Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

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

What are electromagnetic fields (EMFs)?

EMFs are everywhere and may contribute to adrenal fatigue/Living 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 electrical and magnetic 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.

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 EMF 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 EMF 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 EMF 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 EMF 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 EMF radiation and that it is slowly and surely wreaking havoc on your body.

Wireless Phones

Let 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.

Phones can contribute towards adrenal fatigue/Most people do not realize that the common cordless phone base is a major source of EMF 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 EMF 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 EMFs affect the body

There has been debate as to whether EMFs can actually harm the body, however, with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying EMFs 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

Stress is a serious contributor to adrenal fatigue/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 (EMFs, toxins, weather, allergens). We are concerned with the environmental stress to the body that is caused by EMFs.

Why 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 EMFs 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.

A great start to healing your body is to reduce your exposure to EMF, but also equally important, and more so in the long run, is understanding and addressing the toxins the body has accumulated and to consider the emotional and other triggers that have led the body to a downward spiral into a debilitating state of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Therefore, efficient adrenal fatigue recovery would need to consider all sources of stress to the body, while simultaneously minimizing EMF exposure to assist in the recovery process, even if you do not initially feel the effects of EMF.

How to Decrease EMF Exposure

There are many things that can be done to reduce your exposure to EMF, ranging from simple to more complicated measures. The following offers a variety of measures that can be taken to guard yourself against unnecessarily exposing your body to harmful EMFs.

1. In the Bedroom

The bedroom is one of the most important spaces to consider reducing your exposure to EMF. The body is repairing its cells when you sleep and the bedroom is where you typically spend a large part of the day. Many adrenal fatigue sufferers have difficulty falling asleep and remaining asleep—it could be that their bedroom environment is not conducive to sleep. Where practical and possible, it is best to remove all electrical equipment from the bedroom, including lamps and alarm clocks. Even when the lamps are switched off they are still radiating EMF and therefore the body is susceptible to it while sleeping.

Most housing in the United States will have bare wires running through the walls, so the simplest remedy for this is to sleep with your head as far away from the wall as possible, facing the center of the room. Also, make sure everything around the bed is battery operated, including alarm clocks, humidifiers, air filters. As previously noted, turning off the lights does not halt the electric fields, as the electrical outlets are still carrying voltage, regardless of whether the light is switched on or off.

If your appliance it not battery operated, distancing yourself from the appliance by at least three to five feet can almost make the field ineffective on your body.

2. Grounding Sheets/Earthing Sheets

Computers or laptops that have a 3 pin plug means that they are already grounded. For those that have a 2 pin plug, grounding is easily achieved with the use of an alligator clip on a wire, which is then grounded by plugging into an electric socket. What this does is to ground the computer through the wire, instead of through the body. There are other options on the market such as grounding yourself via the use of a grounding mat; however, this requires more caution and measurements need to be taken prior to using the mat in an area where there is other electrical equipment in use.

Precautions in using grounding sheets

There are many grounding pads and sheets that are available on the market currently, as a result of Internet marketing. However, most people are unaware there are inherent dangers in the use of these devices. Namely, that depending on the location of the field source relative to the grounding sheet, the field strength may go down or go up. The only way to know for certain what the levels are is to measure with an EMF meter. Grounding sheets cannot simply be used on a hunch, as there is the potential to be more harmful than helpful. For areas such as the office, the preferred method is earthing the equipment and not yourself via an earthing mat, as for the same reasons previously stated, in an environment with potentially high EMF you may be exposing yourself to much higher levels of electric fields when using a grounding mat.

Natural earthing method—barefoot walking

Walking barefoot in nature can relieve adrenal fatigue/There is a tradition in some European countries of walking barefoot in the early morning when the ground is still wet with dew, or if you are fortunate enough to live on the coast, walking barefoot along the sandy shores of a beach. The scientific understanding behind this tradition is based upon the knowledge that our bodies are made up of cells that communicate to one another via their own electrical signals. Furthermore, our bodies (which are largely made up of water in the form of blood and body fluids) are also relatively conductive.

When the body makes contact with the Earth (which is a natural source of electrons) there is a transfer of the Earth’s electrons into our body, thereby charging it with the same negatively charged electrical potential as the Earth, which is essentially grounding oneself. This barefoot walking is made even more effective with the presence of water in the form of the early morning dew, or wet sand from the beach. This, then begs the question—why do we want to be negatively charged?

Most people are now aware that free radicals exist in the body and can cause damage. Free radicals are molecules that have lost its electron due to another free radical attacking it, and thereby creating a chain reaction. Many have combated the free-radical damage by eating foods rich in antioxidants and vitamin supplementation. Another method, of course, is to walk barefoot on the Earth so there is the transfer of those much needed electrons, as the Earth is naturally negatively charged largely due to the activity of lightning. Ideally, you would walk on the beach, or on a grassy field. However, even walking barefoot on concrete (better if it is wet) will help you get grounded. Anything insulated will not help you get grounded.

Earthing or grounding has enjoyed the support of emerging scientific research, that is, it is believed that the Earth’s electrons are capable of inducing physiological changes such as reduced pain, improved sleep, and a shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic.

The other positive side effect of barefoot walking is the spiritual connection with nature. How often does a day at the beach or a hike in the woods leave you feeling refreshed and connected and revived? Leaving behind the claustrophobic environment of our modern houses and office cubicles for a day or even for a few hours and taking in the fresh air can do wonders for the body. For advanced adrenal fatigue sufferers, it is important to note that you should be wary of the amount of time you spend in the sun or at the beach. It is always advisable to start in small increments of time and exposure if it is an activity that is not currently in your routine as too much of a good thing can overload your system and be too much for the body to handle at this point. Starting out with 5 minutes of grounding and working your way up to a couple of hours where possible, on a daily basis is ideal—clear your mind and engage in breathing exercises and meditation as you walk.

h3>3. Functional Silver Wear

Silver is a metal with good EMF deflective properties. Functional wear incorporating strands of silver fibers can be worn to reduce EMF exposure. The more commonly worn garments include hoodies, sweatshirts, neck wraps, headgear and socks. Those who are extremely sensitive may need to sleep under a silver fiber incorporated bed canopy.

These garments can be particularly useful when worn during your work in front of computers and laptops, or in an office building where it is inevitably decked out in wireless devices.

4. Charcoal

Charcoal can help your body deal with adrenal fatigue/The use of charcoal as a detoxifying agent dates back centuries as an adjunct tool to help the body reduce its toxic load. This enables the body to better handle EMF. The use of functional garments incorporating charcoal fiber can be very helpful. This kind of fiber is currently available on the market. The most commonly used are headgear, scarves, socks, and braces. Charcoal patches when applied directly to the liver and adrenal areas, can also help improve the body’s detoxification process.

5. Nutritional Reserve

Increasing the overall nutritional reserve in the body will provide better functioning and allow the body to handle the EMF insult better. This is especially critical for those who have advanced AFS because their nutritional reserve, a complicated built up process, serves as a foundational building block, which the body draws from in times of stress. Because EMF is a stress inducer, having an increased level of reserve will allow the stress to dissipate without affecting the other organ systems. Unfortunately building up the nutritional reserve for AFS sufferers is easier said than done. This is particularly more difficult for advanced stages of AFS due to existing weaknesses and frequency caused by a paradoxical type of reaction. Therefore, simply loading up on nutritional supplements may cause more harm and damage. A guided and professional nutritional assessment, as well as a comprehensive plan of nutritional reserve building, usually takes about 3 – 6 months and is a critical part of the overall EMF protection plan.


Living in the modern world carries significant risk of EMF exposure—it is all around us. It is virtually almost impossible to mitigate. We must learn to live with both its advantages and disadvantages. Hopefully, by understanding the sources and the effects, and how we can shield and protect our bodies from it, we can lessen the detrimental effects.

Those in advanced stages of AFS are particularly vulnerable to this external insult to the body—as their bodies are already decompensated and under a heavy toxic load. Excessive exposure to EMF while inconsequential to most people can worsen AFS and ultimately trigger an adrenal crash. Fortunately the proper use of basic earthing techniques, such as barefoot walking as well as the use of functional fabrics incorporating silver and charcoal fiber can be very helpful. Furthermore, there are simple steps such as keeping our bedrooms free of electrical appliances, and using laptops intelligently as outlined above, which can also drastically reduce our exposure.

If you think that electromagnetic fields are affecting your recovery from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, you may need personalized help. An improper approach to recovery can complicate, deter, or even exacerbate your current state.

Call in or write to us to learn about Adrenal Fatigue
Call in or write to us to learn about Adrenal Fatigue

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