E is for Earthing
Updated: Jan 8
I recognise instinctively that although I really benefit from time spent in nature, walking in the woods etc when I have a walk along the beach barefoot I experience a deeper level of restoration and have a greater sense of well-being. I had vaguely picked up that this was something to do with the fact that our bodies were continually receiving a positive charge from our environment, our screens etc and that on the beach we can ‘de-charge’ ourselves because of the negative ions there. I hadn’t fully appreciated the barefoot element to the equation.
I have an auto immune disease and currently severe inflammation following a reaction to the third Covid vaccine so have spent the last year having physio, taking anti-inflammatories and applying various creams to my thumb/hand but there has been little improvement. The physiotherapist has taken retirement and the doctor now wants me to go and see a specialist for an infiltration but my instinctive reaction is that I don’t want to have anything further put in my body so have decided to use this year to look at the causes of inflammation and ways of reducing it ‘naturally’ and give my body a chance to repair itself.
A chance conversation the other day lead to me wanting to investigate earthing (or grounding) as there have been several studies showing its effect on inflammation.
In earlier times people lived with direct skin contact to the Earth’s surface as they walked around barefoot, but today we encourage children into shoes as quickly as possible and wear all sorts of styles of shoes which restrict the full range of motion and other functional abilities of our feet. Because of this, over the years the physiology of our feet changes, leading to increased pressure in certain areas of the body and associated muscle weakness, chronic pain etc not only in our feet themselves but it has also has a knock on effect on the rest of our body in particular our core and spine etc
Modern life has insulated us from our connection to the surface of the earth and is causing us problems, earthing may be a simple solution that has, until recently, been overlooked. Western science has only recently set out to understand, quantify and demystify the profound effects that earthing can have on our physical and psychological well-being.
The Earth’s surface has a negative charge that is due to thousands of daily lightning strikes around the world. According to the charge-neutrality principle, the electric charge of the whole Earth is ZERO. The reason why the surface of the Earth is negatively charged remains to be clarified though the suggestion is that because at the inner core of the Earth, the temperature and pressure is so high the atoms there are ionized so the inner part of earth is positively charged and its surface is negatively charged.
The Electrons enter the Earth’s surface making an electrical reference point. The electric potential becomes 0 volts and the person in contact with the Earth’s surface has the same electric potential as that of Earth.
Research suggests that the disconnect we experience may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness whereas reconnection with the Earth's electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being
“The Earth’s negative charge can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for your body. This includes the normal functioning of all body systems such as your biological clock, regulating circadian rhythms, and balancing cortisol levels.”
Journal of Environmental and Public Health
So what exactly is earthing or grounding?
Earthing simply refers refers to the practice of reconnecting to the Earth
e.g. walking barefoot – whether it be soil, grass, or sand; touching the earth—including rocks, plants, and trees, with our bare hands, or immersing ourselves in a natural body of water such as a stream, a lake or the sea. All can have a positive impact on our overall health as the antioxidants enhance our health and lead to positive feelings in the body.
This bodily contact with the Earth's natural electric charge is said to stabilize our physiology at the deepest levels and studies have shown that it can reduce inflammation, pain, and stress, improve blood flow, energy, and sleep, increase heart rate variability, improve tissue and cell repair and improve electrical activity in the brain. Furthermore, the act of walking barefoot on the ground releases endorphins which can improve our mood, generates greater general well-being. and can counteract mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
Let’s look at the claims in a little more detail:
Although some inflammation is healthy – particularly when it’s used to heal injuries, fight off viruses or regenerate muscle, chronic inflammation, which is common nowadays due to unhealthy lifestyle habits, has shown to be a contributory factor to the development of more serious diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular health issues.
When electrons from the Earth come into contact with our skin, through walking barefoot, they act as natural antioxidants and protect cells, tissue, and organs from any oxidative stress and thereby reduce inflammation.
reduces CHRONIC PAIN
Oxygen is an electron acceptor, so the electrons present on Earth help to increase the oxygen levels in the body and thereby increase the flow of energy and reduce chronic pain.
Studies have shown (e.g. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases ) that the natural movement from walking barefoot increases the blood flow to areas like our legs, knees and hips, which can reduce inflammation around the nerves and can profoundly heal knee and hip pain and even lower back pain.
Chronic stress is a major catalyst for health issues. During stressful situations, our bodies tend to produce an increased level of hormones (including adrenaline and cortisol). An excess of these hormones causes the blood vessels to constrict and the heart rate to increase. In the long term, this can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure).
Earthing strengthens the nervous system through the flow (and balance) of electrons which ultimately relaxes the nervous system and boosts our physical and emotional states. As one walks barefoot, the direct contact with the Earth also increases one’s level of awareness of the environment and helps to ground one in the present moment, which in turn helps to diminish the stress (and anxiety levels) in the body.
Improves HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
According to a published medical study, patients with high blood pressure experienced a significant reduction in blood pressure after the act of earthing.
This parasympathetic activity subsequently improved the blood flow in the body, leading to decreased stress levels and lower blood pressure.
In addition, barefoot walking has a positive effect on the endothelium— the cells of our arteries. As a result of earthing, nitric oxide is released in the body, which relaxes the arteries. This leads to a reduction in blood pressure
Improves BLOOD FLOW
Blood flow is important for the human body, as the level of blood circulation correlates to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Increased blood flow also enhances the repairing process of skin tissues.
When we walk barefoot it stimulates 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the foot (many of which are dormant when wearing shoes). As a result, this increases blood flow in the feet and legs and leads to fewer aches and pains, less varicose veins, and warmer feet in cold seasons.
Reduces CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES
Grounding appears to be one of the simplest and yet most profound interventions for helping reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events. Research shows that walking barefoot increases the surface charge on Red Blood Cells and thereby reduces blood viscosity and clumping. This results in improved oxygen delivery and blood flow throughout the body. High viscosity, on the other hand, is often linked to critical heart diseases.
Blood clumping blocks the small blood vessels and general the blood flow, thus damaging the heart. Grounding works to improve blood circulation, which reduces the possibility of blood clotting and coronary artery issues. Studies have shown that grounding on a regular basis improves heart health and diminishes the likelihood of cardiac diseases.
Improves ENERGY LEVELS
When we make direct contact with the ground, excess energy is discharged and tension from the electrical circuits of the body is liberated as energy from nature is absorbed. When we reconnect with Earth’s electrons, many physiological changes occur in the body, including healing and higher energy levels
Improves MENTAL CLARITY
The human body is made up of 60-70% water, an electron provider that is profoundly linked to Earth’s energy. As such, grounding creates an ionic balance that directly influences our well being. In addition to enhancing our physical reflexes, this ionic balance also sharpens our mind, providing greater mental stability.
Many people around the world suffer from sleep insufficiency and sleep disorders often caused by high stress levels over a long period of time and this can contribute to conditions like obesity and depression.
Circadian rhythms in the body are responsible for regulating feelings and the cycle of sleeping. Studies have concluded that those who regularly walk barefoot outside stabilise and improve these circadian rhythms and as such, this can work to prevent sleep disorders and insomnia. I, for one, know that I always get a better night’s sleep after a visit to the beach.
Reduces MUSCLE DAMAGE
Studies have concluded that grounding significantly reduces Creatine Kinase (CK)in the injured muscles, thus lessening muscle damage.
Creatine kinase is an enzyme that helps in producing energy from muscles. Increased amounts of CK are released into the blood when there is muscle damage such as a heart attack, skeletal muscle injuries, certain muscle disorders, or strenuous exercise. (A CK level may also rise when excessive alcohol, cocaine, and certain medications are taken, such as a statin for elevated cholesterol.)
In addition to decreasing CK, grounding increases Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell (leukocytes) that increases immunity and protects us from infections. There are three types of white blood cells: granulocytes, lymphocytes and monocytes. Neutrophils are a subset of granulocytes, along with eosinophils and basophils cells. Together, your white blood cells protect your body from infection and injury.
Strengthens MUSCLES AND BONES
Walking barefoot improves the rate of blood flow back to the heart and reduces swelling and heaviness in the legs and feet. Earthing also strengthens the muscles and bones in the lower extremities. When walking barefoot on the ground, the feet are in contact with increased levels of Vitamin D and bone calcium (through sunlight).
The improvement of posture from grounding helps to prevent aches and pains in the human body. By walking barefoot every day, you can retrain your feet to move naturally and correct the tone, balance, and function of the legs, pelvis, and lumbar spine.
Improves BALANCE AND BODY REFLEXES
The more we stay in contact with the ground, the more our body functions properly and energy can move freely. Grounding is believed to improve foot muscles and lead to pain reduction in and around the feet by stimulating the vestibular system in the brain. The vestibular system is a unique sensory system that informs the body about its position relative to the Earth's gravitational field which in turn enhances the body’s sense of balance. Being barefoot also helps improve the proprioceptive neural input to the brain from receptors in the muscles and joints which leads to better awareness of the body’s position on the ground (Proprioceptive input is sensory input to activate the joints and muscles to become more responsive.)
Initially, barefoot walking may cause some discomfort as muscles are reawakened but in the long run, the feet will strengthen and gain back their natural functionality, become stronger and flexible and any discomfort will subside
Earthing in Different Cultures
Earthing has a different cultural significances in different countries. In India, it is common not to wear any footwear in homes or temples, and to eat meals on the floor instead of at a table because shoes are considered impure.
In America, it's generally taboo to walk barefoot in public, and many shops and restaurants have dress codes that prohibit this practice a direct contrast to South Africa and Australia where it is common practice.
From looking at various studies, and reading lots of material, it is clear that there is an increasing scientific interest in the positive benefits of earthing, not least because it is free and accessible to everyone.
For those that cannot easily or don’t want to walk barefoot modern technology can help us maintain contact with the Earth through the use of conductive sheets, mats, bands, or electrode patches connected to the Earth's surface. There are also 'barefoot' shoes available from various suppliers eg Earth runners, Xero etc. From a practical standpoint, these methods offer a convenient and user-friendly approach to grounding or earthing.
For further reading - a series of scientific papers, links and videos on earthing/grounding
(Study showing that earthing reduces pain and alters the numbers of circulating neutrophils and lymphocytes, and also affects various circulating chemical factors related to inflammation.)
(Grounding appears to improve sleep, normalize the day–night cortisol rhythm, reduce pain, reduce stress, shift the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic toward parasympathetic activation, increase heart rate variability, speed wound healing, and reduce blood viscosity. )
(Just as vitamin D in our body is produced by energy and frequencies generated from the sun, 93 million miles away, the Earth right under our feet provides unique energy and frequencies that directly influence our body. Earthing restores a primordial electric connection to the Earth lost over time because of human lifestyle. Earthing appears to correct what we call an “electron deficiency syndrome,”3 an overlooked and likely significant cause of multiple health disorders.)
(The principal discovery reported here is that electrically coupling the human body to the earth produces immediate and lasting changes in electrophysiological measures: the left hemisphere EEG and right and left trapezius EMG. These changes appear to take place in less than one second after earthing. At the same time, BVP, which is a direct physiological measure and not an electrophysiological measure, decreases steadily and significantly after earthing. Taken with the results of the previous study (12), which showed that earthing changes cortisol profiles and affects subjective reports of quality of sleep, pain, and stress, we begin to see a picture of systemic effects of earthing. )
The Earthing Movie: The Remarkable Science of Grounding (full documentary YouTube link)
Grounding - The Grounded Documentary Film about "Earthing" (YouTube link)