In 1977, I became a board-certified cardiologist. After writing dozens of peer review articles, books, and chapters in medical text books over the past 40 years, I thought about my greatest discoveries as a physician. Indeed, it was the utilization of coenzyme Q10 in my patients as well as the cardiovascular implications of grounding, also known as Earthing the body. This chapter is a testimony to the incredible discovery of grounding to the natural electric charge of the planet.
It was almost 15 years ago at an American College of Cardiology conference that I met Clint Ober in San Diego. He introduced to me the theory of grounding, and it made a lot of sense to me. I was excited about the entire concept, as well as trying to take it to a higher level. However, like anything else in medicine, the theory behind grounding needed intensive research. Ever since that encounter with Clint, more than 20 peer reviewed articles on the benefits of grounding have become available to mainstream medicine.
Over the past 4 decades, I have treated hundreds of patients with acute coronary syndrome and unstable angina, as well as acute myocardial infarction. Although the utilization of thrombolytic therapies, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, stents, and statin medications are crucial in the care of these patients, the grounding phenomena also needed to be recognized. This chapter will discuss the cardiovascular implications such as blood pressure control, improving heart rate variability, and blood thinning. All these crucial elements reduce cardiovascular risk.
Blood Pressure Considerations
Although most doctors are privy to pathological situations in raising blood pressure such as coarctation of the aorta, adrenal tumors, thyroid storm, and acute renal shutdown, to name a few, most hypertensive situations are of an idiopathic nature requiring pharmaceutical and lifestyle changes for appropriate control.
Over the years, I have used a nonpharmaceutical approach in many of my patients utilizing Mediterranean-type diets, mind/body techniques, targeted nutritional supplements, detoxification, and low-level exercise programs. Fortunately, high blood pressure in most cases is an easy situation to control without pharmaceutical support. However, in any patient with moderate to severe hypertension with any involvement of renal insufficiency, aggressive pharmaceutical therapy needs to be considered. In many patients, simple weight loss of a mere 5 to 10 pounds can be therapeutic, especially when taking targeted nutraceutical supplements.
Over the last decade or so, our research group has encountered multiple anecdotal reports of patients sleeping grounded or walking barefoot on the earth who appreciated subsequent blood pressure lowering. In many of my own patients who were borderline hypertensives, sleeping grounded assuaged higher blood pressure numbers. Other doctors reported similar results with their own patients. Although my colleagues were seeing anecdotal results, a clinical investigation needed to be done.
A small pilot study was performed by one of my cardiovascular colleagues, and all 10 patients in the study had remarkable blood pressure lowering at the end of the trial period and several were able to discontinue their pharmaceutical medications.1
Systolic levels decreased over this time, ranging individually from 8.6% to 22.7%, with an average decrease of 14.3%.
The reasons why earthing can have such a profound impact on blood pressure lowering is that it reduces inflammation and pain,2
calms and attenuates an overactive sympathetic nervous system,3
while improving the electrodynamics of blood viscosity at the same time.4
Earthing perhaps may be the easiest possible way to lower blood pressure. The most recent pilot study combined with my own clinical experience demonstrates that people with mild to moderate hypertension
can normalize with grounding interventions. In patients with moderate to severe hypertension, the reduction in pharmaceutical support has also been realized when grounding the patient. In addition to blood pressure lowering, many of my patients commented that arrhythmia awareness was attenuated as well.
Premature ventricular ectopic activity (PVC) may be seen in the hypertensive individual as well as in patients who consume too much caffeine, alcohol, and even sugar. Although PVCs are generally harmless in patients with normal left ventricular function, they can create undo stress and worry for many. Several of my patients who slept grounded who also had PVCs reported sleeping better with life-changing attitudes. Perhaps that improvement in PVC awareness was related to a reduction in sympathetic tone and attenuation of the “stress response.”
In a study of 27 patients, grounded participants had improvements in heart rate variability (HRV) that went beyond basic relaxation3
(Figure 32 1
). HRV refers to beat-to-beat alterations in heart rate. During resting conditions, the electrocardiogram (ECG) in normal individuals demonstrates periodic variation in R-R intervals (the R peak is the most visually obvious peak of the ECG). To simplify, “fixed” heart rates without any variation are detrimental to the cardiovascular system. Variable heart rates provide reliable, noninvasive information on the autonomic nervous system (ANS), including its sympathetic and parasympathetic components. HRV is an important indicator of the status of autonomic balance as well as stress on the cardiovascular system.5
A decrease in HRV indicates autonomic dysfunction and is a predictor of not only stress on the cardiovascular system but also sudden cardiac death and progression of coronary artery disease as well. The positive effects of grounding on HRV suggest that simple grounding supports the cardiovascular system. Excessive sympathetic stimulation and/or diminished vagal tone are markers of a stressed cardiovascular system. There are multiple situations that contribute to sympathetic activities including physical, emotional, behavioral, and pharmaceutical factors (see Table 32 1
Figure 32.1 Grounding system showing patches, wires, and box connecting to a ground rod planted outside through a switch (not shown) and a fuse (not shown). Similar patches and wires from the hands were also connected to the box to ground the hands.
Table 32.1 FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO CHRONIC SYMPATHETIC ACTIVATION
Air pollution: Ambient particulate matter <10 µm [PM (10)]
Insulin resistance, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome
Congestive heart failure
Psychosocial and behavioral conditions
Social isolation and loneliness
Hostility, anger, or rage
Abuse of stimulants
Short-acting calcium channel blockers
Simply stated, when one grounds to the electron-enriched earth, an improved balance of the ANS occurs. Improvements in HRV can support patients with emotional stress, anxiety, fear, and any other symptoms of autonomic dystonia.
Negative emotions such as anxiety,6
have all been demonstrated to reduce HRV. Grounding has the potential to support HRV, reduce excessive sympathetic overdrive, balance the ANS, and thus attenuate the stress response. This has important prognostic considerations, especially because an association between depression and increased risk of cardiovascular events has repeatedly been observed in both the healthy population and those with established cardiovascular disease (CVD).7
The premature infant can also benefit from earthing.
A 2017 study performed at the Pennsylvania State University Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Hershey revealed that grounding premature infants produced
immediate and significant improvements in measurements of the ANS.10
Grounding improves vagal tone and may support resilience to stress, which could lower the risk of neonatal mortality in preterm infants.
Grounding the babies, from 5 to 60 days of age, increased HRV, indicating improved vagal tone. Grounding was achieved by adhering a grounding patch on the skin of the babies, while in their incubators or cribs, and connecting the patch wire to the hospital’s grounding system. Among the babies tested, grounding raised parasympathetic tone, which may enhance vagus nerve transmission and thereby improve the stress and inflammatory regulatory mechanisms in the preterm infants.
Recent research has revealed that the vagus nerve plays a major role in the so-called anti-inflammatory reflex, a mechanism controlling basic immune responses and inflammation during pathogen invasion and tissue injury. Among other things, the nerve’s actions help to inhibit excessive production of proinflammatory chemicals.11
Grounding, indeed, has tremendous therapeutic potential to support those in need. In fact, it is perhaps the most common intervention to improve autonomic function (Tables 32 2
). But how do we explain this healing, energetic phenomenon? It is well known that the earth possesses a slightly negative charge, the result of countless lightning strikes as well as solar radiation. This planetary attribute is based on a limitless, renewable reservoir of free-electrons, which are negatively charged subatomic particles.13
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