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Key Takeaways

  • Grounding or earthing is the act of being in direct contact with the earth’s surface, regardless of its material (for example, it may be dirt, grass, or concrete) or one’s pose (standing, sitting, lying, etc.)
  • During grounding, the body reaches the same electrical potential as the earth due to the electrons it receives from its surface. In a sense, grounding allows to electrically reconnect with the earth.
  • Regular grounding promotes healthy physiological changes that are essential for strong health.
  • One of the most interesting benefits of grounding is its ability to stabilize the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which leads to an improvement in one’s sleep-wake cycles, better sleep, healthier nighttime cortisol levels, and other effects.

Actions to Consider

  • Every once in a while, go barefoot. Any kind of surface counts, it doesn’t matter if it’s concrete or grass.
  • In this study, the subjects remained grounded for 40 minutes straight, but you can start with shorter sessions. 
  • Other factors that the authors of the study recommend for improved autonomic function: exercising, nurturing healthy social connections, practicing meditation and faith, restoring healthy sleep, losing excess weight, fighting stress, and quitting smoking.
  • In terms of supplements, omega-3 fatty acids are an effective way to improve autonomic function.

Grounding: an easy escape from the high voltage of modern life?

Grounding, also known as earthing, is a largely under-researched phenomenon. Essentially, it’s all about getting in physical contact with the earth’s surface to electrically reconnect with it.

During grounding, the body reaches the same electrical potential as the earth due to the electrons it receives from its surface. In theory, this restores balance in your inner electrical charge—and may even be beneficial for the systems in the body that heavily operate on electrical impulses, like the nervous system.

But does grounding work in practice?

What was this study about?

Published in 2011 in the Integrative Medicine journal, this study researched whether grounding has an impact on autonomic nervous system (ANS) tone and heart rate variability (HRV) as one of the direct manifestations of this tone.

A quick reminder: what is the autonomic nervous system?

The ANS is the part of the nervous system that works without conscious input. Essentially, the ANS is always regulating all physiological processes in your body on autopilot.

The ANS consists of three subsystems:

  • The enteric nervous system controls the functions of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) can be roughly seen as the ”gas” pedal that mobilizes the body’s resources. It’s often described as the fight-or-flight portion of the ANS.
  • The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) can be roughly seen as the ”brakes” that slow down many of the body’s processes to promote growth and healing. It’s often called the rest-and-digest or sometimes the feed-and-breed ANS.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic portions of the ANS are in a constant push-pull relationship. For example, the SNS increases heart rate and blood pressure when needed, while the PSNS drives it down. An increased level of activity in any part of the ANS is called an increased autonomic tone.

What your heart rate variability can say about your lifestyle

The easiest non-invasive way to evaluate one’s autonomic tone is to measure their heart rate variability (HRV), meaning the changes between one heartbeat to another. In a healthy cardiovascular system with a healthy autonomic tone the HRV is flexible—it quickly adapts to the body’s needs. 

However, many factors lead to chronic overstimulation of the body’s sympathetic nervous system, leading to an increased sympathetic autonomic tone and reduced HRV. Basically, this means being in a constant fight-or-flight mode. Here’s a quick list of factors that may lead to this state:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Panic, depression, anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Loneliness, social isolation
  • Anger and aggression
  • Smoking, abuse of stimulants (including caffeine)
  • Lack of physical activity, sedentary lifestyle

An increased sympathetic autonomic tone and reduced HRV eventually increase cardiovascular risk. So, can grounding help to prevent these problems?

What are the results of the study?

Grounding leads to an improvement in biological parameters in a time-depending matter. In this study, the subjects went through a 40-minute grounding session, and their autonomic tone and HRV kept getting better over the course of this period.

Conclusion

Modern life is extremely stressful.

Stress inevitably builds up and wrecks your health through many different pathways—increased sympathetic ANS tone and reduced HRV are a few of them.

Luckily, grounding is a simple and effective habit you can adopt today to balance the matter.

Reconnect with the earth and get healthier at the same time: how fabulous is that?

link to study:

http://imjournal.com/pdfarticles/IMCJ10_3_p16_24chevalier.pdf

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