How to Boost Your Immune System with Earthing or Grounding
The immune system is our first line of defence against viruses like flu and the common cold. When these harmful microbes make their way into the body, it is the immune system’s job to detect and destroy them. Therefore, it is wise to ensure that your immune system is working optimally at all times.
Many people are now looking for natural ways to improve immunity and help to prevent colds and flu. One such method is earthing, a practice which involves putting the body into conductive contact with the earth. This is also called grounding. Experts believe that earthing or grounding can have a whole range of potential health benefits.
In this article, we’ll explain the science behind immunity and how to boost your immune system with earthing.
What Is the Immune System and How Does It Work?
Immunity is a highly complex subject that scientists are still working to fully understand. What we know for sure is that the function of the immune system is to protect us from harmful microbes such as bacteria and viruses.
Viruses can be especially problematic as they are extremely common and challenging to treat. In fact, there is no known cure for viruses like colds and flu. Fortunately, in most cases, the immune system does a good job of eradicating these viruses before they do serious harm.
When you catch a cold, it is not the virus itself that causes the symptoms. It is the immune system working hard to clear it from the body.
White blood cells called macrophages and neutrophils detect the virus and release chemicals called cytokines and chemokines. These act as signalling molecules, calling other immune cells to the infected area. However, they also generate inflammation, causing familiar symptoms like a sore throat and runny nose.
Certain cytokines can also cause fever and headaches by affecting the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that regulates body temperature. Others generate symptoms such as low appetite, weakness, and fatigue. Meanwhile, cells called T-cells begin to gather in the lymph nodes, causing swelling and sometimes pain.
After a few days, these T-cells travel to the lungs and begin to destroy the virus. This process increases mucous production and produces coughing.
Although these symptoms can be annoying, they are a natural and healthy response to an infection. However, the situation differs when it comes to autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
In these conditions, the immune system fails to recognise the body’s healthy tissues and attacks them as if they were a virus. This leads to widespread inflammation, pain, fatigue, and various other symptoms.
How to Tell If Your Immune System Is Weak
If you suffer from frequent coughs and colds, it may be because your immune system is weak.
Unfortunately, it is normal for the immune system to become less efficient with age. For example, people over the age of 65 tend to be more susceptible to colds and flu.
Whereas most people can clear a virus naturally within a couple of weeks, older people are more likely to suffer from complications such as pneumonia. Likewise, people who take immunosuppressant medication or who are HIV positive usually have weakened immune systems.
It is this group of people who are at the highest risk of simple infections becoming life-threatening. Therefore, they may benefit the most from boosting their immune systems. However, with the flu virus alone leading to over 31 million outpatient visits each year, enhanced immunity is something that everybody can appreciate.
How to Boost Your Immune System Naturally
One of the best ways to prevent colds and flu is by employing good hygiene practices in your daily life. This includes disinfecting surfaces regularly and washing your hands with soap and water throughout the day. It is especially important to wash your hands in the following circumstances:
- Before handling, preparing, or eating food
- After using the bathroom, assisting others in doing so, or changing a baby’s diaper
- After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
- Before and after treating or dressing a wound
- After coming into contact with somebody who is ill
- After touching an animal, animal food, or animal waste
- After touching waste or garbage
There are also several lifestyle modifications that may help to boost the immune system naturally.
Firstly, it is essential to exercise enough to support good circulation and enhance immunity. However, over-exercising can be counterproductive, especially for people with weak immune systems. Therefore, it may be best to stick to moderate exercise on a regular basis.
Exercise also helps to reduce stress, another contributing factor to low immunity. Other effective stress management techniques include breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation.
Eat a balanced diet with plenty of vitamin-rich fresh fruit and vegetables. Wash your food before use and ensure meat and poultry is cooked well. People who do not get enough nutrition from their diets may benefit from supplements, including vitamins A, D, and E, folic acid, and zinc.
Finally, good sleep is essential as lack of it can disrupt the production of white blood cells. Most experts consider 8 hours per night to be the optimal amount.
What Is Earthing?
Earthing (also known as grounding) is a lifestyle practice that involves putting oneself in conductive contact with the Earth’s surface. This could mean walking barefoot outdoors or using a specially designed indoor earthing product.
The Earth’s surface holds a negative electrical charge due to its large number of free electrons. These are constantly renewed by lightning strikes and changes in atmospheric pressure.
The human body relies on electricity for many of its biological processes. When comes into contact with electrons from the Earth, this promotes a state of natural balance and wellbeing.
In recent years, many studies have emerged that demonstrate the benefits of earthing, including reduced stress levels, better sleep, and enhanced immune response.
How Earthing Supports Your Immune System
In 2011, researchers Sokal and Sokal conducted a series of experiments to determine how earthing influences physiological processes. One of these experiments investigated how earthing affected the immune response to a vaccine.
They recruited 32 male volunteers, aged 19–23 years old. During the experiment, the volunteers lived under the same environmental conditions and ate the same food. On the first day, they received a dose of typhoid vaccine.
The researchers followed the volunteers for four days. During this time, they avoided contact with the Earth, except for during a designated period on the third day. At this point, one group of volunteers was put into contact with the Earth via a copper plate attached to their legs and connected by a wire to the ground outside. The other group received ‘sham-contact’ achieved with a broken wire.
Earthing and sham-earthing continued overnight, with the volunteers unaware of which intervention they were receiving. The following morning, the researchers took blood samples from all of the volunteers.
They found that overnight earthing caused lower serum concentrations of iron, total protein, and albumin. Meanwhile, transferrin, ferritin, and globulins a1, a2, beta, and gamma increased, indicating that the immune response to the vaccine was accelerated.
The authors of the study conclude that “contact with the Earth can affect the regulation of immune response.”
How Earthing Supports Better Sleep and Stress Management
Another way that earthing may help boost the immune system is through its ability to improve sleep and reduce stress levels. It appears to do this by regulating cortisol levels and improving heart rate variability (HRV).
Cortisol is a hormone that is released in the morning as part of the body’s normal circadian rhythm. It promotes wakefulness and alertness. Cortisol levels should peak early in the day and then decrease during the evening, allowing sleep to occur.
However, cortisol is also involved in the stress response and chronic stress can cause its levels to remain elevated all day. This situation can contribute to poor sleep and, therefore, reduced immunity.
A 2004 study by Ghaly and Teplitz measured the cortisol levels of 12 subjects before and after six weeks of overnight earthing. The subjects suffered from various complaints, including sleep dysfunction, stress, and pain. Throughout the study period, they slept on conductive mattress pads that were connected to the ground.
The researchers tested saliva cortisol levels at 4-hourly intervals to build a 24-hour profile for each subject. They found that after sleeping in contact with the Earth, the subjects’ cortisol profiles improved, showing an overall trend toward normalisation.
A 2011 study by Chevalier and Sinatra looked at the effects of earthing on HRV, an indicator of parasympathetic nervous system function and relaxation. They tested 28 subjects who each spent 40 minutes earthed and 40 minutes unearthed while relaxing in a chair.
They found that HRV improved during earthing, indicating increased parasympathetic activity. The authors suggest that earthing could be beneficial for those suffering from anxiety, stress, panic, fear, and other symptoms of nervous system dysfunction.
How to Start Earthing
If you want to try earthing to boost your immune system, it couldn’t be easier. Simply go outside and walk barefoot on a conductive surface. This could be grass, sand, or unpainted concrete. You may quickly begin to feel more relaxed as your nervous system begins to rebalance itself.
However, to optimise your earthing experience, you may wish to invest in an indoor earthing product. These items allow you to enjoy the benefits of earthing from the comfort of your own home in a way that is both convenient and sustainable.
Chevalier, G. and Sinatra, S.T. (2011) Emotional Stress, Heart Rate Variability, Grounding and Improved Autonomic Tone: Clinical Applications. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 10, 16-21.
Ghaly M, Teplitz D. (2004) The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine, 10(5): 767-76.
Sokal K, Sokal P. (2011) Earthing the human body influences physiologic processes. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine, Apr;17(4): 301-8.