Do you ever walk barefoot? Growing up in the South, bare feet outside the house was perceived as "country," but today, it is surprisingly a trend! Though trending, growing research shows that walking barefoot is more than just a hipster thing to do. This practice, also referred to as grounding, can be part of your wellness regimen. All of the evidence seems to point back to the electrons on the earth's surface. Research suggests that as our body comes into contact with the negative electrons of the earth, we can reap health benefits from improved immunity, better sleep, and decreased inflammation. This practice is called earthing.
Grounding is a form of earthing. Earthing refers to contact with the earth's surface electrons by walking barefoot outside or sitting or working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems, that transfer the energy from the ground into the body (1). So, as you can see, earthing isn't just walking barefoot. It can be done in various ways that connect you to the earth's surface. However, walking barefoot has become the more popularized form of earthing, and with good reason. In this pandemic era, people are looking for ways to improve immunity and stay healthy. Grounding is a free, practical, and generally, safe way to potentially improve your health. There is evidence that grounding can have a significant impact on one's immune response. Take inflammation, for example. Inflammation is a natural immune response that occurs in the body. It is commonly associated with chronic disease; however, our inflammation triggers our bodies to fight infection, toxins, and injuries. It's our body's protective mechanism. Yet, our inflammatory response has adverse effects when it is prolonged due to smoking, alcohol, certain foods, and chronic stress. This chronic inflammation can cause our body to remain in a constant state of alert, over time, causing damage to healthy cells, tissues, and organs. Thankfully, many things can help reduce inflammation, like foods high in omega-three fatty acids and antioxidants and even GROUNDING!
That's right, walking barefoot can potentially help reduce inflammation. Here's what the science has to say. Research shows that when our skin comes into contact with the earth's surface, its electrons spread over the skin and into the body. There are numerous pathways in which these electrons can enter the body; one way is via acupuncture points. Acupuncture points are places where nerves, muscles, and connective tissue can be stimulated - our feet are covered with them! It is hypothesized that these electrons enter the bodies and neutralize free radicals that contribute to inflammation. As a result, inflammation is reduced (2). Here's another example! One study observed antibody concentrations in people who received a vaccination. What they found was the participants who practiced grounding had an increase in the antibody concentration, gamma globulin. This finding suggests that grounding could potentially accelerate the immune response (3).
There is a bunch of evidence that shows how walking barefoot could offer some health benefits. However, I do want to urge you to take precautions; grounding may not be for everyone. If you are allergic to grass, I wouldn't recommend walking barefoot outdoors. Also, if you have diabetes and experience neuropathy in your feet, grounding may not be safe. If you're wondering whether walking barefoot is the right move for you, it's always best to consult your primary doctor before hitting the grass.
Are you interested in activating the health benefits of grounding? You can start by walking barefoot or in your backyard, or explore the many green spaces Nashville has to offer!