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What is an ion detox cleanse?

An ion detox cleanse is a type of alternative therapy that claims to cleanse the body of toxins and improve health. It involves soaking your feet in salt water while an electric current is run through the water. Proponents say the electric current helps pull toxins out of your body through your feet. However, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.

How Does an Ion Detox Cleanse Work?

During an ion detox session, you soak your feet in salt water while placing your hands on metal rods that are wired to a machine. The machine delivers a small electric current to the water, which splits the water molecules into positively charged ions and negatively charged ions.

The negatively charged ions, also called anions, are said to bind to toxins in your body. The positively charged ions, or cations, allegedly pull those toxin-bound anions out through your feet and into the water.

The water typically changes color during the session. Proponents claim the color change is evidence that the ion detox is working and pulling toxins out. However, experts say the color change is simply caused by reactions between the electric current and the salt and metals in the water.

Claims About Benefits

Supporters of ion detoxification make the following claims about its benefits:

  • Removes heavy metals like mercury and lead from the body
  • Eliminates toxins that cause inflammation
  • Neutralizes free radicals that damage cells
  • Cleanses and purifies the blood
  • Balances pH levels in the body
  • Improves energy levels
  • Enhances immune function
  • Relieves pain and stiffness
  • Improves sleep
  • Supports liver, kidney, and colon health

However, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. No studies have shown that an ion detox can remove toxins from the body or provide any of the other touted health benefits.

Criticisms and Concerns

While ion detoxification may sound scientifically valid, it has been widely criticized by doctors and scientists. Some key criticisms and concerns include:

  • No scientific proof it removes toxins: There is no evidence the ion detox devices actually remove any toxins from the body. The change in water color is simply due to chemical reactions from the electric current.
  • Skin doesn’t absorb toxins: Our skin does not absorb toxins from salt water. Toxins cannot be pulled out through the feet by an electric current.
  • Body already detoxifies itself: The liver, kidneys, and lymphatic system naturally filter and eliminate toxins from the body. An ion detox is unnecessary.
  • Risk of electrical burns: Using an electric current without proper precautions can potentially lead to shocks or burns.
  • Can aggravate medical conditions: People with pacemakers, heart conditions, or damaged skin may be at particular risk from improper use of the device.
  • High concentrations of toxins can’t be removed: Even if toxins could be pulled out through the feet, only miniscule amounts would be removed during a session.

Overall, there is simply no scientific basis for the claims about ion detoxification. At best, the effects may be due to the placebo effect where people feel better due to the expectation of improvement. However, users also run the risk of physical harm.

What Happens During an Ion Detox Session?

Here is a typical sequence of events during an ionic detoxification session:

  1. The user submerges their feet in warm salt water in a tub wired to an ion detox machine.
  2. The practitioner turns on the machine, running a low-voltage electric current through the water.
  3. The user holds onto handheld metal rods that are also wired to the machine.
  4. Charged ions are generated in the water. Positively charged cations gather at the hand rods, while negatively charged anions gather around the feet.
  5. The water usually changes color, often to an orange/reddish tint initially. The color change is due to chemical reactions with the electric current.
  6. After 20-30 minutes, the practitioner turns off the machine and the session is complete.
  7. The user may be advised to drink extra water after the session to “flush out” any released toxins.

Proponents claim that the anions pull toxins out of the body through the feet into the water during the session. However, there is no scientific basis for this claim.

Origins and History

Ion detoxification was initially based on research conducted in the 1950s by scientists exploring the effects of charged particles or ions on bacterial growth. In the 1970s, a beauty salon in California began offering footbaths with mild electrical currents, claiming the treatment improved skin and health.

The idea was popularized in the 1990s by proponents who believed electricity could treat and prevent disease through removing toxins. A variety of ion detox systems and footbaths were patented and commercialized during this time. However, mainstream doctors rejected the treatment as pseudoscience.

Despite the lack of evidence, ion detoxification remains popular in the alternative medicine field. Supporters include naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and others favoring a holistic approach. It is also offered at many spas and wellness centers. Home ion detox kits are sold online and in some retailers.

What Toxins Are Allegedly Removed?

According to supporters of ion detoxification, the top toxins supposedly removed from the body include:

Toxin Where It’s Found Health Effects
Mercury Fish, amalgam dental fillings, preservatives Neurological damage, kidney problems
Lead Contaminated water, paint, batteries, cosmetics Neurological damage, infertility
Arsenic Pesticides, treated wood, drinking water Cancer, skin lesions, nausea
Cadmium Cigarette smoke, industrial pollution Kidney, bone, and lung damage
Aluminum Cooking utensils, antiperspirants, medications Neurotoxicity, Alzheimer’s disease
Chlorine Tap water, swimming pools, bleach Respiratory irritation, skin rashes
Pesticides Non-organic produce, lawns, flea collars Hormone disruption, cancer

However, there is no evidence from scientific studies that ion detox removes these or other toxins. The body also cannot absorb many of these from bath water.

What Happens After the Ion Detox Session?

After the ion foot detox session, the practitioner may recommend the following:

  • Drink extra water – You may be advised to drink up to a gallon of water over the next day to “flush out” released toxins.
  • Take supplements – The practitioner may recommend herbal supplements or vitamins to replace minerals “lost” during detox.
  • Repeat sessions – Multiple sessions spaced out over weeks may be suggested to fully cleanse the body.
  • Change diet – You may be advised to eat more raw fruits and vegetables or follow a cleansing diet.
  • Rest physically – Some practitioners recommend resting for 1-2 days after to allow healing.

However, there is no need to follow any special protocol after an ion detox session since no toxins have actually been removed. Save for the placebo effect, you should not feel any different before and after.

Are Ionic Foot Detox Machines Safe?

When used properly, ion detox machines are relatively safe for most people. However, the following precautions are recommended:

  • Avoid use if you have a pacemaker or any implanted electrical devices. The electric current can interfere with these.
  • Avoid use if you are pregnant. The effects of electric currents on a developing fetus are unknown.
  • Avoid use if you have an open wound or damaged skin on your feet or hands. This creates a route for electrical burns.
  • Make sure the practitioner is certified in proper use of the ion detox device.
  • Alert the practitioner of any medical conditions you may have.
  • Avoidtouching the hand rods together which completes the circuit.
  • Don’t immerse your hands in the water while your feet are submerged.
  • Follow any other usage guidelines provided by the manufacturer.

When used correctly under supervision of a trained practitioner, adverse events seem to be rare. However, be aware that any benefits are also unlikely to occur.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does the water really change color because of toxins?

No, the color change does not indicate toxins being removed from your body. The color change is caused by chemical reactions between the electric current and the salt, metals, and other ions present in the water before your feet are immersed.

2. Can an ion detox help me lose weight?

No, there is no scientific evidence that an ionic foot detox will cause weight loss. Any weight loss would likely be due to other factors like exercising more or eating healthier around the time of the detox sessions.

3. How often should ion detox sessions be done?

There is no consensus on this since the treatment has not been scientifically studied. Spas may recommend anywhere from weekly to monthly sessions. However, there is no need for pre-scheduled sessions since no toxins are actually removed.

4. Does Medicare or health insurance cover ion detoxification?

No, since ion detoxification is considered an alternative therapy, it is not covered by Medicare or health insurance plans. You will have to pay out of pocket for sessions at prices typically ranging from $30-$100.

5. Are there side effects or dangers?

When proper precautions are taken, the risks seem to be low. Potential side effects could include tingling sensations, rashes, burns if water contacts skin, and interference with implanted electrical devices. However, reported adverse events are sparse.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, there is currently no scientific evidence that ion detox machines remove toxins from the body or provide health benefits. At best, any positive effects are likely due to the placebo effect. However, when done correctly under supervision, the health risks also appear to be relatively low.

Speak to your doctor before undergoing ion detoxification, especially if you have any medical conditions or implanted devices. While proponents make dramatic claims about its detoxifying powers, ion foot baths remain unproven as a medical treatment.