Connect to the Earth for Healing Energy…?!

If you opened this blog out of pure curiosity or skepticism about the title, that’s understandable. Connecting to the earth for “healing energy” sounds more like a belief from a New Age religion, than something that belongs to the realm of scientific discovery or that glorifies God as creator. When I first heard about the earth’s healing energy,  I too was skeptical, but it turns out that there’s a growing body of scientific evidence to support the idea that the earth’s electrical charge is important for the normal functioning of the human body (check out the references below).  As a result of society’s “advancements,” however, we’ve almost completely disconnected ourselves from this energy source and possibly damaged our health as a result.

Here’s how it’s thought to work: the earth’s surface is a vast source of free electrons, which have a negative electric charge. When we come into direct contact with the earth, such as by walking barefoot, those free electrons transfer to our bodies.  Once in our bodies, the electrons serve as anti-oxidants and blood thinners.  They serve as anti-oxidants by neutralizing excess positively charged Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that cause inflammation in the body.  Chronic inflammation is responsible or contributes to a number of health problems, including slow recovery time, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and aging.  The discovery of the role of inflammation and free radicals in the aging process is what prompted the recent anti-oxidant craze, and it turns out that simply being connected to the earth might be one of the best and more affordable sources of anti-oxidants.

Connecting to the earth, or what’s been called “grounding” or “earthing,” also attenuates the viscosity of the blood, or thins it.  It does so by decreasing the coagulation of red blood cells (RBC) through electric charge.  Pilot studies have found that when the body is grounded, the Zeta potential of red blood cells increases.  In other words, the number of negative charges on each RBC is increased, which causes the RBCs to separate from one another and flow in the blood stream individually and more freely.

Based on a growing number of studies, the other benefits of grounding may include: improved sleep, stress reduction, improved heart rate variability (an important status for cardiovascular health), reduction of symptoms of arthritis, and improved glucose regulation.

While I think it’s important to avoid targeting any one environmental factor as the primary cause of our society’s health problems, it seems that not connecting to the earth is one more way that we’ve cut ourselves off from the life-giving properties of God’s creation.  Thanks to rubber soles, modern construction practices, and the automobile, we almost entirely cut ourselves off from the earth’s supply of free electrons.  Have you ever walked barefoot in the grass or on the beach and obtained an amazing sense of relaxation and peaceful energy?  Perhaps those feelings have to do with the positive physiological effects of being grounded to the earth.  At this point in the research it isn’t known how much grounding is needed to obtain the benefits listed above, but it’s thought that even half an hour can help (but the more the better).  On your next walk, consider taking your rubber-soled shoes off and walking barefooted, or look into getting some shoes with leather soles (which nearly all soles used be made of 100 years ago) – they won’t block the flow of electricity like rubber soles will.

It turns out that God’s creation is beautifully complex, and we’re part of it.  We’ve tried to control it and manipulate it for our own purposes but doing so usually only results in more problems.  Like other creatures, we depend on light, air, food, sleep, movement, and electricity for health.  Our bodies contain a vast electrical system, from our brain and nervous system to the electrical charges on our Red Blood Cells.  If we want to have optimum health we have to discover how we’ve cut ourselves off from the gifts in God’s creation, whether it be from healthy food, sunlight, or the earth’s free electrons, and RECONNECT!

References: Earthing: The Health Implications of Reconnection the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface ElectronsEarthing, The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?

Originally posted 2012-11-07 20:16:00.

Stress fractures from barefoot running

During the past few years of my barefoot running career, barefoot running has taken off in popularity.  I truly believe in the health benefits of barefoot running, and have experienced several benefits myself.  For one, I no longer get painful shin splints.  Secondly, my previous knee injury no longer causes me pain.  Moreover, my feet and calves are greatly strengthened, and I love the feel of the earth beneath my feet.  Nevertheless, many people have experienced negative effects from barefoot running, namely foot injuries.  A stress fracture to one of the metatarsal bones is the most common barefoot running injury.  Enough injuries have taken place that many podiatrists and orthopedists are discouraging barefoot running altogether.  Yet, take a look at the cause of stress fractures as described straight from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeon’s website: “Stress fractures often are the result of increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too rapidly.”  In other words, barefoot running isn’t the cause of stress fractures, it’s jumping into something your body has never done too quickly!  Stress fractures are also more common in women than men, and it’s important to make sure you’re obtaining proper nutrition to support bone health, especially calcium and vitamin D.

Barefoot running is healthier for your feet, joints, and spine, but it’s a technique that must be learned and eased into.  Most people never walk or run barefoot except on the beach.  Our feet are weak, deformed, and shoe-dependent from wearing shoes all our lives.  Feet need to be strengthened slowly.  As your feet are strengthened by walking barefoot around the block a few times, then adding progressively longer runs, muscles will develop that support the metatarsals, and your bones will strengthen. Many people are excited about the idea of running barefoot, which is awesome; yet, few are willing to start out completely  barefoot.  The cool new “barefoot” or minimalist running shoes are oh so enticing and cultural norms of keeping feet shod are difficult to let go of, but starting out with minimalist shoes without learning to properly run in the barefoot style will result in a stress fracture! The importance of running COMPLETELY barefooted before wearing minimalist shoes cannot be overemphasized. Feet have one of the highest concentration of nerve endings in the body.  These nerve endings aren’t meant to be covered up and ignored; they’re meant to teach you how to run softly.  If you follow my advice, and ease into running barefoot, you’ll avoid a stress fracture and eventually reap the benefits of running the way your were designed to run!

Regarding barefoot sprinting, yes, it is possible to sprint barefooted.  In fact, sprinting techniques closely resemble running barefoot at moderate speeds.  Proper form involves keeping the body relaxed, slightly lifting the toes while in the air, and striking the ball of the foot first (this does not look like running on your toes.  In fact, if you watch sprinters it almost looks like they land flat-footed). Again, it’s important to work up to sprinting in general, let alone sprinting barefooted.  Your body is perfectly capable of sprinting without shoes, but you shouldn’t and can’t go from 0 to 20mph overnight!  As you progressively add mileage and speed to your barefoot running routine, slowly add short sprints and build from there.  Sprints are a more aggressive form of running and you will not land on your heel but primarily on the ball and midsection of the foot.  For more information about barefoot running, check out my previous blog.  

Originally posted 2011-08-23 18:41:00.