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Earthing May Benefit Inflammation and Circulation

Publication date: 04 May 2013

This week Dr John Briffa blogged on earthing or grounding - this is the practice of connecting the body electrically to earth, for example at night via a sheet plugged into a wall socket.

There is growing evidence that earthing helps reduce inflammation, by allowing the body to take up electrons which work as anti-oxidants. Inflammation creates a greater need for anti-oxidants because it involves the production of damaging pro-oxidant molecules called free radicals. We need our anti-oxidants to mop up these free radicals.

Dr Briffa reports his personal experience of pain reduction after he took up earthing. Pain is usually a sure sign of inflammation.

Inflammation is a defence response of the body's immune system - defending against either infectious organisms or toxic substances, for instance. It's a complex process - the body has many ways to do inflammation, and it can be localised or systemic (meaning widespread in the body). We know about inflammation e.g. when we cut ourselves - it goes red and sore and warm and swollen. But we don't always feel inflammation. Heart disease is often the end result of years of inflammatory processes affecting the blood vessels. And inflammation can also affect the brain.

The brain is to some extent kept isolated from the rest of the body behind the "blood-brain barrier". The brain has its own immune system - a function provided by glial cells which in fact out-number neurons by about 10 to 1. There is evidence that brain disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and depression are brain inflammation disorders. A good place to read more about this is the book 'The Other Brain' by Dr Douglas Fields.

In my practice I often see evidence of brain inflammation in my clients (who are usually suffering from anxiety, low mood, fatigue and insomnia) in the form of an organic acids lab test result. An important biochemical pathway in the brain involves the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Inflammation tends to shift this pathway away from serotonin and towards a toxic byproduct.

Can earthing help anxiety, depression and mood disorder patients? I'd say it's worth a try. Certainly there are case reports of benefits around - see for example this page from the Earthing Institute.

Another mechanism by which earthing may help stress and anxiety is by altering Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) balance. There is some research evidence that it affects Heart Rate Variability (a marker for ANS balance), as this review article makes clear. Furthermore earthing seems to normalise cortisol levels - cortisol being a major stress hormone.

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