Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Earthing: Why Reconnecting With Nature May Be All You Need

Today I want to talk about something a little different. At first glance, it may seem incredibly hokey. Okay, it WILL seem incredibly hokey. But just stick with me here for a moment... I think there's really something to it.

I'm talking about earthing... the process of grounding your body to the earth. Direct contact, no socks or shoes. Skin on earth. (Or with the assistance of a grounding system, as you'll see later.) Believe it or not, there's good science to back it up... and not just through subjective measurements either... there are real, objective, measurable changes that take place in the human body when we connect with our earth. Reconnecting with nature in this way has been shown to reduce cortisol (a stress hormone), improve blood flow, and regulate our sleep cycles, among other things. Allow me to explain a little more...

The surface of the planet is electrically conductive, with the exception of extreme environments like deserts (1, 2). Essentially, the earth is teeming with electrons which, through direct contact with the ground, can have an impact on our internal bioelectrical environment.

Okay, complicated... I know. Lots of big words you tried to forget as soon as you finished your last chemistry final. Just know this... our bodies are electrical circuits. Our lives and our wellness depend on these circuits running properly. The beat of our heart, the function of our organs, the free-flowing nature of our blood, the ability to think and move... all of this is dependent on electrical impulses.

Now, if making direct contact between our bodies and the earth provides a transfer of electrons, or electrical potential, do you think this might have an effect on how our bodies operate? It just might... when you think about it, the notion isn't so crazy.

Luckily, some really smart people out there are putting earthing to the test. Here's what we know.

Earthing may improve cardiovascular health.
A recent study looked at the effect of earthing on blood viscosity (3). In a healthy body, our red blood cells maintain a negative charge on their surface, repelling other red blood cells away like a magnet. This is what allows our blood to flow freely through our body. Without this negative electrical charge, our blood would clot and life as we know it would end. Viscous blood, like that which would occur if this electrical charge were diminished, is associated with several problems, including hypertension and diabetes. We don't want that.

After 2 hours of earthing treatment via an earthing system (electrically connects you to the earth, without you actually making direct contact with the earth), subjects showed an increased surface charge on the their red blood cells, indicating improved cardiovascular health. To quote the study itself, "Grounding appears to be one of the simplest and yet most profound interventions for helping reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events." Talk about bang for your buck.

Sleeping grounded may reduce chronic pain.
Subjects who suffered from sleep disturbances and chronic muscle/joint pain were given either a night-time earthing treatment or placebo. Most of those who were given the grounding treatment reported reduced pain, while most of those in the control group did not (4).

Earthing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby reducing stress.
In a double-blind study, those who were treated with a 2-hour grounding session showed markers of reduced stress and increased rest and relaxation. The results were immediate upon beginning the treatment, and they faded slowly after the treatment ended (5).

Sleeping grounded reduces cortisol and regulates your sleep cycle, and may improve sleep, pain, and perceived stress.
In this study, 12 subjects who complained of sleep dysfunction, pain, and stress were asked to sleep on a grounded, conductive mattress (6). After 8 weeks, the subjects showed reduced overnight cortisol levels, and a normalization of the 24-hour cortisol profile (cortisol ebbs and flows throughout the day).

In addition to these objective measures... subjectively reported symptoms, including sleep dysfunction, pain, and stress were reduced or eliminated in nearly all subjects.

Earthing may reduce risk for osteoporosis.
One study found that just one night of grounded sleeping significantly reduced renal excretion of calcium and phosphorous, two important minerals in the degenerative disorder osteoporosis. In addition, this one night of sleep also had a significant effect on blood levels of iron, sodium, potassium, and magnesium (7). 

Earthing may promote antioxidant activity.
There's even a theory out there that earthing can help protect our cells from oxidative damage. The electrons picked up from the earth's surface may act as antioxidants, preventing the damage caused by free radicals (8). More antioxidant capacity means healthier cells, less disease, and healthier aging.


Okay so that's sort of a random hodge-podge of information. Let's bring it all together, shall we? Here are the benefits of earthing, as we currently understand it...
  • Improved blood flow and cardiovascular health
  • Possible reduced chronic pain
  • Reduced stress
  • Enhanced relaxation and recovery
  • Reduction in markers of osteoporosis
  • Possible increase in antioxidant capacity
Pretty cool huh? Plus, it's easy to do, and there's really no risk of harm... just walk around barefoot. You have no reason not to try it. Take off those shoes, get your feet dirty, go for a walk, swim in the ocean... if you wanna get a little crazy, lay out in the grass naked for a while. I can't think of a better way to get those electrons! Or if you want to get really serious, get yourself one of these earthing kits and give it a go!

But even if you're skeptical, think of it this way...

Being outside makes us happy.
In addition to all that, doesn't nature just bring a smile to your face? I mean, when's the last time you lounged around outdoors on a beautiful day and had a horrible time?? I'd bet that's never happened. At the very least, spending time outdoors is therapeutic because of the happiness factor. Whether it's the sun, the ocean, or walking barefoot in the grass, there's something about being outside that makes us feel good. I think we should take that as a sign that we're doing something good for our bodies, don't you?

3 comments:

  1. This is one of the best earthing posts I have read! Thanks for sharing. It makes me love my new minimalist earthing sandals from Earth Runners even more :)

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  2. I fully agree with the wonderful benefits of the Earth to our Body. I'm actually a supporter of holistic cancer therapy, I believe that every disease have its own counter cure from nature. We just have to keep our eyes open and be sensitive to what works and what doesn't.

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