A few days ago I walked out on my back deck to find this:
A little human footprint among the puppy prints in the snow.
That would be my daughter. She is the only one in the house who would venture out into the new fallen snow in her bare feet. I couldn’t help smiling after seeing her prints in the snow, which also started a chain of thoughts on my end.
First of all, my daughter is the queen of barefoot walking. I’m sure we have all gone through periods of walking barefoot, with most happening during childhood. I remember the thrill of walking, running, climbing, and jumping barefoot when I was young. Climbing trees was easiest when my little piggies were free. Jumping in cool puddles after a rain was bliss. And, racing through the soft green grass while we played neighborhood games was so much fun. But, these times are gone. My feet have lived in shoes while outside for many years. Now it’s my daughter’s turn to go barefoot while climbing trees, jumping in puddles, and playing neighborhood games. She also goes barefoot while hiking and taking the dogs for long walks. Only wearing shoes while going into public buildings, or boots when temperatures dip too low here in the great state of Minnesota. My daughter is determined to go barefoot, and she’s determined to get others to try it too.
The Birthday Party
One month ago, at my daughter’s birthday party, I overheard her talking to her cousin about going barefoot outside. Her cousin hardly steps foot outside without his shoes on, but my daughter convinced him by saying “Just try it. If you practice a little each day, your feet will get stronger and tougher, and you will feel attached to the Earth.” My nephew got a big smile on his face as he headed out the front door sans shoes with my daughter. As she bounded onto our gravel driveway without missing a beat, I had to laugh a little when my nephew looked, well, he looked how I probably look when I try to walk on that dang driveway. Limping, stepping as light as he could (not that this really helps), and heading straight for the grass. “See?” my daughter said, “It’s not that bad.” Ha! That’s what she thinks. My nephew remained shoe-less for the remainder of the afternoon. He’s stronger than I am.
When my daughter said that my nephew’s feet would feel stronger and tougher after going barefoot, I understood what she was talking about. She convinced me to try going barefoot a few times this past summer on our gravel driveway just for the sake of making my feet tougher. I imagine I looked like an injured fool as I navigated the driveway. Tiptoeing as fast as I could to reach the reprieve of the soft, green grass, but limping each time I stepped on one of those evil, larger, gravel stones. My daughter laughed as she took off running down the driveway. Her feet are tough. This I observed, but her statement “…you will feel attached to the Earth” is what I had questions about.”
After seeing her footprint in the snow, I asked my daughter “Do you remember when you talked your cousin into going barefoot at your birthday party?” “Yes.” she responded. “What did you mean when you told him that soon he would feel attached to the Earth?” I asked. She replied “I don’t know, I just feel connected to the Earth when I go barefoot, and it makes me feel good.” This response reminded me of a comment one of my readers had written on my Get Outside and Get Into Nature: Your Mind and Body Will Thank You post.
Dr. Allison Brown wrote: “Have you heard of Grounding? Just putting our feet on the earth causes measurable, physiological changes that impact the health issues you’ve mentioned and more! Humans are wired to require a connection to the Earth!” Grounding is a concept I have never heard or read about. Could grounding be the “connection” my daughter experiences when she walks barefoot outside?
What is Grounding?
Grounding (also known as Earthing) happens when the Earth’s surface electrons are transferred into the human body through direct contact with the ground, such as walking barefoot.
In our body, free radicals are unpaired electrons that scavenge the body to seek our other electrons so they can become a pair. This action causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA. Free radicals are associated with many human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many others (Lobo et al., 2010).
When the skin comes in contact with the earth, free electrons are taken up into the body. These electrons are natural antioxidants and help neutralize damaging free radicals. Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate any harmful reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Okay, so how does this help our bodies?
Benefits of Grounding
Oschman et al., 2015, wrote:
Electrons from the Earth may in fact be the best antioxidants, with zero negative secondary effects, because our body evolved to use them over eons of physical contact with the ground… The disconnection from the Earth may be an important, insidious, and overlooked contribution to physiological dysfunction and to the alarming global rise in non-communicable, inflammatory-related chronic diseases.
According to Chevalier et al., 2012, emerging scientific research supports the concept that the Earth’s electrons induce several physiological changes in the human body such as reduced pain, better sleep, a shift from sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest) tone in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), and a blood-thinning effect.
Further exploring the effects of grounding, Oschman et al., 2015, conducted a study where they repeatedly observed that grounding increases the speed of healing and decreases or completely eliminates inflammation. They discuss that grounding is a simple, natural, free, and accessible health strategy that can be used against chronic inflammation. Pain and inflammation was reduced in all patients with lupus and other autoimmune disorders within this study.
Today, our modern lifestyle prevents many chances for direct contact with the Earth’s surface. Our footwear is insulated, high-rise buildings dominate our cities, we sleep on elevated beds that lift us off of the ground, and people spend very little time outside. Is this really why we are seeing an increase in global non-communicable, inflammatory-related chronic diseases (Oschman et al., 2015). Are our bodies not getting the electrons they need to speed healing, decrease inflammation, aid in better sleeping patterns, and reduce stress? Is it possible that my daughter could feel the effects of grounding?
After researching the effects of grounding or earthing, I think that it is entirely possible that this is what my daughter experiences to make her feel “good” and “connected to the Earth” when she walks barefoot. Next spring I may take my daughter up on her challenge to go barefoot more often. In the words of my daughter, if I practice a little each day, my feet will get stronger and tougher, and I will feel attached to the Earth. And, I bet I will feel healthier because of it.
Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012). Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, 291541. http://doi.org/10.1155/2012/291541
Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 118–126. http://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.70902
Oschman, J. L., Chevalier, G., & Brown, R. (2015). The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Journal of Inflammation Research, 8, 83–96. http://doi.org/10.2147/JIR.S69656