You’re Grounded! (but in a good way) – Part 1 discussed centering and grounding. Grounding, though, also has a more literal interpretation. It can refer to the physical connection between your bioelectrical body and the earth’s surface. Barefooting and earthing are two more ways to become grounded.
Eastern philosophies are centered around a vital energy – the life force – called qi (or chi) or prana that exists in all things. Practices like yoga, t’ai chi and qigong, as well as many martial arts, advocate practicing barefoot and preferably outside on the ground, directly connecting us with earth qi. This connection allows us to “grow roots” into the earth giving us energy and stability. We attune to the fundamental rhythms of nature.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the kidneys store the essence of a person. There is a point on the bottom of the foot called the yong quan point or “bubbling spring.” This point is called Kidney 1 (KD1) in acupuncture and reflexology. KD1 is the first point on the energy meridian associated with the kidneys. Working on KD1 produces calm and relaxation. It is also used to address headaches and gastrointestinal issues by drawing excess energy down from the upper body and grounding it. Walking barefoot stimulates the many nerve endings on the soles of the feet. It also works KD1.
There are pro’s and con’s to going barefoot. Shoes provide comfort. Shoes provide protection against cold temperatures and from objects that may cut or pierce the foot. Some micro-organisms in the ground can cause infection or disease if they enter through cuts on the foot. But shoes limit mobility and can lead to foot problems. Going barefoot allows for a natural gait, meaning less force on the foot and lower leg.
Driving barefoot is illegal in the US. OSHA requires employers to ensure employees use adequate foot protection in the workplace, but there is no such restriction on customers – “no shoes, no service” is not a law!
Earthing refers to reconnecting with Mother Earth. This is accomplished by standing and walking barefoot outdoors, or by sitting on the ground. Indoors there are conductive bed sheets or floor pads that can be connected to an earth ground system.
The subject of earthing is controversial. But studies and anecdotal evidence suggest benefits of earthing may include: reduced pain and inflammation, better sleep and less stress. Positive measurable effects on cortisol, blood viscosity and heart rate variability have been found. There may be improved immune response and wound healing.
Normal biological processes and our body’s responses to pollution and to injury result in oxidative stress that creates free radicals. Free radicals produce inflammation. Inflammation may be responsible for autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other chronic conditions. Damage by free radicals may also be a major cause of aging.
Free radicals can be neutralized by the addition of electrons.
Our bodies and our planet are comprised of water and minerals – both are electron conductors. The surface of the earth abounds with free electrons; the supply is constantly replenished by solar radiation, lightning strikes, moving air or water, and energy from the earth’s core.
Studies on the effects of the earth’s surface on human beings began in the 1990’s in Europe and the US; Clint Ober, author of Earthing: the most important health discovery ever? was at the forefront of these studies in the US.
Earthing’s main hypothesis is that by connecting the human body to the earth, free electrons flow into the body where they act as antioxidants and neutralize free radicals.
Electronic equipment (computers, TVs, microwaves, lamps, clocks, etc) and the accompanying wiring within walls produce electric fields even when the appliances are turned off. This electric field is known to interfere with sleep. Studies have looked at subjects sleeping in both grounded and ungrounded states. When test subjects were grounded, they essentially became an extension of the earth’s electric system. The 60 Hz electric fields produced by electronic equipment were reduced or cancelled; this is the “umbrella” effect described by Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman. Over time, grounded subjects displayed significant changes in biomarkers of inflammation.
We no longer walk barefoot or with leather-soled shoes; we no longer sleep on bare ground or on animal skins. The soles of our shoes are plastic or compounds; we sleep on elevated beds; we live and work in high-rise buildings. We are surrounded by concrete and steel, synthetic carpeting and floor coverings, and electronic equipment. We have disconnected. We have lost contact with the supply of electrons the earth provides and we have become electron-deficient. This allows free radicals and inflammation to play havoc with our immune system.
Earthing advocates spending at least part of the day grounded to the earth to reduce the likelihood of premature aging and chronic diseases.
Just as individuals who are already quite fit do not notice many changes when they begin a workout regime, those who are already quite grounded may not notice significant improvement when they begin a grounding regime. The less fit/grounded you are, the more you are likely to notice in the way of improvement.
And just as someone who hasn’t had a massage in a while and then gets one may experience mild “flu-like” symptoms, so may someone beginning earthing. This “healing crisis” should pass in a few days.
Remember to stay hydrated – the better hydrated, the more conductive the body is.
A word of caution: A large commercial aspect has developed around earthing. There are shoes with conductive plugs in the soles. There are grounding sheets and mats for sleeping and for desk work. Some of these connect to rods actually in the ground and others plug into the grounding plug of electric outlets. If you choose to pursue these methods, do your research and consider consulting with your electrician.
The human body represents, in many regards, unknown territory. Just because we don’t know now how something works and just because we can’t now measure certain effects (even though we may observe them) doesn’t disprove their validity. For how long was the earth flat? For how long did the sun revolve around the earth? Further study is needed into the possible health benefits of earthing.
Disclaimer: This information is intended as educational only. Nothing here is to be taken as medical advice. If you have any concerns about your health, consult the appropriate healthcare professional.
If you are taking medication, especially if you are taking thyroid medication or blood thinners, or if you have Lyme disease, consult your physician BEFORE earthing.
Ober, C. et al. Earthing: the most important health discovery ever? 2010. Basic Health Publications, Inc., CA
Oschman, J.L. et al, Biophysics of Earthing (Grounding) the Human Body: Bioelectromagnetic and subtle energy medicine, second ed. Edited by Paul J Rosch, MD. 2015, CRC Press, FL
Oschman, J. L., et al. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, Journal of Inflammation Research, 24 March 2015
(photo: lauramusikanski via MorgueFree)