The Science of Earthing Grounding and its Impact on Pain and Inflammation

Does Grounding Really Work? The Science of Earthing and Inflammation

When I first found out about earthing I was a complete skeptic. After all, it seemed like pseudo-science. And not anything particularly real.

It took me a while to understand how and why grounding works.

The reality is that standing on the earth (earthing), without the insulation of your shoes, sends a flow of electrons through your entire body, and that can help to get rid of pain and inflammation.

It’s hard to believe that something so simple, can be so powerful.

Skeptical? Want to know if grounding really works?

Well, let me explain the science. It all starts with electricity.

Do We Have Electricity In Our Body? (YES)

Where do we get the energy that we need to breathe, to walk, or to run? What powers the muscle cells to make a contraction? What powers the heart to pump blood? What powers all cells so that they can function properly?

Ultimately, we get our energy from the sun, but we need to be able to convert the sun’s energy to a type of energy that we can use to power our bodies. That starts with plants.

Plants capture the sun’s energy, by making carbohydrates out of the atoms of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H2O (water), and the by-product they release is the oxygen we breathe.

When we consume and break down plants, (or animals that eat plants), electrons are released and paired with oxygen. This releases molecules of ATP, which is the energy molecule that powers our movements.

All the elements we take in, such as oxygen, sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium have a specific amount of electrons. Those charges, whether positive or negative, react with other atoms and molecules. Our bodies generate and use electricity through these interactions.

And that’s where free radicals come in.

Biological Pathways of Free Radicals - What is a Free Radical in Your Body?

Biological Pathways of Free Radicals – What is a Free Radical in Your Body?

In order for molecules or atoms to be stable, they need to have a balanced number of electrons. When a molecule or atom has an unpaired electron, it becomes what is known as a free radical.

These free radicals want to pair, and will steal electrons from other atoms, often in a domino-like chain reaction.  This causes damage to the cells, and can even mutate DNA.

This is what is called oxidation, or oxidative stress.

Unpaired Electrons (Free Radicals) Cause Damage to your Body  

Oxygen contains two unpaired electrons. When 2 oxygen atoms bond, they form a free radical known as a reactive oxygen species (ROS).

A certain number of free radicals are important. For instance, our white blood cells (the “first responders” to infections), go to the site of the infection, and release a shower of free radicals (an oxidative burst), to destroy harmful bacteria.

But in today’s society, with our exposure to unhealthy foods, stress, pesticides, viruses, toxins, radiation, etc., we increase the amount of free radicals in our bodies.

Other examples of oxidation (free radical damage) are when an apple or avocado browns after it is exposed to oxygen, or when metal corrodes or rusts.

In our bodies free radical damage causes inflammation, which in turn causes ALL kinds of health issues.

Chronic Inflammation Causes Diseases Like Cancer and Diabetes

When free radicals attack cells and tissue, the body’s immune system responds by transporting various cells and certain chemicals to the location of the injury so that the healing process can happen.

This is what the inflammation process is.

While many people see inflammation as a negative effect, it’s actually part of the body’s protective healing process.

However, when unchecked numbers of free radicals are permitted to continuously attack or eat away at tissue,  you get chronic inflammation.

Research has revealed that unrestricted free radicals in the body leads to chronic disease, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, neurological and pulmonary diseases.

If you want to be healthy and stay healthy you MUST keep chronic inflammation in check. That takes antioxidants.

How to Increase Antioxidants in Your Body

Antioxidants are electron donors. They are molecules that deliver electrons to free radicals, thereby neutralizing them.

You Can Get Antioxidants from Food

This is why we are told to eat foods rich in antioxidants. Herbs and spices, leafy greens, berries, walnuts and olive oil are excellent sources of antioxidants.  Other electron donors are vitamins C and E, selenium and other trace minerals, as well as natural compounds such as bioflavonoids, carotenoids, and curcumin.

How To Increase Antioxidant Absorption Through Grounding

Standing barefoot on the earth can provide you with an endless supply of electrons …. (antioxidants).

IMPORTANT NOTE: In this article I use the terms “earthing” and “grounding” interchangeably. There are a lot of earthing products on the market, but for the sake of this article I’ll be referring to standing barefoot on the ground when I use either term.

Electrical engineers know the surface of the earth has an abundance of electrons. This is why your cable, refrigerator and many other appliances have a “ground” connection. (That is the 3rd prong in an electrical plug.)

WARNING: Do not insert your finger into an electrical socket!

When you are grounded, there is a transfer of free electrons from the earth that move into the body. This can reduce uncontrolled inflammation and all of the diseases it contributes to or causes.

There are many benefits to earthing – here are few:

Earthing Benefits List

  • Reduced pain and inflammation
  • Improved glucose regulation
  • Improved immune response
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved blood flow
  • Improved heart rate
  • Reduced stress (as measured by cortisol)
  • Reduced oxidative damage
  • Improved heart rate

Here’s the Proof – Earthing / Grounding Studies

Let’s start with a few images.

Earthing and Improved Circulation

Image 1: Tissue damage causes increased heat. In thermography, this shows up as the violet and red colors. Notice high levels of inflammation in the arms, and how this person’s fingers are not registering in the ‘Before Grounding’ pictures due to very poor circulation.

After 5 nights of grounding, this person has reduced inflammation and improved circulation.

Grounding and Heart Disease

Image 2: Thick blood cuts off oxygen flow and is an independent risk factor of heart disease. What you see in this image are drops of blood taken before and after forty minutes of grounding.   Notice how the clumping is decreased after grounding.

Earthing has been shown “to reduce acute and chronic inflammation, blood glucose in patients with diabetes, red blood cell (RBC) aggregation, and blood coagulation. It also has been shown to produce symptomatic improvement in chronic, muscle and joint pain, a reduction in overall stress levels and tensions, a boost in positive moods, an improvement in heart rate variability, and an improvement in the immune response.”

How Earthing Can Help Your Entire Body

How to Get Grounded

Because earthing fixes the root cause of issues it has many benefits throughout the body.

Earthing and Inflammation

Inflammation is correlated with most chronic diseases. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes are the most common and costly chronic diseases.

It’s very possible that inflammation is an electron deficiency. We know that wounds heal very differently when the body is grounded, and heal much faster. (R)

Antioxidants are known to fight inflammation in chronic diseases. Antioxidants are electron donors, and grounding offers the body an endless supply of electron donors.

Grounding has been shown to reduce inflammation caused by oxidative stress and has been shown help immune function.

Earthing to Lower Blood Pressure

A study appearing in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine involved 10 participants with various degrees of hypertension and trouble controlling blood pressure. The study found that grounding resulted in a significant improvement of blood pressure with better controls. (R)

According to the Earthing Institute, grounding may improve blood pressure in a variety of ways:

A calming effect on the nervous system.
A normalizing effect on the stress hormone cortisol.
Reduction of inflammation and pain.
Better sleep.
Improved blood flow.

Earthing for Anxiety

There are many studies showing the correlation between anxiety and oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress as we discussed above, is caused by too many free radicals that eventually eat away at our tissues.

I know that free radicals eating away at my body would certainly cause stress and anxiety, whether I’m consciously aware of it, or not.

One way that scientists can measure anxiety levels is to test cortisol levels. This is a stress hormone that is elevated during panic attacks and stress. (An increase in cortisol increases the amount of amino acids and glucose in the blood so that we have the energy to deal with the high stress situation.)

Cortisol levels have been shown to normalize in grounding experiments. (R)

According to WebMD in the article Negative Ions Create Positive Vibe, research has shown that negative ions (which is what we receive from the earth when we are grounded), improves mood and relieves stress.

Earthing for Depression

Earthing for Depression

In a 6-week double-blind Randomized Controlled Trialon massage therapists, it was found that earthing significantly increased physical function and energy, while significantly decreasing fatigue, depressed mood, tiredness and pain, compared to those not being grounded. Even a month after the study, physical function was still increased and depressed mood and fatigue were decreased. (R)

It’s also been found that diurnal rhythms are disrupted in a large portion of of people who suffer major depressive disorder.

Diurnal rhythms are a type of circadian rhythm, which have been shown to have measureable improvements with earthing. (R)

Earthing and Thyroid

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck. It releases several hormones that regulate metabolism and other bodily functions.

Free T4 (free thryoxine) measures the amount of thyroxin that is not bound to proteins. Low free T4 levels may be due to hypothyroidism, which can result in weight gain, hair loss and dry skin.

A study found that earthing the human body during the night increases the concentrations of free T4 and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and reduces the level of free T3 (free triiodothyronine). (R)

Because earthing may improve metabolism in hypothyroid people, be sure to keep an eye on medications, as less medication may be needed. Be sure to test regularly and talk to your doctor to make sure you are not over-medicating.

Earthing and ADHD

A meta analysis review of 6 studies, involving 231 ADHD patients, found that oxidative stress was significantly associated with ADHD. (R)

While there are no studies directly measuring the impact of earthing with ADHD, we do know from studies that earthing reduces oxidative stress and improves sleep.

Earthing for Sleep

In a small study, 12 people who suffered from sleep issues, pain and stress, were grounded to the earth during sleep for 8 weeks in their own beds using a conductive mattress pad. Earthing significantly improved sleep. The participants’ 24-hour circadian cortisol profiles showed a trend toward normalization.(R)

“Results indicate that grounding the human body to the earth (“earthing”) during sleep reduces night-time levels of cortisol and resynchronizes cortisol hormone secretion more in alignment with the natural 24-hour circadian rhythm profile. Changes were most apparent in females. Furthermore, subjective reporting indicates that grounding the human body to earth during sleep improves sleep and reduces pain and stress.”

Earthing for Jet Lag

Earthing for Jet Lag

Our bodies follow a 24-hour cycle (a circadian rhythm), which regulates many biological functions such as sleep, eating, temperature, etc. In fact, all cells in the body are affected by this clock.

Travelling between time zones can be very challenging on the body, especially when traveling eastward. When traveling east, the length of the day is shortened. It takes more time for the body to reestablish normal circadian rhythms when going eastward (shorter days), than when going westword (for longer days).

Earthing can make this adjustment period shorter. From the book: Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? is the following quote:

“People who travel great distances have repeatedly reported that grounding for half an our after arrival significantly reduces, if not completely eliminates, jet lag. This phenomenon is best explained by the body sensing different frequencies from the electrons of the Earth and receiving “Local cues” from these vibrating electrons as to time of day.”

Earthing and Diabetes

In a small study, subjects were divided into 2 groups. One group was earthed via a copper conductor to the earth, and the other remained without contact with the Earth. Blood and urine samples were taken. It was found that continuous earthing of the human body decreases blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes.

Be sure to read our other article on how type 2 diabetes may be caused by a bacterial infection. Earthing has been shown to improve immune function, so it’s possible that the reduced glucose levels may be due to the improved ability of the body to fight off bad bacteria.

Grounding for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability in world. To improve symptoms, it’s important to have good blood flow to the lower spine, so that nutrients can be delivered to the disks in the back.

Grounding reduces blood viscosity and clumping, so this can happen. A study found that just a 1-hour contact with the surface of the earth improved inflammation and blood flow to the torso. (R)

Another blinded study of 60 people who had chronic muscle and joint pain for at least 6 months, found that chronic back and/or joint pain was improved in 74% of the participants. (R)

Other Links and Excerpts of Various Studies on Earthing

Grounding’s impact on muscle injuries:

[1] “Grounding produced changes in creatine kinase and complete blood counts that were not shared by the sham-grounded group. Grounding significantly reduced the loss of creatine kinase from the injured muscles indicating reduced muscle damage.”

Earthing’s impact on the brain:

[2] “Earthing significantly influences the electrical activity of the brain.”

Earthing’s impact on skin tissue repair:

[3] “The results demonstrate, for the first time, that even one-hour contact with the earth restores blood flow regulation to the face suggesting enhanced skin tissue repair and improved facial appearance with possible implications for overall health.”

Earthing’s impact on stress:

[4]  “In 2006 Chevalier, Mori and Oschman published a double-blinded study documenting the effects of earthing on 58 healthy ‭ ‬adult ‭ ‬subjects. ‭ ‬Earthing ‭ ‬produced ‭ ‬statistically ‭ ‬significant and nearly instantaneous reductions in overall stress levels ‭ ‬and ‭ ‬tensions ‭ ‬in ‭ ‬the ‭ ‬body ‭ ‬as ‭ ‬measured ‭ ‬by ‭ ‬electroencephalograms, ‭ ‬electromyograms, ‭ ‬and ‭ ‬blood ‭ ‬volume ‭ ‬pulse.”

[10] “Results indicate that grounding the human body to earth (“earthing”) during sleep reduces night-time levels of cortisol and resynchronizes cortisol hormone secretion more in alignment with the natural 24-hour circadian rhythm profile. Changes were most apparent in females. Furthermore, subjective reporting indicates that grounding the human body to earth during sleep improves sleep and reduces pain and stress.”

The effect of grounding on mood:

[5] “Earthing (grounding) refers to bringing the body in contact with the Earth. Health benefits were previously reported, but no study exists about mood. This study was conducted to assess if Earthing improves mood. 40 adult participants were either grounded or sham-grounded (no grounding) for 1 hr. while relaxing in a comfortable recliner chair equipped with a conductive pillow, mat, and patches connecting them to the ground. This pilot project was double-blinded and the Brief Mood Introspection Scale (comprising 4 mood scales) was used. Pleasant and positive moods statistically significantly improved among grounded-but not sham-grounded-participants. It is concluded that the 1-hr. contact with the Earth improved mood more than expected by relaxation alone.”

Earthing’s impact on inflammation:

[6]  “An experimental injury to muscles, known as delayed onset muscle soreness, has been used to monitor the immune response under grounded versus ungrounded conditions. Grounding reduces pain and alters the numbers of circulating neutrophils and lymphocytes, and also affects various circulating chemical factors related to inflammation.”

Earthing and diabetes:

[7]  “Earthing the human body during rest and physical activity has a direct, beneficial effect on the regulation of blood glucose.”

Earthing and thyroid function:

[8]  “…thyroid function is influenced by Earthing, as documented by a significant decrease of free tri-iodothyronine and an increase of free thyroxin and thyroid stimulating hormone. Through a series of feedback regulations, thyroid hormones affect almost every physiologic process in the body, including growth and development, metabolism, body temperature, and heart rate.”

Impact of distance from earth’s surface in cardiovascular disease:

[9]  “Trend analyses showed that disease prevalence increased by floor level, for all three outcomes. When we investigated block apartment residents alone, the trends disappeared, but one association remained: higher odds of venous thromboembolism history on 6th floor or higher, compared to basement and 1st floor.”

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, autonomic nervous system (ANS) dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed heart rate variability (HRV), hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease. The research done to date supports the concept that grounding or earthing the human body may be an essential element in the health equation along with sunshine, clean air and water, nutritious food, and physical activity.”

How Earthing Can Help Your Entire Body

Earthing Detox Symptoms

Although most people do not experience side effects, there are some who may encounter some detoxification symptoms.

Earthing accelerates the immune response to fight off infections. Because of that, there can be a transition period where one can feel worse before feeling better.

As the immune system fights off infections, many bacteria and parasites release toxins at the time of death. These toxins can cause bloating, headaches, allergic reactions, sleep disturbances, etc.
If this occurs, limit earthing to about 15 minutes per day, and build up from there. Also make sure to drink plenty of water.

If you are taking prescription medication, it’s possible that earthing can reduce the amount of medication needed. Be sure to visit your doctor and get tested regularly, so that you are not being overmedicated.

How to Get Grounded

Standing or walking barefoot outside is a great way to get grounded. Keep in mind, however, that asphalt is synthetic, and not conductive. Cement is conductive, but not as conductive a walking in the grass. Walking on the beach, or swimming in sea water is a great way to get connected to the earth.

There are also now devices that hook into the ground connection of a home outlet, which is the lower rounded prong. Some people have chosen to use the grounding sheets on their beds, which allows them to stay grounded through the night, helping them get a very restful night’s sleep.