Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C.

Diabetes is a disorder that contributes to arterial and nerve damage, foot ulcers, lower limb pain and numbness, weakness in hands and feet, kidney disease, vision problems, heart attacks, stroke, and poor circulation. It is a scourge of pain, suffering, and premature death globally that kills an estimated 5.1 million people a year − a tragic statistic sharply on the rise.

A healthy diet, regular physical activity and maintaining a normal body weight are widely promoted to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the condition (90 percent of cases) and one of the world’s fastest-growing diseases. I strongly believe there’s an overlooked element here and also in the alarming rise of other chronic illnesses over the last half-century: the increasing human disconnect from the Earth’s natural, negative electric surface charge.

The planet’s surface charge comes from the virtually limitless and continuously renewed reservoir of free electrons, the presence of which has been well-established by science. Maintaining contact with the ground allows your body to naturally receive and become charged with these electrons. When thus “grounded,” you automatically absorb these free electrons which in turn quickly reduces electrical imbalances in the body and the oxidative free radicals involved in chronic inflammation and multiple diseases.

Throughout history, humans mostly walked barefoot or used semi-conductive animal hides for footwear and bedding. We lived in contact with the Earth at all times. Not anymore. Today, we mostly live and work above the ground (often very high above the ground in high rises!) and wear non-conductive shoes with synthetic soles made of plastic and rubber compounds. We rarely go barefoot outside. We are disconnected! Consequently, our bodies have become Earth-starved, and likely become electron deficient, a state that leaves us more vulnerable to inflammation and inflammatory diseases, diabetes among them.

The question arises, as the chart below poses graphically, as to whether this observation is a correlation or a coincidence. Is the loss of our planetary electrical roots a factor in the rise of diabetes and other inflammatory diseases that parallels the proliferation of sedentary living and overconsumption of calorie-rich, nutrient-poor food loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFC) sweeteners?

shoes and diabetes

Book2 diabetes chart The chart shows a similar curve growth in the incidence of type 2 diabetes and sales of synthetic-sole shoes in the U.S. since the 1950s. At that time, 95 percent of shoes were made with leather soles, many of which were conductive. Currently, 95 percent of shoes have synthetic, non-conductive soles.

Diabetes and Earthing

Can Earthing (grounding) benefit diabetes by reconnecting you to Mother Earth? Yes, and here are some of the systemic effects of Earthing that make it happen.

Reduction of Inflammation

Diabetes involves the body’s ineffective use of insulin, the pancreatic hormone that regulates blood sugar. One main component of diabetes is an inflammatory scenario where excess fatty tissue in the abdomen produces inflammatory chemicals that suppress the actions of insulin. The body becomes less sensitive, that is, more resistant, to insulin. This in turn produces more inflammatory chemicals and interference. Blood sugar rises. Add obesity and stress to the mix, and you further increase the level of inflammatory chemicals.

The influx of electrons from Earthing into the body reduces chronic inflammation.

Electrical Stability

Throughout the world, electrical systems are connected to the Earth’s surface and its negative charge to provide a standard of stability and safety. These systems, from large grids and power stations to homes, buildings, and factories, and the machinery and appliances that are operated by electricity, are thus said to be “grounded” or “earthed.”

Earthing research and subjective experiences from around the world suggest clearly that this very same electronic charge of the planet’s surface plays a governing and nurturing role for both the animal and plant kingdoms. Think of it as “electrical nutrition,” with the potential to restore, normalize, and stabilize the internal bioelectrical environment of the human body’s countless electrical systems that govern the functions of organs, tissues, cells, and biological rhythms.

Calming the Nervous System

Earthing helps defuse stress by promoting a parasympathetic, calming mode in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that regulates functions such as heart and respiration rates, and digestion. The effect rapidly shifts the ANS from a typically overactive sympathetic mode associated with stress. A study I conducted with electrophysiologist Gaétan Chevalier demonstrated how Earthing improves an important indicator of balanced ANS, called heart rate variability. HRV, as it is called for short, refers to the very subtle variations in heartbeat intervals. ANS and HRV are commonly disturbed by stress and represent an increased risk for cardiovascular problems like arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. Moreover, abnormalities in HRV are regarded as early evidence of cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy, a widely overlooked complication of diabetes that damages nerve fibers supplying the heart and blood vessels. Such abnormalities disturb heart rate control and vascular dynamics.

Glucose Control

Earthing helps control the blood glucose level.

Polish Cardiologist Karol Sokal, and his neurosurgeon son Pawel have been actively researching and documenting the various effects of grounding on the physiology for more than two decades. They have made clinical observations on many hundreds of people with different conditions, including diabetes. They have reported “good things” with diabetes, and documented their findings in a 2011 study.

“We have been able to withdraw insulin for some people because they achieved a reduction in their blood sugar just from walking barefoot,” the Sokals reported. “We found that in some cases the combination of medication and grounding could even push the glucose level too low.

“Imagine telling someone that if you go barefoot you may be able to reduce or withdraw your insulin…or some other medication! Yet that is what we found. It all depends on the level of glucose as to whether and when you can cut out the medication or reduce it. With oral medication, we observed that some people with diabetes could walk barefoot and not need anti-diabetic drugs like Metformin.

“One of our experiments with blood sugar showed that continuous grounding for three days and two nights was enough to decrease the level of glucose in patients who have diabetes. That result was on the basis of twelve volunteers, six of them grounded. Further research with more people would be needed to see at what point sustained grounding could achieve a decrease in glucose enough to recommend that a doctor reduce the medication dosage. Perhaps a minimum of three nights may be enough for some people.”

Vastly Improved Blood Flow

Earthing has a powerful impact on circulation. You can frequently see people’s skin turning pink, from improved blood flow, soon after they become grounded. It’s almost as if you have opened the flood gates of a dam.

The key mechanism here appears to be zeta potential, a term referring to the effect of the electrical charge on the surface of red blood cells, a built-in feature that enables the cells to repel each other and prevent unwanted clumping and clotting. The more negative the charge the greater the zeta potential – the ability of the cells to repel each other, and the better the flow. I often used the analogy with my patients about wanting to see their blood thin, to flow like red wine, and not be thick, sludgy, and viscous like ketchup. Heart patients and diabetics have thick blood.

Earthing’s zeta potential effect on blood was demonstrated in a 2013 pilot study in which I participated. In the study, we grounded ten healthy subjects for two hours, took blood samples before and after, and measured the negative charge on the red blood cells of each sample.

The results indicated a nearly three-fold increase, on average, of the zeta potential, with significant improvements in the electrodynamics, blood cell movement, and aggregation of the red blood cells. Seen through a microscope, we clearly observed less clumping of the cells and better blood flow. Here’s a video clip of that effect.

The findings from this small study are exciting, and help us understand the mechanisms of how grounding individuals with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or any other viscosity-inflammation related condition, has the potential to generate very significant improvements.

Diabetic patients have described to me better circulation in their extremities. This is extremely significant because so many diabetics suffer with poor circulation and neuropathy (nerve damage) in the legs and feet.

In my ongoing research, I came across a fascinating 2008 study in the international journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta that reported, for the first time, on the zeta potential of red blood cells in diabetics. The Indian researchers, from the University of Calcutta, described “a remarkable alteration” in the electrodynamics of red blood cells, and specifically a progressive deterioration of the zeta potential among diabetics and, at the worst, among diabetics with cardiovascular disease. Their research revealed a parallel between poorer zeta potential and hypercoagulability, a term meaning an increased risk for dangerous blood clots to form in the arteries and veins.

“Blood becomes sludge so that it becomes increasingly difficult for the heart to pump, and the system becomes less efficient to perform the usual functions affecting macro and microcirculation,” they said. They concluded that zeta potential should be used as an indicator of cardiovascular disease in individuals with diabetes.

A few years earlier, this same group of Indian researchers had reported that high blood sugar causes oxidative damage to red blood cells and hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein molecule in the blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and then carries out carbon dioxide. In their 2008 study, the Indians reported that the high blood sugar also significantly alters the electrodynamics of the cells’ outer membrane, thus increasing the potential for clumping.

We need further research to scientifically confirm Earthing’s zeta potential effect on red blood cells. When that happens we will know for sure that we indeed have a “game changer” for many diabetics. Meanwhile, based on the feedback to date from around the world, something profound is clearly at play.

My Bookkeeper’s Mother

In 2010, the then 81-year-old mother of my bookkeeper, Jodie Mitchell was having a terrible time with her diabetes. The woman, a retired school bus driver, suffered with painful, throbbing legs that disturbed her sleep multiple times each and every night. She would arise exhausted and have to nap during the day. She also was prone to developing horrible sores on her legs that would take considerable time to heal. This is a common problem affecting the lower extremities among diabetic patients, the likely result of poor circulation.

Early in 2010, she developed a quarter-sized sore on her calf that did not respond to topical medicines. I suggested Earthing. Three weeks after her mother began sleeping grounded, the throbbing pain was “almost gone.” Jodie told me her mother was now sleeping through the night, perhaps getting up once to relieve herself but no longer from any pain. Her energy level had soared and the open sore was no longer open. It was covered with a new growth of pink skin.

In 2013, Jodie’s mother’s energy is still great! She has experienced no more sores. She stays grounded and has minimal leg pain due to inactivity, but nothing like before!

The Australian Experience

David Richards, MBBS, an integrative family physician in Iluka, New South Wales, reported his clinical experience with Earthing and diabetes:

“I have been a general practitioner for over 30 years and I’ve never had anything to offer patients that could help diabetic neuropathy. No doctor really has anything to offer. All we can do is try to optimize blood sugar and control it. But that doesn’t fix the problem of numb feet. Earthing has changed this dilemma altogether.

“In most cases, I have seen some improvement already after an initial hour grounding session in my office. I accomplish this by placing an Earthing patch on the K1 kidney acupuncture point on each foot, attaching a conductive band around a wrist, or simply having the patients place their bare feet on a conductive floor mat. Some have reported improvements lasting for as long as ten days after the one session. The more they do the better, though.

“One diabetic woman sat in my office for an hour, both feet on an Earthing mat. Afterward she said that her numb feet had improved by 75 percent. She had never told me she had numb feet. After two sessions like that, her numb feet were totally resolved.

“To date, the numb feet of 25 out of 25 diabetic patients are mostly resolved! I now deliberately target diabetics, even those without complications. I believe Earthing offers some preventive help to even newly diagnosed diabetics by counteracting their inflammation and helping improve blood flow to all smaller vessels.

“In my practice, I personally draw blood and I have repeatedly observed the change in blood viscosity. One patient whose neuropathy resolved used to have blood that would clot in a normal-sized venesection needle before even making it to the blood tube. Since starting Earthing that doesn’t happen anymore!

“I have three kidney patients whose renal function has returned to normal. One patient had been told by a kidney specialist she would be on dialysis in three years. I started her on an Earthing program at home and when she next visited the specialist two months later the specialist told her perhaps she would need dialysis in five years. When I heard from her again she said there ‘was not much to report.’ Her kidney function remains the same and if it remains stable she will probably NEVER need dialysis. The other two patients are also stable and if they continue Earthing they will likely not need dialysis either.

“One of these patient likes to go fishing barefoot. He remarked how he had forgotten how sharp the rocks were and how hot the sand was! He can feel them now. Before, he couldn’t. His diabetic kidney disease has stabilized.

“Another patient on the Earthing program now describes the condition as ‘slowly’ progressive renal disease. I have never seen the term ‘slowly’ attributed to renal disease.

“The brother-in-law of a good patient of mine reluctantly tried Earthing. He is on dialysis. His specialist told him, ‘I don’t know what you are doing but keep doing it.’

“One patient with vascular disease now sleeps grounded. He chided me during an office visit. ‘Why didn’t you tell me about this years ago,’ he said. His usually cold feet are rewarmed within minutes of contact with the Earthing sheet.

“I have seen diabetic eye disease stabilize in two patients. Another, with glaucoma, reported visual improvement, ‘like cling film being lifted from in front of the television screen.’

“Another individual with a leaking heart valve has experienced resolution based on a recent echocardiogram. His specialist can’t explain it.

“I find that medication needs generally are reduced after Earthing. One patient now only takes insulin if she is lax with her diet. Another has reduced daily insulin from 80 units down to 10 or 20. Prior to Earthing, one of them experienced considerable depression. The depression has improved with Earthing. These improvements occurred after several months of Earthing twice a week in my clinic.

“I actually warn all patients to be alert for improvement and be prepared to reduce doses of some medications, such as blood pressure, thyroid, and glucose meds, and, in particular, blood thinners. For those on blood thinners, such as Coumadin, I do standard blood clotting checks fortnightly for about two months, and if the blood is stable, then do it monthly. I haven’t encountered any issues.

“Earthing brings into the treatment equation an entirely unusual prospect. The majority of doctors only expect deterioration and to add more medication and/or to increase doses. Now, along with noticeable improvements and lowering medication, it seems to me that diabetics over a long period of time will also have less heart disease, less stroke, and better health as a result of Earthing.

“And not just diabetics. I started Earthing a new patient recently. She had spinal surgery 27 years before and hasn’t been able to flex her toes or feel her left foot/lower leg since the operation. She can now!!! If it weren’t for Earthing she might have spent the rest of her life carrying what she had always referred to as her ‘dead leg.’

“I have male patients who after sleeping grounded tell me they can pee with more force. Presumably their age-related prostate swelling is somewhat better. Most feel calmer, sleep better, and generally feel better overall. I also see better wound healing and a concept quite unusual in my career: blood pressure and thyroid conditions improving.

“Medicine doesn’t have many “WOW” moments. It is mainly logical thinking with little scope for being somewhat creative. Medicine plus Earthing has provided me lately with some spectacular “WOW” moments.”

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We have so much more to learn about Earthing and its many splendored possibilities for health. Earthing research is still in its bare infancy. Yet, it is fair to say that this is something very special. As Aristotle said more than twenty-three hundred years ago, “In all things of Nature there is something of the marvelous.”

Caution: Earthing and Medication

Earthing impacts the physiology systemically, and may improve circulation, glucose, and blood viscosity values. It also reduces inflammation. These effects could require an adjustment in medication dosages. Patients with diabetes on prescription medication should read the Earthing Institute advisory on medication and consult with their doctors before starting Earthing.