Vitamin Air? Negative ions for good health
Here we are in the midst of the last month of summer, on the verge of another school year. Soon we’ll begin hearing all about great deals on flu shots, and tv commercials on cold medicine will get into full swing.
Why does this happen? How can we go through summer without any hints of illness but then, once fall approaches, germs start to make their rounds?
Well, the truth is, the germs are actually always there, it’s what we do that changes with the seasons. I don’t know about you, but I spend a heck of a lot of time outside during the summer compared to the other seasons. Doors and windows may be open more than not too, allowing the outside air to circulate. I figure it must be this – the “fresh air” – that makes me feel so good. Could be. But what makes up so-called “fresh” air? Turns out, it’s actually something very negative. Negative ions that is. I’ll explain.
We need negative ions for good health.
Our air contains large quantities of ions, i.e. atoms that are electrically charged because they don’t have an equal number of electrons as protons. An ion can be positively charged, meaning it has more protons than electrons; or negatively charged, if it has more electrons than protons. Nature creates these charged atoms through sunlight, water, and wind. There are an estimated 1,500 – 4,000 ions per cubic centimeter of outside air and the normal ratio of negative ions to positive ions out in nature is 12:10 (it increases to 2:1 around water.)
For a long time, scientists have realized that changes in the concentration or ratio of positively- to negatively-charged ions can have astounding effects on plants and animals, while depletion of negative ions can cause a wide array of health problems in humans. In fact, Nikola Tesla (July 10, 1856 – c. January 7, 1943) was a forerunner in this research. He studied the electromagnetic flux and the gravitational field of the earth and determined that positive ionization caused people and animals to become tired and lethargic, whereas negative ionization caused an increase in energy and activity. In more recent years, medical and scientific studies have confirmed that the most frequent cause of physical and mental symptoms in a confined indoor environment is a deficiency of negative oxygen ions in the air.
High tech may lead to low energy.
So what does this mean for our high-tech society of the 21st century? Well, considering that indoor air conditioning and heating systems are pushing air into our living rooms that is high in positive ions while they are depleting the negative ions, and that computers, televisions and other electronic equipment further increase the positive ionic charge of our environment, I guess we can emphatically state that most of us are quite positively charged (remember, this isn’t a good thing!) It’s actually not unusual for indoor air to have fewer than 100 negative ions per cubic centimeter, well below that which is considered the minimum optimum level of 1000 per cubic centimeter. Taking it a step further, this seems to suggest that many of our modern discomforts such as high levels of tension, irritability, depression, lethargy, insomnia, colds and other respiratory conditions may very well be caused by an excessive positively charged environment – what clinicians refer to as “Serotonin Irritation Syndrome.” It all seems quite troubling.
Serotonin and histamine: Important pieces of the ion puzzle.
Back in the 1950’s, Professor Albert Paul Kruger of UC-Berkeley discovered that an overdose of positive ions in the air will cause a sudden, excessive release of serotonin (a type of chemical manufactured in the brain that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another.) Such a release initially caused hyperactivity, leading to exhaustion, anxiety, and depression. Conversely, he found that an excess of negative ions appeared to have a calming effect and a reduction of serotonin levels in the brain.
At a later date, Dr. Krueger’s findings were corroborated by Dr. Felix Sulman when he discovered that the high concentration of positive ions that are carried by the infamous “witches’ winds” – the winds of Sirrocco in Italy, Sharkije in Egypt, Sharav in the Middle East, the Foen in Central Europe, and Santa Ana in California – stimulate an overproduction of serotonin and histamine in the bodies of “weather sensitive” volunteers, causing allergies, migraines, difficulty in breathing, irritability, and anxiety. In essence, these folks were being poisoned by their own serotonin. In addition, he found that an excess of positive ions would also stimulate the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, which initially induces a state of euphoria and hyperactivity, but quickly leads to depletion, exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.
Barometric pressure, ions, and health
I’m one of those people who feels slightly “off” right before a storm or as a front is passing through. I’ve always wondered if it’s merely a coincidence or a figment of my imagination. My research has led me to believe this is, in fact, a valid, weather-related reaction. You see, during the time of low barometric pressure before a storm or front, the positive ions in the air outnumber the negative ions by a ratio of over 3:1. Historically there have been more suicides, more accidents, more fainting spells and higher levels of aggression reported during these times. The full moon also increases positive ion ratios, which accounts for the strange and aggressive behavior noted by police and medical service records during these times.
Conversely, negative ion air – when the weather is quite comfortable – not only stimulates morale but actually relieves certain chronic diseases. Experiments with negative ionization have shown marked improvement for sufferers from high blood pressure, asthma, and hay fever. This is because, during fair weather, the atmospheric conditions cause charged air ions to migrate, producing a flow of current. Humans have evolved outdoors immersed in this electric current, and scientists now believe that the current flow enhances various processes within our body, even to the cellular level. The same appears to be true for plant life. You can see why people who work outdoors are at a definite health advantage over those who work in factories or are cubicle-bound.
Air as a … vitamin??
Interestingly, negative ions cause various hormonal and biochemical reactions to occur in the brain and in the rest of the body – sort of a metabolism boost that serves to enhance human behavior. They are often referred to as “Air Vitamins”, as they are known to stimulate plant growth, purify the air, kill bacteria, improve alertness, relieve allergies, dispel fatigue, lift depression and promote a sense of well-being. Exposure to negatively ionized air results in increased oxygenation of the lungs, increased vital capacity, and enhanced celiac activity. It causes normalization of the activities of the endocrine glands, which plays an important role in reducing the effects of stress. A shift toward healthy alkalinity occurs in your body’s acid-base balance. Brain wave studies show an increase in brain amplitude with better thinking ability, better conceptual ability, and a higher synchronization of the right and left brain hemispheres for a more even balance of the personality. Your body metabolizes vitamins more efficiently and shows an increase in both static and dynamic work capacity and endurance. Obviously all of the above contributes to better overall mental and physical health.
What to do to increase your exposure to negative ions
The amount of negative ions present in the air we breathe obviously has a profound effect on our health and well-being. That said, the most effective way to provide your body with the ionic balance it needs is to get outside. It is there that nature has created an ion ratio ideal for optimum health, allowing you to feel your very best. But, let’s face it. If you work in an office all day it can be tough to get outside as much as you should – especially during those seasons when the days are short. Also, like I mentioned earlier, the approach of bad weather or even environmental allergies can negatively affect your sense of well-being (it’s not your imagination!) So if the weather is less than ideal or you have no choice but to spend much of your time indoors, don’t worry – there are a few alternatives that can help you:
- Purchase a Himalayan salt lamp to help balance the ions in the air you are breathing.
- Take the salt lamp concept one step further by trying halotherapy. Don’t know what that is? Here’s some information on halotherapy and details about a really cool salt cave that I’ve visited in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
- Indoor fountains can have the similar effect of negatively charging your environment.
- Try diffusing pure essential oils. Not only do they smell great, but they also help to clean the air! Don’t know where to start? Here is a bit about essential oils and aromatherapy.
- The Ionizer Site: Scientific Studies
- Pino, Olimpia, and Francesco La Ragione. “There’s Something in the Air: Empirical Evidence for the Effects of Negative Air Ions (NAI) on Psychophysiological State and Performance.” Research in Psychology and Behavioral Sciences 1.4 (2013): 48-53.
- Krueger, Albert Paul, and Eddie James Reed. “Biological impact of small air ions.” Science 193.4259 (1976): 1209-1213.
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