By Hannah Alderfer, BA, CPT, FMSC
Think back to the days when you would play for hours at a time outdoors; running barefoot through the yard, lying in the grass watching clouds go by, wading in a stream, or maybe climbing trees. Little did you realize at the time that all of those things were keeping you healthy and strong, but not in the way you might think. As time has gone, by we’ve lost contact with the earth as a culture. We wear rubber or synthetic-soled shoes all day long, we spend little time outdoors and even less time with direct contact to the earth’s surface. What if you could improve your health simply by touching the earth?
Being in contact with the earth and how that affects our health is a recently-studied theory called grounding or earthing. This subject has immense, encouraging possibilities for people with many of the health issues that have increased over the past half-century. Let me explain why.
Our human bodies are designed to be electrically charged. The heart is a great example of this as each heart beat begins when an electrical impulse from the sinoatrial node is produced causing the heart to pump. If you know anything about electricity, then you will remember that there can be both a positive and negative charge. You may have also heard of a term called free radicals. This is a substance in the body that is produced as a result of normal processes and metabolism, but can wreak havoc on the body when it goes unchecked, often resulting in chronic inflammation. Free radicals are short of electrons and unstable until given an electron.
When these free radicals are not in control, they can be balanced by increasing the amount of a substance called antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants provide the electrons that free radicals need to stabilize. We get antioxidants through the foods we eat, but also through contact with the earth’s surface. The earth is also electrically charged, though with a slightly negative charge. It is in touching the earth that our bodies are able to interact with the earth’s electromagnetic field and absorb some of the electrons to stabilize the positively-charged free radicals.
So how does all of this relate to better health? One researcher, Clint Ober, “found a similarity between the human body and the cable used to transmit cable television signals. When cables are grounded to the Earth, interference is virtually eliminated from the signal.” From this point on he became a leading researcher in the study of grounding. Studies have shown that grounding improves sleep patterns, reduces pain, and decreases inflammation. Infrared imaging has shown this reduction of inflammation of subjects participating in the studies as well as measurements of blood chemistry and white blood cell counts.
When the electrons provided through contact with the earth neutralize the free radicals, it can help to reduce acute and chronic inflammation. Recent decades have shown a significant increase in the presence of chronic diseases that are linked to inflammation: immune disorders, sleep difficulties, wound healing, heart disease, and cancer. It is interesting to note that the timing of the increase in chronic diseases corresponds to the change in culture to indoor lifestyles and also shoes made from man-made substances. When we are no longer in contact with the earth and its electromagnetic field, then we lose out on the opportunity to take up some of its electrons.
If you are thinking that it’s too late to take advantage of the benefits of grounding, it’s not! Ober found that “going barefoot for as little as 30 or 40 minutes daily can significantly reduce pain and stress.” You can also use products such as earthing mats and larger earthing sheets if you are unable to get outside or weather does not permit it.
Remember that to get the benefits of grounding outdoors, you must be in direct contact with the earth, whether it’s sand, dirt, or water. It’s free and, according to current research, you’ll be healthier because of it.