There is a buzzword that has been swimming through the health and wellness circles of this world. It has begun to gain some attention and even a few studies have popped up that support it. Earthing. Maybe you’ve heard of earthing, or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about. Either way, let’s explore the concept a little.
Earthing, or grounding, is centered around the idea that health benefits come from physically connecting with the earth by going barefoot, sitting, or kneeling on dirt, grass, the beach, or anywhere dirt, rocks, pebbles, or sand can be found. Unpainted, untreated concrete might work in a pinch. Earthing is touted to help you sleep better, improve blood flow, aid exercise recovery, reduce inflammation, fight pain, boost the immune system, and promote relaxation and well-being.
I am always a little leery of anything new that crops up claiming to drastically increase my health. I’ve found health improvements often come gradually as I eat better, exercise, and continue using the supplements and products that have won me over. Earthing has a few studies that look promising, but they don’t use many participants and have not been double-blind. I’d like to see a few more before I’m wholly convinced. Does this mean I won’t test it out for myself?
I’ve been barefoot all day and I’m seriously contemplating attaching a grounded copper wire to myself while I sleep tonight. Just because I’m skeptical, does not mean I don’t have an open mind. Actually I lose the shoes fairly often, kicking them off as I wander around work, home, out to the mailbox, to take my dog out, and many other places. I don’t have the callouses to hike the scalding desert trails in my area barefoot, but I do enjoy wriggling my naked toes in green grass, soft sand, and even mud. So I’ve been earthing for years without knowing it.
How does it work? Our bodies are electrochemical beings, moving charged particles around all the time. By being grounded to the earth, we are free to discharge any excess energy or, better still, draw in electrons that counteract free radicals. The ground has plenty of free electrons to spare and free radicals are looking to steal them from anywhere they can. So, in theory, the earth serves as a giant ball of perpetual antioxidants. Very interesting if true. This electron sharing idea is the source of the healing benefits claimed on many website, most of which sell books and products designed to aid your earthing abilities. There are a few minor problems with the theories.
Free radicals are everywhere in the body, stripping electrons from anything they bump into. These interactions take place all the time and very quickly. Some free radicals are actually useful, applied to destroy invading bacteria and viruses. Blood flowing through the feet will contain free radicals that could be eliminated, but I’m not sure of the total effect on the entire system. Longer exposure and more surface area would help perhaps. Rubber soles are insulators, but they are not perfect insulators or you could never be electrocuted or even shocked by someone wearing a sweater and shuffling their feet. You get some transfer even with them. Skin is also an insulator, slowing the transfer to some degree even when barefoot.
The good news is there is still some evidence that being in contact with nature has health benefits, both clinical and anecdotal. Several studies have shown that walking in greenery has heart health benefits over walking in more urban areas. There has and always will be a specialness inherent in standing barefoot in a field, lying in tall grass, walking along a beach, dipping your toes in a lake, lake, or the ocean. There is feeling of contentment that spreads through the body at just the thought of these activities. I also must admit that some of the best sleep I have ever had has been in a thin sleeping bag on the ground when you would expect this to be far from the case. So there very well may be something to the idea of earthing. With cholesterol problems in my genes, I’m up for just about anything that could help with heart health.
No matter what, a daily dose of sunshine, fresh air, and greenery will do you some good. Those have plenty of science behind them in their abilities to lower blood pressure and relieve stress. Earthing shares another beautiful benefit with these activities. It’s free. Why not take your shoes off for a moment and enjoy the earth beneath your feet? It may just take away your pain, promote healing, and let you sleep more soundly than ever. It costs you nothing to test it out.