Playing outside barefoot, helping in the garden, and walking through an open field used to be daily activities of our healthy ancestors. Learn the importance of connecting with the ground and its health benefits.
By Danielle, Contributing writer
In the “olden” days, we would spend hours a day touching the ground, releasing energy and gaining energy, and getting good microbes. Today, even babies who can’t walk have shoes, and we likely never touch the bare ground less than once a month. Along with our depleted soil and food, chemical-laden pharmaceuticals, and low sleep, high-stress lifestyles, we’ve long forgotten the secret to health is right where we came from – the dirt.
Any of you oilies out there know that the bottom of the feet is one of the most porous parts of the skin – i.e.the best way to absorb say, magnesium oil. It’s also the best way get the good bacteria from the earth! Have you ever noticed how great you feel after a long, barefoot walk on the beach?
Foot Anatomy 101
Your soles – along with your hands and lips – have the most nerve endings than any other place on your body. In fact, every nerve ends in the foot. Our nerves will alert us when the ground is unsafe.
Your feet – along with your hands and head – have the most sweat glands, as well. Usually, your head and hands are mostly uncovered, but we cover our feet up in shoes. This leads to trapped moisture and a number of skin infections including Athlete’s foot.
There are no hair follicles on your hands and feet, which typically secrete sebum. Since sebum is not excreted on the sole of the foot, anything that comes in contact with the sole of the foot is more easily absorbed.
Our feet were designed to both feel the ground beneath us and absorb the precious microbes in it.
The Science of Grounding
We know that our bodies, like our homes, run off of electricity. Just like your electrical wires, you too need to be grounded to properly function. Grounding, or earthing, is simply connecting with the bare ground to establish that process.
Long story short, your body produces free radicals. Too many free radicals which are not removed by the body can be harmful and cause inflammation, but an electron attached to the free radicals will disarm them, so to speak. You can get electrons from certain vitamins, or from the earth!
Grounding has been shown to increase energy, better sleep, reduce chronic pain and inflammation, balance hormones and blood flow, and even speed healing recovery. If you cannot go outside, there are grounding/earthing mats which plug into a grounded outlet (most come with testers for your outlets) which you can sleep on, or place your feet on, indoors or while you sleep. You can also purchase conductive shoes, usually with a copper heal, that will connect your foot with the ground even while wearing shoes.
Good Bacteria and our Microbiome
We have millions of microbes – bacteria, mycobacteria, fungus and viruses living in our bodies. The harmony and quantity of these little guys depict our overall and immune health. Too much of a good bacteria can cause an imbalance. Too much of a bad bacteria or virus could cause an illness or infection. Our health is truly dependent on the good and bad guys living in our immune system and guts!
Our soil has been depleted by over-farming, poor farming practices, hybrid seeds, and heavy pesticides. A garden is no longer found in our backyard. We would rather pay a lot of money and drive to the store to get month-old produce (with less work, admittedly). But, this means we are missing out on truly fresh plants – ones with living enzymes still in them, as well as a little of the microbe-rich dirt still clinging on. Growing your own garden is a great way to build up those microbes again, but coming in contact with the dirt through your bare feet is another great way.
How to Go Barefoot
- Get outside barefoot for at least thirty minutes a day.
- Go for a barefoot walk (even in your backyard) once a day.
- If you can’t go outside or walk because of injury, grab a grounding mat.
- If it’s winter, going barefoot outside (or sometimes outside at all) is hard. Bring the dirt in! Grab a sand table or a plastic swimming pool, and fill it with dirt in the fall. Put a tarp underneath and place it in your basement or garage. Add plenty of tools and trucks for your little ones to play with throughout the cold months.
- Do a homeschool day around gardening and plants.
- Take your work or hobby activities outside!
- Most parks and forest preserves have grass pathways. Find a few favorites nearby and frequent them weekly – leave your shoes in the car!
- Head to the lake or the beach and go in the water, or walk on the sand.
Though it may seem hard at first, developing habits around walking outside barefoot has immeasurable benefits for your health. Work some of these ideas into your daily routine to have more energy and sleep better!