Walking Barefoot Outdoors
How does it seem possible that walking barefoot outdoors can improve health? It’s such a simple idea, and for many, it may seem even silly. However, there are a few studies that show connecting to the earth through the soles of your feet can be beneficial.
It all has to do with electrical currents in the human body and the earth. We are bioelectrical beings; many of the body’s systems from cell to the heart function because of electricity. Our planet also has an electrical charge.
You may be familiar with the three-pronged electrical plug such as one used for refrigerators. One of those is a grounding plug that stabilizes the electrical current and makes it safer. The earth acts as a grounding device in a similar fashion on the human body.
Grounding is also called earthing and was always a natural part of human existence because our ancestors walked barefoot. However, modernization has us living most of our times in buildings and away from nature.
Also, when we do get outside, the soles of our shoes block the earth’s current because they are made from synthetic materials. In the near past, footwear was made from leather which allowed for the current to pass through.
Modernization also contributes to the unbalance of electrical currents in the body. Because the body is bioelectrical, it absorbs currents from all the electrical devices we use. It creates an unhealthy imbalance or a “positive” charge in the cells.
Human and Atoms
At the microscopic level, humans are atoms. The atoms are neutral until they lose an electron. In the body, when an atom has an unpaired electron, it has a positive charge which is commonly referred to as a free radical. Free radicals damage cells and are the cause of many illnesses and conditions, such as inflammation and cancer.
The high prevalence of chronic illnesses in industrialized nations is due in part to people not connecting directly to the earth to discharge the positive charge, according to proponents of earthing.
While research into grounding is relatively new and studies have been small, there have been some promising results:
Antioxidants – The earth has a negative charge, so the electrons it creates neutralizes free radicals. In theory, the earth acts as an antioxidant. When we think of free radicals, we think of the nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, and other foods that health experts recommend we fill our diets with to combat free radicals. Researchers studying the grounding theory say that having direct contact with the earth can provide the same benefit.
Reduces Inflammation and Pain Levels – Research shows that earthing can reduce inflammation. In a study, thermography imaging of a woman with chronic back pain showed an 80% reduction in inflammation and pain after sleeping on a grounding device for four weeks, and after eight weeks she said her pain was gone.
Regulates Circadian Rhythm – Our circadian rhythm regulates many bodily functions including sleep, digestion, blood pressure, and blood pressure.
Strengthens Vagal Tone – Research indicates that the vagus nerve that runs from the brain to the colon is impacted by connecting to the earth. Poor vagal tone has been linked to several chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There also seem to be a link between poor vagal tone and inflammation that was also improved with grounding.
Stress – A small eight-week study showed that cortisol levels in the study’s participants were normalized. Cortisol is a stress-related hormone that in high levels has been connected to many chronic health conditions.
Circulation – Grounding improved circulation in another small study.
How to Get Grounded
It is simple to connect with the earth: Go barefoot outside and walk on the grass, sand, or even concrete for thirty minutes. You can also tap into the earth’s current by sitting on the ground, swimming, building sand castles on the beach, gardening (without gloves or herbicides), etc. Materials that don’t conduct the earth’s current are wood, vinyl, or asphalt.
For people who are unable to get outside, there are grounding devices that can be purchased for indoor use. Just make sure you are buying from a reliable source.
Current research is limited on the effects of grounding, but what has been done shows that while refrigerators, TVs and electronic devices can be plugged in 24/7, it is not good for humans. We need to get outside and connect to nature to disconnect.
Dennett, Carrie. Could walking barefoot on grass improve your health? Some research suggests it can (July 10, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/could-walking-barefoot-on-the-grass-improve-your-health-the-science-behind-grounding/2018/07/05/12de5d64-7be2-11e8-aeee-4d04c8ac6158_story.html?utm_term=.606ddd8659c5.
Ober, Clint, et al. Grounding the Human Body: The Healing Benefits of Earthing. Retrieved from https://chopra.com/articles/grounding-the-human-body-the-healing-benefits-of-earthing
Sinatra, Stephen T. M.D. F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T. Grounding Q & A. Retrieved from https://heartmdinstitute.com/q-a/grounding-q-a/.