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Discover the wonders of walking barefoot on moist earth or sandy beaches and the growing body of knowledge on this practice, also known as Earthing or grounding. Better heart health, improved mood and pain reduction are just some known benefits in the current literature
You might wonder why you feel better and much more energized whenever you walk barefoot on humid soil or on a sandy beach. This isn't anything new to science: it's Earthing, also known as grounding.
Earthing refers to contact with Earth's surface electrons by walking barefoot outside or working, sitting or sleeping indoors linked to conductive systems that transfer the energy from the ground into the body.[i] Based on scientific research so far, the planet's electrons induce numerous physiological changes to the body, such as better sleep, reduced pain and even a blood-thinning effect.
"This body of research has demonstrated the potential of grounding to be a simple, natural, and accessible clinical strategy against the global epidemic of noncommunicable, degenerative, inflammatory-related diseases," a 2017 study noted.[ii]
It should be noted that Earthing has been previously differentiated from the process of grounding, which offers a safety mechanism to prevent dangerous voltages in electrical distribution systems.[iii] In this discussion, though, Earthing and grounding are used interchangeably. Let's dive deeper into the benefits of being barefoot to your overall health and well-being.
1. Stress and Mood Enhancement
A randomized double-blind pilot study involved 58 healthy adults in a test to achieve grounding with a conductive adhesive patch on the sole of each foot.[iv] The subjects were exposed to 28 minutes in unearthed condition, followed by another 28 minutes with the Earthing wire connected.
Earthing appeared to significantly affect electrophysiological properties of the brain and muscles, suggesting reduced overall stress levels and tensions as well as a shift in autonomic nervous system balance.
In a small study conducted to assess if Earthing improves mood, 40 adult subjects were either grounded or sham-grounded for an hour while relaxing in a recliner chair equipped with a conductive pillow, mat and patches connecting them to the ground.[v]
Based on the Brief Mood Introspection Scale, pleasant and positive moods statistically significantly improved among grounded participants, but not sham-grounded ones. The one-hour contact may have improved mood more than expected by relaxation alone, therefore warranting more extensive studies.
2. Pain Management
Recent research shows the importance of charge transfer to scavenge or neutralize free radicals, thus electrons have a role in mitigating the effects of inflammation.[vi] This might explain how bodywork and movement therapies can help resolve acute or chronic injuries, and how patients with inflammatory conditions can benefit from barefoot contact with the Earth.
In a pilot study, grounding appeared to alter measures of immune system activity and pain, showing benefits against delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) among four out of eight participants.[vii]
Researchers also looked at the effects of grounding on massage therapists' quality of life and pain.[viii] They observed "consistent beneficial effects" in areas highly relevant to the profession, namely pain, physical function and mood. The results demonstrated that grounding benefited multiple domains relevant to their job, supporting overall wellness and quality of life.
3. Cardiovascular Health
Grounding appears to increase the surface charge of red blood cells, thereby reducing blood viscosity and clumping and profoundly reducing cardiovascular risk and events.[ix]
A 2013 study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine states that walking barefoot "reduces blood viscosity, which is a major factor in cardiovascular disease."[x] Blood viscosity describes the thickness and stickiness of your blood, and the lower it is, the easier the blood flows through blood vessels and circulates throughout the body.
High Blood Pressure
In the first known study measuring the influence of grounding on high blood pressure, systolic levels among subjects with high blood pressure decreased when they grounded themselves at home for at least 10 hours a day for several months.[xi] The systolic level drop ranged individually from 8.6% to 22.7%with an average decrease of 14.3%.
Pulse Rate, Blood Oxygenation and Other Markers
Researchers observed changes in pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygenation, perfusion index and skin conductance during and after grounding subjects for 40 minutes.[xii] "These results warrant further research to determine how grounding affects the body. Grounding could become important for relaxation, health maintenance and disease prevention," the authors wrote.
4. Protection From Common Viruses
Due to its natural anti-inflammatory effects on the human body, Earthing may positively affect cases of common flu and colds.[xiii] In addition to accelerating immune response after vaccination, Earthing also improves the immune response, which is essential for recovering from flu.
Get Started Grounding Today
Getting grounded is free and readily accessible. It does not require conductive sandals or Earthing products at all. The easiest way to do it: Go barefoot -- walk, lie down, stand or sit in a chair with your two feet on the ground for a few hours every day.
On land, conductive surfaces for grounding include soil, grass, sand, gravel, rock and concrete.[xiv] Damp earth or at water's edge is recommended as moisture enhances conductivity. You cannot ground yourself on asphalt, vinyl and wooden surfaces, which are non-conductive.
[i] Chevalier G et al "Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth's Surface Electrons" J Environ Public Health. 2012; 2012: 291541. Epub 2012 Jan 12.
[ii] Sinatra S et al "Electric Nutrition: The Surprising Health and Healing Benefits of Biological Grounding (Earthing)" Altern Ther Health Med. 2017 Sep ;23(5):8-16.
[iv] Chevalier G et al "The effect of Earthing (grounding) on human physiology" European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics. 2006;2(1):600-621.
[vii] Brown D et al "Pilot study on the effect of grounding on delayed-onset muscle soreness" J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Mar;16(3):265-73.
[viii] Chevalier G et al "The effects of grounding (earthing) on bodyworkers' pain and overall quality of life: A randomized controlled trial" Explore (NY). 2018 Oct 11. Epub 2018 Oct 11.
[ix] Chevalier G et al "Earthing (grounding) the human body reduces blood viscosity-a major factor in cardiovascular disease" J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Feb ;19(2):102-10. Epub 2012 Jul 3.
[x] Chevalier G et al "Earthing (Grounding) the Human Body Reduces Blood Viscosity--a Major Factor in Cardiovascular Disease" J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Feb; 19(2): 102-110.
[xi] Elkin H et al "Grounding Patients With Hypertension Improves Blood Pressure: A Case History Series Study" Altern Ther Health Med. 2018 Nov ;24(6):46-50.
[xii] Chevalier G et al "Changes in pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygenation, perfusion index, skin conductance, and their variability induced during and after grounding human subjects for 40 minutes" J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jan ;16(1):81-7.
[xiii] Mousa H "Prevention and Treatment of Influenza, Influenza-Like Illness, and Common Cold by Herbal, Complementary, and Natural Therapies" J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jan ;22(1):166-174. Epub 2016 Apr 6.