By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
If you're a pet parent, you know our furry family members suffer from many of the same degenerative conditions that affect humans. Interestingly, dogs and cats in the wild don't tend to suffer from those conditions, and one of the reasons, in my opinion, is that wild animals are naturally grounded because they live outside.
They're in constant contact with the ground, unlike the animals that live with us in our homes, who often don't have the benefit of regularly making direct contact with the earth.
So What, Exactly, Is Grounding?
If you've never heard of grounding, or earthing as it's also often referred to, or you aren't sure exactly what the term means, here's a good description from an article published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health titled "Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth's Surface Electrons:"
"Emerging scientific research has revealed a surprisingly positive and overlooked environmental factor on health: direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth.
Modern lifestyle separates humans [and animals] from such contact. The research suggests that this disconnect may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness. Reconnection with the Earth's electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being.
Earthing (or grounding) refers to the discovery of benefits — including better sleep and reduced pain — from walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems that transfer the Earth's electrons from the ground into the body."1
The earth is a natural antidote for electron deficiency and can provide animals with an infinite flow of electrons through grounding, or making direct contact with the earth.
Studies Point to the Significant Health Benefits of Grounding
A few years ago I did a really interesting interview with Clint Ober for Healthy Pets. Clint has spent a lot of time researching how the earth's electrical energy influences health. He also spent over 30 years in the cable TV industry, grounding equipment to the earth to maintain the electrical stability of the system.
In our interview, Clint explained that when we are grounded, the body is conductive, but when we put shoes on, we lose that conductivity. He grew curious about whether the loss of contact with the earth was having an effect on human health. Clint started experimenting with a voltmeter that he rigged to ground himself while he slept. He discovered he not only slept better, but also noticed that within a few days of sleeping grounded, the chronic pain he lived with began to subside.
Next, Clint decided to design a grounding study involving 60 volunteers. He developed "grounding planes," which were small pads the volunteers slept on. By the end of the study, for the most part the participants reported sleeping better, feeling better, having more energy and experiencing general improvement in their overall health.
Clint's anecdotal study attracted the attention of a retired anesthesiologist in San Diego. He and Clint designed another study in which they measured the circadian cortisol levels of a group of volunteers every four hours for 24 hours before grounding. Then they grounded the group for six to eight weeks and took cortisol measurements again on the same schedule at the end of the study. What they found was very interesting.
Before grounding, the volunteers' cortisol levels were all over the place. But by the end of the study, all the 24-hour circadian profiles were synchronized. The volunteers didn't know each other and didn't live close to one another. This result gave Clint a good indication that grounding affects the stress hormone cortisol.
In a subsequent study, Clint worked with an expert in electrophysiology and biofeedback, and they measured the normal biofeedback parameters in a group of 60 individuals. From that study, Clint learned that as soon as the body is grounded, it automatically shifts from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state, which means it goes from a fight-or-flight condition to a calm, more relaxed physiologic state.
How Grounding Works
During grounding of a human or animal, the charge is removed from the body. For example, when an indoor-only kitty lives 24/7 above the surface of the earth, let's say, in a high-rise in downtown Chicago, she can't benefit from the negative surface charge of the earth that provides an abundance of electrons that move very quickly to reduce the charge on her body. Her body begins to deplete itself of electrons.
By grounding the body, we're able to gather free electrons from the earth that have the ability to combat free radicals. This is especially important for animals that are constantly bombarded by electromagnetic fields (EMFs) inside the home coming from sources such as wireless routers, appliances and electronics.
It's like pouring water on a fire. Fire is oxidation. When we connect the body to the earth and the result is a reduction in pain, it's because we're flooding the body with electrons. These free electrons can readily absorb and reduce free radicals and prevent them from oxidizing healthy cells.
Grounding Reduces Inflammation and Improves Circulation
Many medical experts suspect all disease is caused by chronic inflammation over an extended period of time. We certainly know in the animal kingdom that's true. Most chronic diseases have their roots in a chronic low-grade inflammatory process. Disease manifests differently in different bodies, of course, based on a multitude of factors including genetics, environment and lifestyle. But the underlying common thread is chronic inflammation.
According to Clint, a contributing factor to chronic inflammation is a lack of grounding. In a study of young athletes, it was determined that inflammation doesn't manifest in grounded bodies to the degree that it does in ungrounded bodies. Another study investigated how grounding improves circulation. The study confirmed that red blood cells also equalize with the earth. They take on a negative surface charge.
An example would be if you were to take little magnets and put the negative ends together, they would naturally repel each other. But if you use the positive and negative ends, they pull toward each other. Clint was able to prove, after about 15 years of research and a dozen peer-reviewed published studies, that grounding or earthing absolutely, positively affects physiology.
When we disconnect from the earth, our blood gets sticky and doesn't function properly. Sticky blood can't get into the capillaries. It can't oxygenate tissues. Clint believes this is another underlying cause of chronic inflammation.
As Clint pointed out in our interview, in 1960, 90 percent of visits to general practitioners were for acute injury, infectious disease and childbirth. Today, a whopping 95 percent of all visits are for stress-related or lifestyle-induced disorders, meaning something is interfering with the body's ability to maintain normal health or balance.
This is true with pets as well. Fifty years ago, vets were seeing patients primarily for acute injuries and infectious diseases. But these days most patients we see are suffering with chronic degenerative diseases. It's an epidemic.
The Best Way to Ground Yourself and Your Pet
City dwelling pets are particularly lacking in their ability to get grounded. It's difficult to find a park where you can take your shoes off safely and walk with your dog to get the benefits of earthing, which means putting your feet and your pet's paws in direct contact with the earth.
To get the most benefit from grounding, you need to find a spot outdoors that you and your pet can regularly visit to sit on the ground, or stand on it, or even better, walk on it. Try to spend 30 to 60 minutes at each visit touching the earth directly.
The first thing that will happen, and the most important, is your blood will normalize, which may result in some facial flushing due to increased blood flow. Take a mental inventory of any pain in your body and score it from 1 to 10. After about 30 minutes, you will probably feel your energy level rising, your color will be better and your pain score could be less. You may even feel happier.
Years ago, when Dr. Mercola started grounding himself, I asked him to get me a grounding pad. I just wanted to try it out. I wasn't necessarily entirely convinced. Now I am. These days I sleep on a grounding pad. And for work I have a desk I can both sit and stand at. When I'm sitting, I use a grounding pad.
During storms, my grounding pads are the most popular spots in the house. As soon as my animals sense a storm brewing, sometimes even the day before, they start vying for a spot on my grounding pads. The kitties will choose my chair, and the dogs lie on the side of my bed that has the grounding pad. They all pile onto that half of the bed, which is really interesting!
Clint believes pets seek to be grounded during storms because there's a buildup of negative charge equal to the positive charge in the clouds. There's a phenomenon with lightning called flashover, which means the strike takes the path of least resistance to ground.
If you're well-grounded during a lightning strike, it may hit you but will flash over. Clint believes animals know this instinctively. And fortunately, animals don't need double-blind, placebo-controlled studies to prove this. I put down a grounding pad and my animals go lay on it.
All animals, given the option, will naturally align themselves correctly to the earth's magnetic fields and ground themselves out when necessary. In fact, research shows that animals even touch certain parts of their body to the earth for specific physiologic benefits. The issue is that we don't always give them that opportunity.
If you have an indoor-only kitty, or if you live in the city and your pet never rarely gets the opportunity to go outside and put his paws in direct contact with the earth, I recommend investing in a grounding mat like Dr. Mercola's Earthing Universal Mat with Cover. Grounding pads can also be tremendously beneficial for pets with noise or storm phobias, for senior pets who rarely or never get outside anymore, for pets with chronic pain conditions, and for dogs and cats who are stressed.
I believe grounding can help not only manage chronic disease and inflammation in animals, but also stress. Today's dogs and cats have a tremendous amount of physiologic and emotional stress, due primarily to inappropriate diets and lack of exercise. Of course we're all doing the best we can, but the fact is the lifestyles we're able to provide to our dogs and cats really don't compare to the many benefits nature provides, including the ability to ground.
Our pets live safer, often longer lives with us, but many don't get the benefit, for example, of a natural diet or being able to connect with the earth every day. A grounding pad is a nice workaround for your home if you're interested in providing that option to your pets.