What is Earthing / Grounding?

Tomorrow is Earth Day, so I thought I would use this opportunity to talk about “Earthing” or “Grounding” as it is also known. Earthing (or grounding) refers to the connecting your skin, usually your feet directly to the ground to realize possible benefits from conductive systems that transfer the Earth's electrons from the ground into the body.

This topic came up recently during a meeting I attend monthly with professional peers (not a group directly in the health and wellness space). One of the other members asked me if I had heard of grounding and wanted to know what I thought about it. To those withing earshot, it definitely sounded strange as I described taking off your shoes and socks and allowing your feet to make direct contact with the dirt, grass, or sand. But it’s something I’ve been doing for over a decade and there’s plenty of evidence that this simple practice of getting your feet dirty can be greatly beneficial for health by lowering free radical damage, reducing stress, inflammation and pain.

If you think back to prehistoric man, or even Indigenous cultures, they were naturally earthing.  But since the invention of the rubber soled shoe in 1882, most humans in first-world countries have been purposely keeping their feet from making direct contact with the ground. Foot coverings before this were made from materials such as leather and other animal skins. These materials serve as a conduit, enabling the flow of electrons to one's body from the ground up. Rubber and plastic are insulators, materials in which an electrical charge can't flow through, so once we started wearing rubber and plastic-soled shoes, the connection with the earth stopped.

The idea of earthing or grounding is that the Earth is a source of negative energy (which is good in this case) that we can connect with to offset the positive charge we build up from our typical modern lifestyle that usually does not include our skin being in direct contact with the earth.

You can find lots of information out there on the how behind earthing. To simplify it, like any other electrically conductive object, a human body can store electric charge if insulated. The body prefers to be neutral, but the build up of free radicals - produced either from normal cell metabolisms or from external sources (pollution, cigarette smoke, radiation, medications), lead to a positive charge in the body. The human body requires a constant source of negatively charged electrons in order to get back to neutral and prevent an excessive build-up of these positively charged free radicals. Without a regular supply of electrons, the cells in our body are unable to balance the positive charge. Too much positive charge starts to create free radical damage, oxidative stress and inflammation. Free radicals damage contributes to the etiology of many chronic health problems such as cardiovascular and inflammatory disease, cataracts, and cancer.

Fortunately, the Earth is continuously being charged with electrons, which mainly occurs through the hundreds of thousands of lightning strikes that take place around the world every hour. Your body is naturally able to absorb the Earth’s negative electrical charges since your skin acts like a “conductor.” Your feet, specifically certain points in the balls of your feet, are believed to be especially good at receiving the earth’s electricity.

Although direct contact with the ground outside is the best source, you can also practice grounding/earthing indoors. Indoor earthing can be realized with earthing mats, sheets, or bands. These products have a grounding wire designed to plug in to the ground port of your wall outlet or a grounding rod, which is meant to connect you to the earth through your home or building’s grounding wire. A grounding wire is a safety measure used to prevent a house fire or an electric shock if there is excess electricity in the wiring system. Ground wires run parallel to other wires in order to safely discharge excess electricity into the ground. So by plugging in a grounding mat or band, you are able to connect directly with the earth through this wire.

The conclusion of this study states that emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease. The research done to date supports the concept that grounding or earthing the human body may be an essential element in the health equation along with sunshine, clean air and water, nutritious food, and physical activity.

Bottom line is that earthing or grounding is free and with no side effects other than getting dirt on your feet, the potential benefits make it a no brainer. So take off your shoes and socks and get outside!

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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,

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