There is no convincing evidence that ionic footbaths, promoted as a way to remove toxins from the body and costing as much as $75 for a session, actually do what they claim, a recent study has found.
In fact, this kind of so-called detox is not without harm, warns a water expert.
Researchers from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Pharmacy conducted a series of tests running a footbath with and without feet and analyzing the water for differences in the level of potentially toxic elements (PTEs).
They first measured the water after running the machine without feet using both distilled and tap water.
They then did weekly measurements with the help of six healthy participants who used the machine with tap water once a week for four weeks.
“Whether or not the feet were there, the composition of the water was pretty much the same,” said study co-author naturopathic doctor Dugald Seely, director of research and clinical epidemiology at the CCNM and executive director of CCNM’s Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre.
“There was no significant difference in terms of any of the toxic elements being leached out into the water,” he said, listing heavy lead, cadmium, and arsenic as the main PTEs among those tested for.
Seely said the water showed a significant increase in some of the same elements present in the metal array used in the footbath to generate an electric current in the water.
“What we found over time was that the array was corroding,” he said.
He noted that it was elements from this corrosion that caused the water to become dirty and cloudy and change colour, and “there was no evidence that any of these [elements] were coming from the feet directly.”
The study also tested urine and hair samples from the participants at different time points to see whether the body was eliminating toxins faster than normal due to use of the footbath.
Again, “there is no evidence to suggest that the machine increased the body’s ability to excrete the heavy metals,” said Seely, noting that the footbath studied was one of the more common machines on the market.
The study was published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health.
Meanwhile, in an email to The Epoch Times, Kevin Wong, executive director of the Canadian Water Quality Association, warned consumers against potential health and safety risks.
“The consumer may be willingly allowing themselves to be exposed to harmful chemicals being released into the water,” he said. “We just don’t know what these units use for the electrodes.”
Wong added that “the technologies may not be CSA-certified in the electrical portions, further putting the consumer at risk.”
Moreover, “the concept of leaching anything out of the body should be taken with extreme caution since this type of chemistry does not distinguish between ‘bad’ and ‘good’ molecules,” Wong said.
“There are some useful tools—natural tools—that naturopathic doctors use for detoxification, but this would not be one of the ones that I would include in my toolkit,” Seely said of the ionic footbath.
He said he would opt for approaches such as those that stimulate the liver and bile production and that support kidney and bowel function.