By Dr. Mercola
Do you notice you feel better when you walk barefoot on the Earth? Recent research has explained why this happens.
Your immune system functions optimally when your body has an adequate supply of electrons, which are easily and naturally obtained by barefoot contact with the Earth.
Research indicates that electrons from the Earth have antioxidant effects that can protect your body from inflammation and its many well-documented health consequences. For most of our evolutionary history, humans have had continuous contact with the Earth.
It is only recently that substances such as asphalt, wood, rugs, and plastics have separated us from this contact.
It is known that the Earth maintains a negative electrical potential on its surface. When you are in direct contact with the ground (walking, sitting, or laying down on the earth's surface) the earth's electrons are conducted to your body, bringing it to the same electrical potential as the earth. Living in direct contact with the earth grounds your body, inducing favorable physiological and electrophysiological changes that promote optimum health.
There is an emerging science documenting how conductive contact with the Earth, which has is also known as Earthing or grounding, is highly beneficial to your health and completely safe. Earthing appears to minimize the consequences of exposure to potentially disruptive fields like "electromagnetic pollution" or "dirty electricity."
Some of the recent evidence supporting this approach involves multiple studies documenting Earthing's improvement in blood viscosity, heart rate variability, inflammation, cortisol dynamics, sleep, autonomic nervous system (ANS) balance, and reduced effects of stress.
The Ultimate Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory
Grounding or Earthing is defined as placing one's bare feet on the ground whether it be dirt, grass, sand or concrete (especially when humid or wet). When you ground to the electron-enriched earth, an improved balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system occurs.
The Earth is a natural source of electrons and subtle electrical fields, which are essential for proper functioning of immune systems, circulation, synchronization of biorhythms and other physiological processes and may actually be the most effective, essential, least expensive, and easiest to attain antioxidant.
Modern science has thoroughly documented the connection between inflammation and all of the chronic diseases, including the diseases of aging and the aging process itself. It is important to understand that inflammation is a condition that can be reduced or prevented by grounding your body to the Earth, the way virtually all of your ancestors have done for hundreds if not thousands of generations.
How the Modern Running Shoe May be Destroying Your Health
Materials such as metals are electrical conductors. They contain free or mobile electrons that can carry electrical energy from place to place.
Your body is somewhat conductive because it contains a large number of charged ions (called electrolytes) dissolved in water. Your blood and other body fluids are therefore good conductors. Free or mobile electrons can also move about within your body
Other materials, called insulators, have very few free or mobile electrons. Plastic and rubber are good insulators and are used to cover electrical wires to keep the conductors from touching each other and from touching your skin, which could otherwise give you a shock.
Traditionally shoes were made of leather, which actually conducts electrons and therefore maintains a conductive contact between the Earth and your feet. However modern day rubber and plastics are electrical insulators and therefore block the beneficial flow of electrons from the Earth to your body.
How the Different Types of Electricity Impact Grounding
There are three different forms of electricity:
- Direct current (DC) electricity
- Alternating current (AC) electricity, and
- Static electricity
All of these forms of electricity are present in the environment and can affect the way you feel.
Direct Current, consider an ordinary flashlight with two type D batteries. When the light is switched on, a current created by chemical reactions in the batteries causes electrons to flow to the bulb, which converts the electrical energy into light. The electric field travels to the bulb virtually instantaneously, while the electrons move slowly – about three inches per hour.
Alternating Current or AC is the type of electricity that is delivered to homes and businesses. Alternating current is produced by electric generators and is distributed throughout a community via wires that are overhead or buried under the ground.
In contrast to direct current electricity, the actual flow of electrons in an alternating current circuit is virtually zero, as the electrons mainly go back and forth (60 times per second in North America and 50 times in Europe) without actually progressing along the wire. Therefore, for an AC current in a typical lamp cord, the electrons do not actually "flow." Instead they vibrate back and forth by a distance of about a hundred-thousandth of an inch.
This means that the electrons in your household wiring are probably the same ones present when your house was built. In contrast to direct current, the electrons excited by a generator do not flow to your home and then return to the generator after delivering energy to your lights or appliances. The electrical energy flows at about the speed of light; the electrons only vibrate back and forth.
This point is important because of confusion about the subject from statements such as this: "Every time an electron leaves a power plant to create electricity for our homes, schools and offices it must return to create more electricity - fundamental law of physics." This statement is completely incorrect.
There is absolutely no fundamental law of physics that requires the electron sent out from an alternating current generator to return to the generator to create more electricity.
It has also been asserted that power companies have begun using the Earth as one part of the alternating current circuit to save on the expense of wire needed to meet increasing demands for electricity. Again, this statement is completely inaccurate and misleading. It is a statement that leads some to believe that walking barefoot or using grounding devices will connect people to the electrical distribution system and thereby electrify their bodies with alternating current electricity.
In fact, the U.S. National Electrical Code does not permit connecting an electrical system directly to the Earth. In other words the Earth does not carry a return current back to the generator. Instead electrical systems are grounded to protect from lightening and other extraordinary events.
How Your Home Electrical Connections Can Zap Your Health
The wiring in homes and buildings and the power distribution system acts as an antenna that can transmit and receive both natural and man-made electromagnetic fields. Many technologies add significantly to our electromagnetic environment: cell phone towers, Wi-Fi, wireless routers, satellite TV and cordless telephones. And a variety of devices introduce spikes or transients that distort the 60 cycle electric field in the wiring, particularly when appliances are switched on or off.
Here are some common examples:
✓ Ballasts used in fluorescent lighting
✓ High-efficiency lighting such as CFL (Compact-Fluorescent) bulbs
✓ Computer hard drives
✓ Electric heaters
✓ Hair dryers
✓ Refrigerators and air conditioners
✓ Vacuum cleaners
To illustrate this phenomenon, we will use the example of your neighbor's refrigerator or air conditioner switching on or off. This produces a sudden electrical "spike" that travels through the power lines to your household electrical system. A signal is also radiated into the atmosphere because the wiring acts as an antenna. Taken together the various signals and distortions to the alternating current field create what some people refer to as "dirty electricity." Attempts have been made to link these phenomena to a variety of health effects. There has been considerable debate about this issue.
Some people appear to be very sensitive to electromagnetic fields and can become sick from exposure to them, whereas others are not sensitive. Some have advocated the use of filters to remove the so-called "dirty electricity" flowing through home wiring. The problem is that alternating electric fields are present everywhere in the environment – they are radiated from wires, even when no current is flowing through them.
It is therefore impossible for a filter to prevent exposure to electrical fields and the noise produced by appliances, as described above.
In a 2010 review, Frank De Vocht of the University of Manchester's Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health in the UK found only seven published studies supporting the claim that dirty electricity is a biologically active component of standard electromagnetic pollution. Each study had significant methodological flaws in its experimental design, assessment of exposure, and statistical analysis. De Vocht concluded that the flaws in the studies prevented a valid assessment of any causal links between exposure and adverse effects. Moreover, a few studies suggesting health benefits for using the filters were uncontrolled experiments involving only a few subjects.
You Can Actually Measure How Grounding Yourself Reduces Your Voltage
A Body Voltage Meter can determine how much electricity is being induced on you when you are lying in bed or sitting in a chair, and how much the electric charge is reduced by grounding.
A meter of this kind is shown above. A number of inexpensive meters like this are available from Radio Shack and other sources. One of the terminals of the meter is touched with your finger, while the other terminal connects to a wire (Earthing wire) that connects to a rod in the Earth or to a good ground in the electrical system. It is important that the body voltage meter have the capability to measure the AC electrical potential between your skin and the surface of the Earth.
Just because an electrical outlet has a third plug does not necessarily mean that it was properly installed. The only way to know for certain would be to check it. The device shown here, called a circuit checker, can determine if the grounding terminal of an electrical outlet is properly grounded and can therefore be used with personal grounding systems or with the Body Voltage Meter described above.
The cord going to the lamp next to your bed is radiating an alternating electric field even when the lamp is turned off. Research has shown that walking barefoot on the Earth or connecting to the Earth with an Earthing system actually stabilizes the internal electrical milieu of your body and is therefore beneficial.
Until large-scale studies and mechanistic investigations are completed, many scientists and many electric utilities have suggested that those who use electrical appliances practice "prudent avoidance" meaning that they should minimize their exposure to sources of electric power until the scientific evidence is more definitive.
In the context of "prudent avoidance," some proponents of Earthing systems have emphasized the fact that Earthing greatly reduces your exposure to fields from electrical wiring, using evidence provided by the body voltage meter as shown above. While this is probably correct, reducing exposure to power frequency fields (including dirty electromagnetic fields) is definitely not the most important consequence of Earthing. Far more significant for health is the ability of Earthing systems to deliver antioxidant electrons that stabilize the operation of the immune system and other physiological processes in the body.
The Health Benefits of Grounding
The most important health consequence of Earthing is providing your body abundant electrons from the Earth. The scientific research and hypotheses related to Earthing point to a major impact on the inflammatory process as a result of this electron transfer.
Your body has evolved a means to kill bacteria using reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are delivered to a site of injury by white blood cells. Although very effective at this task, ROS are also very reactive biochemically and can damage healthy tissues. ROS are usually positively charged molecules that need to be neutralized immediately to prevent them from diffusing into healthy tissues.
That is one of the major reasons why your body needs an abundant supply of negative charges. Food based antioxidants like astaxanthin are helpful but a regular supply of electrons from the earth can supply them as well.
Nature has solved this problem by providing conductive systems within your body that deliver electrons from your feet to all parts of your body. This has been the natural arrangement throughout most of human history. Negative charges have always been available, thanks to the Earth, to prevent the inflammatory process from damaging healthy tissues.
All of this changed when we began to wear shoes with rubber and plastic soles, and no longer slept in direct contact with the Earth. A variety of measures of physiological stress show that the person who is grounded is less stressed and more relaxed. These measures demonstrate a shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic activation, reduction in muscle tension, and increased heart rate variability.
Regardless whether or not grounding reduces exposure to environmental fields, these studies firmly demonstrate that Earthing does not stress the body; in fact, Earthing reduces every measure of stress used in studies.
Concerns about Earthing
When I first became aware of Earthing in 2005, I was initially fascinated with the concept. But after reviewing it with some of my mentors in energy medicine there was a concern that Earthing may actually increase your exposure to so-called "electromagnetic pollution" or "dirty electricity."
However, more careful analysis revealed that Earthing actually decreases your exposure to these potentially disruptive fields. To understand why this is so, it is crucial to look at the basic biophysics of electricity and magnetism.
Most of the confusion about this topic is due in part to the fact that research on Earthing the human body is opening up new perspectives, and requires a fresh examination of the basics of electricity and magnetism as applied to physiology and medicine. Another source of confusion arises from a belief that the unnatural frequencies referred to as "electromagnetic pollution" and "dirty electricity" flow through the wiring of homes and can be removed with filters. The reality is that these signals are present virtually everywhere in our environment as electromagnetic radiations, and cannot be completely removed with filters in the wiring.
Earthing actually decreases your exposure to these potentially disruptive electromagnetic fields, but we again emphasize that this is not the most important effect of Earthing
Grounding May Be the Missing Link to Getting Healthy
Earthing may be one of the most important overlooked factors in public health. When grounding is restored, many people report significant improvement in a wide range of ailments, including chronic fatigue.
These changes are rapid and often occur within 30 minutes.
To date all of the individuals who reported that they had inflammatory issues have benefited from Earthing. This includes people with various severe autoimmune diseases. Note that we do not assert that Earthing is a "treatment" or a "cure" for any disease or disorder. Instead, it can be said without any equivocation that the human body evolved in contact with the Earth and needs to maintain this natural contact in order to function properly.
When you provide your body a constant source of free electrons, through diet or grounding you help to radically reduce inflammation which is widely acknowledged as one of the primary factors contributing to premature aging and chronic disease.