When you think about detoxing, you probably think about detox diets, colon cleansing, or fasting. But, in recent years, detoxing through the feet has gained popularity. Proponents say foot detox therapy eliminates toxins from the body, increases energy, offers immune support, and improves overall health and well-being. However, foot detoxes are not without controversy. Does detoxing through your feet really work, and are there any side effects? What different techniques exist for a foot detox? Read on for answers to these questions and more.
What Is a Detox?
Detoxing, short for detoxification, is intended to eliminate or neutralize toxins throughout the body. Toxins are virtually everywhere, including in the foods we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and common home products. There are approximately 85,000 chemicals regulated under the United States Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) but the Environmental Protection Agency has only banned or restricted use of a handful of chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons, asbestos, radon, lead, and hexavalent chromium. Unfortunately, many of these are persistent organic pollutants that stay in the environment long after their use is discontinued.
Toxins accumulate in the liver and colon, and there are many detox techniques that can neutralize and help move them out of the body. Toxins are also removed through the body’s natural elimination routes such as sweating, breathing, urinating, defecating, and during menses.
What Is a Foot Detox?
Foot detoxes are intended to remove toxins and metals from the body by drawing them out through the feet. There are a variety of techniques for detoxing through the feet, including foot masks and scrubs, detox foot pads, acupressure, and ionic foot soaks. Proponents believe that a foot detox helps make the body’s pH level more alkaline. It’s also thought to deactivate a variety of harmful organisms. Some health care providers, including chiropractors and holistic health centers, offer foot detox baths and charge high prices for the service. Foot detox baths are also sold in stores for at-home use.
Benefits of Doing a Foot Detox
May remove toxins
Calms the body
Boosts your immune system
Encourages normal blood sugar
Boosts cardiovascular health
Since the feet are rich with nerve endings and sweat glands, it seems like the ideal place in the body to detox and de-stress. There’s no denying that soaking your body or just your feet in hot or warm water is calming. But hot detox foot baths may also help reduce swelling, boost your immune system, and improve your overall health and mood. A recent study even found that, like exercise, hot baths can help burn calories, boost cardiovascular health, and encourage normal blood sugar. People who advocate for detoxing through the feet say that it can ease mental distress while improving sleep and overall well-being.[5, 6]
Further, the manufacturers of the ionic foot baths claim their product eliminates alcohol, acids, alkali, bleach and chlorine, detergents, emulsifiers, synthetic dyes and fragrances, toxic metals, pesticides, petrochemicals, preservatives, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).[5, 6]
Detoxing with the right kind of foot pads can also have unique benefits. The best detox pads stimulate the kidney acupressure point to release tension and support overall health.
Does Detoxing Through Your Feet Really Work?
There has been some controversy around whether certain types of foot detox methods – specifically ionic foot baths and detox foot pads – actually work. Certain television shows have even looked at whether ionic foot bath detox methods did what was claimed.[3, 7]
Most proponents of foot baths believe that the water changes color as a result of toxins leaving the body and accumulating in the water. In reality, placing metal electrodes in the bath’s saltwater produce rust in a rapid manner through electrolysis. The color the water changes to has nothing to do with the toxins. In fact, the electrolysis will change color even without feet being placed in the foot bath.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health looked at urine and hair samples from people who had used a foot detox bath and were unable to find evidence that the bath eliminated toxins from the body.
However, another study found that regular use of ionic foot baths decreased the amount of aluminum and arsenic present in the body. One practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine reported that ionic foot baths made the body less acidic and more alkaline after just one use. Additionally, this alkaline state lasted 48 hours after use.
6 Different Ways To Do a Foot Detox
Ionic foot baths aren’t the only way to do a foot detox. In fact, there are a variety of ways to detox the body through the feet, including Korean and Chinese acupressure-based foot soaks, detox foot pads, foot scrubs, masks, and soak recipes that use naturally detoxifying Epsom salts, Bentonite clay, and other ingredients.
Ionic Foot Bath
Ionic foot baths operate by sending an electrical current through a tub of water, which causes the water molecules to divide and create negative oxygen ions. Once enough are present in the water, the body absorbs them through osmosis, which is the movement of compounds from higher to lower concentration. Some newer devices also produce positive ions.
The foot bath process is quick and simple. You soak both feet in the bath which is filled with warm salt water. An electronic array is also placed in the foot bath, which sends a direct current into the water. The combination of the water, salt, and the array are meant to generate negative ions by separating oxygen and hydrogen from the water, neutralizing charged particles in the body and drawing toxins with the opposite charges out.[5, 6]
Don’t be fooled by infomercials claiming that the dark water that comes out of the ionic foot bath water is toxins from your body, or that different toxins create different colors. The color of the water is caused by a reaction of the salt water and the electrolysis array, which creates rust. The ability of these ionic foot baths to detox the body through the feet has come under scrutiny, and there are conflicting reports on whether they work.
Acupressure-Based Foot Soaks, Foot Massage, and Foot Spas
Korean and Chinese foot spas have been around for thousands of years, and these unique therapy experiences are expanding in popularity across the U.S. The feet are like roots of a tree, and the sole or bottom of the foot contains hundreds of nerve endings and acupressure points that can be massaged to help certain parts of the body.
During a session at a foot spa, feet are soaked in a hot bath solution, followed by a foot and leg massage. The foot massage is the focus and stimulates acupressure points in the feet that correspond to different organs in the body to release tension, improve circulation, and support overall health and vitality. Acupressure and reflexology help balance the chi or energy in the body, encouraging better circulation, restful sleep, and normalization of health ailments ranging from head pain to digestion. And of course, soaking one’s feet in a warm bath and massaging the pressure points on the feet promotes relaxation.
Do-It-Yourself Foot Soak
You can also create a do-it-yourself detox foot bath at home using warm or hot water, Epsom salt, and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Have a partner massage your feet at the reflexology points in the diagram that corresponds to any issues you deal with, or do the foot massage yourself.