On Friday I wrote Georesonance. From the comments, it’s clear that I did a really lousy job of getting across what I was trying to convey.
So, based on those comments, let me try again.
What I am trying to address is the sense of full-body fulfillment or ease, or comfort or whatever you want to call it that barefooters get from going barefoot. What I was trying to address was three different candidates for that full-body effect, but I guess I didn’t make that clear.
The three candidates are (shorthand terms) the 1) physical effect; 2) “earthing”, and 3) microbiomes.
Let me address “earthing” first. This term has been co-opted by the Earthing Institute and the modestly titled book, “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever!” The claim is that the electrons from grounding oneself on the earth do all these magical things. Their evidence (published in pseudoscience journals) is pretty dubious. For one thing, they claim that the electrons act as anti-oxidants for free radicals. Except, for the two main free radicals, while adding an electron might neutralize it (if the chemistry worked out), for the other one, adding an electron to the non-free radical version of it turns it into a free radical.
“Earthing” is also only somewhat related to going barefoot. These folks also just happen to offer a bunch of products for you to buy so that you can be electrically grounded to the earth without going barefoot. These include various grounding pads and electrically conductive sheets.
One of their products really suggests they themselves don’t really believe what they are touting. It’s a pad for when you sit in your car. The pad is grounded to the frame of the car. But that is electrically isolated from the earth by the tires. And there is nothing that says that it will supply extra electrons to act as their supposed anti-oxidants. It’s just a product to sell that also preys on the fact that most people don’t understand the physics or the chemistry.
Occasionally, I will find barefooters (not Stephanie) using the term “Earthing”, which makes my think they’ve bought into the electron pseudoscience. But on reading further into what they’ve written, I see that they are simply referring to the whole-body effect of the benefits of barefooting. Thus, I tried to come up with a term we could use to describe that without using the term “earthing”, which, as I said, has already been co-opted and causes confusion.
The term I came up with was “georesonance”. The “resonance” part there is a metaphorical reference to the sort of feedback loop we get between the tactile sensations of going barefoot and the fact that the development of our brain “wants” that feedback. It’s the proprioception. In addition, the configuration of our bodies works best when the way it hooks together has not been distorted by the effects of shoes—both from smooshing (to use the technical term) our feet and from those misalignments working their way up our bodies.
Liken it to a radio that is receiving a lot of static because the resonant circuits have not been properly tuned to the electromagnetic environment. But when you tune the radio properly, the resonances allow you to pull in various stations.
I also liked the way Stephanie described these be benefits of going barefoot as resulting from:
the physical effects of barefooting such as improved balance and alignment and increased use of muscles (which also help circulation); and the mental effects of empowerment and wellbeing generated by taking charge and doing what’s right for yourself (sans shoes) even against the status quo.
The “geo” part of “georesonance” is intended to be evocative of the earth (in “earthing”), since it is the bare foot on the earth itself that really brings out the resonance. In some ways, I think it could be a subset of what might be called “ecoresonance”, which I’d define as the various benefits we get from being outdoors and interacting with nature. See, for instance, the book Your Brain on Nature.
Going to the third candidate, Stephanie suggested that it is the microbiome. Shoes protect us from dirt, and the benefits we see from barefooting come from “promoting a diverse and robust microbiome through contact with the living soil.”
I do not find this plausible. I do not see a plausible mechanism for how changing the microbiome on our feet can account for the whole-body benefits we feel from going barefoot.
Keep in mind that we do not have a single microbiome. We have one microbiome on our feet, another on our thigh, another at our genitals, our belly buttons, our armpits, inside our noses, inside our ears, in our eyelids (did you know that you almost certainly have eyelash mites?), and in our guts.
Now, it is easy to see how changing the microbiome in our guts could have a whole-body effect. Those bacteria create various vitamins and sugars and hormones that can get easily absorbed into our bodies. Changing the microbiomes in our
noses might also, because of the mucus membranes there. (Ditto other places with mucus membranes.) But the skin of the foot keeps stuff out of the rest of our bodies.
It is also the case that our bodies probably cultivate or promote certain bacteria to help produce helpful microbiomes. We sweat certain chemicals that encourage bacteria that help our skin.
But again I do not see how changing the microbiome on our feet by walking barefoot (as much as I like to do it) can have any real effect on the rest of our bodies, and more than regularly smearing yogurt into our belly buttons to change the microbiome there would have any sort of whole-body effect on us (even if it felt good while doing it). There is just no transport mechanism that I am aware of or that anybody has proposed.
Yes, it is possible for a foot microbiome to have a whole-body effect, but I only see that going in the negative direction. If you have a particularly shoddie foot microbiome so that you get athlete’s foot that itches you to distraction, yes, that would release stress hormones and drive you (and your whole body) nuts. The same would be true for an infection in your belly button. But that doesn’t mean that in the normal course of events that various other mostly benign microbiome compositions would have the sort of whole-body benefits that barefooters report.
If there is such an effect, I’d like to hear something plausible as to how it would work. Sure, a barefoot would have a more diverse microbiome (well, really, just different—athlete’s foot fungus is also diverse), but how, specifically would that translate into affecting the whole body? I just don’t see it.
For now, I think that georesonance more than adequately explains things. I would need some evidence to think the microbiome is involved.
[Note: just before posting this I discovered that “georesonance” is also used by others, and it too has a possible pseudoscience connection. Here’s the Wikipedia article on the company. They claim to have used their techniques to have found the remains of Malaysian Air Flight 370 . . . back in April. I guess that didn’t work out so well, did it? Here’s another article about it: Debunked: Exploration company “Georesonance” believes it may have found MH370. I guess all the good names are taken. On the other hand, using the term “georesonance” at least doesn’t already have a barefooting connections the way “earthing” does.]