Last Updated on April 14, 2021
EMFs are seemingly impossible to escape these days. And at this point, we know Electromagnetic Field Radiation, or EMF radiation, can negatively impact our health in a variety of different ways.
EMFs have been linked with a whole range of symptoms and illnesses. These effects range from headaches and neurological damage to fertility problems, and even to certain types of cancer.
Parts of our bodies that are more vulnerable to EMF radiation include our brain, which uses electrochemical communication to control many biological processes, our heart and chest, as well as our reproductive system, where EMFs can affect fertility, as well as a growing fetus. For more on how these parts of your body can be affected by EMF radiation, read this blog post.
However, an area of our body that many might not realize is heavily impacted by EMF radiation is our digestive system. Gut health has become a trending topic in wellness, as more and more research shows the damage poor gut health can have on your entire body. Along with affecting other major body systems, EMF radiation can also impact our microflora.
All About the Gut
Your gastrointestinal tract, lovingly referred to as your gut for short, is the organ system within our bodies that takes the food we eat, extracts the energy and nutrients, and eliminates the rest.
It’s estimated that 1014 bacteria within your gut are living and thriving.
Bacteria often gets a bad rap, but in fact, the bacteria in your gut contributes to its homeostasis.
There are up to 1,000 different species of bacteria present in your gut. Some of these are vital for our health, while some of them may cause disease.
Importance of Gut Health
So, our gut handles the food we eat—sounds like a pretty straightforward organ, right? Wrong. The gut plays a much larger role in our body’s overall health.
A layer of neural tissue lines the long tube of our gut—measured from end to end, it’s an astonishing nine meters long (that’s almost 30 FEET). Considered the “second brain,” our gut and its bacteria do more than just digest the food we eat.
Although this second brain won’t help with any conscious thoughts, it can actually impact our feelings and emotions. Have you ever been told to “trust your gut” when making a decision? Much of its function is to control the process of digestion, but the gut also contains 100 million neurons that link it to your actual brain, creating the brain-gut axis.
Have you ever gotten the sensation of butterflies in your stomach? It’s that nervous tingle before you have to go on stage for a performance, or that fluttery feeling that occurs when you have to give a presentation at work. This reflex may be explained by the connection between the brain and the gut. When our brain senses that we’re nervous, it sends signals to our gut and the gut responds, sometimes making it feel like our stomach is doing its own gymnastics routine.
This is just one illustration of how our gut is more than just a place where food is processed.
The bacteria within our gut helps with other bodily tasks, including normal development, immune system maturation, and central nervous system functions. The gut uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, similar to the brain, with 95 percent of the body’s serotonin found in your bowels. Your gut microbes also produce a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps control feelings of fear and anxiety.
Not all guts are created equal.
Biologically, the types of bacteria in our gut is influenced by many things, including geographic origin, age, and genetics. Each person’s gut has its own unique microbiome.
Outside factors can also affect our gut’s microbiome, such as changes in diet, alcohol and tobacco usage, prescription medication, physical activity, and sleep patterns.
With the widespread use of technology, EMFs are now being investigated as an environmental pollutant capable of disrupting the gut microbiota.
EMFs and Gut Health
There is emerging research that focuses on the relationship between EMFs and our gut health. And, unsurprisingly, the results aren’t good. Research is finding that EMFs may be creating more pathogens that are becoming antibiotic resistant, and reducing the amount of good bacteria while increasing the bad bacteria.
One study looked at how two bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli, were affected by the radiation emitted from a common 2.4 GHz WiFi router and a GSM 900 MHz mobile phone.
The study found that if these bacteria were exposed to EMFs during a narrow exposure window, then they may become resistant to antibiotics. This is a big deal because the World Health Organization has declared antibiotic resistance as one of the biggest threats to global health. As bacteria become more resistant, diseases become harder to treat (sometimes even impossible), leading to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs, and increased mortality.
Additionally, the researchers discovered that the EMF radiation can change the zone of inhibition diameters and growth rate of the two types of bacteria. A larger zone of inhibition typically means the bacteria becomes stronger. Couple that with changing growth rates, and there may be significant implications when it comes to managing serious diseases within humans.
In addition, EMFs encourage the growth of bad bacteria. Dr. Thomas Rau is the Medical Director at the Paracelsus Clinic in Lustmühle, Switzerland, the leading center for alternative medicine in Europe. He found that cultures of beneficial bacteria grow slower when in the presence of electromagnetic fields. This allows pathological organisms—aka the bad type—to take over.
For example, when there is too much E. coli in our gut, we may experience diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting. It can even cause us to develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Leaky Gut Syndrome. An excess of L. monocytogenes can cause neonatal infections, Meningitis, and sepsis.
Another study conducted by researchers at Baylor University also looked how certain bacteria responds to Radio Frequency (RF) EMFs. In addition to studying E. coli’s response, they looked at Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus epidermis. The researchers had laboratory strains of the bacteria that were exposed to EMFs, as well as samples from 4 different people with a variety of cell usage history. The researchers concluded that “cell phone level RF-EMF disrupts human skin microbiota.”
While E. coli and Listeria are only a couple of the bacteria typically found in the gut, these findings suggest bacteria in general can be disturbed by EMF radiation. Disrupting the homeostatic bacterial balance in your gut does not bode well for your overall health.
Impacts of an Unhealthy Gut
An unhealthy, out-of-balance gut can lead to more than just poor gastrointestinal conditions.
Bacteria in your gut can affect metabolic functions. Metabolism is the process of turning food into the energy we need to be a functioning human.
There are three main phylum of gut bacteria that play different roles in the metabolic process:
- Bacteroidetes – Porphyromonas, Prevotella, and Bacteroides
- Firmicutes – Ruminococcus, Clostridium, Lactobacillus, and Eubacteria
- Actinobacteria – Bifidobacteria (the predominant type)
This trio protects our bodies by ousting bad and harmful bacteria, competing with pathogens (which can be disease producing) for nutrients, and creating anti-microbial factors. They also help with developing the body’s immune system.
As these bacteria break down food, they turn the digested food into beneficial short chain fatty acids (SCFA). Beneficial SCFAs help to regulate the immune response and inflammation.
Maintaining a balanced ratio of these SCFA-producing bacteria is important to sustaining a normal weight. Obese individuals tend to have a higher level of Firmicutes and fewer Bacteroidetes.
Certain strains of bacteria have been associated with adverse metabolic and weight effects. Bacteroides vulgatus is strongly associated with increased inflammation, insulin resistance, and altered metabolism. Several bacteria from the phylum Firmicutes are correlated with the increased storing of trunk-fat—fat around the midsection that is the first to appear and the hardest, and last, to get rid of.
Gut bacteria can cause unintentional weight changes, since the bacteria affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat. A sudden loss of weight could be caused by Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO occurs when bacteria that typically grows in other parts of the gut begins to grow in the small intestine, leading to pain, diarrhea, and eventually malnutrition. Sudden weight gain may be a result of an insulin resistance or the urge to overeat due to decreased ability to absorb nutrients.
Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease of metabolic disorders characterized by a high blood sugar level. Insulin that is produced in your pancreas breaks down the glucose (i.e. sugar) from food eaten. Having too much glucose present and not enough insulin is when you start to run into problems.
It’s important to know the distinction between the two different kinds of diabetes. Type 1 is when the body simply does not produce insulin. A person with Type 1 has to take insulin every day simply to survive. Type 2 diabetes is when the body does not make enough insulin or uses insulin inefficiently. It is caused by a combination of lifestyle factors and genetics. The chances of you developing Type 2 diabetes increase if you are 45 years or older, have a family history of diabetes, and are overweight. Other risk factors include physical inactivity, race, certain health problems, and gut health.
It is one of America’s largest health problems: the CDC’s most recent report found that almost 10% of the population (30.3 million) have diabetes. Type 2 accounts for 90-95% of the cases.
Because of its prevalence, trying to fight diabetes is very important. Scientists at the University of Iowa may have discovered a key factor in understanding, and thus being able to treat and prevent the disease.
Led by Patrick Schlievert, professor and department executive officer of microbiology at the UI Carver College of Medicine, the researchers conducted a study that lead them to conclude that bacteria may be the cause of Type 2 diabetes. The bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (staph) produces a toxin. When the researchers exposed rabbits to this toxin for a prolonged period of time, the rabbits developed insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and systemic inflammation—the three telltale signs of diabetes.
Staph bacteria is a usual member of the natural microbiome of the body, but obesity can alter the levels, affecting how much is present in the gut.
While EMF might or might not be the reason for the increase in Staph bacteria, there is a study conducted by scientists from Kaiser Permanente Research Division that has linked high levels of in-utero magnetic field exposure to childhood obesity.
The study, which was published online in Nature’s Scientific Reports, showed that children who were exposed to high levels of magnetic radiation while in their mother’s womb had a 69% higher risk of suffering from weight problems and obesity during childhood than children who had low in-utero exposure to magnetic fields.
The researchers looked at a total of 18 factors that could affect the outcome of the study, including: prenatal factors, maternal factors and childhood factors. Of all the factors assessed, none could account for the observed association between EMF exposure and obesity.
Our bodies have their own natural defense system: the immune system. In a normal functioning body, the immune system will produce antibodies or immune cells to protect against pathogens, neutralize harmful substances from the environment, and fight against disease-causing changes in the body.
However, sometimes the body will turn on itself, and begin to mistakenly attack the body’s healthy cells as if they were foreign invaders. This is known as an autoimmune response, and can develop into an autoimmune disease.
There are more than 100 different types of autoimmune diseases, but common ones include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Chron’s disease, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and IBS.
We wrote a blog about how EMF can act as an immunosuppressant, and can lead to chronic immune diseases. However, EMF additionally has an effect on your gut, and your gut contains 70-80% of the body’s immune system.
When the immune system in your gut gets overwhelmed, it can lead to leaky gut syndrome. The bad bacteria and toxins can escape the gut and enter the bloodstream, causing systemic inflammation and tissue damage—this is known as translocation. Translocation puts an incredible burden on your immune system, putting it in a state of being overworked and in distress. Having the immune system be out of balance leads to the opportunity for autoimmune diseases to develop.
Research is also connecting autoimmune diseases with bacteria in the gut. A study conducted at Queen’s University Belfast found that some patients with autoimmune diseases displayed higher levels of a protein produced by Bacteroides fragilis, a bacteria found in the gut.
In fact, researchers from Frontiers in Immunology believe dealing with your gut is the best way to deal with such diseases. “Considering the contributions of leaky gut and bacterial translocation to inflammation and multiple diseases, reversing gut leakiness appears to be an attractive therapeutic strategy.”
Sleep Disturbances & Constant Fatigue
Sleep and the gut are directly connected.
The circadian rhythm is the 24-hour cycle that tells your body when and how to do things throughout the day. This cycle controls a lot of processes in our bodies, but sleep is often associated with it. For example, in a natural world, when it becomes dark outside, the circadian rhythm tells your body to start producing melatonin to put you to sleep. We already know that our sleep pattern is being altered by the abundance of blue light in our modern, technological world. Gut health is another factor that could be preventing a good nights rest.
Studies have found that disturbing the natural circadian rhythm actually disrupts the natural rhythm that produces a healthy gut biome.
Another way these two functions are intertwined is through the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, often associated with the brain, but in fact, 90 percent of serotonin is produced in the digestive tract.
This chemical has a wide range of functions, including being a natural mood stabilizer, reducing depression, regulating anxiety, and aiding in sleep. When it is time for bed, serotonin will send messages to certain parts of the brain to stimulate the sleep cycle. And when it’s time to wake up, serotonin triggers the areas of the brain to wake you from your beloved slumber.
When the gut microbiome is disturbed, it throws off serotonin production, which can prevent you from getting quality sleep. Being plagued with insomnia or poor sleep can lead to a state of constant fatigue.
A lack of sleep leads to bad gut health, and bad gut health leads to poor sleep. Because these two go hand-in-hand, maintaining each one is important to your overall health.
5 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Gut
- Limit exposure to EMF radiation. One easy way to do this is to remove electronics from the bedroom. Even when not in use, devices such as cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices constantly emit harmful radiation. We spend one third of our lives asleep, so by making the bedroom a tech-free zone, you give yourself a large chunk of time away from the harmful effects of EMFs. This gives your entire body, including your gut, time to detox.
- Use a radiation protection shield or cover. When you are using electronic devices, you should make sure to shield yourself from the radiation emissions. Oftentimes, we find ourselves lounging on the couch or lying in bed with our device resting on our stomach, and near our gut. This is the worst possible setup. The DefenderPad or EMF Radiation Protection Blanket are great options to protect your abdomen from EMFs, allowing you to safely lounge while surfing the Internet or watching Netflix
- Evaluate your diet for inflammatory foods. Certain types of food, like gluten, eggs, yeast, dairy, genetically modified soy or soy isolates, corn, peanuts, and even grains, may cause inflammation in your gut, leading to difficulty digesting. Just like with EMF radiation, you don’t have to fully eliminate these sources, but consider reducing intake and choose something else when possible.
- Limit, or even remove, processed food and sugar. These types of foods reduce the amount of good bacteria in your gut. Decreasing your processed food and sugar intake is a good step for your gut health, as well as your overall health and mood.
- Introduce healthier foods. It’s a good idea to have a diet that consists of fresh fruits and vegetables that have a high level of antioxidants (support cell health and immune system function), leafy greens, easily digestible grains, and healthy fats. These foods help maintain a healthy gut by reducing inflammation, supporting hormones that affect digestion, and are relatively easy to digest.