Slowly making its way into a mainstream discussion is a practice so simple and straightforward that the suggestion it might have hidden benefits is often greeted with skepticism and incredulity. Can just walking barefoot in the grass really reduce your risk of a whole host of conditions, from anxiety to inflammation to digestive disorders?
Earthing, also known as grounding, has been shown to have a positive impact on our health. The idea is that giving the body direct exposure to the Earth’s electrons can help balance the body’s electrical currents and neutralize free radicals, thereby reducing disease and chronic conditions. There is a massive supply of electrons available on the Earth’s surface; simply stepping on grass, dirt or sand is said to transfer these to the human body and help promote health.
Earthing is studied in a field of medicine called Environmental Medicine. Environmental Medicine focuses on interactions between human health and the environment, including factors such as compromised air and water and toxic chemicals and how they cause disease. Exposure to the Earth’s electrical activity might be the next big factor to consider when it comes to understanding how our environment impacts our well-being.
Are we getting sick because of our lack of connection to the planet?
We spend a lot of time indoors, standing on carpeted, concrete floors; when we are outside, we wear rubber-soled shoes and tend to avoid contact with our bare skin to nature, especially in urban environments. Research suggests that our disconnect may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness.
Reconnection with the Earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being. Mounting evidence suggests that the Earth’s negative potential can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems. Exposing ourselves to the Earth’s electromagnetic currents might help clarify signals running through and around the body. The human body itself is a complicated bundle of electrical currents, and when these currents are running smoothly, bodily functions tend to run more smoothly. Think back to elementary school science class: When a circuit is grounded, the signal is unimpeded and electricity moves freely. In the same way, the human body’s circuits might benefit from being stabilized by grounding them to Earth.
Also, our circadian rhythms also rely on specific electrical currents functioning well. Studies have suggested that the natural wavelengths of Earth’s potential may play a role in setting our biological clocks, which regulate our sleep/wake cycle and cortisol production. When we are not connected to the planet, our natural rhythms may fall out of balance, and imbalance creates disease. Particularly when it comes to improving sleep (which has also been shown to reduce symptoms of chronic pain, stress and anxiety), earthing may stabilize and improve the bioelectrical function underlying all of these, meaning it could help us sleep and feel better.
Can earthing reduce potential harm from free radicals?
Free radicals are reactive oxygen molecules that can damage human tissue.
Essentially, free radicals seek out molecules from which they may steal electrons to become stable. If human cells are the only options around, they’ll take from those first, causing inflammation and an immune response to this “attack.”
When we eat antioxidant-rich foods, we provide our tissue with some defense in the form of other molecules that can take the brunt of the force from free radicals. It seems that earthing can help neutralize free radicals by creating an influx of spare electrons in the body, which free radicals will gravitate toward and make use of, rather than attacking our tissue. The result is a decrease in inflammation. Uninflamed cells are happier, healthier, better functioning cells.
Earthing may help reduce some of the damage your screen-time is causing
We spend every minute of our days surrounded by electromagnetic activity. The sun, cell phone towers, our desktop screens, Wi-Fi in the subway station… everything around us creates a bombardment of electricity that—while still debatably detrimental to our health—undoubtedly causes changes in our functioning and electromagnetic activity.
Earthing may help to neutralize the effects of these external forces by allowing us to become a part of the greater Earth-based electrical system; think of walking barefoot on sand as adding yourself as a conductor in a circuit. The Earth’s potential then cancels or reduces the effects electric fields have on the body, allowing the grounded body to be less affected by the constant changes and surges of electrical systems surrounding them.
Somewhat related to the impact of office environments, earthing has also been shown to elicit positive changes in stress levels (scored by changes in heart rate, blood pressure and autonomic nervous system activation), meaning it might be a good antidote to the other non-electromagnetic stresses of your 9-to-5.
There are a bunch of diseases that might be improved by earthing
The illnesses afflicting the developed world’s population tend to be of the autoimmune, inflammatory and chronic variety; less often are we getting sick from bacterial infection, but rather from irregularities and overreactions happening within our systems. There is evidence to suggest that changed environmental factors may be the cause.
Emerging research supports that exposure to the Earth’s electrons can reduce pain, improve sleep and thin blood, which can improve blood pressure in high-blood pressure subjects or heart patients. earthing has also been shown to reduce primary indicators of osteoporosis, blood glucose fluctuations, irregular heart activity and immune function, including symptoms of autoimmune conditions like lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Plus, here’s some great news if you’ve been hitting the ClassPass studios hard: Shown in a study that used electrical currents to balance the body, grounding yourself on the Earth may reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after intense exercise. Compared to control groups, in the days following a workout, grounded exercisers showed a decrease in white blood cells, indicating less inflammation, and, for the first time ever observed, a shorter recovery time.
Is there enough evidence to suggest this practice is beneficial?
Asking if there’s enough evidence to support earthing is fair; after all, there’s something a little hippie-dippy in the idea that wandering around in the grass could cure everything from lupus to heart disease. Earthing studies done to date have been relatively small in scope and preliminary in their findings. If having more electrons and being more in line with the Earth’s negative charge really is important for good health, can we be certain that exposure to these electrons will have the long-lasting benefits we hope?
While research is still ongoing and the study of this practice is relatively new, there are few downsides to being outside more, especially with direct contact with nature. Being outside, away from screens and electricity, and allowing ourselves to move, breathe and be in nature might be just what the doctor ordered, whether or not the transfer of electrons is the most significant healing action that takes place.