"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

Experimenting with "grounding" - part 1

Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash

Those who know me well know that I am not into anything remotely "woo woo". Although, if you also know my worldview, and hold an alternative one, then you might think that's a bit of a contradiction! Anyway...........

That said, I am a big proponent of exploring alternative health strategies and a reluctant recipient of conventional medicine. Interesting place for me to land, given that I grew up in a medical family, and studied in the allied health field where we learned much about the intricacies of the human body (particularly from the diaphragm up) and the effect of damage and/or illness on neurophysiology, respiration, swallowing, and speech and language development in particular.

Exploring alternatives
Living with an autoimmune condition over the past almost-20 years has taken me on a journey of discovering and exploring different ways of managing symptoms and improving my health overall. Some of these have, out of sheer necessity (and when things get scary), involved conventional medical interventions, including garden-variety prescription medications. But as the years have gone by, I've found that more and more I'm looking for alternative solutions and choosing to explore these first.

If you've ever read any of my posts, you will likely have discerned that I believe in a creative God who has made each one of us, "fearfully and wonderfully" (Psalm 139:14). I read a book a number of years ago, written by Phillip Yancey and Dr Paul Brand (hand surgeon and leprosy specialist), titled just that - "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made". In it the authors describe the human body as "an endlessly fascinating repository of secrets". The detail in this book, and the sequel "In His Image", blew my mind, and had me all the more convinced that we are definitely NOT some random conglomeration of chemicals and reactions with ancestry in the murky, primordial slime. On the contrary, I believe that the human body is the most amazing and gob-smackingly awesome design.

Diet and lifestyle
Over the years, I've explored several different dietary approaches to autoimmune disease - the macrobiotic diet, the GAPS protocol, and the Autoimmune Protocol. I've also applied a variety of lifestyle changes, such as supplements to support improved sleep (so critical for healing), walking and weight-bearing exercise for bone health, and daily strategies to ensure my circadian rhythms are not disrupted unnecessarily (yay sunshine!!).

Lately, I've become interested in the practice of "grounding" (or "earthing"). I know, it was a little bit left-of-centre and ever-so-slightly "woo woo" for me, and it's still a bit of a controversial topic, not least because of the lack of scientific studies to support the effectiveness of practicing this extremely simple strategy. But I'm nothing if not a fan of anecdotal evidence, and have always been completely care-less about what others think of the methods I choose to use to improve my own overall health. All that matters to me is that it has a measurable effect for me (and by measurable, I mean I can see or feel the difference it's making in my health). I acknowledge that the strategies that work for me may not work for others.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Grounding, in a nutshell
Normal metabolic processes of the human body, as well as other modern lifestyle practices, generate reactive oxygen species, otherwise known as "free radicals", which lack electrons and create a buildup of positive charge in the body. This is not a good thing (free radicals are implicated in chronic disease and the ageing process), and so grounding allows electrons to flow into the body from the ground (which has a mild negative charge, or excess of electrons), thereby neutralising these free radicals and damping down the ensuing inflammatory processes to which they contribute. That's the theory in a nutshell (as far as I understand it anyway).

And it makes sense to me. Believing that the human body is the most amazing, intricate, and still, in some ways, incomprehensible creation, I can absolutely believe that inherent in the design is the need to take care of it in ways that perhaps I don't yet fully understand.

What does the (limited) research say?
According to the Wellness Mama website, there is "emerging research" that indicates grounding can help with many aspects of health, including (but not limited to) reducing inflammation, reducing chronic pain, improving sleep, increasing energy, lowering stress, normalising circadian rhythms, normalising blood pressure, relieving muscle tension, and supporting adrenal health. Many of these are areas of interest to me. WM also mentions grounding as one of the (many) benefits of being at the beach in this post, and given that it's my dream to live walking distance from a beach, this post was further encouragement in that direction!

Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash

Aside from blogs that discuss grounding though, there is actually an increasing number of studies that have investigated some aspects of this practice. One study from 2004 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, reports that "grounding the body to earth during sleep reduces night-time levels of cortisol and resynchronises cortisol hormone secretion more in alignment with the natural 24-hour circadian rhythm profile" especially in females. The study also reported subjective measures of improved sleep and reduction of pain and stress.

Another study from 2013, also in the JACM, reported that grounding produces "increases in the surface charge on RBCs [red blood cells] and thereby reduces blood viscosity and clumping. Grounding appears to be one of the simplest and yet most profound interventions for helping reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events." Sounds good to me.

Okay, so randomised controlled trials these two were not, and yes, some are sponsored by suppliers of earthing products, but at the end of the day I'm only really interested in myself and the potential benefits to my health (it's all about me)!!!

However, this article describes another study - looking at "grounding the human body to neutralise bioelectrical stress from static electricity and EMFs" - that appeared to have a little more robust research design, and produced favourable results from grounding compared to placebo. And this one from 2015, in the Journal of Inflammation Research, (full of data, read at your peril!) concluded that during grounding a "rapid resolution of inflammation takes place because the Earth's surface is an abundant source of excited and mobile electrons". The authors give this concluding statement:

Accumulating experiences and research on earthing, or grounding, point to the emergence of a simple, natural, and accessible health strategy against chronic inflammation, warranting the serious attention of clinicians and researchers.

Okay! So from my (very) limited Google searching, it appears that all of the studies I came across seem to be leaning toward the conclusion that "loss of ground contact plays a much larger [negative] role in overall health" than might otherwise have been thought.

Perhaps not quite so "woo woo" after all.

A little experiment
And so I decided to do my own little "N = 1" experiment with grounding. But in doing so, I realised that one of the problems was that initially I would need to determine the "ground rules", or in other words what was acceptable "ground". I wasn't actually sure!!

Was standing on concrete acceptable?
What about brick paving?
Did I need to be at the beach?
Could I stand on plain old dirt?
Or did it have to be grass?

Given that we don't have ANY grass in our yard, I really needed to find this out. But then I came across a "Grounding Q & A" by Stephen Sinatra of the Heart MD Institute website that explained that grounding is easily done whenever "walking barefoot on the grass, sand, dirt or on concrete". Apparently damp or wet is better, but any of these will work. Yay, we have sand, dirt AND concrete!!

And then, how long should I be "grounded" each day? Again, Stephen Sinatra to the rescue. Apparently, grounding to the earth changes your physiology immediately. But obviously the more you ground, the more you can benefit - after all, to quote Sinatra, "the Earth is the biggest antioxidant there is"!! So, as my husband loves to say (with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek) "if a little is good, then more MUST be better"!!

Photo by Paul Tyreman on Unsplash

So, to my experiment
For the next month I plan to "ground" for 20 - 30 minutes each day, on as many days as I possibly can. This will involve either standing on a patch of dirt/sand or on the concrete in our backyard, or on the pavers in our front yard. I know, it feels weird even saying it!! Being by nature very scientifically oriented, I want desperately to remove as many variables as possible, so I think I really should just stick to one or the other medium. But if it's rainy, then I probably won't want to be standing on dirt, so the concrete or pavers will have to do.

I was also thinking I should keep the time of day constant if at all possible. Just because it removes another potentially confounding variable. But it's impossible to control them all, of course, and I'm just going to do the best I can!

I wonder what will happen?
So if you're at all interested in how this little experiment goes for me, then come back for an update in about a month's time!! While "grounding" as a concept might be relatively new to me, I'm pretty sure my ancestors would have gone barefoot much of the time, or worn leather sandals or shoes - much more conductive than the synthetic or rubber soles on many of my own shoes and sandals. It seems that modern man is constantly discovering the wisdom of the ages, unfortunately often not before damage is done.

So here begins my grounding experiment. Stay tuned!

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14, NIV)

8 comments

  1. I'm really interested in the way this turns out. Since we've moved to Queensland I'm barefoot a lot more than I used to be - both inside and out. I think I feel better for it. Every time when my head does the overwhelm thing that it tends to do walking on grass or sand does it every time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love warmer weather for that very reason too Jo, being barefoot is such a lovely feeling! We're finally experiencing some lovely mild spring days here in Perth, so I'm barefoot more and more. But actually connecting with the ground is something else, since our floors are timber on joists, so I do really have to go outside to get my feet on the dirt. I'm hoping that the month long experiment will yield some noticeable results, and I'm quite curious to see what the outcome will actually be!!

      Delete
  2. Grounding is so important. I hope it goes well for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Bronnie, at the very least it's lovely to stand still in the fresh air and sunshine at least once a day, lol. Thanks for visiting and commenting xx

      Delete
  3. This is so interesting. Very interesting. Particularly for me (given my fibromyalgia and all). Interested in your results! #teamlovinlife

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would imagine if it works at all, it would definitely help someone with fibromyalgia, Leanne. I don't have that, but I do have an inflammatory condition. It's quiet at the moment, but I'm hoping for other generalised benefits such as improved sleep and less joint stiffness. I'm as hopeful as anyone else that something so simple could prove to be beneficial!!

      Delete
  4. It sounds like an interesting undertaking Sue - I've read about grounding and I do love walking around barefoot in Summer - not so much in Winter - do socks cut off the effects? I'll be back to read your report on the outcome :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barefoot always feels so lovely and free to me, Leanne, except, as you say, in winter!! I'm not sure about socks, anything that is insulating prevents the effect (so rubber thongs are out) but woollen or cotton socks would probably be fine. Because our house has wooden floors, I actually need to be outside to get the benefits, whereas concrete floors might be okay. Anyway, I try to find a sunny patch of sand!!!

      Delete

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post. Please feel free to leave a comment!