In What is "Grounding" or "Earthing"?, we introduced the basics of “Earthing,” or “grounding”1: the process of connecting with the earth’s primordial, healing energy to reduce inflammation and ultimately improve health by promoting electron balance in the body. In this article, we provide a more in-depth explanation of the cardiovascular benefits of grounding, looking specifically at the profound effects on the autonomic nervous system (ANS), heart rate variability (HRV) and blood viscosity/zeta potential.
Feeling Groovy: Electron Balance and Health
The hippie wisdom in getting back in touch with our earthly roots just may have had something to do with grounding’s health benefits. Earthing can protect our bodies against chronic inflammation, which is, in part, caused by lack of electrons with which to neutralize positively-charged free radicals. As with antioxidant deficiency, electron deficiency due to insufficient contact with the earth’s electromagnetic surface, or “disconnect syndrome,” can result in excess oxidative damage.
When we attune to the earth’s electric potential, we soak up negatively-charged electrons that neutralize free radicals in our bodies. Many of Earthing’s benefits, such as chronic pain relief and faster wound recovery, may simply result from reduction of free radical activity and inflammation, which frees up the immune system to perform other reparations. Other antioxidant benefits such as lowered blood pressure and better circulation may also result from the blood thinning effect of grounding. While reduced inflammation may also explain improved sleep and lessened menstrual symptoms, these benefits may also be due to Earthing’s favorable effect on the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which leads to greater overall hormonal balance.
The Autonomic Nervous System
As a system which rapidly responds to emotional and environmental stimuli, the ANS controls a wide range of bodily functions. Cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, hormonal, urinary, and other body systems are regulated by the ANS’s sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) branch prepares the body to deal with stressors, while the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) branch relaxes the body.
When we are chronically stressed, we may experience symptoms like headaches, insomnia, muscular tension, back or neck pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, and even cardiac problems. These symptoms generally indicate excess activity of the SNS branch, (release of stress hormones) and depression of the PNS branch. Continual SNS activity can lead to chronic elevation of cortisol levels, which leaves us in a perpetual “fight or flight” state. Excess cortisol can also promote inflammation in the body and negatively impact insulin levels.