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
- Reduces swelling
- Calms the body
- Boosts your immune system
- Improves mood
- Burns calories
- 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.
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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.
When selecting essential oils, lavender is a great choice. Not only is it calming, but animal studies have shown it to normalize liver and kidney disruptions caused by exposure to certain pesticides. Another option is tea tree oil, which is powerful against germs. If the aroma of tea tree is too potent for your tastes, mix it with lavender for a mild, pleasant scent.
One simple way to do a foot detox is to use a clay foot mask to clean and detoxify the feet. It relieves stress at the end of a long day, too. Foot masks can soften skin and tackle toenail fungus, surface fungus, odor, and athlete’s foot. I recommend do-it-yourself recipes because they are completely free of any chemical additives, which defeat the purpose of a detox.
Bentonite clay offers benefits as a detox agent and is safe for both internal and external use. Bentonite clay has naturally occurring positively charged ions that draw out negatively charged toxins, including those in pesticides and toxic metals. Other studies have found that Bentonite clay has properties that fight against mycotoxins and aflatoxins from mold.
Here is my favorite DIY clay foot mask recipe:
Clay Foot Mask
- 3 tablespoons bentonite clay
- 3 tablespoons raw, organic apple cider vinegar
- 3 drops of lavender
- 3 drops of tea tree essential oil (or peppermint oil)
Combine these ingredients in a small bowl. Add the apple cider vinegar one tablespoon at a time, until the clay mask becomes a thick paste. You may not need all of the apple cider vinegar, so add it slowly and gradually until the mask is the consistency you desire. Add more clay as needed. Once the ingredients are combined to a thick paste, spread it on both feet and allow it to fully dry. Recline in a comfortable chair during this process. After 30 minutes, wash off the foot mask and dry your feet.
Like a foot mask, a foot scrub can also clean and detoxify the feet, reducing odor and preventing fungal infections if you use essential oils with antifungal and antibacterial properties. Foot scrubs also exfoliate dead skin from the feet.
Here is my favorite DIY clay foot scrub recipe:
Detox Foot Scrub
- 1 cup Epsom salt
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4-5 drops of lemon, lemongrass, or juniper essential oil (or combine them!)
- 2 drops of peppermint oil
Combine the ingredients in a bowl, stirring well to spread the essential oil throughout the mixture. Apply to each foot, rubbing the grainy salt mixture gently along the sole, in between the toes, on the top of the foot, and around the ankles for at least five minutes per foot. Spend extra time on the sole, applying pressure to the reflexology points that correspond to any areas where you need improvement. This coarse mixture exfoliates the skin as well as provides detoxification from the essential oils you choose.
Peppermint oil supports the gallbladder and overall digestive system. It's an important part of the foot scrub because it leaves a tingly clean feeling. You can add any essential oil, but lemon, lemongrass, and juniper have particularly helpful detoxification properties. Lemon oil supports the immune system and helps detoxify the liver. Lemongrass is an anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant powerhouse. Juniper oil supports liver function and detoxes the liver, colon, skin, and lungs. Pick your favorite!
Detox Foot Pads
Detox foot pads cause the feet to sweat and draw circulating toxins out of the feet. However, not all foot pads are created equally.
Like foot massages that focus on ancient acupressure or reflexology points, effective foot pads tap into the ancient science of reflexology. In addition to being very relaxing, reflexology stimulates areas on the feet that correspond to different organs and muscles in the body. This helps to release tension, improve circulation and support overall health and vitality.
Unlike other brands, our 100% organic Detox Foot Pads use carbon-titanium adhesive to boost both bioelectricity and blood flow through the feet and body. The foot pads specifically stimulate the kidney acupressure point to encourage detoxification. Our detox foot pads are made with organic, all-natural ingredients like bamboo extracts, herbs, and tourmaline. Tourmaline is a gemstone that emits far infrared radiation (FIR). Studies have found that FIR – specifically from ground tourmaline – promotes cell repair and helps defend cells against damage from X-rays, and normalizes joint swelling and other issues.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Therapists who offer foot detoxes – particularly the ionic foot spa and foot soaks – caution that some people should exercise caution and seek advice from their healthcare provider before using these therapies, including:
- Children under age 5
- Pregnant and lactating women
- People who have pacemakers, electrical implants, and organ transplants
- People who have diabetes, congestive heart failure, or who are on dialysis
- People with open sores on their feet
You can experience a “healing crisis” from any detox, including a foot detox. When the body releases accumulated toxins, you may experience fatigue, headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and flu symptoms. A healing crisis doesn't usually last longer than three days. If you have symptoms for longer or the symptoms are especially disruptive, consult a healthcare provider immediately.
In contrast, our detox foot pads contain organic, natural ingredients, and can safely be used by people of all ages. The only side effect might be a slight chance of allergic reaction by certain individuals, as with any product.
What’s Your Story?
Have you tried any of the foot detox methods described here? What was your experience? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
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- Selmi S, et al. "Hepatoprotective and Renoprotective Effects of Lavender (Lavandula stoechas L.) Essential Oils Against Malathion-Induced Oxidative Stress in Young Male Mice." J Med Food. 2015; 18(10), 1103–1111. Accessed Mar. 14, 2018.
- Mertas A, et al. "The Influence of Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) on Fluconazole Activity against Fluconazole-Resistant Candida albicans Strains." Biomed Res Int. 2015; 2015:590470. Accessed Mar. 14, 2018.
- Moosavi, M. "Bentonite Clay as a Natural Remedy: A Brief Review." Iran J Public Health. 2017; 46(9),1176–1183. Accessed Mar. 14, 2018.
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.