Your Body Runs on Electricity

You Need More Electrons. Here's How to Get 'Em

April 03, 202424 min read

You Need More Electrons.  Here’s How To Get ‘Em


What Are You Deficient In?

Due to our current environment and culture, our bodies are pretty likely to be deficient in a few things.  Magnesium, vitamin D, Omega 3 fats, sleep, movement and attention come quickly to mind for me.  There are a host of environmental factors that have to do with our industrialized world that cause us to not receive the amounts of these and other critical components of health that would have just been a natural and abundant part of our lives if we were born 150 years or more ago.  We won’t get into all of them.  When thinking about that stuff, my mind always goes to the chemicals we can’t get enough of.  Vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids.  Biochemistry’s my jam.  But there are plenty of other things we need that our current habitat deprives us of.  

The one we’re going to talk about today is electrons.  Did you know that your body might be hankering for more electrons?  It’s not something that most people think about, but it can be one of those little changes you can make to give your body more of the natural ingredients it can use to produce the state of optimal health that it’s naturally inclined to create.  But…why?  Why do we need more electrons?  Let’s get into it.

Results of Lack of Electrons

So, we know that immune system diseases, cardiovascular disease, cancer rates, metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and alzheimer’s disease have risen alarmingly over the past few years.  There can be a lot of reasons for this and every health solution evangelist can make a compelling argument about how it’s all related to their pet thing, be that environmental pollution, sitting at desks, blue light from screens, social media, the quantity of Hugh Jackman movies there are, whatever.  There’s some truth in most of it and there does definitely seem to be a common threat between chronic low-grade inflammation levels and all of these chronic diseases of aging.  Inflammaging helps us to age and get infirm more quickly.

There are all of these different contributing factors that can add to our chronic inflammation load.  The way I see it, doing what you can to eliminate each of them might get you a 5-10 % improvement in your inflammation.  I don’t know the actual numbers, I don't’ think anyone does, but I do know that a lot of small improvements added up equal a significant change.  

Alright, so it’s April.  Where I live it’s not fully warm yet on a regular basis.  When was the last time you touched the surface of the earth?  How long were you in contact with it?  You might have heard of “grounding” or “earthing” before.  What do you think about it?  Do you fully understand it?  Do you do it yourself?  Have you noticed a difference?  “Grounding” or “earthing” is putting yourself in contact with the surface of the earth.  Our ancestors used to be in contact with the surface of the earth almost all the time.  Most of us don’t touch the earth at all anymore.  Our shoes and asphalt and floors of buildings, cars, bicycles they all insulate us from the natural electrical charge of the surface of the earth.

The Earth is a Battery

the earth is a battery

In the book “Earthing” by Clint Ober, Steven Sinatra and Martin Zucker, they say that “The earth is a six sextillion ton battery that is continually being replenished by solar radiation, lightning and heat from the molten core.  The surface of the earth provides rhythmic pulsations of natural energy providing electrons to people, land animals, sea life, plants, trees, insects, bacteria, viruses and fungi.”  Most of this information comes from their book.  

The earth was here first, right?  Before we were installing smart home systems the earth was doing it’s thing.  So the earth provides a reference voltage by which to measure other electric forces and currents.  The “ground” or zero potential against which all other voltages are established and measured is the electric potential of the surface of the earth.  There is no absolute zero electric potential.  What is measured is the difference in electric potential between two points, one being the reference point (the earth).  

A ground connection has the ability to absorb or dissipate an electrical charge, thereby maintaining a grounded object at the electrical potential of the earth.  Grounding is central to the safe and stable use of electricity.  Grounding an electrical system serves as an electrical sink that minimizes interference, reduces risk of equipment or human damage and prevents static buildup.  When a device or person is connected to an earth ground, that device or person will equalize with and maintain the stable electrical potential of the earth.

I’m sure you’re familiar with static electricity, which mostly comes from 2 different materials sliding against each other, like a comb through your hair or your socks on the carpet or rubbing a cat and then static sticking styrofoam packing peanuts all over him.  Which is a thing people do.  I”ve seen pictures.  Poor kitties.  That builds up a positive charge in your hair and a negative charge in your comb or whatever two things and it sometimes results in all of the electricity very quickly flowing out of the one object to the other.  

The surface of the earth is naturally negatively charged because it has extra electrons available to be transferred to objects that are more positive than the surface of the earth.  Remember, electrons are negatively charged and protons are positively charged and neutrons are neutral.  The earth is mostly minerals and water which makes it a decent conductor.  Our bodies are also mostly water and minerals which makes us similarly conductive.  Not as conductive as a copper wire, certainly, but able to carry and be affected by electricity.  And while we think of the ground charge of the earth as being steady and stable, it actually rises and falls according to the position of the sun, how many lightning bolts are striking it and where, where it’s currently raining, etc.  

As we lift off from the surface of the earth, the electric potential increases 100-200 volts with every meter above the earth you travel, but air is an insulator without a current, so we don’t feel it.  There is also something called telluric currents that travel along the surface of the earth based on the position of the sun, so you get more energy from direct contact with the earth at noon and at certain places on the earth at certain times and less at night.  The electrons at the surface of the earth are continuously renewed and virtually limitless.  None of that really matters too much for our purposes in this episode, but I think it’s interesting.

Your Body is Affected by Electricity

So, why does it matter if you put your body in direct contact with the earth’s surface?  When you make direct contact with the earth your body almost instantaneously equalizes your electric potential with that of the earth.  The flow of electrons is very small but very significant.  It takes 20-30 minutes of continuous contact with the earth to start having full-body physiologic changes, but many changes start instantaneously, especially at the point on your body that’s touching the earth.  Grounding gives us a stable electrical environment in which to carry out our physiologic functions.  Something that most people haven’t realized that their cells and organ systems need.  But they do. 

It seems reasonable to me that we evolved to thrive in natural conditions.  Eating what we could hunt and gather, moving frequently throughout the day, constantly in contact with the surface of the earth, natural sunlight during the day, full darkness during the night.  Sometimes hungry, sometimes cold, sometimes stressed out.  Often bored.  Life is pretty different now in a lot of ways.  One of which is that the earth’s electromagnetic field is largely dc, or direct current, very subtle, of course.  

Home electric wiring systems are ac, or alternating current cycling at 60 cycles per second in the US, 50 in most other parts of the world.  Alternating current is foreign to our biology.  So are all of the wonderful electronic devices that make our lives so enjoyable.  And so are radio waves microwaves, cell tower signals, wifi signals, etc.  We talked all about these electromagnetic field disruptors in episode 101 “Are EMFs Affecting You?”  I even have a resource guide you can grab for free with EMF mitigating products you can buy to try to reduce the impact of electropollution on your body.   If you remember from that episode, the main point I was trying to get across is that all of these electropollution influences on our bodies are a low level source of stress to our cells and body systems.  So if we reduce that stress, we have more capacity to create health or deal with other challenges instead of wasting our resources coping with electromagnetic pollution.

Mitigating EMF influences on our bodies by shielding ourselves from electropollution can be useful, but so, too, can creating a stable electric potential within our bodies by becoming grounded.  An electric industry system designer named Roger Applewhite published a study in the European journal of Biology and Bioelectromagnetics showing a significant voltage drop across an in-line resistor on the human body without contact with the earth and with grounding.  This was to show that the earth can prevent disruptive electric potentials on the body when the body is connected to a ground source and hypothesis that grounding protects against the cellular stress that comes from the oscillating electromagnetic fields that we all live and work in every day.

Tons of things can stress our bodies both physiologically and psychologically.  Work, relationships, money, highly processed food, poor lighting, noisy environments, the list goes on and on.  One classic hormone associated with stress is cortisol.  We need enough cortisol, especially at the right times of the day, but too much cortisol is typically associated with high stress and can cause sleep disorders, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, poor immune function, mood disturbances, high blood sugar and stubborn weight gain.  A small study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2004 showed that sleeping grounded resynchronizes cortisol secretion from abnormal to normal patterns.  

One of my favorite lines in the book “Earthing” is “grounded people have a different physiology than ungrounded people.”  If you want to have different health outcomes, you’ll want to live with a different physiology than most people.  Gaetan Chevalier, PhD, who has spent 20 years researching electrophysiology and 10 years researching earthing says that the contemporary biochemical model of the human body is severely lacking.  What’s largely missing is a fundamental understanding of the bioelectrical nature of our physiology.  He says the body is a highly intelligent bioelectrochemical system that is strongly influenced by its internal electrical environment.  Countless electrical charges regulate countless chemical reactions, including enzymatic transformations, protein formation and pH balance.  Contact with the earth gives the body a stabilizing reference point and maintains normal functioning of all of these chemical and electrical processes.

Your Electron Deficiency

Dr. Chevalier says that his 20 years of research has led him to conclude that lack of grounding leads to internal electrical instability that in turn results in multiple domino effects happening in the body at the same time, predisposing our bodies to numerous disorders that come from electrical, chemical, enzymatic, protein, neurotransmitter and other systems that are affected by unstable electrical patterns.  We don’t fully appreciate the essential nature of our electrical potential and electric capabilities.  We know our nerves fire impulses and that we can use EKGs and EEGS to measure electrical firing of hearts and brains and we can use a TENS unit to electrically treat our muscles, but we don’t otherwise think much about the electric potential of our body.  Maybe it’s time we started.

According to grounding researchers, most people have an electron deficiency.  Their bodies are crying out for more electrons and aren’t getting them.  Free radicals (while not all bad - part of a longer discussion) are radical because they are desperately hungry for electrons.  This helps them do good things like pulling electrons off pathogens and damaged tissues, but excessive amounts of free radicals can damage healthy tissues and age us faster by oxidizing us.  Antioxidants aren’t quite the panacea they used to be believed to be, but they help reduce the damage of free radicals by donating an electron to them to neutralize them.

When we’re connected to the earth, electrons can move freely from the earth’s surface to the body (and vice versa if needed for some reason) so those free electrons we can collect if we need them are available to neutralize free radicals.  The most likely benefactors of free electrons are mitochondria, which pass electrons along like a football through an assembly line of enzymes that eventually create an end result of ATP, which is our cellular energy currency.  The energy that keeps us alive and supplies our cells and body systems with the energy they need to do their jobs.

Because electrons are so reactive, they probably become attached to other molecules in order to be transported around the body.  Nobody really knows how this happens, but some people think they move along the meridians described by acupuncture, with the K1 acupuncture point being the most effective point of entry.  (That’s under the center of the ball of your foot area).  Some think sweat glands and capillaries are the mechanism of uptake.  Some say it’s probably the bloodstream because the electric potential in veins equalizes with the earth immediately when you’re grounded.  Some think the living matrix plays a role.  This is a conductive network of connective tissue like collagen that’s sort of a scaffolding throughout the whole body and might be able to hold an electric potential.  The extracellular matrix reaches most parts of the body including nerves and is a likely high speed communication network.  Others say maybe it’s the autonomic nervous system, that the electrons can be transported from free nerve endings into the central nervous system or bloodstream.  

Effects of “Grounding”

Some effects of grounding happen instantaneously and others take 30-40 minutes to fully happen.  Usually physiologic effects that can be measured in a lab return to pre-grounded levels 10-20 minutes after discontinuing grounding.  It’s weird because it’s kind of slow and kind of fast at the same time.  There, however, are many things that happen in our physiology that happen too quickly to be explained by chemical reactions alone.  Electricity plays a bigger part in our biology than we realize.  Grounded people have a different physiology than ungrounded people.


The heart is one of the primary electrical structures in our body.  We know that cardiovascular disease wasn’t nearly the killer it is now back when everyone was living in constant contact with the earth.  There are, of course, thousands of other confounding variables in that statement.  So, ya know.  Grains of salt.  There’s a functional cardiologist named Steven Sinatra, MD, who got 12 medical buddies together in 2008 and they all took a drop of blood and looked at it under a microscope, then grounded themselves with electrical patches for 40 minutes then took another drop of blood and looked at it.  The pictures are in the book “Earthing” and they’re pretty shocking.  All the people had clumps of red blood cells in the first drop and much less clumpy red blood cells in the after earthing blood drop.  One thing that keeps your cardiovascular system healthy is having thin, free-flowing blood.  Dr Sinatra says you want your blood like red wine, not like ketchup.  Having red blood cells prone to clumping together prevents your blood from slipping through your circulatory system effectively and makes your heart have to work harder in addition to predisposing you to abnormal and potentially deadly clotting.

Dr. Sinatra was so interested in this finding with his friends that he and another cardiologist together with an electrophysiologist and a biophysicist did a study together on something called the zeta potential.  The zeta potential is the negative charge on the surface of a red blood cell.  Dr. Sinatra says our red blood cells operate electrically and the zeta potential enables the cells to slightly repel one another to prevent unwanted aggregation.  The stronger the zeta potential (or negative charge), the greater the ability to repel each other and the better the blood flow.  Low zeta potential means the blood is sludgy and more at risk for clumping and clotting.

He and his fellow researchers expected that grounding would improve zeta potential by up to 30%, which would be a significant improvement on the health of blood.  Instead, they found a 270% improvement in zeta potential of people when they are grounded.  They published their findings in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2013.  Lots of things can alter the electrodynamics of the cell’s outer membrane, most importantly high blood sugar can reduce zeta potential.  Dr. Sinatra says that he thinks the improvement in zeta potential is probably the biggest benefit of earthing.  

Arrhythmias are also improved with earthing, so is peripheral vascular disease, and inflammation is reduced, which is a big deal for cardiovascular disease.  And most other diseases, too.  We talked about heart rate variability in episode 23.  HRV can show you your level of stress and recovery.  Dr Paul Rosch, MD, says “HRV superbly indicates your ability to cope with both internal and external changes.”  I know I’ve heard before that the most accurate predictor of whether you’ll get injured during a competition or workout is your HRV.  Dr Rosch says “HRV is the most accurate predictor of sudden death and the most accurate reflector of stress.”  Yikes.  Sudden death.  I hadn’t heard that one before.  Double blind experiments with people connected to a grounding mat that is either plugged into a real grounded outlet or a fake one showed improvement in heart rate variability when grounded vs. fake grounded.  All of these experiments were pretty small, but still interesting.

Nerves and Muscles

EEGs show reduced overall activity in the brain within 2 seconds of grounding someone, so it’s postulated that grounding is calming to the nervous system and can quiet a chronically overactive fight or flight type response.  Grounding has also been found in small studies to restore muscles to a normal level of muscle tension.  If you’re overly tense, your muscles relax when you are grounded.  Some studies also suggest more efficient oxygen consumption during grounding.  Grounding has also shown to decrease delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, that’s the soreness you get after a good workout.  I actually really like muscle soreness, but if you recover more quickly, you're able to work hard again faster than if you need more downtime.

In 2003, 2005 and 2007, the American Tour De France Cycling Team were all grounded after their daily rides and the athletes reported better sleep, less illness, no tendonitis, better recovery and faster healing of injuries.  Not sure all the details on that, but my guess is that they probably use PEMF now, but I haven’t looked it up.  I love high powered PEMF.  It’s like grounding on steroids.  My favorite study from the book “Earthing” was done in Poland in 2013.  It was small, like less than 30 people, I think, double blind placebo controlled crossover study.  They showed that those who exercised grounded and stayed grounded for 30 minutes directly afterward had significantly lower blood urea levels and a positive protein balance and had more increases in muscle mass than those who were placebo grounded.

I told my family about it over dinner and I was talking about the challenges of being grounded while lifting and my son pointed out that I could put my earthing mat on top of my x3 platform which I put on top of my whole body vibration plate.  It would be ridiculous but also awesome.  I thought it would ruin my mat, though, so I’ve just been putting my bare feet on my earthing mat for 30 minutes after every workout and believing that it’s helping me.  Haha.  It’s so hard to know for sure, but I have been feeling pretty good lately, so maybe.

One NFL player wrote about how he was hooked up to a real time thermal imaging camera showing his inflammation and when he laid down on a grounding pad he could see the inflammation from the injury cool down within 15 minutes of adding the earthing pad.  So you might want your recovery drink, your recovery food, your recovery mental routine and your recovery electron donor to all help you become more resilient.

Anecdotal Reports

A great deal of the book “Earthing” and what you can read and hear from people are anecdotal stories of how grounding helped them in various and sundry ways.  Most of them have to do with improvements in inflammation and in sleep.  There are tons and tons of people who have had their inflammation and sleep improved by grounding.  And if you improve your inflammation levels and your sleep, pretty much every area of your life and health gets better, so it kind of makes sense that it’s touted as a bit of a cure-all.  There are tons of reports of people who have improvements in all kinds of chronic aches and pains, insomnia, stress, fatigue, anxiety, blood flow, menstrual symptoms, blood sugar control, neuropathy, swollen joints, headaches, asthma, allergies, seizures, constipation, wounds, eczema, bed sores, dry skin, dry eyes, food allergies, autoimmune issues like lupus, M.S, rheumatoid arthritis, and incontinence, lyme disease, migraines, recurrent infections, sensitive teeth, osteoarthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypertension, vision loss, bursitis, TMJ, bruxism, gum disease, range of motion, burns, plantar fasciitis, huntingtons, ALS, sleep apnea, autism, degenerative disc disease, electrosensitivity, happiness, creativity, skin radiance, weightloss, and decreased cravings for cigarettes.  It’s a lot.

Some women report that they had noticeably fewer and more mild symptoms of hormone fluctuations like hot flashes and mood swings during perimenopause if they were frequently grounded.  One big thing it can help with, too, is jet lag.  I’ve heard this a lot.  The book says that when a person exits a plane after traveling through multiple time zones, the local geomagnetic field frequencies and telluric currents can resynchronize the person’s circadian rhythm to the new time zone if they put their body in direct contact with the earth.  So, next time you fly somewhere, put your bare feet on the grass as soon as you can after you land.  One other thing I found interesting was that a lot of people report that wherever they put their grounding mat or sheet or whatever they use, they keep finding their pets there commandeering the mat for their own use.  The’ll instinctively know to lay on it and will search it out as a preferred resting place.

How to Ground Yourself

I think grounding is a good thing to do.  I don’t think it’s going to drastically solve all of your problems, or is the highest leverage change you can make to improve your future, but I do think it’s something worthwhile that takes very little effort, which is a plus.  Your body probably needs the extra electrons.  So, if you aren’t regularly grounding yourself, I would suggest that you give it a try if you feel so inclined.  The most obvious way is to walk barefoot on grass, dirt, sand, rocks or cement that’s a little bit moist.  If the cement is too dry it won’t conduct.  Asphalt is not conductive.  You can also sit in a chair with your feet in contact with the earth or lay down on the earth.  Wading and swimming in the ocean are great ways to become grounded.  Lake water is several hundred times less conductive than ocean water, but swimming in it is better than not being grounded at all.  Wading in a lake, though, is great.

There are also lots of other wellbeing benefits of being outside, connecting to nature, getting some vitamin D from the sun, etc.  Touching the dry bark of a tree doesn’t ground you but touching the sap would or holding the leaves or green stems would.  Touching the bark of a wet tree has a small benefit.  Walking in non-insulated natural material shoes, like leather moccasins, lets you collect electrons from the earth.  Ideally, you’d be grounded for long periods of time.  This is where indoor grounding products come into play.  They’re not free, like the earth, but they’re not outrageously expensive.  Your best bet is to put them where you spend the most timeThe longer you’re grounded, the more benefit you’ll receive.  

There are fitted bed sheets, mats, pads, blankets, patches and cuffs that you can buy.  They have a snap that you snap a cord into and then plug that cord into the little 3rd prong grounded part of an electrical plug.  Bare skin contact is the best.  Thin clothing with a normal amount of perspiration is also Ok, like thin socks or pajamas.  I’ve had a mat from the earthing store for, gosh, 12 years or more, probably and I recently got a new mat from the company hooga that I put under my keyboard on my desk at work so I’m touching it most of the day (especially my right arm, because I use the mouse with that hand, and that’s the arm that has 2 steel plates and 16 screws in it, so that’s a win for me), and I got a fitted grounding sheet for our bed, which I love.  There are even grounded bird perches for cockatoo cages and stuff.  They’ve been shown to help birds be less agitated.

The effects are subtle, but stacking up a few small wins makes a big difference.  And sleeping or working in contact with a grounding mat or sheet doesn’t take any extra effort beyond buying it and putting it there.  You can also get electrode type patches that will ground to a particular area, so if you’re wanting pain relief in a specific place, that might be a good option.  You might also want to check your outlet wiring first to make sure your outlets were wired correctly with the grounding prong being that third prong.  Sometimes houses get incorrectly wired or houses built before 1960 might not have a grounding prong at all.

ESD Products Don’t Work the Same

Once upon a time I had this shoe grounding sticker thing, but it came off after one hike, which was a bummer.  It was made to conduct the electric potential of the earth to your foot inside your shoe.  When I was buying my grounding checker device to make sure my grounding products are actually conductive and functional, I saw these strap things you can put on your shoes, but then I came to learn that there is a whole industry of “electrostatic discharge” items for people who work with electronic equipment, but those don’t work to ground you, just to slowly dissipate static electricity, so you won’t get the same benefits from ESD products as from grounding products.  I wish I could  have grounded couches and chairs and floors.  It seems like an easy win.  But no such luck yet.

Most people are unaware of their bioelectric nature and needs.  We live electric lives on an electric surface that’s optimized to help us heal.  Our collection of electrical circuits on which our trillions of cells rely for energy and instructions and the movement of nutrients and water into and out of cells require electrons.  Our heart, brain, nervous system, muscles and immune system need electrons to function.  We have unknowingly cut off our freely flowing source of extra electrons when we started wearing insulated shoes.  And having floors and sleeping on beds.  None of which I’m willing to live without.

If you want to learn more about electromagnetic fields, you can listen to episodes 101 & 102  and if you want a completely free list of EMF resources, there is a link on my website under free resources. 

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Christina Hackett, Pharm.D.

Healthspan Coach and founder of The Health Courage Collective

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