By Dr. Mercola
Through the deceptively simple act of walking barefoot on the Earth — an act known as grounding or earthing — it may be possible to thwart chronic diseases and even slow aging. It’s a crucial topic that has the potential to change lives, from relieving chronic pain to slowing down the silent killer known as systemic inflammation.
In the film “Down to Earth,” I speak alongside other experts to shed light on what may be one of the most overlooked yet easiest ways to protect and improve human health: getting grounded to the Earth.
The short of “Down to Earth,” above, is up for a number of awards, and in January, 2017, received the IndieFEST Award of Excellence for a documentary short.
The full feature-length movie of “Down to Earth” will be available in fall, 2017, with special premiers in theaters in Los Angeles and New York City. Highly respected cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra explains in the film:
“In simple terms, grounding is literally putting your bare feet on the ground. When you do that, you’re in contact with the Earth, and mother Earth is endowed with electrons, and these electrons are literally absorbed through your feet. It’s like taking handfuls of antioxidants, but you’re getting it through your feet.”
What Is Grounding and How Does It Work?
The concept of grounding was initially developed by Clint Ober, who began studying it in an effort to heal himself and who introduced the concept of grounding to Sinatra. As a retired cable television executive, Ober noticed that when cables are “grounded” to the Earth, it eliminates interference from the signal.
All electrical systems are stabilized in this way, which led Ober to wonder whether the human body, also a bioelectrical, signal-transmitting organism, should also be grounded.1
He describes the invention of synthetic materials, which in turn allowed synthetic soles to be put onto our shoes, as a key part of the problem, as it effectively insulates us from the Earth.
It’s not unusual for Americans to spend their entire days, from sun up to sun down, without being grounded. But though it has become the norm, it’s also completely unnatural. We depend on the Earth to survive, but we’ve become entirely disconnected from it, such that we’re completely separate.
Dr. Laura Koniver, who discovered grounding quite by accident after it seemed to soothe her crying infant, says in the film:
“Grounding means connecting to the Earth to support the specific function of the organs in your body. It supports the body as a whole but it specifically supports organ systems down to the tissues and the cellular function of the entire body.”
Your Body Needs Grounding Just as It Needs Air and Sunshine
You may not think of your body as a generator of electricity, but you are very much an electrical being, and this is in large part why it’s so important to use grounding to harness the electrical charge of the Earth to positively influence your health. Gaetan Chevalier, Ph.D., an engineer/physicist who has studied grounding, explained:
“Unbeknownst to us, we live inside a battery. The surface of the Earth is charged negatively and the ionosphere, a layer of the atmosphere about 60 miles up, is ionized by the sun. The rays of the sun are so strong that they split the molecules in two, a positive charge and a negative charge.
The negative charges are transferred to the surface of the Earth, through lightening mainly, and the positive charges stay 60 miles up. The problem arises when we don’t have a negative charge. We need grounding just as we need air and we need sunshine.”
When you put your bare feet on the ground, you absorb large amounts of negative electrons through the soles of your feet. In today's world, this is more important than ever, yet fewer people than ever connect with the Earth in this way anymore.
Free radical stress from exposure to pollution, cigarettes, pesticides, processed foods and radiation, just to name a few, continually deplete your body of electrons.
The Earth, however is always electron-rich and can serve as a powerful and abundant supply of antioxidant free-radical-busting electrons, if only you make an effort to stay grounded.
Without a proper supply of antioxidants, the free radicals can overwhelm your system leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and accelerated aging. "We now know that oxidative stress causes disease. It causes inflammation," Sinatra says. "[But] we have this Earth — Mother Earth — that’s going to give us all these free electrons."
Grounding Puts Out the Fires of Inflammation
One of the primary health benefits of grounding is that its antioxidant effect helps alleviate inflammation throughout your body. Sinatra notes:
“In simple terms, what Earthing does, is literally it squelches the fires of inflammation, and if inflammation is the source of all root illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease, diabetes — I mean the list goes on and on — if you can impact inflammation and … stop it, we’re going to be healthier beings.”
In research conducted by Chevalier and colleagues, it’s noted that grounding produces measurable differences in the concentrations of molecules, including white blood cells and cytokines, involved in the inflammatory response.
The report also found that grounding “reduces pain and alters the numbers of circulating neutrophils and lymphocytes, and also affects various circulating chemical factors related to inflammation.”2 In the film, Ober explains how grounding can reduce inflammation by supplying your body with free electrons:
“Inflammation is produced by neutrophils, which are white blood cells. You have an injury, you have a damaged cell, and so these white blood cells come over and they encapsulate the damaged cell and … release reactive oxygen species, which rip electrons from the damaged cell and that destroys the damaged cell.
If there’s not enough free electrons there to reduce the remaining radicals, they’re going to steal an electron from a healthy cell and in the process damage it.
Then the message goes out to the immune system and another neutrophil does the same thing and eliminates that cell, and then you have a chain reaction.”
Grounding May Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease, Protect Against Electromagnetic Fields and More
Heart disease is rooted in an inflammatory process, so it’s not surprising that this major disease killer is among those helped by grounding.
Research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that two hours of grounding increased the surface charge of red blood cells and thereby reduced blood viscosity and clumping.3 As a result, the researchers, who include Chevalier and Sinatra, concluded, “Grounding appears to be one of the simplest and yet most profound interventions for helping reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events.”4
In other research, a pilot study on the effect of grounding on delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which often occurs after intense exercise, grounding the body to the Earth was shown to alter measures of immune system activity and pain.5
Grounding for one hour also significantly improved mood among a group of 40 adults6 and calms your sympathetic nervous system, which supports your heart rate variability. 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.
Grounding your body to the Earth during sleep has similarly been shown to have beneficial effects, including normalizing the daily cortisol rhythm and improving sleep.7 There is even evidence that grounding reduces electric fields induced on your body, which is increasingly important in the modern world.8 Researchers wrote:
“The study showed that when the body is grounded, its electrical potential becomes equalized with the Earth's electrical potential through a transfer of electrons from the Earth to the body. This, in turn, prevents the 60 Hz [ambient voltage] mode from producing an AC [alternating current] electric potential at the surface of the body and from producing perturbations of the electric charges of the molecules inside the body.
The study confirms the ‘umbrella’ effect of earthing the body explained by Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman in his lectures on electromagnetism. Feynman said that when the body potential is the same as the Earth's electric potential (and thus grounded), it becomes an extension of the Earth's gigantic electric system.
The Earth's potential thus becomes the ‘working agent that cancels, reduces, or pushes away electric fields from the body.’”
What Types of Shoes Allow You to Stay Grounded?
Rubber, plastic and other synthetic soles on your shoes will insulate you from the Earth and its grounding benefits. Traditional leather soles will not, but you can also gain grounding benefits simply by walking barefoot, which is still practiced in some parts of the world.
Just as walking barefoot was once widespread, so, too, was sleeping on the ground. In the modern world, sleeping indoors serves to further insulate you from the Earth, although it’s relatively simple to ground your mattress while you sleep. When you’re indoors, a grounding mat, placed where you work or sleep, can ground you to the Earth just like walking barefoot outside.
It sounds so simple, almost too simple, but as Sinatra said, “This is Nobel Prize material.” There are now nearly two dozen published studies on grounding and more certainly to come.
“The research done to date,” researchers wrote in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, “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.”
If you’d like to learn more, another documentary film, “Grounded,” lets you see this amazing phenomenon transform the life of people who had been struggling with health issues like chronic pain, and one man who had been wheelchair-bound for decades is able to walk again after grounding. Seeing the transformations first-hand is quite moving and shows this isn’t just “new-age nonsense” but a scientifically proven and valid method for improving your health.