Earthing and Thyroid Health
Published October 19 2015
Earthing, also known as grounding, involves an exchange of electrons from the earth to your body. There is some research which shows how this transfer of electrons can help to improve the health of people, as it accomplishes this by neutralizing free radicals. In some people this can cause a reduction in pain, improve sleep, and provide other health benefits. I’ll discuss some of the research in this article, and although more research definitely needs to be done, there are many people who have noticed a significant improvement in their health after incorporating earthing.
Earthing requires someone to place their bare feet on the ground. And when I say the ground I’m referring to the outside, as while walking around barefoot in your house isn’t considered to be an “earthing activity”, walking barefoot outside on the grass or dirt, or taking a walk on the beach are all considered to be methods of earthing. However, there are other ways to engage in earthing while inside your home, or even at work, as there are “earthing mats” and “earthing sheets” you can use so that you can receive the benefits of earthing if working a desk job, and while sleeping. However, even if you don’t want to purchase any “earthing equipment”, just taking 15 to 30 minutes each day to walk barefoot outside can have some good benefits.
How Does Earthing Work?
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, earthing involves an exchange of electrons from the earth to your body, which in turn can help to neutralize free radicals. Everyone generates free radicals, and these free radicals can deplete the body of electrons, which in turn creates a positive charge in your body. This in turn can cause chronic inflammation, and of course chronic inflammation is a factor with just about every health condition, including autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
The reason why earthing can be beneficial is because the earth has a slight negative charge. As a result, when someone walks barefoot on the earth the transfer of electrons that takes place will neutralize the positive charge in your body. It’s actually a similar concept when taking antioxidants, as these also donate electrons and can help to neutralize the negative effects of free radicals. And while eating healthy will provide you with a good amount of antioxidants, combining this with earthing can potentially help even more.
What Exactly Are Free Radicals?
I assume that most people reading this have at least heard of the term “free radicals”, but some probably still don’t have a good understanding of what these are. Free radicals are also known as reactive oxygen species, and they are produced by normal cell metabolism, although external sources such as cigarette smoke, radiation, and other types of toxins can lead to their production as well. An excess of free radicals in the body will lead to something called oxidative stress, and this in turn can cause damage to lipids, proteins, amino acids, and DNA. Not surprisingly, an accumulation of free radicals can play a role in the development of chronic health conditions.
Some actual examples of free radicals include superoxide, nitric oxide, and hydroxyl radicals, with other reactive species including hydrogen peroxide, peroxynitrite, and hypochlorous acid (1). Although the body is able to counteract a normal amount of oxidative stress through the use of antioxidants such as glutathione, if there is an excess of free radicals then it won’t be able to produce enough antioxidants. And while taking antioxidant supplements can help to some extent, taking a large amount of antioxidants isn’t necessarily a good idea, and might even have harmful effects (2) (3) (4). Of course you can and should get antioxidants by eating whole, healthy foods. But earthing can also help.
What Does The Research Show?
One study looked at the role of earthing in neuromodulation, and found that earthing can help to restore natural, electrical status of the electrical environment of the organism and thus the nervous system (5). The author mentioned that earthing generates immediate changes in electroencephalography (EEG), surface electromyography (SEMG), and somato-sensory evoked potentials (SSEPs) (5). Another study involving 40 adult participants looked to see if earthing improves mood, and it was concluded that a one hour contact with the earth improved mood more than expected than by relaxation alone (6).
Another study looked at the effects of two hours of grounding on the electrical charge on red blood cells, and found that grounding increases the surface charge on red blood cells and thereby reduces blood viscosity and clumping (7). The author concluded that grounding can therefore help to reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events, although this once again was a very small study involving only ten adults. In addition to affecting the red blood cells, research shows that grounding produces measurable differences in the concentrations of white blood cells, cytokines, and other molecules involves in the inflammatory response (8).
Does Earthing Affect Thyroid Health?
Not surprisingly, there aren’t many studies looking at the specific effects of earthing on thyroid health. I did come across one study which showed that earthing at night decreased the levels of free T3 and increased free T4 and TSH (9). The author concluded that earthing influences human physiological processes, and while some people with hypothyroidism might be concerned that this study showed how earthing caused a higher TSH and lower free T3, keep in mind that this was a very small study consisting of only twelve people who had no known thyroid conditions. And so this small study doesn’t mean that earthing should be avoided in those people with hypothyroid conditions.
In his book “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever“, Clinton Ober observed that some people on thyroid hormone medication experienced hyperthyroidism after they started grounding. This would suggest that earthing helped to improve their hypothyroid condition. Obviously the only way to conclude this would be to conduct a large study consisting of people on thyroid hormone medication and have them engage in earthing for a period of time, along with a control group that doesn’t participate in earthing, and then see what the results are.
How Can Earthing Help With EMFs?
More and more people are becoming aware of the potential health risks of electronic pollution. I’ve written about this in the past, as while there is still a lot that is unknown about the long term side effects, it seems obvious that frequent exposure to EMFs isn’t a good thing, and unfortunately many people (including myself) spend too much time in front of their computer, on their cell phone, and are exposed to other electronics as well. Obviously one should try to do everything they can do to minimize their exposure to electronic pollution, not only during the day, but when they sleep at night.
Another benefit of earthing is that it can offer protection against electronic pollution. However, even if you use a grounding mat most of the time while working on the computer, one still should try to minimize their exposure to electronic devices. For example, if you happen to sleep with an earthing sheet it still is a good idea to minimize the number of electronics in your bedroom, and ideally you will want any electronics unplugged while sleeping at night.
How Much Time Do You Need To Dedicate To Earthing Per Day?
As for how much time you need to do earthing in order to reap the benefits, I honestly don’t know, although I’m inclined to say that the more someone is grounded the better. The frequent exposure to electronic devices can’t be good for us, and without question some people are very sensitive to EMFs. And so it probably is a good idea to use a grounding mat and a grounding sheet to help neutralize the negative effects of EMFs and to reduce the harmful impact of free radicals on the body, as well as to spend some time outdoors going barefoot.
However, even if you don’t want to invest in earthing equipment in order to stay grounded most of the time it still won’t hurt to block out 30 minutes each day to be outdoors and barefoot. I’m honestly paranoid about walking around in the grass due to the risk of getting bitten by a tick, as while the risk of Lyme disease or another tick-borne infection might be low, it does happen, and of course it is something I’d like to avoid. If you’re close to the beach then going for a 30 minute walk barefoot on a regular basis would be ideal, but many people don’t have this luxury. When I attended a nutritional conference in the past one of the speakers was talking about earthing, and he set up an “earthing spot” in his back yard, as he had a small area of just dirt, and he installed a small bench, and everyday he would sit on the bench and read a book with his bare feet touching the earth.
In summary, earthing involves the transfer of electrons from the earth to the body. This in turn can help to reduce pain and inflammation, improve sleep, and reduce blood viscosity. It can be accomplished by placing your bare feet on the ground, although you can also purchase devices which allow you to stay grounded while working at a desk or sleeping at night. Although there are some claims that earthing can help people with hypothyroidism get off of thyroid medication, I personally haven’t seen any evidence of this. However, since earthing can neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation it probably can benefit people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, as well as those with other health conditions as well.