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Search the internet and you can find dozens of products that promise to increase your energy levels and detoxify your body through your feet.
Dr. Bob Bowen and his family at Grassam Family Chiropractic offer the ionic foot spa therapy to patients at their Stuart office.
He adds table salt to a basin of regular tap water. He then flips a switch to start an electric charge. Insert the patient’s feet and within minutes the water begins to change colors.
“Electricity comes in through the pores of the feet and travels through the body,” says Bowen.
Each color, he says, signifies a different kind of toxin draining out of your body.
“Orange means it is going to be detoxifying from the joints,” he says, referring to a color chart beside the spa.
Patient Mary Conrad began the foot spas hoping they would ease her joint pain from an old car accident.
“I never thought water and electricity mixed too well, so I was a little apprehensive,” she says.
But after about a month of foot spas, ending in lots of murky water, she says she felt better.
“One morning I got up and was walking around the house and I thought something’s missing – and the pain was gone,” she says.
Dr. Bowen says the therapy helped him recover from mercury poisoning.
“You talk about someone who has been reborn,” he says.
But podiatrist Paul Gotkin is a skeptic. He says he’s never heard of anything drawing toxins through your feet.
“I’ve never heard or seen of a reputable study that could do this,” says Dr. Gotkin.
Grassam Chiropractic charges $50 for each 30 minute foot therapy. Online you can find ionic foot spas selling for anywhere from $300 to $3000.
“I think the manufacturers’ spurious claims are more intent on extracting money from our wallets as opposed to toxins from our bodies,” says Dr. Gotkin.
Newschannel 5 wanted to see exactly what toxins the foot spa draws out of the body. So we gathered two samples: one before and one after the therapy. We brought them to the Flowers Chemical Laboratory in Port St. Lucie.
The Flowers Laboratory tested our samples for the eight main heavy metals. That includes arsenic, lead and mercury.
You’ll recall mercury is the metal Dr. Bowen says the therapy drew out of his body.
We got our test results back and it turns out that frothy water from mary’s foot spa didn’t contain any more mercury than the plain salt water before the therapy. And what about the other toxins?
“What we found in the testing was that no toxic heavy metals were released by this experiment,” says Dr. Jeff Flowers, the lab’s director.
So what was that orange haze in the water?
Iron and chromium, says Dr. Flowers. He says that’s exactly what he would expect when a stainless steel electrode breaks down in water – feet or no feet.
“It’s just physical chemistry. A very natural experiment that all beginning chemistry students learn in how batteries work,” says Dr. Flowers. “I mean it’s funny. There’s no chemistry that I can see that is going to draw toxins out by applying an electrode to a water solution.”
So how does one explain Mary’s pain going away? Dr. Gotkin chalks it up to the placebo effect: she believed she was going to feel better, so she did.
Of course there are plenty of believers in this therapy at the chiropractic office we visited and elsewhere.
To decide for yourself, check out yourown test results.