When was the last time you walked barefoot in the sand, grass, or in a forest? For most people, this doesn’t happen very often. But we’re now learning that there might be more of a reason for you to start making these types of activities a priority.
A movement known as “grounding” or “earthing” is sweeping the holistic health scene. Walking barefoot outside, with the soles of your feet free to directly connect with the surface of the earth, is the main activity that’s a part of the earthing or grounding practice. While it might sound strange at first — ditching your shoes and digging your toes into the dirt or sand, or strolling across some pesticide-free grass — there’s evidence that this can be greatly beneficial for health by lowering free radical damage (also called “oxidative stress”), stress, inflammation and pain.
How Does Earthing or Grounding Work?
Regularly connecting to the earth’s natural, powerful energy is now known to be healing and vital for all people. This is why “reconnection” — with both the earth itself and our body’s own innate healing abilities — is the focus of earthing. The best part about earthing or grounding is that it’s super simple, completely free and can be done anywhere, at any time. It requires nothing but your bare body and willingness to try something that might seem “a bit out there.”
You might be a bit skeptical about this phenomenon, so let me explain more about the basics of how earthing works:
1. Your body runs through a type of electrical current. As the Journal of Environmental and Public Health states:
It is an established, though not widely appreciated fact, that the Earth’s surface possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons. The Earth’s negative charges can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems which may be important for setting the biological clock, regulating circadian rhythms, and balancing cortisol levels.
2. Your body is naturally able to absorb electrical charges from the earth since your skin acts like a “conductor.” Your feet, specifically certain points in the balls of your feet, are believed to especially be good at receiving the earth’s electricity.
But because of our modern way of living — for example, always wearing shoes and living most of our lives above ground in our homes or offices that are located several floors up in tall buildings — we’re losing touch with the earth’s natural “electrical” force.
3. “The human body is electrical first and chemical second,” according to earthing expert Clint Ober. Our brain, heart beat and neurotransmitter activity, for example, all rely on electrical signals, so when our electricity if off, so can be certain aspects of our health.
The idea is that by being in touch with the planet, the electrical force coming off the earth is able to help lower inflammation and fight free radicals. In fact, the term “earthing” has even earned a patent as a natural method for reducing disease-causing inflammation.
Vitamin G: The Key to Earthing!
Just like our body needs direct exposure to sunlight to produce adequate amounts of the vital nutrient called vitamin D, we also require a certain level of direct exposure with our home planet to produce something that some holistic practitioners call “Vitamin G.”
You might be familiar with vitamin D deficiency and related symptoms, but likely you’re brand new to vitamin G. Being directly in touch with the earth, our body’s own electricity becomes more stable and in line with that of the earth. Think of it this way: You know the relaxing, healing feeling of spending time outdoors in the sun? Well, you can also get a surge of healthy compounds flooding your system by walking in your bare feet on the earth’s soil or sand.
How did I first come to learn about “vitamin G”? While out at Beyond Organic Ranch in Missouri, of which I am part-owner, I was walking barefoot with two of my good friends, Jordan Rubin and Dr. Dave Jockers. Dave said to us, “You know we are getting a lot of vitamin G right now.” We said, “vitamin what!?” He said, “You know, we are grounding and walking on the earth, and I like to call it vitamin G.” “Oh,” we replied, “we like that; we will start using it.” And that is where vitamin G was birthed!
I will talk more about the benefits of barefoot shoes in just a moment, but I also want to say that to reduce stress and energize your system in the biggest way, you should ideally also get outside and go completely “bare,” with no shoes on at all.
Health Benefits of Earthing or Grounding
Up until this point, unfortunately, so much of our current health care model has provided us with very little, if any, research of the importance of the bio-electrical component to our health. But the idea of the earth having an electrical pulse that impacts our body is nothing new. This has been proven and well-understood for many years and is an important aspect of preventing accidents or injuries in fields like radiation, gas, dynamite or surgery.
So much of the information we have about bio-electrical impacts on our health has been done outside of the field of medical science and health-related research. However, even though we only have a few solid studies on the health benefits of bioelectrical impulses, many of us have “experienced” the benefits firsthand. For instance, have you ever experienced a walk on the beach or a stroll in the park letting your bare feet touch the grass or sand and sensed a feeling of peace? I know I have.
The known benefits of earthing have to do with a reduction of free radicals that takes place in our body when it comes into contact with “free electrons,” whether from the earth or foods that have grown from the earth.
According to a 2012 report in the Journal of Environmental Public Health:
Throughout history, humans mostly walked barefoot or with footwear made of animal skins. They slept on the ground or on skins. Through direct contact or through perspiration-moistened animal skins used as footwear or sleeping mats, the ground’s abundant free electrons were able to enter the body, which is electrically conductive. Through this mechanism,every part of the body could equilibrate with the electrical potential of the Earth, thereby stabilizing the electrical environment of all organs, tissues, and cells.
Here is how this process can specifically benefit your health:
1. Reduces Inflammation
To put it simply, it’s thought that the influx of free electrons from the Earth’s surface help to neutralize free radicals and reduce both acute and chronic inflammation and accelerated aging. Experts on earthing and grounding believe that this practice can help improve circulation, which means you’re better able to distribute nutrients throughout your body and also carry waste and toxins out. In fact, enhanced circulation can have a tremendous effect on the body in many ways — from boosting energy levels to reducing swelling.
According to a report published in Alternate Therapies in Health and Medicine, “Inflammation is now recognized as an overwhelming burden to the healthcare status of our population and the underlying basis of a significant number of diseases. The elderly generally bear the burden of morbidity and mortality, which may be reflective of elevated markers of inflammation resulting from decades of lifestyle choices.”
How does earthing help stop inflammation? Inflammation, which triggers disease for so many people, is largely believed to be caused by a lack of electrons in your tissues. When your body senses that you’re “under attack” or sick, it delivers reactive oxygen species (ROS) to the site of injury, which is another way of saying that it triggers an inflammatory response in an attempt to heal and defend you. When this takes place, some free radicals can leak in to surrounding tissue and damage otherwise healthy parts of your body by increasing swelling, pain, heat and redness.
The reason that we want to eat plenty of high-antioxidant foods is the same reason we want to practice earthing. Antioxidant electrons in your body help ensure that damage from free radicals doesn’t get out of control and lead to high levels of inflammation and faster aging, just like anti-inflammatory foods do. Basically, the free or mobile electrons from the earth can resolve chronic inflammation by serving as natural antioxidants!
The belief about earthing’s benefits is that electrons can be absorbed from the bottom of your feet when they’re touching the ground, and then these can move anywhere in your body where free radicals are forming. The antioxidant electrons help cancel out free radicals and, therefore, halt damage to DNA and other forms of “oxidative stress.”
2. Helps Reduce Stress Hormones
Chronic stress can kill your quality of life, as you’ve probably experienced first hand. But luckily, time spent in nature can really help reverse certain feelings of stress and anxiety. One double-blind study that investigated theeffects of earthing on 58 healthy adults used conductive adhesive patches placed on the sole of each participant’s foot to read their electrical signals. The subjects were exposed to 28 minutes in the unearthed condition followed by 28 minutes with the earthing wire connected. Controls were unearthed for 56 minutes.
After earthing, about half the subjects showed “an abrupt, almost instantaneous change in root mean square (rms) values of electroencephalograms (EEGs) from the left hemisphere of the brain.” These changes are believed to signify positive changes and lower stress reactions.
Nineteen of 22 earthing participants also experienced decreased blood volume pulses (BVP). After considering the effects on electrophysiological properties of the brain and musculature as recorded using EEG, EMG and BVP readings, the findings suggest significantly higher reductions in overall stress levels and tensions results in the earthing participant’s compared to the control group.
3. Can Help You Sleep Better
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine demonstrated that connecting the human body to the earth during sleep (earthing) normalizes the daily cortisol rhythm and improves sleep patterns. This is because of the effects that stress hormones have on your natural circadian rhythm, energy and ability to sleep soundly.
It’s proposed that the earth’s “diurnal electrical rhythms” set the biological clocks for hormones that regulate sleep and activity. We’ve all had the experience of tossing and turning in bed, unable to fall asleep due to racing thoughts. When our bodies are not in line with the natural rhythms of the earth, including the patterns of light and darkness or “electrical” charges, our sleep and immunity suffers. The indoor-lifestyle that many of us lead might be one reason for rising cases of chronic fatigue syndrome.
One 2006 study published in the Journal of European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics observed the patterns of patients’ cortisol levels before and after grounding. They found that their cortisol rises and dips were scattered and somewhat unpredictable in the adults before they practiced earthing. But after earthing, their levels of cortisol were more in line with the natural rhythms of the earth and sun: They had higher cortisol early in the morning when we naturally need more to feel alert and awake, then they had lower cortisol at night time when we need to unwind in order to fall asleep for the night.
Electrically and chemically speaking, poor sleep is often a symptom of high stress hormones like cortisol. By lowering our reaction to stressful events in our lives, we can fall and stay asleep more easily. And sleep is crucial for healing our body on the most basic level – raising our immunity, giving us enough energy for proper digestion, fighting food cravings or weight gain, and supporting a healthy mindset.
4. Can Help Increase Energy
Many people have found that earthing or grounding can improve their energy or fight low-grade ongoing fatigue. This can be one side effect of getting better sleep but also be due to improvements in hormones and lower levels of inflammation.
For example, many studies point to the fact that higher cortisol levels rob the body of energy. Physiological stress and cortisol have a close relationship: Stress impacts cortisol, and cortisol can further increase stress responses. This cycle can lead to fatigue and sleep problems, even cravings for low-nutrient foods, sugar and excess calories that further lead to low energy levels.
5. Can Help Lower Pain
Inflammation is a major source of pain, since it increases swelling, stiffness, reduced mobility and malformation. Inflammation in the joints and tissues are the main cause of pain associated with chronic conditions like arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), for example, is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that usually involves pain in multiple joints as well as symptoms like fatigue, fever, weight loss, eye inflammation, anemia and lung inflammation. In someone with RA, the body releases enzymes that attack its own healthy tissue, therefore destroying the linings of joints. By lowering inflammation, its very possible to help combat pain caused by chronic autoimmune disorders, injuries, headaches, menstrual problems and so on.
One 2010 pilot study compared the pain levels of adults who were grounding compared to a control group following intense exercise that caused muscle soreness. The results showed that grounding the body to the earth altered measures of immune system activity and pain. Among the ungrounded men, there was an expected, sharp increase in white blood cells (sign of an inflammatory response) and greater perception of pain after exercise. In comparison, the grounded men had only a slight decrease in white blood cells, indicating less inflammation and experienced shorter recovery times.
How to Start Earthing
There is no such thing as earthing “too much,” and it’s likely that the more we do, the greater benefits we’ll see. At the same time, even short periods of being in contact with the earth directly over the course of the day can help. Some ways to start having more direct contact with the earth can include: walking barefoot to the mailbox, mowing your lawn, gardening without shoes on, barbecuing outdoors barefoot, laying directly on the sand at the beach instead of sitting in a chair, and many more easy, realistic ways. Sounds rough, right?
Several products are now available that can also help us practice earthing or grounding more often, although just being outdoors barefoot is still the optimal (and simplest) way. For example, a type of electrically-charged bed has been created that features silver wires that are connected to the electrical charge of the earth once plugged into an “earthing” port.
These beds basically have conductive systems that transfer the earth’s electrons from the ground into the body. So even when we’re inside, sleeping in an “earthing bed” might be able to help us absorb the effects of the earth’s electricity and normalize our circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. Laying or sleeping in the bed is almost like sleeping outside on the grass, according to Clint Ober.
Other people like to use “earthing mats.” These look similar to small yoga mats and are placed on the floor. They also have a controller and are connected to electrical fields being given off from the earth’s surface. These are an easy way to practice earthing while working at a desk, standing around the bathroom or kitchen, watching TV or talking on the phone. “Earthing bands” also exist, which are placed on the wrists and arms. Some people like to wear these while cooking, working or doing anything else around the house when they can’t be outdoors.
As you follow the secret detox lifestyle (or any ongoing healthy lifestyle), I recommend that you try to get outside while totally barefoot for at least 30 minutes a day. This can truly help you experience faster healing and reduced stress. Of course, it can also help you avoid the all-too-common vitamin D deficiency, too, and maybe also get some exercise.
Not only is this a powerful value to our ability to detox, it’s a resource that everyone has available to them — and it’s a completely free resource! You can’t beat that value.