History: Invented nearly 30 years ago by French physician Oliver Fouche, Ionithermie is a detox method that originally was developed as a treatment for arthritis. The treatment soon showed other unrelated benefits, including improved skin and muscle tone, a reduction in the appearance of cellulite and visible slimming in treated areas. European spas joined physicians' offices in offering Ionithermie treatments, and in 2003 it came to the U.S.
How it works: The Ionithermie method uses specially infused clay combined with mild electric stimulation to flush toxins from the body. The electric pulses cause the muscles to flex and help move toxins out of individual cells and into the lymphatic system. The clay contains micronized algae, a mix of proteins and amino acids, and 104 trace minerals. As the toxins leave the cells, extracts from the clay help rejuvenate the body.
What a practitioner says: Christa Feist, a registered nurse and owner of Ionislim Spa in Davenport, Iowa, says this process of 'remineralizing' the cells is what makes Ionithermie different from other detox methods. 'With a lot of wrap methods it's water weight you are losing and that's why people feel drained,' she says. 'This method, though, works on a cellular level. You have the toxins going out but you also have proteins and amino acids going in, so people end up feeling recharged.' 'You can see in the clay some of the toxins that get pulled out,' she adds. 'It gets darker. And if someone smokes or is around people who smoke, you can smell the nicotine in the clay when we're done.' Feist also provides nutritional and exercise counseling that can help clients maintain their results.
What a session is like: From start to finish an Ionithermie session takes about one hour. The skin is first brushed to increase circulation and help the body absorb the nutrients from the clay. Then the treatment area - most commonly the midsection and thighs -- is cleansed and tonics are applied. A mat containing the clay is spread out on a table for the client to lie down on. Then the treatment area is covered in gauze and more clay. Finally electrodes are carefully placed over specific muscles. Electrical stimulation is applied for 40 minutes, after which the treatment area is cleansed and moisturized with lotion.
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The electrical current pulsing through the muscles produces a similar sensation to getting a vigorous massage. 'Even though you are lying down, you feel like you are getting a workout,' says client Dan Sweeney, who was attracted to the treatment because he felt it was an all-natural way to boost weight loss.
Who should not use it: Ionithermie is not advised for persons undergoing cancer treatments, but most other health conditions can be accommodated by adjusting the treatment method. Ionithermie is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Cost: $165 to $175 per session.
More information: Visit houstonmedcenter.com/articles/Ionithermie-Detox-Treatment.php. Radish-area providers: Ionislim Spa, Davenport (ionislimspa.com); Reality Spa, Peoria (309) 689-8888 and Ionispa, Des Moines (ionispadm.com).
-- By Sarah J. Gardner