Intensive care doctors have discovered that Mother Earth may boost the resilience of fragile, at-risk newborns.
The doctors found that grounding premature infants produced immediate and significant improvements in measurements of autonomic nervous system (ANS) functioning critically important in the regulation of inflammatory and stress responses.
The findings, by researchers at the Pennsylvania State University Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Hershey, were published in the journal Neonatology in June 2017.
Specifically, grounding the babies, clinically stable and from five to sixty days of age, strongly increased measures of heart rate variability (HRV) that indicated improved vagus nerve transmission. The vagus nerve, extending from the brainstem into the abdomen, is the main nerve of the parasympathetic division of the ANS. Its offshoots supply and regulate key organs, including the lungs, heart, and intestines. HRV refers to beat-to-beat alterations in heart rate, and is influenced by the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the ANS.
This is the first Earthing study conducted with babies. You can read the study abstract here.
Earlier, a 2011 study demonstrated that grounding rapidly improves HRV among adults, and generates a shift from an overactive sympathetic mode, associated with acceleration and stress, into a parasympathetic, or normalizing and calming mode.
If you improve your HRV you can reduce the likelihood of stress-related disorders.
Improved HRV occurred consistently among 20 babies in the new study when they were grounded during testing periods over 20 to 40 minutes. The improvement disappeared quickly when they were alternately disconnected from the Earth. Grounding was achieved by adhering a grounding patch on the skin of the babies, while in their incubators or cribs, and connecting the patch wire to the hospital’s grounding system.
Among the babies tested, “grounding raised parasympathetic tone within minutes,” says Charles Palmer, MB.ChB., a specialist in neonatology, and co-investigator in the study. “We obviously need more research to further prove that grounding may enhance vagus nerve transmission and thereby improve stress and inflammatory regulatory mechanisms in preterm infants.”
Previously, Dr. Palmer and his research colleagues reported that decreased vagus nerve function is a “valuable marker of vulnerability to stress” in premature infants, including an indicator of risk for necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious intestinal disorder that affects about 5-10 percent of preemies. The condition has an inflammatory component that could adversely affect critical cells protecting nerve tissue and thus possibly undermine development of the nervous system.
During the last fifteen years research has revealed that the vagus nerve plays a major role in the so-called “anti-inflammatory reflex,” a mechanism that controls basic immune responses and inflammation during pathogen invasion and tissue injury. Among other things, the nerve’s actions help to inhibit excessive production of pro-inflammatory chemicals.
Previous grounding studies have led to a hypotheses that grounding reduces inflammation as a result of electrons from the Earth entering the body and neutralizing free radicals involved in chronic inflammation. The fact that grounding improves vagus tone in adults, and apparently also in infants, offers another mechanism as to how grounding reduces inflammation in the body.
The Penn State researchers also reported that grounding immediately and substantially reduced skin voltage induced on the babies from ambient electric fields radiating from surrounding medical and incubator equipment. Such voltage may have a stress effect on premature babies. In a 2005 published study and again in 2016, Earthing has been shown to significantly reduce induced voltage on the body.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a half-million American babies are born preterm annually, or 1 of every 8 infants. Preterm means a baby is born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy. Preterm-related causes of death account for about 35 percent of all infant deaths, and more than any other single cause, and is also a leading contributor to long-term neurological disabilities in children.