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Why Walking Barefoot Might Be an Essential Element of Good Health

September 20, 2012 | 221,497 views
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By Dr. Mercola

When's the last time you kicked off your shoes and reveled in the feeling of the Earth under your feet?

Been awhile?

It may sound hard to believe, but engaging in this simple pleasure could give your health a much-needed boost.

Often it is the case that engaging in activities that feel good on an intrinsic level really are good for your health -- like the feeling of the afternoon sun warming your bare skin.

Walking barefoot outside, with the soles of your feet free to mesh with the surface of the Earth – an activity known as Earthing, or grounding -- is another such case.

I have been personally intrigued with grounding for nearly seven years and have been seeking to ground myself most of the time.

This is a fascinating leading-edge concept, and I would strongly encourage you to carefully read the featured article for more details.

You are an Electrical Being, and the Earth's Surface is Electrically Conductive

You are an electrical being -- your body regularly produces positive charges, which can oxidize and harm you if it is excessive..

The Earth's surface is electrically conductive; it maintains a negative charge with its free electron supply continually replenished by the global atmospheric electrical circuit.

As such, as reported in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health:

"It is an established, though not widely appreciated fact, that the Earth's surface possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons. 

… Mounting evidence suggests that the Earth's negative potential can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems. Moreover, oscillations of the intensity of the Earth's potential may be important for setting the biological clocks regulating diurnal body rhythms, such as cortisol secretion."

There is growing research showing that this connection to the Earth's surface plays a vital role in preventing disease and offers a host of benefits from improved sleep to pain relief. The problem, of course, is that while humans have historically spent much of their days with their bare skin next to the Earth (both while walking and sleeping, including on animal skins, which still allow electrons to enter the body), today this vital connection has been lost.

Researchers continue:

"Throughout history, humans mostly walked barefoot or with footwear made of animal skins. They slept on the ground or on skins. Through direct contact or through perspiration-moistened animal skins used as footwear or sleeping mats, the ground's abundant free electrons were able to enter the body, which is electrically conductive. Through this mechanism, every part of the body could equilibrate with the electrical potential of the Earth, thereby stabilizing the electrical environment of all organs, tissues, and cells.

Modern lifestyle has increasingly separated humans from the primordial flow of Earth's electrons. For example, since the 1960s, we have increasingly worn insulating rubber or plastic soled shoes, instead of the traditional leather fashioned from hides… Obviously, we no longer sleep on the ground as we did in times past."

What Happens When You Absorb Free Electrons from the Earth?

The scientific theory behind the health benefits seen from this simple practice is that since the Earth has a greater negative charge than your body, you end up absorbing electrons from it. This is, in my understanding, one of the most potent antioxidants we know of and may have an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect on your body. As written in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine:1

"It is well established, though not widely known, that the surface of the earth possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons as a consequence of a global atmospheric electron circuit. Wearing shoes with insulating soles and/or sleeping in beds that are isolated from the electrical ground plane of the earth have disconnected most people from the earth's electrical rhythms and free electrons.

… A previous study demonstrated that connecting the human body to the earth during sleep (earthing) normalizes the daily cortisol rhythm and improves sleep. A variety of other benefits were reported, including reductions in pain and inflammation.  Subsequent studies have confirmed these earlier findings and documented virtually immediate physiologic and clinical effects of grounding or earthing the body."

To put it simply, it's thought that the influx of free electrons from the Earth's surface will help to neutralize free radicals and reduce both acute and chronic inflammation, which is at the root of many health conditions and accelerated aging.

A Review of Earthing Research Shows Significant Benefits

In a new article published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health2, researchers reviewed the Earthing research, revealing an impressive impact on a variety of health conditions. Most of the studies involved indoor testing methods that simulated being barefoot outdoors. This was found to offer improvements in the following conditions:

Sleep disturbances, including sleep apnea Chronic muscle and joint pain, and other types of pain Asthmatic and respiratory conditions Rheumatoid arthritis
PMS Hypertension Energy levels Stress
Immune system activity and response

Heart rate variability

Primary indicators of osteoporosis

Fasting glucose levels among people with diabetes


Another invaluable benefit is this: when your body is grounded, researchers write, "its electrical potential becomes equalized with the Earth's electrical potential through a transfer of electrons from the Earth to the body." This, in turn, offers an "umbrella" of protection against the electromagnetic fields that are now ubiquitous in our environment. The paper continues:

"The study confirms the 'umbrella' effect of earthing the body explained by Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman in his lectures on electromagnetism. Feynman said that when the body's potential is the same as the Earth's electric potential (and thus grounded), it becomes an extension of the Earth's gigantic electric system. The Earth's potential thus becomes the "working agent that cancels, reduces, or pushes away electric fields from the body."

Most of the scientists working in this area now believe that the beneficial effects are mediated through reduction in inflammation and a thinning of the blood. In fact the blood thinning effect is so profound that if you are taking blood thinners it is recommended to immediately consult with your doctor, as most likely your blood thinner will need to be lowered.

Two Ways to Make Sure You Stay Grounded

The effects of grounding appear to be so profound that researchers suggest health practitioners prescribe outdoor "barefoot sessions" as the weather permits. This is as simple as it sounds – you kick off your shoes and socks and walk barefoot on the grass, the dirt, the sand or whatever "Earth" is available to you. Studies suggest that benefits such as pain relief and stress reduction may occur in just 30-80 minutes of barefoot time a day.

This can obviously be a challenge during the winter, or if you live in an urban area without easy access to parks or other barefoot-friendly surfaces, so the other option is to use a grounding or Earthing pad, which allows you to get the benefits of the Earth's electrons even if you're indoors, especially when you're sleeping. I've been using one for several months now, especially when I travel by plane, as air travel is a suspected cause of weakening bio-electric currents.

So, like access to regular sun exposure, walking barefoot outside is a grossly neglected foundational practice that you can easily correct. In the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, researchers concluded:

"Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS [autonomic nervous system] dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV [heart rate variability], hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.

The research done to date supports the concept that grounding or earthing the human body may be an essential element in the health equation along with sunshine, clean air and water, nutritious food, and physical activity."

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