Charged particles are critical for your physiology: all of the cells in your body do their work based on the gradient, or separation, of positive and negative charges (kind of like a battery). This is how your heart receives the messages to pump; it’s how your nerves transmit information; it’s how your muscles contract.

Quick Chemistry/Physics Interlude:

I wrote here about electrolytes, or charged atoms or molecules (also called ions). These atoms or molecules become charged based upon the ratio of subatomic particles they contain: protons (positively charged), electrons (negatively charged), or neutrons (neutral). You can’t change how many protons an atom has without changing its identity, and changing the number of neutrons won’t affect the charge; therefore, it’s the electrons that determine the charge an atom (or an ionic compound) has.

Your body sends its messages via these positively and negatively charged particles from point A to point B: which means, you have electrical currents running in your body.

EMF and Your Body

How this is related to EMF: when electrons run through a wire from a negative to a positive terminal, that is an electric current. This flow of electrons creates a magnetic field around the flow.

When a magnetic field encounters other charged particles (outside of the electric current that created it in the first place), those particles will be influenced — how much they will be influenced depends on how fast the particles were moving to begin with, and how strong the magnetic field is. (If you want to know, the particles will feel a force perpendicular to their own direction of movement, and to the magnetic field line.)

In other words, all the currents running through the various wires and devices in your home create electromagnetic fields that can disrupt the way the charged particles inside your body behave. As the earth carries a negative electric charge, electromagnetic fields encourage current to flow through you, to the ground.

Are the Effects of EMF Substantial?

According to the World Health Organization, so far there is no clear evidence that EMF poses a risk to human health, though research is still ongoing. Anecdotally, I will certainly attest to having patients who are sensitive to EMF, and given what we know about human physiology, it makes sense that there would be a cumulative effect.

What I did find were papers demonstrating the health benefits of earthing: that is, contact between the bare feet and the earth. Because the earth is negatively charged, the idea is that you can absorb electrons from the earth through the soles of your feet. This means unpaired electrons, or free radicals in your body (whether induced by EMF or by something else) get paired up, and they therefore stop wreaking havoc on surrounding tissues.

Whether earthing is good for us because of this or for some other reason, I’m not sure—I wasn’t able to find any information corroborating this theory. I did, however, find studies showing that earthing reduces blood viscosity, improves blood oxygenation and perfusion of tissues, slows the pulse and respiratory rates, and reduces stress. (Being in nature reduces stress: surprise, surprise!)

One note on this: there are products for sale that supposedly “ground” you indoors, to decrease the effects of EMF, such as floor mats or sheets that plug into wall outlets. I wouldn’t recommend these in an environment where there are lots of appliances, electronics, WiFi, etc, for the same reason you don’t want to be the tallest thing around in a lightning storm: you become the shortest path to the ground. For EMF sensitive individuals, that seems like a bad idea. 

The Take-Home Message:

In nature, and away from electromagnetic fields, getting your feet on the bare ground is a great idea, regardless of whether it’s because you’re soaking up electrons from the earth, or you’re just enjoying the peace of being outdoors and off the grid. Either way, you won’t go wrong by scheduling at least 5-10 minutes outside and barefoot each day, breathing in the fresh, clean air!