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Alternative health in Singapore: What is grounding?

Ever heard of “grounding”, or “earthing” as it’s also called? When I first came across the concept a few months ago – probably on holistic health site mercola.com – it instinctively appealed to me: the idea that walking barefoot on the earth is good for you.

I remembered how happy and energised I’d always felt after a long walk on the beach. It stems from the idea that living in modern cities and wearing rubber or plastic-soled shoes, humans no longer have the kind of direct contact with the earth that we had when we walked barefoot or in shoes made of animal hide.

Going barefoot allows for the transfer of free electrons from the earth into your body through the soles of your feet, they explain, generating a powerful and positive shift in the electrical state of the body and the electrodynamics of blood, restoring natural self-healing and self-regulating mechanisms. Electrons drawn into the body from the earth are thought to neutralise damaging free radicals and so reduce disease-related chronic or acute inflammation. It’s the natural way to reduce stress, improve sleep and heal the body.


Grass – especially wet grass, sand, bare earth or even unsealed brick or concrete outdoor surfaces will do the trick. The infusion of negatively charged ions has multiple health benefits: they thin the blood, so they’re anti-inflammatory; they promote healing; and they’ve been shown to mitigate the harmful effects of radiation from the electromagnetic fields and other radiation that we’re constantly exposed to from Wi-Fi networks, computers, phones and other devices. And for when you can’t get your feet on the ground, grounding mats and other devices have been developed, even shoe soles threaded with copper wire.

An unpromising start

Just before starting to write this, I thought I’d sound out two of my editorial team colleagues, both grown up, intelligent, educated, and into health and fitness. (Not a random sample, you understand, apart from the fact that they happened to be in the office and sitting right opposite me at the time.) No, they hadn’t heard of grounding – not in this sense of the word, anyway. In reaction to the phrase “transfer of free electrons” came a pregnant pause; I could almost hear some kind of BS alarm go off as eyes widened and well-groomed brows shot up into their respective hairlines. Hmm… could be something there, they’d quite like to see the research, they said politely.

That got me thinking in another direction. More interesting than the immediate question of whether grounding therapy is true, or merely quackery, is why I (and maybe you) are predisposed to believe in it, while Katie and Amy (and maybe you) might not be.

Upbringing has something to do with it. Back in the seventies, my late dad was way ahead of current thinking when he refused to allow margarine in the house, juiced carrots, sought out unpasteurised milk for us, and forever cured a dicky prostate by eating vitamin E-rich pumpkin seeds that he used to dry on the kitchen windowsill. It’s not that I swallow every complementary or alternative health idea that comes along.

Twenty years ago, for example, I reacted to homeopathy theory with irrepressible scepticism. To me, it’s about as credible as the world having being created in seven days, or the turning of water into wine. Even if I’d like to, I simply can’t believe it…

Read the rest of the column in Expat Living February issue.