Footbath of the Future
A skeptical novice tries out an ionic tootsie detox.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
I embark on my first foot detox with a friend visiting from New York. Her aunt, a Carmel Highlands local, swears she gets the best sleep of her life after ionic footbaths. We’re sold: As college students, we covet our sleep.
The Flowing Waters Wellness Center’s website describes the ionic (also called “ionized”) footbath as “a fast, effective and non-invasive way of stimulating and balancing bio-energetic fields of the body, facilitating better organ function and auto-detoxification.” In short, feet go in an ionic bath and bad stuff comes out the porous soles.
Lisa McCardle, owner of Flowing Waters Wellness Center, offers the baths in conjunction with treatments such as colon hydrotherapy and reflexology.
“I work with people who run the spectrum,” she says. “People who are looking to detoxify, get aligned with their health and well-being, to people working through extreme illness and choosing to do so in a holistic manner.”
The footbath area at Flowing Waters fits two, so my friend and I sit in adjacent chairs and put our feet in white plastic tubs lined with plastic bags and filled with tepid salt water. McCardle places a coil, hooked up to a machine with digital readouts, in each tub.
A second set of cords winds out from the machine and attaches to elastic bands that press pieces of metal to our wrists. “The wristband monitors the amperage of ions moving through the body,” McCardle explains. “It’s a precautionary system. When the amperage is too high, the equipment sets itself off.”
My band keeps making the machine beep, but the current is already on the lowest setting, so McCardle gives me a glass of water in hopes the additional hydration will dilute the concentration of ions in my body. The beeping stops, but I convince myself I can feel the current pulsing through me.
McCardle says the detoxification processes underway in our 30-minute session will continue for another 24 hours. She recommends spacing footbaths by at least two days to allow the body time to purge itself.
It’s an intense concept, but the process feels pretty relaxing. Throughout the session, the water changes color while, according to McCardle, the toxins are pulled from our feet through osmosis. She says the foreign matter is being removed from the kidney, bladder, liver, gallbladder, lymph nodes and digestive system. The extracted toxins appear as sediment.
At the end of the detox, my footbath water is a murky greenish-brown with bubbles and black flecks. According to the footbath-decoder chart, the dark green means the toxins came from my gallbladder, digestive system and inflammation. The bubbles indicate digestive system, immune system and lymphatic toxins, and the black flecks are from heavy metal and blood sugar.
I’m wavering between belief and skepticism: I have an ironclad immune system, but I do have slight hypoglycemia, and that’s related to blood sugar.
My friend’s foot broth leaves us similarly conflicted. The orange-brown color indicates joint and muscles toxins – she is always spraining her ankle – but the oily film, allegedly from fats and triglycerides, is suspect when applied to my long and lean friend.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health offers more reason for doubt. To test claims that ionic footbaths eliminate toxins from the body, scientists analyzed footbath water samples after 30-minute sessions both with and without feet. They also tested urine and hair samples from study participants.
They found the water turned gunky even when the machines ran with no feet in them. Science can explain that: The direct current and salt in the water corrode the stainless-steel machine parts, depositing metal elements in the water. Hair and urine samples backed up the idea that the footbath sessions didn’t reduce anyone’s bodily toxins.
The report cites a different study by the Center for Research Strategies that did find a reduction of arsenic and aluminum in the bloodstream after 12 ionic footbath sessions, though no changes in lead, mercury or cadmium levels. That study, however, was reportedly sponsored by IonCleanse, a footbath manufacturer, so there’s potential for bias.
Here’s what I can report with no ambiguity: After the session, my feet tingle and feel almost uncomfortably clean. And that night, I sleep like a baby.
Kera Abraham contributed to this report.
FLOWING WATERS WELLNESS CENTER offers ionic footbaths for $30 per 30-minute session and discounted multi-session packages at 1011 Cass St., Suite 203, Monterey. 333-0409, www.flowingwaterswellness.com