Earthing and the Nervous System

dr_stephen_sinatra_md_149by: Stephen Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Earthing, here it is in a nutshell: Earthing is the discovery of significant health benefits resulting from direct contact with the Earth's natural, subtle surface energy by walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors in physical contact with conductive sheets, mats, or bands that transfer the energy from the ground into the body.

One of the most important dividends of Earthing is that it helps balance the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the largely involuntary part of the nervous system that regulates mainly visceral body business like heart and respiration rates, digestion, perspiration, urination, and even sexual arousal.

Specifically, Earthing acts to promote the calming, or parasympathetic mode of the ANS, often overwhelmed by the influence of the active, or sympathetic mode, as a result of daily stresses. The calming effect begins pretty much instantly when you are outside barefoot on the ground or indoors and in contact with an Earthing device.

In a study just published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal, electrophysiologist Gaetan Chevalier, Ph.D., and I demonstrated improved heart rate variability (HRV) during 40-minute grounding sessions while test subjects sat comfortably in a recliner chair.

You may not be familiar with HRV. It is a measurement of stress and ANS function used by doctors. Normal HRV is associated with good ANS function and lessens the likelihood of cardiovascular events. Poor HRV, conversely, is an indicator of stress and ANS dysfunction.

Surrounded as we are these days by constant psychological arousal from stressful news, a sour economy, and a volatile world, anything that can improve ANS and HRV function is of great benefit for overall health. Exercise, tai chi, yoga, and meditation are examples. You become more relaxed and you sleep better. This effect is precisely what people typically tell me as well after they start Earthing.

Our study confirmed a balancing effect on the sympathetic and parasympathic nervous system and a restoration of normal tone that reduces the stress response. These responses go beyond basic relaxation and may explain in part the repeated reports from people who experience lower blood pressure and improved arrhythmias after they start Earthing.

In cardiology, doctors regard a balanced ANS that supports good HRV as an indicator of better heart health. Disturbed ANS and HRV means an increased risk of arrhythmias, coronary artery spasm, and sudden cardiac death. HRV has also become a reliable clinical tool for measuring survival potential after a heart attack.

Heart rate variability is not the same thing as heart rate. Your heart beats faster when you exert yourself or become stressed, and it slows down when you relax - but that's not HRV. HRV refers to the imperceptible variations in the heart's beat-to-beat interval that result from the basic breathing process. We refer to it technically as respiratory sinus arrhythmia.

You can't feel the difference, but when you breathe in, your heart rate increases just ever so slightly. When you breathe out, it decreases every so slightly. We can see these fluctuations on an electrocardiogram, and we've learned even more from sophisticated computer analyses of beat-to-beat intervals.

Let me give you an example here. Have you ever had an electrocardiogram exercise stress test on a treadmill? If so, you may recall that you remain hooked up for a time after the test. The reason is that your doctor wants to see what your heart rate is doing after exertion on the treadmill.

Your heart rate may rise to 150 beats a minute during the test. Afterward, it should drop down into a de-accelerated zone of say 100 beats or less in about six minutes. If not, and it stays higher, you have a classic indicator of disturbed HRV, and increased likelihood of cardiovascular trouble. You may, for instance, have a beat rate of 112. That's not good enough. I remember as a young cardiologist years ago waiting even a half-hour or so for some patients' heart rates to drop down sufficiently.

It has become clear also that your HRV is an accurate assessment of your ability to cope with both internal and external changes. It is, in fact, "the most accurate predictor of sudden death and the most accurate reflector of stress," according to Paul Rosch, M.D., president of the American Institute of Stress in New York City. "If you can alter your HRV, that is, increase it, you can reduce the likelihood of stress-related disorders, including cardiovascular disease."

In patients who experience anxiety, emotional stress, panic, fear, and/or symptoms of involuntary muscle contractions and spasms, including headaches, cardiac palpitations, and dizziness, Earthing represents a genuinely promising therapy. These patients often see positive effects within 20 to 40 minutes.

As a cardiologist, I repeatedly treated the human wreckage that stress - acute or chronic sympathetic overdrive - can exact. In trying to rebuild and restore the wreckage, I have applied the best tools that both conventional and alternative medicine has to offer. Reconnecting the body to the Earth offers perhaps the most natural tool available anywhere. I've seen this simple remedy do some amazing things.

Here are just a few cardiovascular stories I have heard recently:

● After 10 weeks of sleeping grounded, a 73-year-old woman reported that her blood pressure went down by 10 points and she sleeps much better.

● A couple started sleeping grounded. Her snoring stopped and he sleeps better. Her blood pressure went down from 150/90 to 120/80 after one night!

● One woman who experienced benign but distressing PVCs (premature ventricular contraction, a form of arrhythmia characterized by racing of the heart or extra or skipped beats) said that sleeping grounded eliminated them. No only that, her husband's atrial fibrillation episodes also stopped. He has been taking Coumadin for his condition and, in conjunction with his doctor, was able to reduce the dosage.

Coumadin is a popular blood thinner medication. Earthing also has a blood thinning effect. As I have reported before, anyone on blood thinning medication who wants to start Earthing must consult with his/her physician and keep close track of their INR (International Normalized Ratio), a widely-used measurement of the blood's clotting tendency.

Previous Earthing investigations have demonstrated a marked alteration in a variety of biological parameters after about 20 to 30 minutes. Others in several days. Some show even a dramatic change immediately at grounding (in less than 2 seconds). The HRV study showed an instant change in HRV that kept improving all the way to the end of the 40-minute period of grounding, suggesting a greater benefit with time. We believe that the ANS may be one of the first, and possibly the first, of the major body systems that react to Earthing.

Stephen Sinatra, MD, FACC, FACN, CNS, a board-certified cardiologist and certified bioenergetic analyst with more than 35 years of experience in helping patients prevent and reverse heart disease, specialized in integrative cardiology combining conventional medical treatments with complementary nutritional and psychological therapies. Now retired from clinical practice, Dr. Sinatra lectures widely on the metabolic approach to cardiovascular disease and electromedicine.

His latest book is Earthing:The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? In it, he introduces the fascinating discovery of major health benefits resulting from direct physical contact with the Earth's natural, subtle electric energies. 

Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, M.D., has written previously about Earthing on the website.
Towards the top of the right column on this page you will see links to these articles under Related Articles.

Complimentary Earthing books and products were provided to this site for evaluation purposes.

October 2011

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