The Benefits of Earthing and Grounding: How Touching the Earth Can Improve Your Health
BY SHAWN STEVENSON
Placing your bare feet on the earth daily, sometimes known as grounding or earthing, is a powerful way to improve health and wellness. Photo: Frances Gunn
Since the beginning of time, humans have had a constant interaction with the earth. Our ancestors would come in contact with the earth’s surface on a daily basis: walking, hunting, gathering food and water, communing, playing, relaxing, and more. Nearly everything they did required a barefoot connection with the earth, which is now referred to by many as earthing or grounding.
Today, in our industrialized world, many people go days, weeks, or even longer without coming in contact with the surface of the earth itself. We are cooped up in our homes or offices, spending more time indoors consuming technology and less time interacting with the source of all that technology. Sure, we may walk outside to get into our cars, but most of us wear nonconductive rubber-soled shoes that ensure our bodies never get that intimate grounding barefoot connection. We rarely experience earthing benefits… we rarely touch the ground, rarely touch a tree, and rarely touch the source that creates every cell in our bodies.
Scientists are discovering that this lack of earthing is having a huge impact on our health. Overwhelming research is mounting that shows the impressive benefits the earth’s electromagnetic surface has on the human body, especially through a barefoot grounding connection with the earth. We may not realize this, but the human body is highly conductive. We, like the earth, are running on electromagnetic energy. Our nervous system is like internal wiring that’s transmitting information throughout our entire body. We’re also made of minerals, and our tissues hold water, so we are very much like a walking, talking, conductive battery.
You’ve probably noticed that we can accumulate static electricity and “shock” someone who touches us. We all know not to stick a metal object into an outlet or we’ll “short out” our system. Even in scary movies, one of the worst ways to go is having an electric device tossed into your bathtub while you’re trying to exfoliate.
Bottom line: You may not be able to see it, but you are highly conductive. When your body doesn’t interact with the electromagnetic force of the earth through grounding and earthing, it’s thrown off balance. You give off and receive energy every second of every day. The misuse and misunderstanding of your body’s electrical system is a catalyst for chronic health problems.
The Benefits of Earthing
So, how does this relate to you, the earth, your health, and your sleep? Currently, more than 90 percent of physician visits are for stress- and inflammatory-related issues. Stress and inflammation go hand in hand and are a huge undercurrent in the vast majority of diseases.
Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta have also found that poor sleep quality is intimately related to inflammation. It may sound a little strange, but touching the earth (with our bare feet or hands through earthing) may be the biggest key to eliminating our issues with chronic inflammation.
We now understand that the human body is conductive. Every tissue in the body carries a charge, and this is actually what allows many functions to happen. Inflammation, in particular, is a natural function facilitated by a type of white blood cell called a neutrophil. Neutrophils deliver reactive oxygen species (also known as free radicals) to the site of an injury or need. These free radicals carry a positive charge that will tear harmful bacteria apart and break apart damaged cells to create room for healthy cells to move in and repair tissues. Pretty cool, right?
Inflammation is not supposed to be a catastrophic thing (and when our ancestors lived, they rarely experienced it, likely due to the fact that their lifestyles included a lot of earthing. The real problem arises when free radical activity goes unchecked and some of those free radicals leak into the surrounding tissue and damage healthy cells. This is the real cause of inflammation, and most people are dealing with this at chronic levels on a day-to-day basis.
Every day you have cellular damage, simply by the nature of being alive. Damaged heart cells, liver cells, muscle cells, etc., all set off an oxidative burst of free radicals to address them. This is basic chemistry, featuring a positive charged event that needs to be neutralized, which earthing and grounding on a regular basis can do.
All the rage in health and nutrition today has been centered on antioxidants, rather than earthing and its benefits. Antioxidants carry free electrons that neutralize free radicals and stop overly aggressive oxidation right in its tracks. Inflammation is reduced, and health is improved. The reality is that you can eat foods that are high in antioxidants until you’re blue in the face (from eating a lot of blueberries, of course), but this isn’t going to swing the battle of oxidation in your favor as much as you think.
First of all, the antioxidants need to be in the right form, and conventional food processing techniques tend to strip the antioxidant potency from our food. Secondly, the dietary antioxidants have to withstand the digestive process, make their way through the gut lining, and hopefully find their way into your blood. Thirdly, dietary antioxidants have been found to pale in comparison to your body’s own endogenous antioxidant capabilities.
The ability of your liver to support production of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase, for example, is more potent than any antioxidant you can consume. The key is using grounding techniques and earthing benefits getting your body into the right state so that your organs and tissues can do the great job they already know how to do. Lastly, it’s been discovered that the number one source of free electrons is actually the source where all of our food comes from: the earth itself.
Scientists have discovered that the earth’s surface is brimming with free electrons that are readily absorbed by the human body when they come in contact with each other, whether by walking barefoot or some other form of direct connection. This is known as an electron transfer. The effects of this electron transfer are being researched rigorously, and the impact on sports performance, healing, and overall health is shocking.
Researchers are calling this connection with the human body and the earth grounding or earthing. A study published in the 2013 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that “grounding increases the surface charge on red blood cells and thereby reduces blood viscosity and clumping. Grounding appears to be one of the simplest and yet most profound interventions for helping reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events.” Wait, hold up. . . Just getting in contact with the earth’s surface can improve my blood and lower my risk of a heart attack?
Renowned cardiologist and bestselling author Stephen Sinatra, MD, had this to say about the benefits of earthing: “Reduction in inflammation as a result of earthing has been documented with infrared medical imaging and with measurements of blood chemistry and white blood cell counts.
The logical explanation for the anti-inflammatory effects is that grounding the body allows negatively charged antioxidant electrons from the earth to enter the body and neutralize positively charged free radicals at sites of inflammation. Flow of electrons from the earth to the body has been documented.”
As for stress, it’s been confirmed that grounding has a measurable impact on stress reduction by shifting the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance, improving heart rate variability, and normalizing muscle tension. In a study on earthing benefits published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, researchers found that when test subjects were grounded, there was a “rapid activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and corresponding deactivation of the sympathetic nervous system.” As you know from previous chapters, the importance of being able to shift out of the constant barrage of fight-or-flight of the sympathetic nervous system and into the parasympathetic, rest-and-digest system is of the utmost importance for your sleep and health overall.
I wouldn’t have thought that something as simple as coming in contact with the earth with your bare feet would be so powerful if the data weren’t so thick. For a comprehensive understanding of earthing benefits, be sure to check out the bonus resource guide at sleepsmarterbook.com/bonus. For now, just don’t be the last person to make this connection, and utilize the free, health-giving resource you have right outside your front door.
What about Sleep?
A study published in 2004 looked at the biological effects and benefits of earthing the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. The study found that the patients who were grounded during sleep had reduced nighttime levels of cortisol and an overall normalization of cortisol secretion during the day. Remember, cortisol is the arch nemesis of sleep. If your cortisol levels are off, your sleep will be off. Subjective reporting by the study participants also indicated that grounding during sleep improved sleep quality, reduced pain, and lowered stress. For the study,
Getting yourself grounded can have a life-changing impact on your sleep quality. Now, I’m not implying that you need to go camping outside every night just to get all these earthing benefits. Today you can utilize incredible earthing technology, like grounding mats grounding sheets, which bring the benefits of the earth’s energy right into your home.
I’ve been using an earthing mat under my desk and sleeping on earthing sheets for about 7 years. These are well-designed products that can be connected to a grounding rod outside your home, or easily into the grounding plug you’ll find in most electrical outlets. They safely and effectively deliver the free electrons from the earth right to you (just like standing on the earth with bare feet), and all you need to do is touch them with any part of your body. The above sleep study utilized specific earthing products, including grounding mats and sheets, to connect the test subjects with the earth, which triggered all of the impressive results they received.
I also had the opportunity to ask the incomparable Jeff Spencer, DC, about earthing with his patients. Dr. Spencer is an Olympic athlete and 8-time Tour de France–winning team doctor and has been directly involved in more than 40 Olympic, World, National, or Tour de France Championships. He told me that technologies, such as earthing mats and grounding sheets, played a vital role in the success of his athletes. He found very quickly that earthing accelerated tissue repair and wound healing from injuries that athletes encountered during practice and competition. Among the benefits he also observed and reported from his patients: better sleep, less pain, more energy, and faster recovery.
The great news is that you don’t have to be a world-class athlete to enjoy these types of earthing benefits for yourself. Whether or not you decide to utilize these advancements in grounding technology, it’s absolutely critical to get your body in contact with the earth on a regular basis to displace the positive charge you’re carrying; to absorb free electrons to improve your recovery, heart health, and hormones; and, most important, to get a great night’s sleep.
Earthing Power Tip #1: Get Your Daily Vitamin G
Get your direct vitamin G. Make it a regular practice to get some quality time with your bare feet on the ground. This means conductive surfaces like soil, grass, sand (at the beach), and even living bodies of water like the ocean. There are other surfaces that are conductive, like concrete and brick, but their effectiveness depends on several factors. It’s best to get your vitamin G (your daily interaction with the earth) from the soil and grass itself. By the way, have you ever noticed that when you take a vacation and go to a beach, you tend to get really amazing sleep? A lot of people actually fall asleep at the beach before they can even make it back inside. Now you know it’s not a coincidence; it’s the natural response of someone who finally gets connected with the earth again.
As for the amount of time to target, Dr. Sinatra says, “Grounding to the earth changes your physiology immediately. The more you ground, the more you can benefit because you are at your most natural electrical state when connected to the earth.” That said, even a minute is helpful, but the longer the better. I’d say to target a minimum of 10 minutes each day. And even if the allure of earthing isn’t compelling enough for you yet, kicking off your shoes and stepping on the ground is great for strengthening your feet, improving your proprioception (how your brain can sense your body, as well as its position and movement through space), and improving your range of motion by increasing the flexibility and mobility of your feet. Being barefoot more often is a great overall health practice for many reasons.
Earthing Power Tip #2: Get Grounding Sheets and Mats to Be Used Indoors
If you live in a climate where getting your quality vitamin G time isn’t always feasible, that’s when access to grounding sheets and a grounding mat can be so helpful. The earthing technology products also allow you to not shift your life around too much to get the benefits of earthing. You can simply continue doing things you normally do—work at your computer, sleep, etc.—and be connected to the earth the whole time. You can have one earthing product or multiple products everywhere—there are grounding mats, sheets, mattresses, mouse pads, and even bands you can put on specific pain points on your body that are used clinically to reduce pain and inflammation.
I was cautious of using the earthing sheets in the beginning because I was working to eliminate EMFs and to remove any unnecessary electronics from my bedroom. However, I was blown away to find that numerous studies, including one published in European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics, demonstrate that earthing immediately reduces the electric fields that are generated within the human body. Authors of the study found that “grounding essentially eliminates the ambient voltage induced on the body from common electricity power sources.” Bottom line: Earthing can protect your cells from the issues associated with EMFs that we talked about in Chapter 12. Remember, nothing replaces getting in direct contact with the earth, but these items can be a great alternative to get the earthing benefits you need.
Earthing Power Tip #3: Use Grounding to Get Over Jet Lag When Traveling
Because grounding has been proven to sync your body’s circadian clock with the normal diurnal patterns of the earth, getting grounded after a flight is a smart thing to do. I’ve found that this practice virtually eliminates jet lag and helps me to adjust to a new time zone a lot faster. Humans were not designed to skip time zones in a few hours, so utilizing advances like this can really help to revitalize you. If at all possible, I get some direct vitamin G from the earth after travel. Plus, I bring my earthing sheets with me, and I always get a great night’s sleep just like when I’m at home.This article on the benefits of earthing and grounding is excerpted with permission from Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.