Barefootin': It Grounds Us
Reap Earth’s Energy for Wellness
Imagine feeling the surge of well-being that comes from strolling barefoot on a moist, sandy beach or sinking all 10 toes into a cool, lush lawn on a warm summer day. Both comprise an experience known as “grounding” or “earthing”. Recent research suggests that these tempting life experiences offer more than feel-good frolics; they might help reboot health.
"By the end of the day, I could hardly walk. My feet would be screaming,” relates Lynn Deen, 66, of Mio, Michigan, describing dealing with Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis in both heels. “I struggled with it for four years. I tried everything, from conventional treatments to complementary therapies. Nothing touched it.”
Then Deen listened to an online interview about earthing, a therapy that involves connecting with the Earth’s electrical field, either through skin-to-ground contact (barefoot strolls) or by using home grounding products available online. Motivated by a yearning to maintain her active lifestyle, she decided to try it. Three months later, she attested, “My heels were completely normal.” And because she opted to use a special earthing bedsheet, Deen says her husband benefited, too. “We have better sleep, less snoring and a better sense of well-being,” she reports.
Theoretically, because the waterabundant human body is a good electrical conductor, such grounding allows negatively charged free electrons, which are rife on the Earth’s surface, to enter the body and scour it for free radicals: those positively charged particles that may cause disease and inflammation.
“Most of the diseases today are related to chronic inflammation,” says Dr. Martin Gallagher, a physician and chiropractor who heads Medical Wellness Associates, a large integrative medicine clinic in Jeannette, Pennsylvania. “That inflammation is considered to be the buildup of free radicals. The Earth’s free electrons neutralize these chemical buzz bombs bringing the body back to homeostasis. It is that state of equilibrium that allows the body to heal.”
Today’s lifestyles have nearly eliminated that natural healing effect, says James Oschman, director of the Nature’s Own Research Association, in Dover, New Hampshire. “When I was a kid, my shoes came off in the spring and didn’t come back on until fall,” Oschman recalls. Today, almost everybody wears plastic-soled shoes, rides in vehicles and hangs out indoors on carpet and wood or tiled floors, completely blocking these free electrons, which Oschman maintains are the most effective and efficient antioxidants available. He states, “We’ve experienced a total disconnect.”
His claim is supported by small studies that are beginning to accumulate, indicating the potential benefits of grounding. Here is a sampling of the findings, from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Helped the body’s natural healing response. Researchers compared physiological changes during a two-hour grounding session of 14 men and 14 women and then a two-hour sham session. Changes in respiration and heart rates plus blood oxygenation within 20 minutes of grounding appeared to aid the healing process, reports lead author Gaetan Chevalier, Ph.D., director of the Earthing Institute. He notes that as in previous studies, subjects with acute inflammation experienced less swelling, redness, heat and pain.
Improved sleep and reduced pain and stress. Researchers grounded 12 patients looking for these benefits while they slept. Comparing their cortisol levels (a stress-related hormone) prior to the eight-week study with results from periodic retesting and follow-up interviews, they found that grounding reduced nighttime levels of cortisol and better aligned its secretion with the body’s natural 24-hour circadian rhythm, which is important for sleep. Subjects reported improvements in all three areas.
Decreased muscle pain. Researchers looked at blood counts and chemistry in eight active exercisers, following routines that assured muscle soreness. Four subjects treated with grounding techniques showed a boosted immune response and reported reduced pain.
Oschman says that some professional athletes swear by the practice, including members of four U.S. Tour de France teams (between 2003 and 2007) that were grounded nightly during the competitions.
Gallagher, who estimates that 70 percent of his patients consciously practice grounding, sees improvement in conditions including heart disease, arthritis, chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, attention deficit disorder, allergies, asthma, menopausal symptoms, sleep apnea and jet lag. Judged safe for all ages, blood-thinners present the only known complication, so heart patients should consult their doctors.
“This is like the relationship of vitamin D from sunlight,” concludes Gallagher. “We are receiving something that is integral to our design, part of our nature. Earthing isn’t an intellectual concept; it’s a necessity of life.”