Before WiFi, before cell phones, before electricity - humans were exposed only to the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) of the Earth and the sun.
This exposure was probably healthy for our cave-dwelling forebears. Research has shown, in fact, that coming into direct contact with the Earth’s magnetic field - a practice called “grounding” - has beneficial effects. Oh to be a hunter-gatherer again.
But these days, grounding represents but a small portion of our daily EMF diet. Instead, much of our exposure comes from technology and the frequencies that technology emits. Technology is everywhere, and so are EMFs.
Who cares? Well, it appears that soaking up these tech-produced EMFs may have undesirable effects on the human body. More on that soon.
To mitigate these effects, you can, of course, take steps to reduce your EMF exposure. (Check out Chris’s recent article for more on this). But unless you live like big league biohacker Ben Greenfield - in the woods, off the grid, all devices hardwired - good look avoiding those frequencies.
So in this article, I’m going to discuss a few specific antioxidants that may help mitigate the harms from EMF exposure.
YOU CAN’T SEE IT, SMELL IT, OR NOTICE IT
First though, why should you want to avoid EMFs? After all, you can’t see them, smell them, or feel them.
Okay, some people claim they can feel them. And maybe these people are, somehow, sensitive to electromagnetic fields. But I always wonder if it’s placebo, confirmation bias, or some other wrinkle of human psychology jading their viewpoint.
Yet whether you feel it or not, there’s clearly something going on with EMFs and human health. It’s not just smoke spewing out the mouth of every shaman in Sedona. There’s fire, or at least hot embers, somewhere.
Those hot embers are primarily related to cancer risk. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified EMFs as possibly carcinogenic in 2001. Which got people worried.
Since then, lots more research has come out on the deleterious effects of EMFs on mice, humans, and cells in test tubes. This research has linked EMF exposure to brain cancer, reproductive problems, DNA damage, and many other issues that would take hours to list. Some of this science is convincing, much of it isn’t.
To further complicate matters, the research goes both ways. For instance, one 2016 study following nearly 35,000 Australians found no link between cell phone usage and brain cancer. Another very recent review debunked the claim that cell phone radiation alters attention patterns. Maybe neurotic cell phone habits, not EMFs, are to blame for our scattered attentions.
And yet, even if EMFs aren’t the bogeyman for every disease known to homo sapiens, there’s still enough troubling data to indicate a there there. WiFi worries may not keep me up nights, but I still avoid placing an active cell phone next to my gonads.
WHAT’S THE MECHANISM?
Okay, so we know that EMFs have been linked to a wide range of undesirable conditions. It’s still not totally clear, however, how EMFs might cause these problems. Let’s look at a couple theories.
One theory relates to DNA damage. Blasting cells with very low-frequency radiation (50 hz, like from power lines) causes DNA strands to literally split apart. Higher, cell-phone typical, frequencies, on the other hand, may not explode DNA, but they have other strange effects on cultured brain cells. That’s why I play it safe and use speakerphone.
A second theory has to do with oxidative stress. It turns out that prolonged EMF exposure (in rats) leads to increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Too much ROS cause cellular damage, deplete essential cellular enzymes, and impair antioxidant status. Bad news.
EMF IMPAIRS ANTIOXIDANT STATUS
One of the helpful molecules that gets battered by EMFs is glutathione, our body’s master antioxidant. With less glutathione around, we can’t clean up those pesky ROS. And that means more damage.
This EMF-induced glutathione-depletion, I should say, has only been shown in rats and guinea pigs. For obvious reasons, we don’t use humans in these trials. Would you volunteer for heavy doses of prolonged EMF exposure? Yeah, me neither.
I’m not aware of any research on glutathione supplementation to mitigate EMF exposure. But it seems logical.
Anyways, since the harms from EMFs are linked to increased ROS production, it makes sense to keep your body’s internal antioxidant system humming along. In other words, you should strive to maintain healthy glutathione levels.
That means getting enough sleep, avoiding industrial chemicals, and mitigating stress. Falling short in any of these areas can lead to a depletion of your glutathione levels, which leads to more ROS, which causes more cellular damage, which depletes your glutathione, and so on. It can be a vicious cycle.
BASICS FIRST, THEN THE BOOST
For minimizing oxidative stress, I’m a big believer in the basics: adequate sleep, stress reduction, daily exercise, proper nutrition, etc. First get that stuff handled, then worry about supplements.
But during times of high stress, bad sleep, heavy travel - your body may need that extra boost - that extra protection against EMFs. That’s when supplements can come in handy.
Consider the following list as a starting point. I’m sure more research is coming.
ANTIOXIDANTS FOR EMF EXPOSURE
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (glutathione precursor) and ECGC (green tea antioxidant) protect guinea pigs from EMF induced liver damage
- Melatonin and a fungus called ganoderma lucidum protect rat teeth from trace elemental alterations induced by EMF exposure
- Vitamin E and Fennel may protect the male and female reproductive systems from some of the harmful effects of EMFs
- Zinc supplementation protects the rat brain from EMF-induced oxidative damage
ADAPTING TO EMF
The truth is, unnatural EMFs are ubiquitous. You simply can’t avoid them. The human body probably won’t adapt to these electromagnetic frequencies for another 100,000 years. If it ever does.
But your behavior can adapt in the time it takes to read 1,000 words. You can take steps to reduce EMF exposure, support your glutathione system, and finally, in times of need, pop a few extra antioxidants.
So happy adapting.
Brian Stanton is a health writer and certified Primal Health Coach. When he isn't hiking through the forest, he researches the latest science on longevity, sleep, the gut, nutrition, and more. Brian writes on his website at www.primalsapien.com.