Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome – Part 1

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Dorine Lam, RDN, MS, MPH



What are Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)?

The body can sense and is stressed by electromagnetic fields, which can be a problem for adrenal fatigue sufferersLiving in a complex, modern world has both its advantages of energy and time saving conveniences, but also a myriad of disadvantages such as lack of physical work and constant bombardment of electrical and magnetic fields surrounding our environment. Our homes and our offices are filled with wireless devices, ranging from cordless telephones, cell phones, to computers, laptops, and printers. How much do we know about these modern conveniences affecting our bodies on a cellular level? What are these electromagnetic fields doing to our environment and therefore our bodies as well?

Electric and magnetic fields, also known as electromagnetic fields (EMFs), are invisible lines of force that are created by electric charges. In other words, wherever there is electricity, there are also electric and magnetic fields or electromagnetic fields.

Sources with high voltage produce strong electric fields, which result from the strength of the charge and are easily shielded, weakened and blocked by objects such as trees and buildings. On the other hand, sources with strong currents produce magnetic fields, which result from the motion of the charge or the current, and are not easily blocked. The strength of both electric and magnetic fields decrease as you move further away from the source of the fields.

It is clear that escaping from electromagnetic fields is an impossible task for those of us living anywhere, but for the most remote regions of the world. Where escape is not possible, our next best solution is to learn and understand as much as we can about electromagnetic fields in order to combat its negative effects, and minimize the damage.

Primary Sources of Exposure to EMF

Electric and magnetic fields come from many sources such as transmission lines, distribution lines, internal wiring in buildings, currents in ground paths and electrical appliances such as refrigerators, laptops, hair dryers, electric blankets, etc. It is important to understand that fields can also interact with one another to increase or decrease their total effect, so that in one specific location the electromagnetic fields strength will depend on the distance and location of the major source, such as the distribution lines, as well as the distance and the location of the nearby sources, such as a refrigerator or a cordless phone base.

There are five major sources of electromagnetic fields exposure that we are surrounded by on a daily basis and they are:

  1. Electric fields (emanating from anything containing electricity including lamps, wiring, computer monitor, outlets, electrical appliances)
  2. Magnetic fields (a major source is the main power meter for the house, also electric clock radios)
  3. Power lines (both above and underground)
  4. Metal plumbing (older metal plumbing carries a current)
  5. Wireless communications (including cell towers, cell phones, wireless routers, cordless phones).

There is not much that we can do about public structures that have been put in place by regulatory bodies, such as power lines and metal plumbing, but there is certainly much that can be done on a personal level to devices in our home, or where we work.

It is also important to listen to your body and notice where and when you feel more fatigued than usual, a little more anxious, perhaps dehydrated after working on the laptop for a certain period of time? Some of these signs could be an indication that your body is telling you that you are being exposed to electromagnetic fields radiation and that it is slowly and surely wreaking havoc on your body.

Wireless Phones

Even something as innocuous as a wireless phone creates electromagnetic fieldsLet us discuss further the inherent dangers involved in wireless communications. For those of us who rely heavily on cell and wireless phones on a daily basis this is of crucial concern as most of these forms of technology expose our bodies to both electric and magnetic fields.

Most people do not realize that the common cordless phone base is a major source of electromagnetic fields exposure in the home, and should never be placed in the bedroom, or on your desk where you can be continually exposed. Even while the phone is not in use, it is still transmitting constantly and therefore it is preferable that one uses a speakerphone or headset.

The other forms of wireless communication can all be decreased dramatically as they are linear types of radiation, therefore, any amount of distance or material between the source and you will help to reduce exposure. Walls are a significant barrier, especially if they are reflective, that is, it contains metal foil or metal paint.

Magnetic Field Exposure is Different from Electric Field Exposure

Magnetic fields are generated from many sources including power lines nearby, power meters, motors in the refrigerator, cordless telephone bases, laptops and your hair dryer—which emits greater magnetic fields than the refrigerator! Avoid using a hair dryer if possible. The only way to know with certainty whether the magnetic fields in your home is of a high level, is to test for it with a Gauss meter. Unlike electric fields that can be shielded, magnetic fields can pass through metal, even lead. There is one rather impractical solution and that is to completely encase the source and ground it.

In terms of laptops and other computer charging devices, you can shield against the electric field by using reflective material/metal, however, bear in mind that the magnetic field cannot be totally blocked. Therefore, avoid using the device(s) in close proximity such as on your lap. Also, because the charging devices are ungrounded, only use them when they are running on battery and not plugged in and charging.

Although it may seem impractical to only use the laptop when it is not being charged, once you begin to understand the effects electromagnetic fields can have on your body, you will appreciate that it is a small inconvenience to charge it when you take a break from your work, for example, to do adrenal breathing exercises, or your adrenal yoga, and return to work with it unplugged—it will become second nature within a very short period of time. However, as always do not let this become an obsession or over focus on it. It is important to make gradual and small changes so that they do not overwhelm you.

How Electromagnetic Fields Affect the Body

Adrenal fatigue may worsen when the body is exposed to environmental electromagnetic fieldsThere has been debate as to whether electromagnetic fields can actually harm the body, however, with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying electromagnetic fields as a Group 2B possible carcinogen, this debate can be laid to rest. EMF exposure impacts the body on many levels including the nervous system, the endocrine system, our genes, our immune system, and the brainwaves. They can affect inter-cell communication within the body resulting in dysregulation of the cellular structure that can be associated with many neurological and behavioral changes, cardiac arrhythmia including atrial fibrillation, altered cell growth, fibromyalgia and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

What Causes EMF Sensitivity?

People who suffer from this have coined many different terms for the condition, such as electromagnetic sensitivity, electro-sensitivity, electromagnetic hypersensitivity, EMF intolerance, and microwave sickness. The increasing usage of cell phones, computers, laptops, e-book readers, smart meters, WiFi, Bluetooth, cordless phones, cell towers, and a myriad of other electrical conveniences in our modern day living are increasing our exposure to electromagnetic fields—an area that is so rapidly advancing that mainstream scientific research has not been able to keep up in terms of the damage it can do to our cells and therefore our bodies in the long term.

To comprehend why our bodies react to EMF it is necessary to first understand that the body is made up of 70 trillion cells interacting, and in order for the cells to be optimizing our health they need the necessary building blocks of nutrition, detoxification to eliminate waste, and oxygen for the cells to convert into adenosine triphosphate (a source of energy). EMF sensitivity is essentially damaged cell membranes—where the cell walls are weakened and the ultimate consequence results in nutrients leaking out and toxins remaining. When the cell membranes are damaged it can lead to many biological problems, including Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Cells communicate to each other via the use of their own electricity located within the cells. These signals however, are perturbed when external artificial EMF interferes with the communication.

The common symptoms that people complain of relating to EMF sensitivity range from: headaches, constant and long term fatigue, digestive disorders, sleep disturbance, muscle tightness, memory disorders, metallic taste in the mouth, anxiety, heart palpitations and muscle twitches — many of these symptoms are also typical for Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome sufferers.

EMF and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is a neuro-endocrinologic condition where the body becomes weak under stress. Stress comes in many forms: emotional (anger, anxiety, finances, relationships), physical (pain, exertion, excessive exercise), inherited (genetic, prenatal) and environmental (electromagnetic fields , toxins, weather, allergens). We are concerned with the environmental stress to the body that is caused by electromagnetic fields.

Try to avoid electromagnetic fields to reduce stress on your bodyWhy is it that not all AFS sufferers who are exposed to EMF react to it negatively? One possible answer to this is that EMF exposure is only one of the many toxic burdens that the body carries. Therefore, individual reactions vary with EMF exposure depending on the individual person’s overall toxic load. Those with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome already have a weakened constitution and any further stress on the body, in this case, daily EMF exposure, can make the symptoms worse. In light of this understanding, EMF sensitivity can be a sign that your body is under a heavy toxic load, be it environmental, nutritional or emotional/mental. In advanced cases of AFS the probability of concurrent sensitivity to electromagnetic fields along with severe weakness is higher. Some sufferers, as a result, cannot physically function normally when near a cell phone, electrical equipment and/or household appliances. In extreme cases, one has to live far away from modern civilization, such as in a remote forest environment to avoid EMF exposure in order for symptoms like heart palpitations and anxiety to subside.

Read Part 2 Now!

© Copyright 2014 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Questions

In early stages of AFS, no. The more advanced the weakness, the higher the risk.

When your body continues to be stressed, the immune system slowly becomes weaker, and the extracellular matrix can become congested. That creates unwanted metabolites that can become toxic in the body, leading to inflammation. The more inflamed the body, the more cells are sensitive. You can become sensitive to food, chemicals, and EMF eventually. When you are EMF sensitive, most likely your body has some sort of AFS.

It can be very harmful, especially to those who have a congested liver, in chronic weakness, and have reactive metabolite overload. Some people cannot tolerate even a small amount.

Adrenal fatigue may worsen when the body is exposed to environmental electromagnetic fields

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39 Comments

  • Ah Fei says:

    Do you know if blue light filter apps for smartphone screens is efficient to help reduce EMF?

  • Kari says:

    Do you think electromagnetic fields could be related to tinnitus and ringing in the ears?

  • Georgio says:

    I always thought it was funny when people were worried about “electromagnetic forces” and used their speaker phone all the time to hold it away from their face. I didn’t know it the effects of EMF were real! Interesting.

  • Paula says:

    Can strengthening the cell membranes help to reduce EMF sensitivity?

  • Don says:

    Like many of us, I grew up under power lines. Should I concerned with anything lingering in my system?

  • Larry says:

    If I am getting the EMF from the plumbing what can I do to help myself?

  • Simon says:

    Can EMF disrupt digestion?

  • Bernardine says:

    In my neighborhood, the electric company has erected new high voltage towers. At first, we were told that they would only be using 100k volts but it is rumored that they will be using up to 500k volts. Should I be concerned? What should I look out for? Thank you in advance.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      The towers are equipeed with shields to assure reduced exposure to surrounding area. Those who are sensitive to EMF may find this very troubled and if so, you can get an indepenent professional to measure the leakage if any.

      Dr Lam

  • Shelly says:

    I have suspected that my house has high EMF reading for years but symptoms were mild and no one else believes me. My baby brother moved 4 houses down (about 6 mo ago) and there is a huge power line (10 or more huge cables) behind his house, really close. We have been clearing the land back there, pretty much right under the lines (sometimes you can hear static like sounds coming from the lines). At first I didn’t notice anything abnormal. Then in September I got snake bit and everything got crazy after that. I was sick a few days and it weakened my immune system quite a bit. That is when I started to really feel extremely sensitive to EMF. I also have two titanium dental implants. I’ve heard that my implants could be like antennas drawing it to me. Do you think my recent immune system weakness and my implants could be affecting my health? I get hives, irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, headaches, vision problems, ringing in the ears, flush skin, fever, night sweats, cloudy urine, diarrhea, and worth of all hallucinations, delirium, cognitive problems, mood swings, depression, and sometimes rage. What do you think Dr?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      EMF sensitivities can ruin your life. Science is still years away from accepting this. Removing yourself from such exposure can confirm and help you recover.

      Dr Lam

  • Shelly says:

    Suffer from it and then sing that song!!!

  • Bridget says:

    Can emf exposure trigger feeling really tired?

  • George says:

    Can clothing contribute to EMF exposure? If so, what clothes should I avoid and what clothes will help?

  • Oliver says:

    I was wondering, Dr. Lam, do hearing aides create harmful EMF? I have to wear them during the day but I think I also have Adrenal Fatigue.

  • Mel says:

    I had not realized how much my world is surrounded by EMF ! This could possibly explain some of the symptoms I’ve had playing with my Kindle all day.

  • Anna Biondi says:

    Hello,

    I have been directly attacked by electromagnetic waves for four years, but people refuse to believe me. My suffering is misunderstood, and I feel so helpless. I need so much to protect my self. The attacks follow me everywhere – even in Europe. Please, advice me. I need help.

    Thank you

    Anna Biondi

  • ben says:

    I am wondering what you would suggest to do for someone that is around EMF all the time? I am constantly on my phone due to work and computers so I find it really hard to limit my exposure.

  • Phil says:

    I never realized how exposed to EMF we really are or how much affects our bodies. I will be applying some of your suggestions to my daily life. Thank you for the information Dr Lam! This is indeed a great article.

  • RaeAnn says:

    Could emf cause ADHD symptoms to be worse?

  • Brad says:

    When you refer to microwave radiation, are you talking about microwave ovens? Do the effects of all non-ionizing radiation contribute to EMF overload? Thanks!

  • Garret says:

    I’ve heard that walking barefoot can actually help ground person against harmful EMF. Is this true?

  • Mark says:

    I’m glad to see that you’re interested in EMF sensitivity. Most people don’t believe it’s real, because they don’t really understand what EMFs are. Simply put, they are light. Even visible light is scientifically known to have effects on health (such as how blue and green light can suppress melatonin production). How much more so invisible light? UV rays are invisible EMFs to most people, and no one rationalizes their sunburns away, or the fact that some kinds of UV rays help us to produce vitamin D. Infrared light (also invisible, has measurable effects, too). Radio waves are also light. So are microwaves, gamma rays, etc.

    I’ve experienced sensitivity to EMFs (particularly artificial visible light and radio waves from our wireless router). The light would hurt my eyes, make me feel sick, and cause other symptoms. The router’s radio waves had variable effects depending on what channel the router was on, including depression, effects on dreams, making me feel like I’m going to die, mood, and plenty of other stuff. Overall, channels 10 and 9 on the wireless router are the best in my experience, and make me feel more cheerful (but they still bring symptoms). Anyway, I found something quite miraculous for all of this! If I take vitamin D3 (at least 400iu a day, which though isn’t a whole lot of vitamin D, is still enough to remove my symptoms almost entirely, for a day), I feel much, much, much better. I had a dream (wherein I had some very, very serious issues, and became my normal self right after going out in the sun) that eventually inspired the vitamin D. The light doesn’t hurt my eyes. It’s rather miraculous, and very, very appreciated. It takes twenty minutes or less before my eyes no longer hurt when I’m around artificial light. That’s faster than most people would have a scientific explanation for, but it works. It also helped my niece with light that was hurting her eyes (she doesn’t have issues with wireless signals to our knowledge; so, I have yet to find if vitamin D helps for that on others). Spending time in the sun also helps me, of course (I tried that first). I’m guessing a lot of people with EMF sensitivity are indoors a lot, use computers often, and have vitamin D deficiency. EMFs, such as from the router, still affect me when I take vitamin D, but they’re not nearly as bad. I feel less raw, less exposed, less likely to die, and I feel like I’m protected by something. Light (EMFs) doesn’t drain me as much. I can tolerate and even enjoy it.

  • rachel says:

    very useful thank you

  • Abrea says:

    Hi Dr. Lam, it seems that EMF issues are everywhere! Is there a way to detect how much EMF I am exposing myself to? I try to limit computer usage, but find it hard sometimes.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      There are professional companies that can make an evaluation of the degree of exposure your home or office is subject to. You are right. It is hard to avoid.

      Dr Lam