About the author
Michael Relfe is a native Floridian, born in Miami and has lived the past 8 years in Palm Coast, Florida. His experience includes 27 years as an IT consultant, internet marketing consultant and project manager with diverse clients such as American Express, IBM, SAIC, Delta Airlines, The United States Navy, Ericsson Cellular, United Airlines, Qantas Airlines, Chicago Board Options Exchange and American Airlines.
He holds a degree in Computer Science and is a graduate of the United States Naval Nuclear Power School and Advanced Electronics program. He holds a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute as well as two Prince 2 Project Management Practitioner certifications from the United Kingdom.
Why I wrote this article
It’s all Maria’s fault. A friend of ours was having soreness in her ankles. She wrote to us -
My shields came on when I saw the words “ions” and “Royal Rife” and I knew the marketing program for that product was in error. Rife technology is based on resonance and has nothing to do with ion creation of any kind. Either they were clueless about their product or they were scammers. I needed to find out which and let Maria know the truth. So I did the necessary research and found out the truth about Ionic Foot Bath Spas.
What is an Ionic Foot Bath Spa?
During my research on Ionic Foot Bath Spas I, of course, found the “quackwatch” website. You too, will find this website on almost any research conducted on natural medicine. The webmaster has been sued for the contents of that site. We like so many of the things that this person attempts to debunk (like Kinesiology, The Hulda Clark Parasite Program and Ear Candles) that I knew I was on to something. Anything “Quackwatch” hates, might just be good. So I continued my research.
An ionic foot bath involves soaking an individual’s feet in a salt water bath into which an ionizing array is immersed. This array is composed of a series of closely spaced stainless steel plates or wires, through which a current is passed. By the process of electrolysis, ions are created and diffuse throughout the water. Note that current passes through the water between the small spaces between the plates. Current does not pass through the person’s feet.
Once the current is turned on, ions are generated and the electrodes undergo a chemical reaction. The water begins to discolor due to the dissolving of the plates and will continue to get darker during the session. As time goes on (multiple sessions) the electrodes break down until they no longer function and must be replaced.
These are the observable effects of operating an Ionic Foot Bath Spa.
Every other explanation is theory.
Some people like to theorize that ions travel into the body and that causes toxins to be excreted. Note that this is two processes. Ions traveling into the body and toxins being excreted. It is quite possible that the “ions” are not actually traveling anywhere, but are affecting the body externally and causing the toxins to be excreted. It is also possible that toxins are not being excreted,
Other people theorize that the charged water is balancing or stimulating the body in some fashion and that assists the natural detoxification processes of the body through the stool, urine or skin.
No one truly understands the exact process by which this functions and any explanation to the contrary is most likely marketing horse manure.
Most importantly, please be advised that the brown discoloration of the water is not the toxins coming from your body (at least most of it is not). The brown discoloration is clearly oxidized iron (rust) coming from the steel electrodes. The color starts off light and gets darker as the session progresses.
What is body detoxification?
We constantly bring substances into our body as we eat, drink and breathe. Some of these substances are toxic to our system and our bodies have wonderful ways to eliminate these chemicals. In addition, the normal processes of the body create byproducts which are also toxic, much like the exhaust from a car. Unfortunately there are so many chemicals in the environment, many of them artificial, that our bodies have an ever increasing difficulty in eliminating them.
From “Caffeine Blues” by Stephen Cherniske, MS, Research & Clinical Nutritionist
Note the “remote areas” part. That means that in addition to the normal channels of elimination used in daily living, if the liver gets behind schedule on eliminating toxins, it will store them in places far away from the main organs of the body. That includes the feet and the hands. And that is why the idea of removing something, even a very small “something” out of the feet would be a valuable addition to any wellness program.
Bodily detoxification is not an instant, one time process. It is an ongoing part of your life experience and it should be a part of your wellness program. I once heard a very famous herbalist explain “What goes in, must come out”. Removal of bodily toxins happens naturally through the stool, urine, skin and lung channels.
Are Ionic Foot Bath Spas real? Or are they a scam?
They are real. Some people have huge success with them. Some people claim they notice little if nothing from their use. We do know that for some people having tobacco smells and parasites in the water after the session is showing positive physical results. The thing that no one knows absolutely for sure is how they work. No one knows this because no one really understands what an “ion” really is, what an “atom” really is or how every elimination mechanism of the human body functions. Everything is theory, formulated from cause and effect. Theory is not fact.
The most likely process that occurs with most Ionic Foot Bath Spas is negative Hydrogen Ion Therapy which has proven to be very helpful in assisting humans in removing toxins from their bodies.
Negative Hydrogen Ions are studied extensively, especially in Japan, for their therapeutic effects as antioxidants. The following two reports can provide more information.
This process occurs when an individual places a body part in water with DC current, ideally a stainless steel array, and salt as a conductive assistance. The H20 will split and the beneficial bi product that the body will uptake via osmosis is negative hydrogen ions (H-) which will attach themselves to any free radicals and allow the body to naturally eliminate through the normal detoxification channels – sweat, urine, stool and breathing. During the bath some cellular debris will be removed via osmosis, but most will be done through the body’s natural channels. The color of the water will change whether there is a human in the water or not because of the chemical reaction with the salt and stainless steel arrays. The color will depend upon the region, minerals, chlorination and other factors.
The scam is when untrained idiots fabricate non scientific “explanations” for marketing purposes to increase their sales numbers.
The scam is when con men make unsubstantiated medical claims for cures to desperate people looking for a treatment for their diseases.
The scam is when clueless “dealers” sell cheap machines that can’t possibly work and that don’t really do what they claim, to people that cannot afford to be defrauded.
The scam is when Multi-level marketing scammers use NLP and Hypnosis to sell products to “dealers” that have no hope of ever making a return on their investment.
The scam is when inexpensive technology ($200) that should be available to every person, especially retired people living on fixed incomes, is inflated by greed ($3800) and moves out of their affordability range. These scammers concentrate on patents and profits instead of people and their problems.
The scam is when trusted professionals, using questionable equipment, charge $35 for a “treatment” to unknowing clients, when in fact the client could own their own machine for the cost of 6 treatments. A $10-15 charge might be acceptable to pay for the rent, the machine and filling and cleaning the tub. A $35 charge is a complete rip off.
Where did these Ionic Foot Bath Spas come from ?
The Mysterious Q2 Machine of Australia
In 1996 a group of inventors started showing up at alternative science and UFO conventions in Australia. Dressed in all black clothing and selling a strange looking contraption that when immersed in a pan of water, along with a person’s feet, turned the water orange and claimed to remove toxins from the body, it was met with mixed interest. Some people thought it interesting and exciting. Some people thought it was a hoax. And some people thought it was a new cult of some kind. They definitely appeared to be “mad scientist” type guys. We saw these people at conferences in Sydney, Australia and Daytona Beach, Florida.
From the Q2 marketing materials -
They also say:
What the Q2 machine did to me.
In 1996 I was living in Australia and working as a consultant for Qantas airlines. I attended an alternative science conference hosted by Nexus Magazine. While visiting one of the vendor rooms, I saw the Q machine display. It appeared to be just some type of power supply hooked to a sensor of some kind. The sensor was circular in shape and composed of different sized circular disks arranged parallel to one another, each one separated by a small space. The sensor looked like a toy, made of metal and plastic. The machine was unplugged and sitting in an area by itself. I made the mistake of touching the sensor to examine it. I left and didn’t think anymore about it.
About 10 minutes later I started feeling very strange. I felt light headed and weak. And it was getting worse by the minute. I told the girl I was with (my future wife, Stephanie) what I was feeling and she used Kinesiology to muscle test and see what was wrong. She found that when I touched the sensor, it zapped me and “blew out” my main centering system, called “cloacals”.
I have no idea what happened. There was obviously some type of residual effect from the operation of the machine, remaining in the sensor. Whatever it was, I decided never to touch one of those Q machines again. I considered them very dangerous.
The problems with the Q machines.
The function of an ionic foot bath spa is to create a mass of ions in a pool of water so that those ions may hopefully have a stimulating effect on the elimination systems of the body. I say “hopefully” because some people have reported no effect whatsoever.
This ion creation process happens by electrolysis. You can learn what electrolysis is by visiting the following website –
Electrolysis of water using an electrical current -
However the “Q” machine claims other secret technology based on quantum physics. They claim that the array that they put into the water does more than mere electrolysis. That it creates strange magnetic fields that interact with the person’s body and does all kinds of marvelous things. If what they said was true, they would probably get a visit from the Defense Department or the CIA.
You make your own decisions, However, I want nothing to do with ANY device that claims to electronically interact with, or change, ANYTHING in my body. Not a chance. I can see the untold damage that has been caused by people eating microwaved food. And I see the increasing number of brain cancers being caused by cell phone use. As a former U.S. Navy Radar Technician I know electronics and I know microwave radiation. I don’t want any “deep interaction” with anything patented by some engineer in his garage. So I don’t like the Q Machine.
And that is the real problem with these fancy $4,000 machines. They have some type of unique feature that allows them to be patented so that they can charge these inflated prices. But the downside is that regular people, with regular jobs and regular paychecks can never afford the technology.
The problems with the Asian import machines.
The market is now flooded with cheaply built Ionic Foot Bath machines built in Asia. These have a fancy plastic case and they look nice sitting on a table, However, they use cheap, switching, digital power supplies (no transformer) that garbage up the signal output and introduce all kinds of harmonics on the signal that could have an unwanted effect on the person using the machine. So when I see the Aqua Chi waveform diagrams and I see the strange and un-natural signal encrypted on the output waveform, it is very scary.
Also these Asian import machines are cheaply constructed and low powered (5 to 12 volts) with a 2 amp. current flow. And they wholesale for around $45. It is hard to believe that any device sold for $45 can do anything, let alone last very long. If you decide to buy one of these machines, please save your money for a few more weeks and buy a machine that will last years, rather than months.
The power supply for your system should be a pure direct current (D.C.) linear power supply, provide for a minimum of 13.8 volts with 4 amps of current and it should weigh 10 or more pounds (because it contains a transformer).
The history of the foot bath machine
The University of Canberra in Australia allegedly did the original research in 1992 for “Bio Electric Field Enhancement”. I say “allegedly” because I can find no official literature, white paper or peer reviewed report that describes this research. I realize this “fact” is rehashed and reprinted by every so called “dealer” that sells some type of ionic foot bath device, however there is not a single report in the indexes that verify it.
Bio Electric Field Enhancement was allegedly an attempt to enhance or regenerate the energy field of cells. Bio Electric Field Enhancement was theorized to slow down the aging process, by balancing the body’s energy field, by pumping energy directly into the cells. Their original intention was not to remove toxins from the body, but to slow the aging process through cellular rejuvenation.
The scientific belief in 1992 was that cells only absorbed nutrients and fluids by osmosis. However in 2003, Roderick MacKinnon and Peter Agre, two American doctors won the Nobel Prize for chemistry, by proving that individual cells absorb fluids and nutrients via ion channels into the cells, and excrete toxins out via other pathways. Some theorize that it is these ion channels that allow the Ionic Foot baths to function.
The Scientific Facts
Ion channels are proteins that form pores, that help establish and control the voltage gradient across the plasma membrane of cells by allowing the flow of ions down their electrochemical gradient. They are present in the membranes that surround all biological cells. The study of ion channels involves many scientific techniques such as voltage clamp electrophysiology (in particular patch clamp), immunohistochemistry, and RT-PCR.
Ion channels regulate the flow of ions across the membrane in all cells. Ion channels are integral membrane proteins; or, more typically, an assembly of several proteins. They are present on all membranes of cell (plasma membrane) and intracellular organelles (nucleus, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi apparatus and so on). Such "multi-subunit" assemblies usually involve a circular arrangement of identical or homologous proteins closely packed around a water-filled pore through the plane of the membrane or lipid bilayer. For most voltage-gated ion channels, the pore-forming subunit(s) are called the α subunit, while the auxiliary subunits are denoted β, γ, and so on. Some channels permit the passage of ions based solely on their charge of positive (cation) or negative (anion). However, the archetypal channel pore is just one or two atoms wide at its narrowest point and is selective for specific species of ion, such as sodium or potassium. These ions move through the channel pore single file nearly as quickly as the ions move through free fluid. In some ion channels, passage through the pore is governed by a "gate," which may be opened or closed by chemical or electrical signals, temperature, or mechanical force, depending on the variety of channel.
All this scientific theory breaks down to an explanation of how ion movement in cells might be related to how a pool of ionized water can sometimes provide positive health effects.
What Ionic Foot Bath Spa machines are for sale?
The Q Machine™
The first commercial application of this research (1996) was the Q2™ machine, built in Australia. The practitioner model sells for $3995.00.00. This is clearly out of the reach for an average family.
The AMD IonCleanse™ & Aqua-Chi™
In 2002 two other machines appeared. The AMD IonCleanse™, which sells for $2895.00 and the Aqua Chi, which sells for $1595. Both machines use the same power supply which has a DC output of 24 volts at 2.5 Amps of power, the same as the Q2 machine. Regardless of the secret explanations and other marketing hype, these three machines are virtually identical. In my opinion, they are still priced too high.
The Chinese Machines
In 2004 a very low power (2 Amps at 10 Volts DC power) machine was introduced from China. This machine was manufactured and shipped in many case styles and colors, however they are all essentially the same machine. When first produced, they sold for upwards of $350 and now sell for around $150. These machines wholesale from between $47 and $95 depending upon the case and accessories. Some of them are still sold to the unsophisticated buyers at fairs, conventions and in magazines for as much as $1,895. They are ineffective for detoxifying the body but some people feel they do release endorphins in brain, giving the user a relaxed feeling. These machines are underpowered, use unstable digital power supplies and have no warranty or support. In addition, because of their low power and use of digital power supplies, they require a user to ground themselves to the machine by use of a wrist strap or belt, thereby becoming a part of the circuit. Warning – Never become a part of an electrical circuit.
The Ionic Body Balancer
In 2006 the Ionic Body Balancer was introduced by a group in Arizona. It sells for $599.00. This machine took Ionic Foot Bath Spa technology to a higher level. Using 14 volts DC current at 10 Amps of power with a new design, much heavier stainless steel ionizing array, it soon became a success, with over 4000 machines sold. Its power supply was a standard transformer design, reasonably priced, bench unit with all the necessary electrical safety attributes built in. Body mass affects the effectiveness of this technology. They feel that 2.5 amps at 24 volts is just not enough power to effectively detoxify persons weighing more than 200 lbs. The key to keeping the systems cost low was to find a line of power supplies already manufactured, with factory installed safety circuits, and in supply chains for other industries. Their reasoning was that power supplies with safety features incorporated into their design were more reliable than add-on circuitry like AMD and Aqua Chi uses. We agree with that conclusion.
The manufacturers of the Ionic Body Balancer claim that their machine delivers a substantial amount of energy into the water to create negatively charged ions and that it is that energy inside the body that cleanses and stimulates the Lymphatic and Immune System, to naturally remove toxins from the body. They feel that some toxic material will be drawn from the pores of the feet and end up in the spa water, but that is merely a small amount compared to the amount of detoxification taking place INSIDE the body by the Immune System and Lymph System (which drains into the GI Tract). In other words, they claim that the toxic material drawn from the feet, which floats on the water, is perhaps 10% of the total activity their machine causes to happen. They also claim that dead parasites have been seen in the water by many users of the Ionic Body Balancer.
If you have been reading this article to this point, it is most likely that you have already been sold on the benefits of this technology. There are countless websites and forums that document the results that many people have had with ionic foot bath spa machines.
Because this technology is essentially un-patentable and uncontrolled, no clinical studies have been made on these machines that I am aware of.
Although this is not a medical device, any dealers or promoters that market this technology as a curative or treatment protocol for any disease or condition, are in violation of FTC or FDA rules and are asking for trouble.
So when you read all the testimonials, of all the people that have been helped or not helped, on all the websites, and you see lists of benefits that are health related, please understand that this is considered anecdotal evidence, and may not necessarily apply to you.
From Wikipedia -
The expression anecdotal evidence refers to evidence from anecdotes. Because of the small sample, there is a larger chance that it may be true but unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases.
Anecdotal evidence is considered dubious support of a claim; it is accepted only in lieu of more solid evidence. This is true regardless of the veracity of individual claims.
What do doctors think?
In the field of health professionals, this technology meets with a mixed reception. Where as it might be rejected and laughed at by a doctor unfamiliar with the technology, it might be accepted and adopted by a holistic M.D. or a chiropractor. It depends upon the individual doctor and their openness to new technology. There is an old saying, “A mans judgment is only as good as his information”. Always remember that doctors and their insurance companies are a primary target of frivolous lawsuits and that their license is at risk with every customer. So you can understand that they are entitled to their skepticism.
Doesn’t the water color change prove it works?
No. Any manufacturer, dealer or practitioner that claims a water color change somehow relates to any amount or type of effect taking place is either clueless or a liar. Any user of a Ionic Foot Bath Spa machine can run the machine in a bath without a person involved and they will see an orange discoloration of the water. This is clearly the iron oxidizing from the array and being dispersed in the water. It is commonly called “rust”.
In addition, many different colors can be observed depending upon :
So please ignore all of those beautiful, full color charts that you see on the various websites. They are fabricated, fraudulent, have no scientific basis whatsoever and actively contribute to those that attempt to “debunk” this technology.
And when you see all the photographs of the results of the various foot bath sessions, would you actually believe that all that dark sludge came from a persons body in a mere 30 minutes? Some of it, maybe. All of it? Not a chance.
People are only aware of the problems they have, not the problems that they used to have.
The reality is that a human body cannot be easily fixed like a car or a computer. Common sense dictates that for a person to live a long and happy life, they must constantly be aware of what they do, what they eat and how they treat their body.
Warnings – Read this now.
01. Pregnant women, people with pacemakers, transplant recipients, people with any type of electronic implant or anyone else that their doctor has said so, should not use this or any other type of foot detox machine. If you have a question, please ask your M.D if the Foot Bath Spa is for you.
02. Always make sure that the foot bath spa machine you select uses a direct current linear (not switching) power supply. That means it has a large transformer and is HEAVY. Do not select a system using a light weight “switching” or digital power supply. It may look like direct current coming from it, but it is not direct current such as is coming from a car battery and can cause problems because of its high frequency harmonic content.
03. Always make sure that the foot bath machine you select has enough voltage and current to perform the electrolysis job correctly. That means the voltage should be greater than 13.5 volts and the current should be 4 amps or greater. The lightweight 8-10 volt, 2 amp units from overseas just don’t have the necessary power.
04. Always make sure that the stainless steel immersion array you choose is heavy duty enough to do the job. Always use an array that is composed of steel plates, rather than wires. The arrays that look like a diving bell and that contain wires as the electrode source are not heavy duty enough to be used with our equipment over a long period. The amount of current in our system will cause the cheap arrays to be consumed quickly. For a better experience, use a plate based array.
05. Never directly touch the array when the machine is turned active. And before putting your feet into the bath, gently touch the water and insure that you do not get shocked. Always take all standard electrical safety precautions around this and every other type of electrical equipment.
06. Never use any foot bath spa system that requires you to be part of the power circuit. That means if you have to “ground” yourself, use a wrist strap or belt, or in any way allow current to flow through you, don’t use it! It is potentially dangerous. Never take any chances.
07. Always keep the power unit on the floor and several feet away from the water bath. Never allow the power unit to be in any position where it could accidentally fall into the water bath. And never allow water to splash into the power supply. Electricity and water do not mix. Always be electrically safe.
08. After a session, always dispose of the water promptly in a safe manner. Don’t put it on your plants. Yes, it has “minerals” in it but they are not for plants or animals.
You're Not Fat -
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