By Alix Mayer
(Alix Mayer is the co-founder of www.spirochicks.com, a collaborative Lyme lifestyle blog, with hundreds of subscribers and followers)
In 2003, I bought the wood-cut print pictured here and hung it up on a wall in my house. I had no idea why I was attracted to this piece of art. At the time, I was very ill but had no diagnosis. A few years later I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease. It’s now obvious why I was attracted subconsciously to the image of a barefoot woman holding a plant. Those were the two keys to my healing from a decades-long case of Lyme disease: Earthing and herbal medicine.
Earthing is profoundly healing for people with Lyme, as I and many in the SpiroChicks group have discovered. Aside from going gluten-free in 1999, nothing else has boosted my health so dramatically and rapidly as Earthing. Like me, anyone can enjoy the many benefits of Earthing, such as:
● The ability to fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply
● Reduced pain and inflammation
● Feeling of calm
My personal journey to optimal healing with Earthing was a bumpy one. I learned, and others have learned as well, that Lyme patients have to proceed slowly and cautiously because it is possible to Earth too much too soon if you suffer with Lyme. As an example, I offer a chronicle of my own experience.
I first Earthed in fall 2010 after hearing about Earthing at a health conference. I felt a sense of calm immediately after I placed an Earthing band around the ball of my foot, centering the contact point on my sole (over the acupuncture point called Kidney 1). I slept Earthed for the first time in my conference hotel room, and felt as though I fell asleep faster and slept a bit better than normal for someone with normally raging insomnia. My permanent headache – a problem I’d had for 16 years − abated significantly while at the conference.
When I returned home, I continued Earthing all night with the band around my foot, on the K1 point. My sleep improved to the point where, after a few weeks, I felt brave enough to stop cold turkey my prescription sleep medication. I was gratified to experience no trouble sleeping through the night. I didn’t miss the medication or the awful “hangovers” it gave me. (Note: I’m not recommending this to anyone on an addictive sleep med!). I also dumped my other sleep supplements except melatonin. I kept that because my body makes a lower than normal amount of its own melatonin.
Without prescription sleep meds and most of my sleep supplements, I kept sleeping well. That meant having deliciously long nights where I slept like a baby, sometimes for more than 12 hours. You can’t imagine how welcome this was after many nights of all-nighter insomnia for about eight years.
At some point, I decided to change my connection from a grounded wall outlet to a dedicated Earthing ground rod. I don’t recall what happened, but some Lyme patients in our SpiroChicks forum have said this change was noticeable to them.
Then, I got an Earthing recovery bag, thinking that “more is better.” It turned out to be too much exposure for me. A familiar and horrifying feeling returned – I went to bed as normal, feeling very sleepy, yet could not nod off for the entire night. I remained completely aware of my surroundings all night. The next day I had my trademark post-insomnia symptoms that render me non-functional – dizziness, a feeling of being “drunk,” and terrible pain in my head and body. I guessed that Earthing had caused a setback of insomnia, likely due to amplified Herxheimer and/or detoxification reactions. Let me explain those phenomena as they relate to Lyme patients:
● Individuals undergoing Lyme treatment sometimes experience Herxheimer reactions, an odd phenomenon where one feels worse because bacterial die-off produces an inflammatory event. Some people associate fatigue, nausea, and fever with “herxing.” Herxheimer reactions can also cause previously experienced Lyme symptoms to temporarily reappear.
● Earthing may also increase the body’s ability to detoxify − the actual cleaning out through our organs, of dead bacterial debris, such as Lyme spirochetes, and their resultant endotoxins. We can have detoxification reactions when the liver, kidneys, lymphatics, colon or skin become overloaded and are unable to manage the demands placed on them. Detoxification is notoriously impaired in long-term Lyme patients’ bodies. Based on patient reports, it’s possible that Earthing increases the capacity of one or more of these systems to eliminate toxins, but that the body retains bottlenecks in other organs that then get overloaded. The list of detox symptoms is long but can include fatigue, joint or muscle pain, skin rashes, sleep disturbances, irritability, and headaches.
I was still strongly convinced that Earthing was good for me, so I decided to go back to placing the band around my foot, which had caused wonderful initial benefits and no discomfort at all. I took the recovery bag off my bed for a while. The strategy worked. I did pretty well with sleep and was gradually able to build back up to Earthing my entire body on an Earthing sheet, without an uptick in insomnia.
There is no doubt that my reaction was a Lyme-specific reaction: too much Earthing too quickly. This experience is actually quite common among Lyme patients. It doesn’t mean that Earthing’s benefits − like pain reduction and better sleep − will not occur. It just means that Lyme patients need to go slowly when they start Earthing. It’s important to gradually build up the duration and amount of the body that is Earthed, so you don’t get slammed with a Herxheimer or detox reaction.
Lee Cowden, M.D., a well-known integrative physician and natural Lyme practitioner, directs Lyme patients to Earth for 15–30 minutes a day, building up to 3 hours while awake. Once a patient can Earth for 3 hours in the day, he says the patient can then try sleeping Earthed overnight.
Due to oftentimes quick provocation of reactions, some of my friends with Lyme have gone very, very slowly, at first only touching the metallic contact on a grounded Earthing band for 5 or 10 minutes per day. Some got a reaction, sometimes described as nausea, sometimes described as “detoxing too quickly,” even at this very minimal level. Some, like me, reacted quite positively at first. Many reported that once they weathered the temporary rough spots they experienced pain and headache reduction, better sleep, clearer thinking, a more alkaline body, and even improved excretion of heavy metals. Others never endure a negative reaction, and just enjoy the benefits. Still others report no apparent symptom benefits. We don’t know yet how many Lyme patients fall in each group.
To me, the fact that Earthing causes Herxheimer and detox reactions in Lyme patients suggests it must be inherently healing, as it’s hard to imagine that touching Mother Earth could ever cause ill health. What fascinates me, and demands study, is the reasons why the Earth may help Lyme patients heal. Although we only have hypotheses as to why Earthing can cause people with Lyme to Herx and detox, it’s good to begin somewhere. From my investigations there are a few factors that could contribute:
● Blood thinning: Earthing’s ability to thin the blood may allow the antibiotics used to treat Lyme to penetrate more deeply into tissue and access spirochetes. Thinner blood may also allow detox pathways to function better, by physically making it easier for blood to pass through smaller spaces.
● Blood oxygenation: Increased blood oxygenation from Earthing would also be detrimental to circulating spirochetes, causing more die-off than normal. More oxygenation could also contribute to improved detoxification.
● Prevention of Cysts: Steven Phillips, M.D., said at a 2004 Lyme conference that prescription blood thinners “appear to disrupt the formation of spheroblasts (cysts) in the bloodstream.” Lyme-literate MDs theorize that Borrelia Burgdorferi (Bb), the Lyme pathogen, form cysts as a defense mechanism when under threat from antibiotic treatment. Maybe, like prescription blood thinners, Earthing’s blood thinning effects somehow disrupt cyst formation, too? If so, does this mean Earthing could help a Lyme patient’s body slow the formation of cysts in the first place?
● Cyst Breakage: Earthing book co-author Steven Sinatra, MD suggests that the Earth’s natural frequencies might cause entrenched Bb cysts to open and deliver spirochetes to the bloodstream where they are more susceptible to antibiotics.
At this point, without Lyme-specific research, we can only speculate about the responses to Earthing but we can begin to create an Earthing strategy. My personal Earthing strategy is to sleep Earthed and work at my desk Earthed. I also seek out other Earthing opportunities such as walking barefoot on the beach and wearing Earthing flip flops as I walk outside.
I’m happy that after three years of herbal Lyme treatment and after experiencing a sharp and unmistakable diminishing of symptoms starting with daily Earthing in fall 2010, I was able to stop treating the Lyme in Spring 2012! Severe headaches and brain fog are largely a thing of the past thanks to Earthing. My joint pain is much reduced. I feel calmer and ready to sleep as soon as I connect to the Earth for the night. Sleep is still a demon I fight each night, but it is more good than bad, and my baseline is much improved due to Earthing.
The more I learn about Earthing and Lyme, the more my thoughts return to that painting of the woman with bare feet. I’m convinced my subconscious knew more about my plan for healing than I did. I can also accept that the Earth knows more about healing our bodies than we’ll ever be able to prove.
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Thanks to Scott Forsgren, who hosts an informational Lyme disease website http://www.betterhealthguy.com for contributing to this article.