Sci­ence sug­gests walk­ing bare­foot on ground im­proves your health

Austin American-Statesman - - NATION & WORLD - By Car­rie Dennett

It is not a se­cret that spend­ing time in na­ture is good for you. For years, re­searchers have been de­tail­ing how peo­ple who live near green spa­ces — parks, green­belts, tree-lined streets, ru­ral land­scapes — have bet­ter phys­i­cal and men­tal health, and prac­tices such as Ja­panese for­est bathing and Nordic “hygge,” which has a strong out­doorsy com­po­nent, are be­ing em­braced here in the United States. Could ground­ing be next?

A col­league re­cently rec­om­mended a mu­tual pa­tient ex­per­i­ment with walk­ing bare­foot in the grass for a short time each day. A few weeks later, an ar­ti­cle gave a name to that prac­tice: “ground­ing.” The idea be­hind ground­ing, also called “earth­ing,” is that hu­mans evolved in di­rect con­tact with the Earth’s sub­tle elec­tric charge, but have lost that sus­tained con­nec­tion thanks to in­ven­tions such as build­ings, fur­ni­ture and shoes with in­su­lated syn­thetic soles.

Ad­vo­cates of ground­ing say this dis­con­nect might be con­tribut­ing to the chronic dis­eases that are par­tic­u­larly preva­lent in in­dus­tri­al­ized so­ci­eties. There is some sci­ence be­hind this. Re­search has shown bare­foot con­tact with the earth can pro­duce nearly in­stant changes in a va­ri­ety of phys­i­o­log­i­cal mea­sures, help­ing im­prove sleep, re­duce pain, de­crease mus­cle ten­sion and lower stress.

There are many rea­sons con­nect­ing with na­ture is good for mind and body, and elec­tric­ity might be one of them. Ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing hu­mans, is made up of atoms. These mi­cro­scopic par­ti­cles con­tain equal num­bers of neg­a­tively charged elec­trons, which come in pairs, and pos­i­tively charged pro­tons, so an atom is neu­tral, un­less it loses an elec­tron. When an atom has an un­paired elec­tron, it be­comes a “free rad­i­cal” ca­pa­ble of dam­ag­ing cells and con­tribut­ing to chronic in­flam­ma­tion, can­cer and other dis­eases.

The Earth’s sur­face has a neg­a­tive charge and is con­stantly gen­er­at­ing elec­trons that could neu­tral­ize free rad­i­cals, act­ing as an­tiox­i­dants.

Re­search also sug­gests con­tact with the Earth’s sur­face can help reg­u­late the au­to­nomic ner­vous sys­tem and keep cir­ca­dian rhythms — which reg­u­late body tem­per­a­ture, hor­mone se­cre­tion and blood pres­sure, among other things — syn­chro­nized with the day/night cy­cle.

Desyn­chro­niza­tion of our in­ter­nal clocks has been linked to a num­ber of health prob­lems. The key may be the im­pact on the va­gus nerve, the largest nerve of the au­to­nomic ner­vous sys­tem. Weak va­gal tone is as­so­ci­ated with chronic in­flam­ma­tion. In­flam­ma­tion, in turn, is as­so­ci­ated with chronic dis­eases in­clud­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, type 2 di­a­betes and some forms of can­cer.

Re­search con­tin­ues at sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties, but while many in­te­gra­tive and main­stream health-care prac­ti­tion­ers use ground­ing as one treat­ment tool, it is far from wide­spread.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit the Earth­ing In­sti­tute web­site: www.earth­ing in­sti­tute.net/.

KEN KOONS / BALTIMORE SUN

“Ground­ing,” or “earth­ing,” might help im­prove or main­tain phys­i­cal and men­tal health, ac­cord­ing to re­search. Ben­e­fits may in­clude bet­ter sleep, pain re­duc­tion and lower stress lev­els.

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