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Grounding (Earthing) and Blood Viscosity
Grounding; that is, physically connecting to the earth's electron field, reduces blood viscosity and aggregation by changing the electrical surface charge (zeta potential) of red blood cells (RBC), according to a study led by Gaétan Chevalier, PhD, at University of California, Irvine. During grounding, electrons from the earth enter the body and increase the RBC surface charge. "A higher repulsive surface charge," the authors explain, "increases spacing between erythrocytes, reduces clumping, lowers viscosity, and lowers peripheral resistance to flow."
Both the human body and soil (unless it is extremely dry/desert) conduct electrons. Chevalier and colleagues explain, "… when two conductive objects with different electrical potential touch each other, there is a virtually instantaneous transfer of charge so that the two objects equilibrate to the same electrical potential. … " Whenever we lie on the grass or walk barefoot along a beach, the electrons from the earth's surface sweep into our bodies. In industrial cultures, most people have minimal contract with this natural bioelectric environment in which humans evolved. We no longer sleep on the ground. We spend much of our time indoors. And when we are outdoors, we are often wearing nonconducting rubber-soled shoes.
For their 2013 study, Chevalier and colleagues recruited 10 healthy people. Each person had a single 2-hour grounding session during which conductive patches, wired to a steel rod stuck in ground outdoors, remained on the soles of their feet and the palms of their hands. The absolute value of zeta potential increased in all 10: "The smallest absolute increase was by a factor of 1.27 and the largest was by a factor of 5.63." The person with the smallest increase lived on a raw-food diet, ran three times per week, and did yoga twice a week outdoors and at home. Overall, the average zeta potential increased "from a very small average value of ~5.28 mV into a normal value (~14.3 mV)." RBC aggregation also declined. After grounding, the researchers observed significantly more single red blood cells and two-celled clusters and fewer clusters of three or more cells. Blood pressure was not measured in this experiment.
Connecting with earth, whether directly or via wired conductors, has a positive effect on cardiovascular health. In addition to improved blood viscosity and aggregation, grounding improves heart rate variability and increases parasympathetic activity, according to previous research. And, the authors say, it is "virtually harmless." The only caveat is to monitor people taking blood-thinning drugs (e.g., warfarin) as frequent grounding sessions can change their medication needs.
Chevalier G, Sinatra ST, Oschman JL, Delany RM. Earthing (grounding) the human body reduces blood viscosity – a major factor in cardiovascular disease. J Altern Comp Med. 2013;19(2):102–110. Available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3576907. Accessed March 3, 2014.
Magnesium Deficiency and Cardiovascular Disease
Hypertension, high cholesterol, arterial calcification, and heart rhythm abnormalities are among the many signs of magnesium deficiency, according to Aileen Burford-Mason, PhD. Over 300 enzymes need magnesium in order to work properly – including the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which regulates cholesterol production. In addition, magnesium is a calcium antagonist and functions as nature's calcium channel blocker. "Calcium needs to rise in muscle cells for contraction to occur," Burford-Mason explains. "However before relaxation can follow, calcium must be shifted either outside the cell or back into storage sites within the cell. … This process depends on the availability of magnesium." Without sufficient magnesium to relax smooth and cardiac muscles, people can experience hypertension, atrial fibrillation, and painful coronary and cerebral vasospasms.
Magnesium deficiency is very common, due to several factors. First of all, most Americans do not eat enough magnesium-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, nuts, kelp, wheat bran, baking chocolate, and spinach. The actual content of these foods, however, depends upon the soil in which they grow. Carolyn Dean, MD, author of The Magnesium Miracle, says, "Magnesium is not a component of modern-day fertilizers. When plants have used up all the magnesium in the soil, unless it's replaced, there is none in the next crop." Another factor that contributes to magnesium deficiency is stress, including the physical stress of exercise. "Most human studies confirm that any form of exercise depletes magnesium. We sweat it out and stress it out and need extra magnesium to neutralize lactic acid," says Dean. Other causes of magnesium deficiency, according to Burford-Mason, include excessive urination associated with poorly controlled diabetes, excess alcohol consumption, and some prescription drugs including diuretics, proton pump inhibitors, and digoxin. The issue of magnesium deficiency is further complicated by individuals' genetic differences affecting the amount of magnesium required.
Blood tests do not give an accurate view of magnesium status because the body is continually shifting the mineral across membranes and from bone in order to maintain blood levels, says Burford-Mason. She recommends that practitioners look for functional evidence of a calcium/magnesium imbalance. In addition to the cardiovascular symptoms mentioned earlier, leg cramps or spasms, tight shoulder muscles, back spasms, muscle twitching around the eye, and restless leg syndrome are all signs of magnesium deficiency. "Imbalances will also be obvious in smooth muscle," she says, "resulting in physical signs of dysregulated lung function such as shortness of breath, wheezing or asthma [especially after exercise] and perhaps frequent sighing." Other signs include palpitations or irregular heartbeat, constipation, frequent urination at night, and nervous system symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, and irritability. If these symptoms are due to magnesium deficiency, they should improve with oral supplementation to bowel tolerance.
Burford-Mason recommends gradually increasing the dosage by 50 mg every three to four days until the person has one or two soft bowel movements per day. Too high a dose will produce diarrhea. She prefers to use amino acid chelates of magnesium (glycinate, aspartate, taurate) because they are not excreted from the kidneys as quickly as magnesium citrate.
Taking high doses of magnesium is not recommended for people with kidney disease (creatinine clearance <30 mL/min) who are unable to eliminate excess magnesium.
Burford-Mason A. Orthomolecular medicine and heart health: unmasking the magnesium link to multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease. J Orthomol Med. 2013;28(1):9–15. Available at EBSCO Database. Accessed February 14, 2014.
Dean C. Magnesium. El Segundo, CA: Active Interest Media Inc; 2011.
Autonomic Imbalance, Heart Failure, and Mind-Body Medicine
Sitaramesh Emani, MD, and Philip F. Binkley, MD, MPH, at Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio) suggest that mind-body interventions that promote autonomic balance such as biofeedback, meditation, and relaxation techniques might benefit patients with chronic heart failure and reduce organ-damaging inflammation. Tai chi and yoga, which involve slow, focused movement and regulated breathing, also come under the category of mind-body interventions. Autonomic nervous system imbalance is characteristic of many stress-related conditions, including chronic heart failure. When sympathetic nervous function dominates and parasympathetic activity is low, pro-inflammatory cytokine production increases. These cytokines, in turn, promote norepinephrine production and sympathetic activity. The result is a self-feeding loop, promoting autonomic imbalance – unless the cycle can be broken.
Although mind-body interventions have improved cardiovascular risk factors in numerous studies, Emani and Binkley report that few studies have focused on patients with congestive heart failure. Most studies that they discuss in their article are small (<100 participants) and short term, lasting 4 months or less. Nearly all of the studies found that mind-body intervention improved quality of life. Six-minute walking distance also increased in a most studies that used it as an outcome.
Unlike the studies in the Emani-Binkley article, a 2014 controlled study, performed by Bandi Hari Krishna and colleagues at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (Puducherry, India), measured inflammation and oxidative stress markers. These researchers found that yoga training as an adjunct to standard medical treatment had a significant positive effect on stable heart failure patients, with an ejection fraction of 30% to 50%. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, orthopedic impediments, recent hospitalization (within 3 months), and myocardial infarction or recurrent angina (within 6 months) were excluded from the trial. Participants were randomly assigned to the yoga group (n = 44) or to the control group (n = 48), which received standard medical treatment without yoga therapy. For the first 2 weeks, patients in the yoga group attended a 60-minute yoga session (6 days per week), designed by a cardiologist and a yoga therapist. For the remaining 10 weeks of the study, patients practiced the routine in their homes for 3 of the 6 days each week.
Several oxidative stress and inflammatory markers were measured in all participants at baseline and at study's end. Total antioxidant status (TAOS), malondialdehyde (MDA), and redox ratio (a ratio for MDA and TAOS) were used to measure oxidative stress. Compared with baseline measurements, total antioxidant status increased 99.66% in the yoga group and 19.9% in the control after 12 weeks. Malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidation stress, declined 59.49% in the yoga group and 15.81% in the control. The redox ratio fell 77.19% in the yoga group and 20.59% in control.
Inflammatory markers also decreased more in the yoga group. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein fell 68.07% in the yoga group and 5.12% in the control group. Interleukin-6 decreased 33.96%, compared with 10.41% in the control; and tumor necrosis factor alpha decreased 31.02% in the yoga group and 14.79% in control. "The findings indicate that yoga training in addition to the standard medical therapy for [heart failure] patients was not only safe, but resulted in significant improvement in oxidative stress and inflammatory markers," the authors conclude. It would be interesting to know if yoga had a rebalancing effect on the patients' autonomic function as well.
Emani S, Binkley PF. Mind-Body medicine in chronic heart failure: a translational science challenge. Circ Heart Fail. 2013;3:715–725. Available at http://circheartfailure.ahajournals.org/content/3/6/715.full. Accessed February 28, 2014.
Krishna BH, Pal P, Pal GK, et al. Yoga training in heart failure (NYHA 1-11) reduces oxidative stress and inflammation. J Exerc Physiol. February 2014:17(1). Available at www.asep.org. Accessed February 29, 2014.
Vitamin C and Stroke Risk
A 2013 meta-analysis, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that long-term consumption of fruits and vegetables with high vitamin C content lowers stroke risk. Chinese researchers undertook the meta-analysis of prospective studies to evaluate the correlation between long-term low-dose consumption of vitamin C via diet, circulating C, and stroke risk. The Chinese research team included 12 prospective studies on vitamin C intake and 6 prospective studies on circulating vitamin C in the 2013 analysis.
The 12 dietary vitamin C intake studies involved 217,454 participants from Europe, Asia, and the US. The studies lasted between 6.1 years and 30 years, during which time a total of 3762 stroke events occurred. The high average C intake via diet varied among the studies from 45.6 mg/day to 375.8 mg/day. Two studies also measured supplement intake, reporting an average high of 850 mg/day from supplements alone in one study and 1120 mg/day in the second. About 20% fewer stroke events occurred in the group with the highest dietary intake of vitamin C compared with low-intake group; summary relative risk was 0.81 (95% CI: 0.74 to 0.90). Although average high intake levels were much greater in the studies with supplementation, the relative risk for those using supplements was about the same: 0.83 (95% CI: 0.62 to 1.10).
Instead of focusing on C intake, 6 studies measured serum or plasma vitamin C levels. Circulating C is considered a "good indicator of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables," say the authors. In these studies, the Chinese team followed a total of 29,648 participants (primarily European) for 9.5 to 20 years and documented 989 stroke events. The meta-analysis showed that people with high levels of circulating C had a 38% lower risk of stroke (RR = 0.62, 95% CI: 0.49 to 0.79) than those with low levels. Guo-Chong Chen and colleagues suggest that circulating vitamin C levels "may serve as a good predictor of stroke risk and diet status."
The authors point out that circulating vitamin C has a saturation point. At intake levels over 100 mg/day, "there is little change in blood concentration despite large changes in dose." Consequently, they do not expect supplementation to have much benefit for people whose diets produce high (saturated) blood concentrations of vitamin C.
Guo-Chong C, Da-Bing L, Zhi P, Qung-Fang L. Vitamin C intake, circulating vitamin C and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. J Am Heart Assoc. 2013;2:e000329. doi:10.1161/JAHA.113.000329. Available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3886767. Accessed February 14, 2014.
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