Any Grounding Experience?

Discussion in 'Health, Nutrition, Injuries & Medical Conditions' started by ThomDavid, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. ThomDavid Barefooters
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    I'm posting this in the forum that a) seems most appropriate, and b) likely to get the fewest number of views. But I'm trying to play by the rules, so I'll take my chances.

    Here's the thing: in a seemingly endless search to assist my better half with her insomnia problem, we came across the concept of grounding (the word Earthing is a trademarked term, meant for commerce, so I'm going to stick with the word indicating what is actually happening). Many of you are probably familiar with it; I was not until just recently. But the more I read about it, the more intriguing the idea gets, for this reason:

    My barefoot running experience, blisters notwithstanding, has been revelatory in so many ways. Yet it leaves me wondering: is all this (for lack of a better term) positive energy due solely to the improved running form, cadence, and running style, or is there something else going on? For instance, that tingly feeling that I often get in my feet and legs after a run -- is that merely nerve-ending stimulation and capillary opening, or is there something else happening? Hence, when I came across the grounding idea, it caught my attention, because it seemed to answer those questions. Could this be the reason, for instance, why running with (close to) exactly the same form in minshoes doesn't result in the same sensory experience as the same run done bare?

    So, I'm asking for any experience any of you have with grounding. Have you done it during sleeptime? Do you know others who've had experience, good, bad, or indifferent, with it? If you have electrical engineering in your background, can you explain why the concept is full of horseshit, if you believe it is?

    Spare me your skepticism; I have enough of that of my own and can't carry the burden of yours. No fair judging without prior investigation, either. I'm looking for genuine experience with grounding, even if that experience results in your conclusion of snake-oil-equivalency because it didn't work for you.

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  2. Hobbit Barefooters
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    Hello ThomDavid,
    I think, experiences, whatever they are, are the result of one's individual belief-system.
    Personally I do believe in "grounding" by being skin on ground. My belief system explains it like this (my vocabulary is probably not the correct scientific one): everywhere you'll find positively or negatively charged ions floating around you. An environment with mostly positively charged ions is less healthy than an environment with mostly negatively charged ones.
    Morning dew for example is full of negatively charged ions. This humidity gets in part absorbed by the soles of your feet if you run barefoot. If inside or on the skin of your body they encounter positive ions, these latter are being neutralized, which makes you feel better.
    (I don't know if you would have this same experience of feeling better whilst running barefoot say in a deadly dry desert - it seems that with my explanation the sensation of "grounding" would need a minimum of natural ambient humidity.)
    I have also made the (unpleasant) experience that I get often problems with static electricity when isolated from the ground by shoes or synthetic floor coverings. I think, but perhaps I'm wrong, that this has to do with an excess of positively charged ions, which can't get neutralized by lack of negative ones.
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  3. ChasingShadows Barefooters
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    Personally (i.e. in no way backed up by facts or research or even what the fairies told me) I think there is a positive effect from running skin to ground, but to my mind it's more about tactile sensation, in the same way as stroking a dog has been shown to measurably reduce stress & therefore stress related conditions. Beyond that I'd probably class myself as an open minded sceptic!
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  4. migangelo Barefooters
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    it makes some sense and is worth a try. first thing to always consider is diet first. stress is next.

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  5. paraganek Barefooters
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    The same here.

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  6. Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
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    I think physicists have explained why grounding, at least the bit about ions and such, is impossible, but there might be something to it on a different level, and certainly tactile stimulation is always great when it's not too abrading or lacerating. That's why I've been a barefooter by preference for most of my adult life (well, also the fact that I have 'hot foot'). I can hardly wait to start playing on the lawn with my kids in a week or two.

    For insomnia, my cure is one hour of exercise per day, at the end of the afternoon, and limiting myself to two shots of espresso per day, and no caffeine after noon.

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  7. NickW Guest

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    Same here, only limiting myself to 3 cups of coffee a day and just like you no caffeine after noon.
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  8. ThomDavid Barefooters
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    So, that's what I'm looking for. I haven't come across the reasons for "why this doesn't work," and that's what I'm interested in. I've read the studies (double-blind, good protocol) that suggest that in fact it DOES work, that there is a transference of negatively charged particles to exposed human skin, and that it does affect things like cortisol levels in the body. Now I'm looking to read the opposite. I'm doing my own experimentation with an open mind, and not just in the hopes of helping my wife with her insomnia. If "earthing" is, in fact, scientifically valid, then not only does it explain something about barefoot running that has been eluding me, but also has a number of implications for recovery and other things.

    Unless my multimeter is dysfunctional, there is clear proof of a change in body voltage in a grounded and an ungrounded state. The numbers, as they say, don't lie. My quest is to find out why this is true, or, conversely, why it CAN'T be.

    If you can point me to any of those physicists you refer to, I'd be grateful. So far, Google hasn't been much help.:)

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  9. Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
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    There was a discussion, either here or perhaps on Society for Barefoot Living's email list or FB page, or maybe it was Jason's BRU site, where one or two physicists explained why grounding can't work, as well as describing the absurd things that would happen to our bodies if they were so permeable. I'm not a physicist, nor do I have even a layman's competence to judge their critique. But I have noticed there's a lot of BS associated with barefooting, as well as health and fitness more generally, and you have to wonder why no one in the medical establishment has picked up on this, so I find it entirely plausible that the physicists are right and that grounding is pseudo-science.

    I could try to dig for you, but I don't think it would take me any less time than you to recover the discussion, and I don't really have any interest in reviewing it, so I guess it's on you to keep digging. I guess my only help is to let you know that the critiques do exist, and so if you're really interested in this, it's probably worth looking for them more.

    Edit: OK, here's something, lemme see if I can find something more.
    http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/2012/05/08/whats-the-deal-with-earthing/
    OK, Bingo:
    http://ahcuah.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/eye-on-ions/
    http://www.thebarefootrunners.org/threads/earthing-legit-concept-or-pseudoscience-bs.6624/

    Do a Google search with: earthing pseudoscience.

    Caveat: I assume no responsibility for having to defend anything written on these sites.

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  10. ThomDavid Barefooters
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    Thanks a lot, Lee. Appreciate your help. I'm off to read these links!

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  11. Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
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    No problem Thom. Although please, as always, excuse my snark in the comments of some of those links.

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  12. Ahcuah Barefooters

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    Have you noticed, though, the journals those studies have been published in? Pseudoscience journals. Somehow those studies haven't made it into mainstream journals. (Of course, I suppose it could all be a giant conspiracy by refereed journals.) I suspect there's something wrong with their studies. (Maybe they don't know how to measure what they think they are measuring, a la Pons and Fleischmann.) But it looks like nobody has tried to replicate those studies over the quite a few years since they first came out.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that one of the major free radicals is O2-. Adding the free electrons from the earth will definitely not neutralize it! Maybe the hydroxyl radical, •HO, which is neutral, could be converted to the safer HO-, but I've not seen any chemistry that says that that will happen in an aqueous solution (i.e., blood or inside a cell) with a few free electrons floating around. Is anybody more aware of the chemistry involved? I do know that, for instance, with dissolved salt, NaCl, the sodium ion, Na+ doesn't just precipitate out as metallic sodium just because there happens to be a free electron floating around (or we'd die pretty spectacularly upon touching the negative side of a Van de Graaf generator).
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  13. ThomDavid Barefooters
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    Yes, I have noticed that, but frankly, it doesn't disturb me, nor does it surprise me that "more traditional" sources haven't tried to replicate these small studies. If reputable researchers know for a fact that something CANNOT work, then there is no reason for them to study it. It is only if a) one concedes that it CAN or MIGHT work, and b) there is some sort of incentive (usually financial) that a study by an uninterested third party would take place. "Alternative" doesn't disturb me because "main stream" doesn't necessarily mean true, efficacious, or safe. It only means generally accepted as true, efficacious, and safe. When it comes to medicine, let's face it: the public is really just a last-stage clinical trial in many instances. Which is why we end up with something that's marketed to grow hair that was originally intended to treat heart disease.

    I'm no scientist, but I have read those studies, front to back, and the protocols don't seem especially faulty to me. I'm not defending this practice; I am trying to establish for myself whether it is nothing more than a belief system, or if there's something more substantial behind it. I've read your blog on the topic, and it's clear where you stand. I'm not doubting your expertise in any way. However, I am wondering how to account for things like cortisol normalization when test subjects are grounded. That can't be placebo if the subjects don't know that cortisol is being studied and can't really wish their way to reduced cortisol levels.

    That said, I'm taking you up on the challenge that you made to one of the commenters on your blog: my wife and I will be doing a blind test where one of us will connect/disconnect the ground cord when we're sleeping, without telling the other when it's happened, and the other will keep a (admittedly subjective) record of whether or not we feel any different. We'll compare notes after a period of time, probably a month. We're going to do it with the ground attached first to the receptacle ground, then to an independent ground rod completely unattached to the electrical system in our house.

    THAT said, I do have to relate this completely unscientific anecdote: last night, we slept under a grounded sheet. I can't say that my sleep was more comfortable or less, but I can say that upon awakening, I was aware of a mild tingling sensation in my legs, but I didn't give this too much weight. As a barefoot runner, that sensation is present rather frequently. I did NOT say anything about this to my wife. When she woke, I asked her how she slept, which is usually answered, "Not very well." And today was no different. Her sleep was not appreciably improved. However, she proceeded to say, "I do feel a sort of tingling in my legs, though." Unsolicited. What does that mean? Hell if I know. But from what I've read (and my wife hasn't), this is a not-uncommon experience, and at this point I'm at a loss as to how to account for it.

    It all may be hooey, but I'm determined to come to that conclusion for myself after reading as much pro and con that I can find. The worst that can happen is that I'll end up looking foolish, but as I run in races with no shoes and painted toenails, that's apparently not one of my major concerns. :)

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  14. Ahcuah Barefooters

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    Excellent! I'm too cheap to buy one of those grounding things myself, but I would love to hear your results.

    Yes, do it long enough for at least some statistical validity.

    In the end, if the data really shows something, then it is worth reconsidering.
  15. ThomDavid Barefooters
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    So, for anyone interested, here is my little research study's protocol:

    Beginning on 4/9/13, and for 31 days subsequent, we've placed a conductive half-sheet on our bed. This sheet is connected to a grounded outlet in our bedroom (plugging in only to the ground; no electrical contact is made). I've selected, at random, 15 nights in which this sheet will be grounded, and 16 random nights when it won't be. There is no pattern for this cycle. When it is plugged or unplugged is known only to me, and the plug itself is concealed (and I have my wife's solemn word that she won't peek).

    I developed a self-questionaire, which she is filling out every morning. The questions ask to rate, on a scale of 1 -5, things like sleep quality, feeling of refreshment upon waking, ease of falling asleep, etc. These are all admittedly subjective, but without fancy equipment determining sleep depth, etc., this is the best I can do.

    At the end of the 31 days, I will then repeat the experiment, but this time, rather than attaching the sheet to the grounded plug, it will be attached to a dedicated 8' grounding rod that I sunk outside our bedroom. (This is the method used during the aforementioned studies.) The same randomized pattern will be followed for when the sheet is hooked up or not, and the same questionnaire will be used to measure the various topics.

    At the end of the 60 days, I'm going to compile the numbers and see whether or not there is any detectable pattern or difference in subjective reporting between those nights plugged vs. unplugged. Then, I will compare those results to those obtained during the purely grounded period.

    I'll post the results here, in case anyone is interested in my findings.

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  16. Ahcuah Barefooters

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    I'm afraid I have some concerns about this, some minor, and some major. Here are some things to consider.

    First, why is it broken up into an uneven number of days, 15 and 16? I don't see what purpose that serves. I do know that it complicates trying to analyze the data. Why not equal numbers of days of each?

    Next, how did you decide which days are on and which are off? How did you generate your hopefully random sequence? Because if you just put it together by eye ("this seems random"), humans are awful at recognizing real randomness (not enough long sequences). And since the person on the receiving end is also human, this will introduce bias in the results because both distributions will not be truly random.

    I recognize that it is hard to do this double blind. But I'm afraid that it's not even fully single blind. You will know; you will be sleeping in the same bed. That knowledge can influence your wife's answers to the questions, just because she's probably pretty good at reading you.

    But here's what I consider major: you need to decide in advance what constitutes "success", that is, that grounding has an effect. How are you going to analyze the data? You need to do that now, and then not change your mind later. That will only be massaging the data to get a desired result. (There's a reason JREF wants the entire protocol decided in advance.)

    Your questionnaire is on a scale of 1 - 5. Suppose non-grounded she scores a 3.93 and grounded she scores a 3.97. Is that a positive result? How will you be able to tell? How does she normally do with sleep quality, refreshment, etc.? Unless you know the a priori numbers for her, it's totally impossible to know whether the grounding had an effect, or if the result is just statistical. By the way, the better a sleeper your wife normally is, the harder it will be to get meaningful results: If she normally scores a 4.9, there's no room to distinguish a positive effect when grounded.

    The multiple questions are also a big problem. Suppose that we somehow do manage to analyze each question statistically looking for a p<0.05 effect. We find one--what does it mean? Well, if there are 5 questions, then the odds are pretty close to 1 in 4 that we'll get such a hit. We've suddenly turned this from a p<0.05 threshold to a p<0.25 threshold, which is not good enough for any study at all.

    This, by the way, is one of my objections to some of the studies on grounding that have been published (in the woo journals). If you look for enough effects, you're bound to get hits on a statistical basis alone. That's OK if you are trying to look for some sort of effect. But, if you are doing things right, you have to do follow-up studies that focus purely on that specific effect, and then be very careful about study design and statistics. Interestingly, among the "Earthed" folks, I've not seen those necessary follow-up studies. In the science I'm familiar with, it's the follow-up studies that are critical.

    So, unfortunately, I don't know that your data will be capable of showing anything, or how any signal will not be drowned out by statistical noise.

    To my eyes, ask just one question: "Based on how you feel this morning, were you grounded or not?" At least the results for that can be analyzed. It's simply binary, and if there really is anything to it, a signal ought to show up. It's like analyzing coin tosses.

    Sorry to throw cold water on this; I'd like to see relevant results. It's just that good studies are tricky.
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  17. ThomDavid Barefooters
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    Whoa! Look, I have no illusions that I am doing a scientific study that is publishable in a journal to irrefutably establish the efficacy or inefficacy of grounding. It's just a little homegrown experiment to establish for myself what may or may not be true about this topic. I based my protocol on what you laid out in your challenge to another commenter on your blog: I randomly flipped a coin to establish the plugged/unplugged days (and there are an equal number of each, not 15/16 as I wrote in error), the status of the plug is concealed by the subject, and the subject is keeping good records. The subject is a terrible sleeper, which is one of the reasons I found this concept, in a search for ways to help her sleep. We do not discuss this at all, she is unable to tell if the ground is plugged or not. At the end of the experimental period, I simply want to see if there is any meaningful difference in the scores she gives on those nights in which she was sleeping grounded or not. As a secondary experiment, I will repeat the test (with a new randomized sequence) with an actual dedicated grounding rod, rather than being plugged into the outlet prong.

    Although I want this to work for her sake (so she can sleep), I'm not cheering for one side or the other. Although it appears a bit "out there," I'm not entirely ready to dismiss this because there is a paucity of interrelated knowledge between the disciplines of medicine and biophysics. But I also have a question of my own that I am trying to answer: why is an identical run in minimalist shoes qualitatively different than a run barefoot, if all other things (form, cadence, pace, etc) are the same? Could this electrical connection be it? I don't know, but I'd like to pursue the question.

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  18. Ahcuah Barefooters

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    The tricky thing is, regardless of whether we're going for a published study (and we're not), how can you tell what a meaningful difference is? That's my concern.

    I think I am being consistent. Here's what I said there: "Meanwhile, you make your own record as to how you feel each day, and as to whether you think you really are grounded or not." Maybe you're already including that last question (and if not, could you do a reset and start over while including it?). If you are already including it, great. We can use that to tease out a real result if the other questions don't show anything statistically (and again, we're not even sure how to tell if those kinds of answers are statistically significant).

    Just curious. Did you really get 15 heads and 15 tails to establish the days? Because the odd of that are only about 14.5%. I'm guessing you had to do something at the end to get equal numbers.

    This is a bit off of how to do the study, but I'd say that, even if you do get the other things the same (quite unlikely, and keeping in mind that one's perception that they are the same could be off), there's still proprioception, and just plain old placebo (you think you like it better when you know you are "grounded"). I should also add that there's a reason the bedsheet uses a metal stake pounded into the ground: that's how you really establish the ground. I doubt that simply running barefoot gives sufficient ground contact to get a real "ground" and also to prevent all sorts of transients.

    I just don't want to get into a bunch of arguments at the end with data that shows a slightly positive effect, and then spend time arguing over a lack of statistical significance. (Because you know that the true believers will glom onto that with all their might.)
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  19. ThomDavid Barefooters
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    I'm sorry I started this thread. Never mind.

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  20. Ahcuah Barefooters

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    Why? I think it's great that you're doing it.

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