By Dr. Mercola
Your body is capable of generating electricity, and this ability is actually a key part of your achieving health. Electricity allows your nervous system to send signals to your brain. These signals are actually electrical charges that are delivered from cell to cell, allowing for nearly instantaneous communication.
The messages conducted via electrical signals in your body are responsible for controlling the rhythm of your heartbeat, the movement of blood around your body, and much more.
Your biological clock even uses electrical activity in order to help keep your circadian rhythms in order.1 You are, quite simply, an electrical being. If electrical activity stops in your body, you cannot survive. But how, exactly, does this electrical activity take place?
How Does Your Body Produce Electricity?
The video above, from The Medicine Journal,2 gives a concise explanation of the complex process your body uses to generate electricity. Inside your body are atoms that are made up of positively charged protons, negatively charged electrons, and neutrons (which are neutral).
An atom with unbalanced charges will become either positively or negatively charged, and the switch from one charge to the other allows electrons to flow from one atom to another. This is what is referred to as electricity.3
Your cells generate electrical charges via electrolytes like sodium and potassium using a mechanism known as the "sodium-potassium gate." As Discovery Health explained:4
"When your body needs to send a message from one point to another, it opens the gate. When the membrane gate opens, sodium and potassium ions move freely into and out of the cell.
Negatively charged potassium ions leave the cell, attracted to the positivity outside the membrane, and positively charged sodium ions enter it, moving toward the negative charge. The result is a switch in the concentrations of the two types of ions -- and rapid switch in charge.
…this flip between positive and negative generates an electrical impulse. This impulse triggers the gate on the next cell to open, creating another charge, and so on. In this way, an electrical impulse moves from a nerve in your stubbed toe to the part of your brain that senses pain."
It is because of your body's electrical activity that defibrillators, which deliver an electric shock to your heart, may work to restore heart rhythm and why receiving the wrong type of shock, like an electric shock or lightning strike, can essentially "fry" your body's electrical system. The opposite also holds true in that you can actually harness the electrical charge of the Earth to positively influence your health in numerous ways.
Your Body Can Absorb Free Electrons from the Earth
The Earth carries an enormous negative charge. It's always electron-rich and can serve as a powerful and abundant supply of antioxidant and free-radical-busting electrons.
Your body is finely tuned to "work" with the Earth in the sense that there's a constant flow of energy between your body and the Earth. When you put your feet on the ground, you absorb large amounts of negative electrons through the soles of your feet.
The effect is sufficient to maintain your body at the same negatively charged electrical potential as the Earth. This simple process is called "grounding" or "earthing," and its effect is one of the most potent antioxidants we know of.
Grounding has been shown to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve sleep, enhance wellbeing, and much, much more. When you wear rubber- or plastic-soled shoes, however, you are effectively shielding yourself from this beneficial influx of electrons from the Earth.
Why It's So Important to Stay Grounded
Grounding's potent antioxidant effect helps alleviate inflammation throughout your body, a potentially life-saving benefit since inflammation is at the root of most diseases, including heart disease.
According to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a prominent cardiologist, inflammation thrives when your blood is thick and you have a lot of free radical stress, and a lot of positive charges in your body. Grounding effectively alleviates inflammation because it thins your blood and infuses you with negatively charged ions through the soles of your feet.
Grounding helps thin your blood by improving its zeta potential, which means it improves the energy between your red blood cells. Research has demonstrated it takes about 80 minutes for the free electrons from the earth to reach your bloodstream and transform your blood.
Hypercoagulable (thick, slow-moving) blood contributes to chronic inflammation, because when your blood does not flow well, oxygen can't get to your tissues. Grounding's effect on blood thinning is so profound that if you are taking blood thinners, you must work with your health care provider to lower your dose otherwise you may overdose on the medication. You can see my interview with Dr. Sinatra below.
Grounding Helps Neutralize Free Radicals
Interestingly, grounding research has now discovered that if you place your feet on the ground after an injury (or on a grounded sheet, or place grounding patches on the balls of your feet), electrons will migrate into your body and spread through your tissues. Any free radicals that leak into the healthy tissue will immediately be electrically neutralized. This occurs because the electrons are negative, while the free radicals are positive, so they cancel each other out. As noted by Dr. James Oschman, an expert in the field of energy medicine:
"So really what is happening with grounding or earthing is that you're protecting your body from -- I call it, collateral damage… Damage that was not intended to take place but does take place because we have disconnected ourselves from the Earth by putting rubber and plastic on the bottoms of our shoes."
Free radical stress from exposure to pollution, cigarettes, insecticides, pesticides, trans fats, and radiation, just to name a few, continually deplete your body of electrons. Simply by getting outside, barefoot, touching the Earth, and allowing the excess charge in your body to discharge into the Earth, you can alleviate some of the stress continually put on your system. Walking barefoot can help ameliorate the constant assault of electromagnetic fields and other types of radiation from cell phones, computers, and Wi-Fi. It's also thought that grounding may actually facilitate the formation of structured water in your body.
Furthermore, grounding also calms your sympathetic nervous system, which supports your heart rate variability. And, when you support heart rate variability, this promotes homeostasis, or balance, in your autonomic nervous system. This is important because anytime you improve your heart rate variability, you're improving your entire body and all its functions. If you want to learn more, check out the Grounded documentary (in which I actually appear). You'll hear first-hand accounts from residents of Haines, Alaska who have overcome chronic pain, sleep apnea, and much more simply by getting grounded.
How to Reconnect with the Earth's Electrical Charge
Many Americans spend most of their waking hours wearing shoes with rubber or plastic soles. These materials are very effective insulators, which is precisely why they're used to insulate electrical wires. Yet, they also effectively disconnect you from the Earth's natural electron flow. Wearing leather-soled shoes will allow you to stay grounded with the Earth, as will walking barefoot, but you'll need to do so on the proper surface. Good grounding surfaces include:
- Sand (beach)
- Grass (preferably moist)
- Bare soil
- Concrete and brick (as long as it's not painted or sealed)
- Ceramic tile
The following surfaces will NOT ground you:
- Rubber and plastic
- Tar or tarmac
Like eating right, exercising, and sleeping, grounding can be described as yet another lifestyle habit that supports optimal health by supporting your body's "electrical" connection with the Earth. It's supported and backed by prominent medical doctors, scientists including Dr. David Suzuki, NASA astronauts, and was used by ancient civilizations who placed strong value on their relationship to the Earth.
As mentioned, simply taking off your shoes as much as you can when you're outdoors will help you take advantage of natural grounding opportunities. When indoors, using a grounding pad or sheet is an excellent way to stay grounded while you're working or sleeping. (For frequent travelers, I typically bring a grounding pad with me when I fly, too.)