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by Sarah Cimperman, ND

Scientists have uncovered something in our environment that may be just as important for good health as sunshine, clean water, and nutrient-dense food. It’s physical contact with the earth, also called earthing or grounding, and sometimes even "vitamin G." Strange as it sounds, we may be in danger of not getting enough. Instead of connecting to the earth, we’re cutting down rainforests, living in skyscrapers, growing gardens in boxes on rooftops, and dreaming about space travel. Few people in the United States live off the land the way their ancestors once did. We no longer spend most of our time barefoot and our homes no longer have dirt floors. For many people it’s actually rare to touch the earth anymore but new studies show that we may not be able to live well without it.

Reservoir of Electrons

Free radicals are unstable atoms or groups of atoms that have lost one or more electrons. They readily react with other molecules to get electrons back, and in the process, they can damage cells and DNA on contact, triggering inflammation and illness. A certain amount of free radicals are naturally produced as a by-product of metabolism and they’re normally neutralized by antioxidants. But too many free radicals can overwhelm our built-in capacity to contain them. We accumulate excessive amounts of free radicals when we’re exposed to electromagnetic radiation, when we come into contact with toxic chemicals in the environment, when we’re under stress, when we suffer from chronic diseases, when we consume unhealthy fats and too much sugar, and when our diets are deficient in antioxidants. In our modern world, these things are happening all the time.

Our planet’s surface has an abundance of negatively charged free electrons which are replenished regularly by heat from the earth’s molten core, radiation from the sun, and lightening. When we’re in contact with the earth, the exchange of electrons can neutralize the positively-charged free radicals in our bodies and help us maintain electrically stable environments. Unstable electrical environments change the pH of body fluids and the way that enzymes function, which slows chemical reactions and causes an uneven charge distribution to build up inside cells and tissues. Physical contact with the earth brings stability, restores our natural electrical state, reduces inflammation, and helps prevent damage to cells and DNA.

Research Studies

The research studies on earthing have been small and preliminary, but the results have been impressive. So far they’ve uncovered several specific benefits:

· Earthing can decrease the stickiness of blood cells which improves blood flow, prevents clotting, and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. (Chevalier 2012)

· Earthing can improve heart rate and rhythm. (Chevalier 2011)

· Earthing can improve sleep by reducing the secretion of stress hormones at night and resetting the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Sleeping grounded caused people to fall asleep more quickly, wake up less frequently during the night, feel less stressed, have more energy, and experience less pain. (Ghaly 2004)

· Earthing can activate the para-sympathetic part of our nervous system that helps us relax and deactivate the sympathetic "fight or flight" part of our nervous system that causes stress responses like increased heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. (Chevalier 2011)

· Earthing can normalize thyroid function. (Sokal 2011)

· Sleeping grounded can protect us from electromagnetic radiation. After thirty days study participants reported "significant relief from asthmatic and respiratory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, sleep apnea, and hypertension." (Ober 2011)

· Earthing can improve the re-sponsiveness of our immune systems. (Chevalier 2011)

A recent review of earthing studies confirmed these results and concluded that "emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS [autonomic nervous system] dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV [heart rate variability], hypercoagulable [sticky] blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease." (Chevalier 2012)

Electron Transfer Technology

Ironically, earthing can be done artificially with electron transfer technology. A wide variety of conductive appliances are available to transfer the earth’s electrons from the ground to your body. These include grounded mattresses, bed sheets with conductive silver threads, mats for the bed or floor, carbon loaded rubber computer desk mats, electrode patches that can be applied directly to the body, and bands that wrap around the body, wrist, or ankles.

All grounding appliances should be disconnected in case of lightening storms and these devices can interfere with blood-thinning medications. People who use them may experience adverse effects like tingling sensations, muscle cramps, malaise, aches, pains, and other flu-like symptoms, which are usually temporary and may improve with increased water intake.

Earthing Naturally

Despite technological alternatives, the best way to connect to the earth is by going barefoot on surfaces that conduct electrons. These include grass, sand, dirt, gravel, and concrete surfaces like sidewalks or even a warm concrete floor in your basement. Wet surfaces conduct electrons better than dry surfaces, and salt water conducts electrons better than fresh water, so activities like strolling on the beach or even walking in dew-covered grass deliver the biggest benefits. Painted concrete surfaces are not conductive, and neither are asphalt, vinyl, or wood surfaces.

Being barefoot is best and in some studies, results like the reduction of pain, stress, and tension were apparent in as little as thirty to forty minutes. If you can’t go barefoot, the next best thing is wearing leather-soled shoes because they do conduct some electrons. The worst footwear choices are plastic- and rubber-soled shoes because they don’t conduct electrons at all.

It’s time for us to reconnect with the earth and nothing could be more natural. To improve health and prevent disease, spend at least half an hour each day in contact with the earth’s conductive surfaces. Unlike electron transfer technology, direct physical contact has no negative side effects.

References available upon request.

Dr. Sarah Cimperman is a naturopathic doctor in private practice in New York City. She is also the author of the upcoming book, The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Blood Sugar, Increase Energy, and Reduce Cravings. For more information, call 646-234-2918, visit www.drsarahcimperman.com, or read her blogs online at  adifferentkindofdoctor.blogspot.com and naturopathicgourmet.blogspot.com. 

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