Negative ion bands - how do they work?
Having experienced the phenomenal effect of LifeStrength negative ion bands for myself, I decided to look into the research behind them to see how it stacked up.
Of course, there are many manufacturers of negative ion bands and “balance bracelets” with similar or related claims about how their bracelets work to produce their balance and strength effects. In the main these come down to the output of negative ions (anions), which are said to balance the excess of positive ions (cations) produced by electronic equipment, especially EMF sources like mobile phones, WiFi and bluetooth devices and also by intense exercise and lifestyle stress.
We'll get onto just how relevant all this is in a minute, but first of all it is important to say that this is WHY we are testing the LifeStrength negative ion band in the first place. LifeStrength make a big deal out of the fact that, of all the various negative ion bands and bracelets out there, their band produces way more negative ions than any other – claiming a difference of a factor of 20 (i.e. the LifeStrength negative ion band produces 20 times the number of ions as other bands). This is clearly a large difference, and seems to be backed up by examination of the LifeStrength bracelet with a simple ion meter, which does indeed indicate a far higher incidence of ions present, as measured by the device! (1-2,000 ions/cc versus 20-50 in other brands)
But what does this mean? Is it significant or is it just a meaningless fact?
In fact, from a natural health perspective, this makes perfect sense and is highly significant.
As far as I am aware no-one has ever produced a theory to suggest how these balance bracelets work, so let me be the first!
The production of negative ions has long been known to have beneficial effects. (ref). The ions themselves are simply atoms or molecules that have gained an extra electron, giving them a negative charge. This occurs in nature from friction, often between air and water.
From sitting by waterfalls, strolling on the beach or just venturing out after a thunderstorm, we all know that “fresh” feeling that arises when the air is full of negative ions. Conversely, when the air is full of positive ions, the opposite is true – air seems stale and dust collects in areas such as computer rooms, on TV screens and in front of computer monitors, where a whole new condition known as VODS (Video Operator Distress Syndrome) has been named. These are all sources of high numbers of positive ions which, as we will see are not beneficial to health.
Going to the extreme, air that is de-ionized cannot support life (neither can de-ionized water). Animals raised in air that has been de-ionized die within 2 weeks. The inability to use oxygen properly is fatal unless negative ions are added to the chamber they are in, which leads to an immediate and startling recovery). Conversely, the addition of positive ions to even sufficient air makes them lethargic (sleepy and uninterested) and has been shown to negatively affect concentration and brain function. Perhaps this is why NASA has made sure all spacecraft included ionizers since the earliest days of space travel.
"...it was concluded that ionized air prevents weak individuals from early death, increases the growth of birds and their productiveness (egg laying), helps to assimilate food, increases general metabolism, raises physical activity, improves reproduction, favourably affects the composition of blood, increases the resistance of an organism [animal] and has preventive and therapeutic value in some diseases." (A.L. Romanoff. The application of artificially ionized air; Science 81 (2109) 536-7. )
Sounds pretty positive to me, but it doesn't stop there. Negative ions have been shown to have many, many positive health effects, from reducing dust, viruses and bacteria (so helping prevent respiratory disease) to improving sleep patterns, reducing depression and protecting from toxic chemicals, such as cigarette smoke. Indeed, as one of the key advocates of negative ion use, Fred Soyka puts it
“... based on 5,000+ scientific documents that have been published regarding negative ion studies, all support the conclusion that an overload of negative ions seems to be beneficial”
So why are negative ions so beneficial, whilst positive ions can be dangerous?
Well, as far as my limited resources have shown, no-one seems to have come up with the answer (or even really tried). Some statistics, such as a reduction in respiratory disease may simply be attributable to the huge reduction in bacteria, viruses and dust shown by numerous studies, although there may also be other effects taking place. The scale of these effects (66% and 78% reduction in sickness days in 2 frequently-quoted studies) is so enormous that it is virtually unprecedented in its impact.
However, although this is extremely interesting, from a natural health perspective, the sheer breadth of effects on everything from egg production to blood composition and immune system function is staggering. The impact on animals who were otherwise on a certain road to asphyxiation is even more telling as the use of negative ions was, in that case, literally the difference between life and death. And perhaps it is this, as well as the seemingly protective effect against multiple toxins that gives us the biggest clue to how negative ions benefit health and how negative ion bands might be very supportive of health.
A radical suggestion. As many eminent scientists have shown over the years, our bodies are under assault 24 hours a day from chemicals known as “free radicals”. These can either come from our environment or be generated within the body itself, but the effect is the same whatever the source – they “steal” an electron from another atom or molecule in order to become electrically “stable”, damaging cells and tissues in the process. Indeed, free radical damage has been suggested as the main cause in numerous diseases, from ischemic heart disease (the biggest single cause of death in the western World) to cancer and autoimmune diseases like ALS (Lou Gehrigs disease).
One of the answers to this has been to introduce antioxidants into the body, usually via the diet. Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals extracted from fruits and vegetables that readily “give up” a spare electron, neutralising free radicals and so preventing them from doing their damage. The protective effects are very similar to those seen with negative ion bands abnd generators, and it is therefore not an enormous leap of faith to think that the effect may actually be not just similar, but exactly the same.
Perhaps, by providing an excess of negative ions (and therefore spare electrons), ion generators (and also “negative ion bands”) ensure that the body has a plentiful supply of electrons ready to neutralise the free radicals we combat every day, and so prevent the “disease” they would otherwise cause. This would explain why, for example, it can take an animal up to 2 weeks to die from being in a de-ionized environment (as the damage over time gradually increases) but the introduction of negative ions causes a sudden and dramatic improvement (by neutralising the free radicals and so preventing any further damage as well as providing improved oxygen absorption).
Could it really be this simple? Occam's razor states that the simplest answer is usually the correct one and this simple answer seems to fit all the boxes about WHY balance bracelets and negative ion bands work. It would also back up the claims made by the manufacturers of the LifeStrength negative ion bands that the higher the output of negative ions from such a band or bracelet, the more beneficial it could be. Of course, the converse would also then be true – if your band produces little or no ions that could enter your system, then it is unlikely to help much, either in preventing disease or improving physical function.
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