While writing about Detoxifying Foot Soaks yesterday, I decided that it would also be a good idea to address the more controversial alternative: Ionic Foot Baths.
What is an ionic foot bath? As the LiveStrong website concisely phrases it: “At an ionic foot bath session, users immerse their feet in a basin filled with salt water. Electrodes in the water add a small electric charge.”
Note: People with heart conditions should not attempt ionic foot baths. Women who are pregnant and individuals with Type 1 Diabetes should consult their doctor.
Why is it controversial? In my observation, the contention stems from three main causes:
Cost. Ionic foot baths cost upwards of $100; a single salon/spa session usually starts at $30 for a half hour. This is significantly more costly than a DIY Epsom Salt soak,and people’s expectations rise accordingly.
Unrealistic Expectations. Attempts by salons, spas and vendors to capitalize on public interest have often resulted in over-selling the perceived benefits, aggravating consumer’s already heightened expectations. Out-sized claims led to disappointment and skepticism, especially among clients with the fewest health problems (and therefore the least room to see improvement).
Misconceptions. Failure on all sides to properly understand and explain how the baths work created a slew of misconceptions. As these were de-bunked, ionic foot baths’ reputations took a serious (and unfair) hit. The best example of this is the debate over the meaning of the soaking water turning colors: some people claim the colors reflect the toxins pulled from the body; others argue it’s simply the result of a metal ionizing unit in salt water.
Sorting Fact from Fiction
Let’s take an objective look then, shall we?
Effectiveness: Ionic foot baths are not a miracle cure. (Shocking, I know.) For some people, they’re not going to be significantly more helpful than a simple epsom salt soak (though probably no less effective, either). Whether or not they are worth the extra investment is an entirely personal call, depending on your specific health needs and resources.
The Evidence. Like so many things in “alternative” health care, the jury is officially still out on ionic foot baths. There simply haven’t been the large-scale, well designed studies and documentation we’d need to make solid, evidence-backed statements about the long and short term effects of ionic foot baths on a myriad of different conditions. For example, there is scientific evidence that a 30 minute soak reduces your body’s pH level, and we know that lower body pH levels are associated with being more resistant to illnesses from osteoporosis to cancer. But however probable they might be, more specific cause-and-effect claims just can’t be supported without a heck of a lot more research (which no one is currently prepared to fund). For now, it will remain a matter of personal opinion how directly useful ionic foot soaks are in preventing or reversing ill health.
While I will continue to strongly and predominantly recommend simple, inexpensive epsom salt soaks to my clients, I will absolutely be buying an ionic foot bath for my Nutritional Therapy practice. Why?
(1) Because other educated, experienced NTPs I respect very highly personally swear by them.
(2) I think they can provide a useful opportunity to help re-balance the body’s electrical system in the dead of winter when there’s about five feet too much snow to go out and wander around barefoot. (More on that coming soon!)
And the clincher…
(3) You can actually pull parasites out of people’s feet using an ionic foot bath! No lie, and no exaggeration – scout’s honor! I know NTPs who have had it happen! Yes, I know, that’s totally gross. But as far as I’m concerned it also speaks highly enough to the ionic foot bath’s capacity to draw out all kinds of gunk, toxins, and debris to make it a worthwhile investment for me and my clients.
What do you think? Have you tried an ionic foot bath? Would you?