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Foot Detox Baths: Fact or Fiction?

What’s the point of a foot detox?

Key points

  1. Foot detoxes are said to work by pulling the toxins in your body out through your feet.
  2. Whether the detox works has nothing to do with the color of the water.
  3. There’s some evidence to suggest that the practice isn’t effective.

Foot detoxes are becoming more and more popular as a way to rid the body of any harmful toxins. Potential toxins can range from impurities in the air, to chemicals in your home and beauty products. Because of their surge in popularity, ionic foot detoxes are now being offered at some health and wellness spas, at alternative health offices, and even for at-home use. If you're curious about what a foot detox is and if it can help you, here's what you need to know.

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How it works

How is an ionic foot detox supposed to work?

An ionic foot detox is said to work by pulling the toxins out of your body through your feet. Take, for example, the popular foot detox bath IonCleanse. Advertised as a safe and relaxing way to clear out the body, the ionizing machine works to ionize the foot bath water.

This process is said to give the hydrogen in the water a positive charge. The positive charge is said to attract the negatively charged toxins in your body. The ions in the foot bath water supposedly hold a charge that enables them bind to any heavy metals and toxins in your body, similar to how a magnet works. This allows the toxins to be pulled out through the bottoms of your feet.

Why the color change?

What is actually causing the water to change color?

Some foot detox advocates claim that if the water in the foot bath changes color, it means the detox is working. This is not true. Whether the detox works has nothing to do with the color of the water. The water color can change for a number of mundane reasons, namely the presence of impurities in the water. This often happens when using tap water.

The water changing color may even be due to the foot bath itself. Although foot bath manufacturers say the ionizing charge will remove metals and toxins from the body of the person using it, they don't explain how the charge skips over the metals that are actually in the foot bath.

The electricity in the product may cause some of the metal from the foot bath to be corroded by use. This could account for some of the discoloration in the water. Most foot detoxes also use special salts in the water, which can interact and cause the water to change color.

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Research

What the research says

Although research on foot detoxes is limited, there is some evidence to suggest that the practice isn’t effective.

Researchers in a 2012 study took an in-depth look at the IonCleanse foot bath and found that the foot detox did nothing to reduce toxin levels in the body. They also concluded that the foot bath didn’t stimulate the body to remove toxins by itself, such as through the kidneys or liver.

It’s worth noting that most evidence in support of this practice is anecdotal.

Who should get one?

Who should consider a foot detox?

Most everyone, except for those with open sores or an infection on their feet, can benefit from the relaxation that a warm foot soak can provide. That said, it isn’t necessary to purchase an expensive foot detox product.

Instead, use Epsom salts, with or without a foot detox product, in a foot bath, to refresh and clean the feet.

Foot soaks can be a wonderful way to relax after a hard day or to help revive circulation in the feet. They may also be beneficial if you’re experiencing athlete's foot.

Check out: Can you use Epsom salts if you have diabetes »

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Risks and warnings

Risks and warnings

Side effects
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness

If you choose to purchase foot detox equipment to use at home, make sure you know how to use the machine correctly before your first use.

Potential side effects of the foot detox include nausea, vomiting, or dizziness.

If you have diabetes, you should consult your doctor before trying a foot detox. The process may affect your blood sugar levels. If your feet have decreased sensation, you may be more likely to experience burns due to prolonged submersion in hot water.

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Takeaway

The bottom line

There isn’t any research to support the use of foot detoxes, but there isn’t any reason to suspect that the process is harmful or unsafe. If you’re interested in the benefits foot detoxes are said to provide, you may wish to first explore your options for a foot soak. Soaking your feet in a warm bath with essential oils or Epsom salts can be a wonderful way to refresh and reinvigorate you.

Keep reading: How to make a vinegar foot soak »

Article resources
  • Kennedy, D. A., Cooley, K., Einarson, T. R., & Seely, D. (2012). Objective assessment of an ionic footbath (IonCleanse): Testing its ability to remove potentially toxic elements from the body. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/258968/
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