What Happens to You When You Walk Barefoot?
Your skin in general is a very good conductor. You can connect any part of your skin to the Earth, but if you compare various parts there is one that is especially potent, and that’s right in the middle of the ball of your foot; a point known to acupuncturists as Kidney 1 (K1). It’s a well-known point that conductively connects to all of the acupuncture meridians and essentially connects to every nook and cranny of your body. Interestingly, grounding—or rather the lack thereof—has a lot to do with the rise of modern diseases.
How is this?
Well, Dr. Oschman’s research into grounding has led him to better understand inflammation. I’ve discussed before, chronic inflammation is a primary cause of virtually all disease, from diabetes to cancer. And by looking at what happens during grounding, the answer to why chronic inflammation is so prevalent, and what is needed to prevent it, is becoming better understood.
When you’re grounded there’s a transfer of free electrons from the Earth into your body. And these free electrons are probably the most potent antioxidants known to man.
These antioxidants are responsible for the clinical observations from grounding experiments, such as:
- Beneficial changes in heart rate
- Decreased skin resistance
- Decreased levels of inflammation
To better understand the science behind what happens during grounding and how it impacts the inflammatory response, Dr. Oschman begins by explaining what happens when you experience an injury.
“Even the slightest bump, if you bump the door, your immune system immediately responds by sending white blood cells (neutrophils) to the place of injury…
The neutrophils secrete a Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)… called free radicals, in what’s referred to as an oxidative burst… These are like Pac-Man. They are very important molecules that tear things apart. If bacteria have gotten through your skin, these free radicals will destroy the bacteria very quickly. If you have damaged cells, the free radicals will break them apart so that there is a space for healthy cells to move in and repair the tissues.
That’s known as the inflammatory response.
What we have discovered that is truly profound is this: we now understand why you get the inflammatory response, which has five characteristics: pain, redness, heat, loss of range of motion, and swelling. All of those are the five hallmarks of inflammation and it turns out that that doesn’t have to happen.
Inflammation, which in medicine is considered an important part of the healing process, is really an artifact caused by lack of electrons in your tissues. What happens is, the neutrophils deliver the Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) to the site of injury, but in so doing, some of those free radicals can leak into the surrounding tissue and damage healthy tissue. That’s what creates the inflammatory response”.
Interestingly, grounding research has now discovered that if you place your feet on the ground after an injury (or on a grounded sheet, or place grounding patches on the balls of your feet), electrons will migrate into your body and spread through your tissues. Any free radicals that leak into the healthy tissue will immediately be electrically neutralized. This occurs because the electrons are negative, while the free radicals are positive, so they cancel each other out.
“So really what is happening with grounding or earthing is that you’re protecting your body from — I call it, collateral damage,” Dr. Oschman says. “Damage that was not intended to take place but does take place because we have disconnected ourselves from the Earth by putting rubber and plastic on the bottoms of our shoes.”
Earthing as an Anti-Aging Strategy
One of dominant theories on aging is the free radical theory, which is that aging occurs because of accumulative damage to your body caused by free radicals. You get free radicals when you have an injury or chronic inflammation, from breathing, and from the food you eat, among other things. While you don’t want to completely eliminate ALL free radicals, you do want to maintain a healthy balance of antioxidant electrons in your body to ensure the damage from free radicals doesn’t’ get out of hand.
Earthing can help accomplish this delicate balance. There are three kinds of sub-models of the aging process caused by free radicals.
- DNA damage and mutation due to free radical damage
- The mitochondrial theory. Mitochondria in every cell in your body carry out oxidative metabolism and a byproduct is free radicals. Eventually the mitochondria wear out or self-destruct due to excess free radicals
- The protein cross linking theory, which explains why you get wrinkles in your skin. The proteins stick to each other, reducing the efficiency of enzymes
“It looks to me, from my study of biophysics and cell biology, like the body is designed with a semi-conductive fabric that connects everything in the body, including inside of every cell,” Dr. Oschman says.
“I refer to this system as the living matrix. Those electrons that enter the bottom of your foot can move anywhere in your body. Any place where a free radical forms, there are electrons nearby that can neutralize that free radical and prevent any of those processes: mitochondrial damage, cross linking of proteins, and mutation or genetic damage.
So the whole fabric is basically an antioxidant defense system that is in every part of our body.
We have this material called ground substance which is part of the connective tissue. It goes everywhere in the body. It’s a gel material and it stores electrons. So that if you go barefoot, you will take in electrons and your body will store them, and they will be available at any point where you might have an injury, or any point where a free radical might form…”
How Grounding Affects Your Blood
Another very important discovery, and one of the most recent, is that grounding thins your blood, making it less viscous. This discovery can have a profound impact on cardiovascular disease, which is now the number one killer in the world. Virtually every aspect of cardiovascular disease has been correlated with elevated blood viscosity. Dr. Sinatra has been coaching Dr. Oschman’s team in how to measure blood viscosity using a method called zeta potential. It measures the potential on your red blood cells by determining how fast they migrate in an electrical field.
It turns out that when you ground to the earth, your zeta potential quickly rises, which means your red blood cells have more charge on their surface, which forces them apart from each other. This action causes your blood to thin and flow easier. It also causes your blood pressure to drop.
Another obvious implication of this is that by repelling each other, your red blood cells are less inclined to stick together and form a clot. Blood clots don’t have to be very big to form like a pulmonary embolus that would kill you instantly, so this is a significant benefit. Additionally, if your zeta potential is high, which grounding can facilitate, you not only decrease your heart disease risk but also your risk of multi-infarct dementias, where you start losing brain tissue due to micro-clotting in your brain.
The Best Surfaces for Grounding
Clearly, the simplest way to ground is to walk barefoot outside when safe to do so. But what about urban or city dwellers who are surrounded by asphalt and concrete? Can you ground on those? And what about natural surfaces—which ones are the most effective? There are indeed significant differences between various surfaces.
The ideal location for walking barefoot is the beach, close to or in the water, as sea water is a great conductor. Your body also contains mostly water, so it creates a good connection.
A close second would be a grassy area, especially if it’s covered with dew, which is what you’d find if you walk early in the morning. According to Dr. Oschman, concrete is a good conductor as long as it hasn’t been sealed. Painted concrete does not allow electrons to pass through very well. Materials like asphalt, wood, and typical insulators like plastic or the soles of your shoes, will not allow electrons to pass through and are not suitable for barefoot grounding.