had direct financial interests in the treatment.
The Detox Foot Bath is a scam according to a lot of information we found.
We can’t find any information on the benefits of an Ion / Foot Detox Bath, no clinical tests or trials, or even any suggestion of a benefit from soaking the feet in water, other than the general feeling of well-being which comes from soaking the feet in water.
In a January 2008 article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, we learned about the founder of Spa- Tacular Health, Nina Venturella. She has given hundreds of ionic foot baths since opening her facility in March of 2006 The excerpts said something.
She said that she could look into the water and make an assessment of what was happening and where you needed help. What you are looking at in that water is who you are.
Proponents claim the baths help the immune system, relieve pain and joint stiffness, regulate sleep, remove heavy metals, improve organ function, and assist in recovery time from illness.
For the past six weeks, the 17-year-old has been on a program of foot baths in Palm Springs. She was in poor health prior to visiting Spa-tacular Health.
She said that the pains in her stomach were so strong that she was bent over and crying. I couldn’t sleep because of the pain.
She went to a number of conventional doctors and was given a number of tests, but no problem was found. Riccio was thought to be suffering from a serious immune system malfunction due to an infectious disease.
Riccio said that after about a week, he saw a huge difference. She eliminated wheat, dairy and sugar from her diet. Since then, I have been feeling great.
That excerpt actually stopped us mid-sentence and we burst out laughing. Isn’t it fairly safe to assume — and even probable — that the restored feeling of well-being Hayley felt was the result of eliminating wheat, dairy and sugar from her diet, and had less to do with foot baths?
It is similar to saying that my teeth feel better since I started using ACME toothpaste. I stopped chewing rocks as well.
The ionic foot bath has been criticized for being a hoax. Dr. Sairwaa Prevost, a board-certified internist who is on staff at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and has her own medical spa there, said the science behind the ionic foot baths makes sense.
Prevost said that the science sounds reasonable. Everything is connected through the feet, that is what the principles of reflexology are about.
There is a principle that everything is connected through the feet, but we have yet to see it being used in an ionized foot bath treatment. It is possible to relieve pain by stimulating pressure points on the feet and hands with rmetology. We agree that most people would feel better if they had a session of reflexology, like we did when we eliminated wheat, dairy and sugar from our diet. What about the bath, itself? Dr. Prevost is the owner of a spa. Does she have a Foot Bath?
Prevost does not offer detox foot baths at her spa. She heard about the process from two patients – a man with AIDS and a woman with breast cancer. Both patients have been doing regular detox baths to complement traditional medicine.
A manicure with hand massage, a neck rub from a spouse, and a warm compress are just a few of the pleasant treatments that could be considered a compliment to traditional medicine.
Here are some excerpts from websites and forums that addressed the same skepticism.
My wife and several friends were deceived about the benefits of an icst unit. Don’t get suckered into buying or paying for a session in the ionic detoxification foot bath. The water turns toxic if your feet are in it, because it is just the oxidation of the electrodes that causes the water to change color. The first thing is (1)
It is reasonable to look for ways to rid ourselves of this burden. When it comes to alternative medicine, it’s always surprising to me how excited people are about odd fads. If a new treatment claims to remove toxins from the body, intelligent, well educated people will suspend common sense and believe it. The detoxing foot bath has surprised me with its staying power. The foot soaks have caught on rather than disappearing after a short burst of interest. I am going to take a few moments to write down my thoughts, since I am asked about them frequently. The metal ion is drawn into the water from the electrodes. There is a video on a website of the water changing color. You can see the initial color coming off of the electrode in the corner of the bath, but not the feet. There are two things.
My wife and I are going to see a Chiropractor. Since my insurance pays for it, I thought I would try it, even though I am a bit skeptical of that science. I have been helped greatly by the Chiropractor. After I saw results, my wife started. She had paid for 10 treatments at a cost of $385 and then they put her on a course of ionic foot baths.
Not only does the insurance not cover it, but it’s also for good reason. It should have been a clue. I was present when she showed me the dirty water from her foot bath, which was covered with black and white material. My theory was that the water would have changed color if her feet were in the bath at the time. I told her I would show her, so today I did a little experiment.
There is a piece of copper pipe and a nail in the picture in the upper left, which is the battery charging station I have. Most peddlers of these products recommend adding sea salt to the room-temperature water in the beaker. The water in the beaker appeared as shown in the picture at the upper right: yellow, black, and floating.
Without Feet in the water, all of this was conducted. There are three more
We don’t doubt that many people who enjoy regular sessions of a Ionic Foot Bath feel better, but we don’t think the pleasant feeling has much to do with the “science” being claimed. The BBC’s Consumer Watchdog agreed, and set out to find out more about the Aqua Detox brand, specifically. Here’s that the BBC had to say:
A foot spa with a difference is Aqua Detox. After 30 minutes, your body is said to be cleansed, with a tiny electrical current and some salt added to the water. You can buy your own foot spa for over $1,000, or you can pay as much as £50 for each session.
The watchdog rang the beauty parlors to find out about the treatment. The same claims were made time and again, that the foot spa worked by drawing toxins out of the feet, turning the water brown.
Dr Ben Goldacre wasn’t impressed with the idea that Watchdog took. He said that it has nothing to do with toxins. Basic chemistry is what it is. The water goes brown because the metal is corroding in the water bath. Even if you didn’t put your feet in the water, it would still turn brown. The process was demonstrated with some salt water, a car battery, and a Barbie doll. Even Barbie turned the water brown.
The manufacturer of the footbath claims a battery creates a negative charge in the water that helps to grab onto the toxins in a patient’s body and suck them out. Barron said the problem is not with the studies, but with the science. “There is no evidence that it would have any effect whatsoever, other than having a pleasant feeling,” he said. (5)
Stephen Lower is a retired faculty member of the Dept of Chemistry at Simon Fraser University. He wants to debunk the bunk because he hates to see chemistry used to rip people off. He tells us what we need to know.
To someone who doesn’t know chemistry, it can be quite impressive to see all the evil substances in the water in different shades of brown, green, and blue.
Of course, it always feels good to rest your tired feet in a container of warm water, and the slight tingling sensation caused by the low-voltage current might even be rather pleasant. But the stuff about drawing “toxins” out of your body is pure bunk. That’s the job of your kidneys, which are exquisitely suited to this task.
Some sites show pictures of what they purport to be blood cells before and after treatment, implying that the cells become less entangled or clumped together. Don’t be fooled by this nonsense, which is usually attributed to un-named “doctors” and has never been reported in the reputable scientific literature. (6)
A brand of Detox / Ion Foot Baths in the United states is ionSpa. In an article appearing in The Ledger in December 2007, ionSpa points out that its machine is registered with the Food and Drug Administration under a category for non-medical devices and they make no medical claims. They initially distributed those handy color coded charts with their foot baths, so that providers could identify the toxins being removed. They don’t do so anymore and now they just claim their foot bath unit has a “revitalizing effect.” (7)
That is something we absolutely believe. You feel better when you take a foot soak. A hot foot bath is a therapy that has been given to patients to ease tension and calm them.
Our advice for our readers? Go to your favorite day spa for a long and thorough pedicure in a revitalizing jetted pedicure throne, and then have your feet groomed for an hour. At a lower price, and with some pretty toenails to admire, we bet you will feel just as wonderful.
Agree or disagree? Would you like to comment? We welcome all comments, positive and negative, and we sometimes close the commenting system to give people a chance to go somewhere else. When the grown-ups come back, we reopen the comments.
Sources available of time of original post (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)