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EMF Sensitivity: Causes, Symptoms & Solutions
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Many of us spend our days being bombarded by electromagnetic field radiation. It’s all around us, constantly — we are exposed from communications towers, WiFi signals, smart meters, Bluetooth headsets, power lines, cell phones, and more. The potential health effects of all this exposure range from cancer to infertility.
For some, however, the consequences of EMF exposure are more than abstract health conditions we may experience in the future. Those with Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) experience health issues due to EMF exposure on a daily basis. The science behind EHS is not well understood, but in severe cases, those with EHS may have to make drastic lifestyle modifications in order to get their symptoms under control.
In this guide, we will take a look at some of the symptoms of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity and what changes you can make in your everyday life to reduce the occurrence of symptoms. We will also go over some of the existing research into the condition, as well as provide tips for finding a knowledgeable and sympathetic doctor.
Let’s get started.
What is Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity?
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is a condition in which a person experiences a variety of symptoms when exposed to EMF radiation. Sensitivity varies from person to person — some are highly impacted, while others are only minimally bothered.
In terms of frequency, EHS is estimated to be found in two or three people per million, although it varies by country. It is more common, for example, in Sweden and Germany than the UK and France. In Scandinavian countries, there is a higher prevalence of sensitivity to video display units, and the most common symptoms are skin-related. The numbers are not officially tracked, however, so it’s difficult to say exactly how many people across the globe suffer from the condition. In a few population-based surveys, it was estimated that 1.5% of Swedes and 13.3% of Taiwan’s population suffered from EHS.
EMF sensitivity symptoms
The symptoms of EHS range from mild to severe. For some, they are brought on only when exposed to extremely high levels of EMF radiation. For others, the presence of a simple cell phone can bring on a headache or dizziness.
In general, the symptoms of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity include stomach cramping and pain, anxiety, chest pain, fatigue, hot flashes, hair loss, changes in mood, insomnia, and restlessness. This list is by no means exhaustive– for example, some with EHS may also experience heart palpitations, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and swollen joints while others may have blurry vision, skin rashes, and difficulty focusing. There isn’t a set of symptoms that is present in every patient, but typically symptoms come on when exposed to EMF radiation and quickly let up when the source of radiation is removed.
As you can imagine, the wide range of symptoms that are attributed to EHS makes this a difficult condition to diagnose as it overlaps with so many other illnesses. A diagnosis of EHS really involves ruling out other possible conditions. For a patient, that may involve bloodwork. Depending on the symptoms present, other tests may be called for, as well, such as imaging scans and scopes. The patient may also be asked to create a journal to keep track of their symptoms in order to identify any patterns.
It’s worth noting here that not all doctors are knowledgeable about EHS, either. Some do not recognize it as a legitimate condition, while others have never heard of it at all. If you suspect you may suffer from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, it’s in your best interest to find a doctor who is familiar with and supportive of the condition. Or, if you already have a trusted family doctor, see if they are receptive to doing some research into the illness and its treatment options on your behalf.
Unfortunately, very little research on Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity exists, and the little that does isn’t all that conclusive. Overall, there are two main types of studies into the condition: provocation studies and observational studies.
Provocation studies involve exposing participants to types of EMF radiation and monitoring their responses. Participants are usually divided into groups, with one group being exposed to radiation and the other serving as a blind control. Participants are not told which group they are in. Researchers then ask participants to describe their symptoms in order to see if they can accurately detect the presence of an electromagnetic field.
If you look only at the results of provocation studies, it appears that no relationship between EMF radiation and the symptoms of EHS exists. Most participants are not able to detect an electromagnetic field when briefly exposed. The small number of participants who do correctly identify the existence of a field can, according to researchers, be attributed to chance.
Things get a little more interesting when you look at observational studies, however. These studies take place in the real world, unlike lab-based provocation studies. Observational studies on EHS look at existing cell towers and other sources of EMF radiation, and their effects on surrounding communities. These studies give valuable insight because it is possible that EHS symptoms are the result of cumulative exposure in our daily lives. Think of the bucket analogy– it’s all the droplets of water that combine to make the bucket overflow, not any single drop of water on its own. If that is the case, it would explain why EHS is not always detectable in a laboratory setting.
The British Columbia Center for Disease Control breaks down several observational studies on EHS in its RF Toolkit. One study of a Swiss town, for example, found that those living near a broadcast transmitter experienced higher instances of sleep disturbances and other health issues.
Finding a doctor
Everyone deserves a doctor who will listen to them and take their concerns seriously. There are a couple of clinics out there that specialize in the treatment of EHS, and some patients find that they are a great place to start. For others, the location or costs associated with these clinics makes them unrealistic. In those cases, finding a local doctor who is educated on EHS or at least open to learning may be a better option.
In the United States, there is an EHS treatment facility located in Texas. The Environmental Health Center- Dallas treats patients suffering from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity and other symptoms that result from exposure to environmental toxins. The center itself was constructed using less-toxic building principals, and its clinicians offer a wide variety of services including testing for EMF sensitivity. Treatment options provided by the clinic may involve outpatient sauna and detox therapy, immunotherapy, patient education, nutrition guidance, and Bio Regulation Therapy.
In Canada, Women’s College Hospital’s Environmental Health Clinic is located in Toronto, Ontario. The facility treats a number of conditions, including Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. The goal of the clinic is to educate patients on their health, to conduct clinical research into poorly understood environmental health conditions, and to provide treatment recommendations for patients’ primary physicians.
Finding doctors near you
If Dallas and Toronto are a little out of your reach, consider finding an EHS-friendly physician in your own neck of the woods. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) recognizes various conditions associated with environmental toxicity, including Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. You can find an AAEM-registered physician through the organization’s website, by navigating to the Resources tab and clicking on “Find a Physician”. Enter your location and search.
When you do find a doctor, don’t be afraid to interview them. Asking your doctor about their experience treating EHS patients may help set your mind at ease and allow you to determine if you’ve found the right doctor for you.
Treatment and prevention
If you feel that you may be suffering from EHS, there are a number of things you can do to help make your symptoms more bearable. It’s recommended to implement one change at a time and wait to see if your symptoms abate before trying something new. If you do too much at once, you won’t really know what works and what doesn’t.
- Switch to wired internet. Few changes are going to cause immediate relief as much as switching from wireless to wired internet. This can be a bit of a daunting process, but it’s a long-term fix to a major problem. Depending on your WiFi router, it gives off either 2.4GHz or 5GHz of RF-EMF radiation. The entire signal range is exposed, and signal boosters increase your exposure even further. For those with EHS, this constant barrage of RF-EMF radiation can be particularly troublesome. Wired internet significantly reduces the amount of RF-EMF that is broadcast throughout the home, helping alleviate symptoms of EHS. For tips on switching your home to wired internet, check out our how-to guide.
- Install a smart meter cover and indoor barrier. Many modern cities use smart meters to monitor residents’ utility usage. These meters differ from traditional-style meters because they don’t require a meter reader to go into your backyard. Instead, they can be read from a truck using a receiver that picks up RF waves projected by your home’s smart meter. The problem with this is that smart meters produce a tremendous amount of RF-EMF radiation in a constant attempt to communicate with a receiver. Those with EHS may be especially affected by the radiation put off by smart meters. For that reason, consider investing in a smart meter cover to help reduce the amount of radiation your home puts off. On the interior wall of your home that is attached to the smart meter, you could also use EMF protective paint or hang shielding fabric.
- Use a protective case for your cell phone. There’s a good chance you’ve heard that cell phones produce radiation. It’s been tied to glioma, miscarriages, and male fertility issues. And for those with EHS, the near-constant cell phone usage that society demands can really take a toll on your daily health, too. If you’re feeling bogged down by your phone but you still need to use it, invest in a high-quality protective cell phone case. These cases are designed to reduce the amount of EMF radiation your phone puts out. Additionally, if you find yourself talking on the phone a lot, you may also want to use a good wired headset to increase the distance between your body and the phone.
- Take supplements. Supplements are a great way to receive health benefits while adding extra nutrition to your diet. And if you’re suffering from EHS, the right combination of supplements could help provide relief from your symptoms. There are quite a few that are recommended to help reduce the effects of radiation on the body — some include ginseng, reishi, and Ginkgo Biloba. To learn more about those supplements in detail and more, see our guide to anti-radiation herbs and supplements. Other supplements and vitamins that may help with EHS symptoms include B6 for nausea and Vitamin E for itching.
- Avoid smart appliances and gadgets. Smart appliances add a degree of convenience to modern existence. Unfortunately, this comes at a price, and for those with EHS, that price is often their health. Smart appliances and gadgets rely on WiFi and Bluetooth to transmit data. These signals produce RF-EMF radiation, in much higher amounts than you would experience with traditional, non-connected appliances. If you have a choice, skip the high-tech WiFi-enabled stove and opt for a simpler model instead. Not only will you save money, but you will also be reducing your overall EMF levels. And reducing your levels is key if you want to get rid of your EHS symptoms.
- Sleep with your phone away from your bed. We’ve already established that cell phones produce a whole lot of EMF radiation. It’s worth noting, however, that even if you can’t manage to part ways with your cell phone during the day, it’s really important to sleep with it at least ten feet away from you at night. This is because when you sleep, the body repairs itself from damage done throughout the day. A good night’s sleep is crucial to minimizing your EHS symptoms and helping prevent other negative, EMF-related health issues.
- Install an EMF bed canopy. Another way to help improve the overall quality of your sleep is to install an EMF bed canopy. These canopies envelop your bed with a protective mesh fabric. When installed correctly, they provide near-total EMF protection. If you suffer from EHS, just having that place you can retreat to in order to experience relief from your symptoms can be huge. And you may even find that along with a better night’s sleep, you are also bothered less by EHS symptoms throughout the day.
- Wear protective gear when going outside. EMF protective gear includes hoodies, hats, t-shirts, and more. There are a wide variety of options out there, and most of them are pretty inconspicuous. The biggest benefit of protective clothing is that it shields you from EMF radiation while you’re outside of the home and away from your normal protective measures. This can make all the difference for those with EHS, who may have a difficult time leaving home due to the prevalence of WiFi signals, 5G, and other sources of EMF radiation.
- Use dirty electricity filters throughout your home. Think of dirty electricity as leftover electricity that circles through your home’s wiring, giving off ELF-EMF radiation. It’s produced by energy-efficient appliances, certain types of lightbulbs, and even solar power. Anyone with EHS should absolutely consider installing multiple dirty electricity filters throughout the home. Generally, you need one per circuit. To learn more about dirty electricity filters, check out our guide.
For those who are truly desperate for a cure, it’s worth talking briefly about the town of Green Bank, West Virginia. This town has gained popularity amongst EHS sufferers because it exists inside a national radio dead zone. That means there are no cell towers nearby, and no signal reaches the town. Residents are not allowed to have WiFi, and the community has not adapted smart meters. It’s a different way of life, but it is one that is much less EMF-heavy.
Obviously, moving is an extreme response to EHS. But some sufferers have moved to the town in order to gain relief from symptoms.
Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity is a condition that is unlikely to go anywhere as EMF radiation becomes more and more an unavoidable part of life. If you are dealing with symptoms, finding a doctor who will work with you to determine the best treatment options can go a long way towards helping you feel better. Lifestyle modifications and changes around the house to reduce your overall EMF exposure levels is another important step, as well.