EMFs and Intracellular Calcium – Magnesium is nature’s calcium channel blocker

Electromagnetic fields, (EMFs) are the non-ionizing radiation that makes WiFi connections work and other devices like televisions and cellphones. The electronic details are beyond my field of experience and they are generally claimed to be harmless however research is being done on the health effects on people and other species. As more and more ‘hotspots’ become active and there is discussion of making entire regions WiFi spots the question of whether the radiation is truly harmless or not is important.

The research that has been performed suggests that the mode of action is on the ion channels in cell membranes called voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs). The EMF radiation seems to activate ion channels and allows the interior of the cell to fill with calcium which then can proceed to activate membrane breakdown and other actions within the cell. Oxidative stress can involve an excess of calcium within the interior of the cell which leads to other free radical chemicals – electrically active chemicals which antioxidant nutrients can help deactivate. See: (1)

Oxidation is a normal part of cell function as it is how glucose sugar energy is freed for use. Too many oxidative free radical chemicals also called, reactive oxygen species (ROS), can overpower the natural antioxidant chemical pathways and lead to increased cell damage and even cell death. (2, 3, 4)

Ion channels refer to chemicals that contain atoms that have a positive or negative charge which can be used to provide energy for chemical reactions. Ions in nature generally are found in pairs with a balance of positive and negative charges so the grouping is fairly stable. Calcium and magnesium both have ionic forms with a chemical charge of +2, which means they are missing two electrons. Sodium and potassium have ionic forms with a chemical charge of +1 – they are missing one electron each.

An ion is an atom or chemical that has more protons than electrons and carries a positive charge or has more electrons than protons and carries a negative charge, while a free radical specifically has at least one unpaired electron in its outer electron shell/valence which makes it very reactive but does not necessarily mean an electron is missing nor suggest a negative charge. Depending on their chemistry they may be able to receive or donate another electron and are very reactive, very active chemically, as the outer shell prefers to be stable chemically. The presence of an unpaired electron makes the free radical chemically encouraging other chemicals to give up or receive the unpaired electron even if the other chemical is more chemically stable. (7) The electrons in an atom are arranged around the inner ball of positively charged protons and neutrally charged neutrons in layers of electrons (valences) which prefer to be in groups of 2, 6 or 8 electrons, so a free radical with an outer layer with one electron might want to donate it while one with an outer shell with seven electrons might want to receive an extra electron.  Element valences are slightly different than what might be expected looking at the Table of Elements – here is a chart of the typical ion or free radical charges: (6)

Oxygen can carry an electrically negative charge of -2, meaning it can accept two additional electrons in its outer valence. And hydrogen can accept or donate an electron, +1 or -1, (6) which chemically can result in our most important molecule for life – water, H2O, formed from two atoms of hydrogen sharing their unpaired outer electron with one atom of oxygen which wants an additional two electrons. The slight preference for different electric charges gives the molecule of water a slight polarity, the oxygen part of the water molecule has a slight negative charge on average while the hydrogen parts of the molecule have slight positive charges. (8) A more thorough description of the chemical structure of the water molecule and its electrical charge distribution with illustrations is available here: (12).

Why is this important? Because our bodies are made up of at least 70% water and electromagnetic radiation does have effects on water (9) so a basic understanding of the chemistry can help understand the more complex issues of why having region wide areas of WiFi might affect health of humans and other animals, plants and possibly even microbial life. There is evidence that microbes can modify nearby DNA of other species via EMFs generated by the microbial DNA when both sets of DNA are in a watery dilution. (10, [1602 from ref 9]) This may increase infection or risk of cross contamination of infectious substances. We don’t know what we don’t know. The research may simply confirm the need to be concerned about Electromagnectic fields on DNA. The negative effect of EMF exposure to DNA and an increase in DNA breakdown/fragmentation was mentioned in the first link. See: (1)

Research that looked for epigenetic effects on DNA that might be associated with leukemia or other cancerous changes found that Extremely Low Frequency-Magnetic Fields which have been labeled potentially carcinogenic as some association with leukemia has been noted, did not consistently lead to epigenetic changes in the study. Changes that did occur were more likely to be found when the genetic material, called chromatin, was in a more open and active form rather than when it was in the condensed, non-replicating form. (13) Pregnancy would be a time when DNA is expected to be more active and infancy and childhood are also times when growth and replication of cells is expected. Concerns and a review of available research about the risk of EMF radiation for adults and childhood development is discussed in a Special Section of the journal Childhood Development: (14)

Calcium channel blocker medications have been found to help reduce the effects of EMF radiation for individuals who seem to be more sensitive to ill effects from the form of radiation than the average person. See: (1)

Magnesium is nature’s calcium channel blocker so there may be an underlying deficiency of magnesium in the the people who are more sensitive to EMFs. A number of conditions can make the intestines absorb less magnesium and more calcium than average and the kidneys can be better at holding onto calcium and more likely to excrete magnesium than average. The food and water supply is not as rich in magnesium as it was during earlier centuries of human development. Magnesium deficiency as a risk factor in sensitivity to EMFs is discussed in the first link and it introduces a protective factor that can be increased with more variety of vegetables and other phytochemical rich foods in the diet – nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). See: (1)

Specific foods or phytochemicals mentioned to help increase Nrf2 include:

  • sulforaphane from cruciferous vegetables, (such as broccoli and cauliflower);
  • foods high in phenolic antioxidants, (This is a large group including bright yellow and red fruits and vegetables, and deep purple produce. The group includes the subgroup flavonoids which include anthocyanins, flavonols, and it also includes the less familiar subgroup chalcones which are found in the commonly used fruits apples, pears and strawberries. The group also includes aldehydes which are found in vanilla and cinnamon, phenolic acids which include salicyclic acid, and tannins which are found in tea, coffee and wine. Baking cocoa and cherries, beans and whole grains are also mentioned, the summary point would be eat more fruits and vegetables; see: (11))
  • the long-chained omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, (salmon, tuna, sardines, krill oil, ground flax meal, walnuts, hemp seed kernels);
  • carotenoids (especially lycopene), (such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, and lycopene is in tomato, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava); 
  • sulfur compounds from allum vegetables, (such as onions, garlic, shallots, green onions); 
  • isothiocyanates from the cabbage group and
  • terpenoid-rich foods. (Terpenes are found in real lemon and lime oil, rosemary, oregano, basil and other aromatic green herbs).
  • The Mediterranean and the traditional Okinawan Diets are also mentioned as being Nrf2 promoting diets. See: (1)

A 2012 article that discusses the science known at the time and reviews cellphone cases designed to redirect EMF radiation away from the user available at the times suggests some health evidence exists but that the information is not conclusive yet but that no study has been longer than ten years. Children have less dense bone structure and may be accumulating more life time exposure so limiting use of cellphones around children or their use by children may be playing it safer until more research is available. (5) Turning off cellphones when not needed can save battery time and would be turning off the WiFi when it is not needed. You can always check for messages when you turn it back on again. Using a hard wired computer at home or at least turning off the laptop at night is recommended along with other tips in the first link. See: (1)

Disclaimer

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)

  1. Joseph Mercola, The Harmful Effects of Electromagnetic Fields Explained, wakeup-world.com, Dec. 22, 2017, https://wakeup-world.com/2017/12/22/the-harmful-effects-of-electromagnetic-fields-explained/ (1)
  2. Chapter 1: Cell Injury, Cell Death,
    and Adaptations, sample, not final copy, Elsevier, pdf http://www.newagemedical.org/celldeath-injury-link2.pdf (2)
  3. Khalid Rahman, Studies on free radicals, antixidants, and co-factors., Clin Interv Aging. 2007 Jun; 2(2): 219–236., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684512/ (3)
  4. V. Lobo, A. Patil, A. Phatak, and N. Chandra, Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health, Pharmacogn Rev. 2010 Jul-Dec; 4(8): 118–126., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/ (4)

  5. Joseph Hanlon, Radiation-reducing phone cases: saviours or snake oil?, Aug. 13, 2012, https://www.cnet.com/news/radiation-reducing-phone-cases-saviours-or-snake-oil/ (5)

  6. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. “Valences of the Elements – Chemistry Table.” ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com   https://www.thoughtco.com/valences-of-the-elements-chemistry-table-606458 (6)
  7. UCSB Science Line, What is the difference between ion and radical?, 04/01/2015, http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=4833 (7)
  8. Biochemistry, Chemistry Tutorial, The Chemistry of Water, biology.arizona.edu, http://www.biology.arizona.edu/biochemistry/tutorials/chemistry/page3.html (8)
  9. Martin Chaplin, Water Structure and Science: Magnetic and electric effects on water, 2001, last update by Martin Chaplin on Nov. 3, 2017, lsbu.ac.uk http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/magnetic_electric_effects.html (9)
  10. [1602 from the above reference] L. Montagnier, J. Aïssa, S. Ferris, J.-L. Montagnier, C. Lavallée, Electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from bacterial DNA sequences, Interdisciplinary Sciences: Computational Life Sciences, 1(2009) 81-90. L. Montagnier, J. Aissa, E. Del Giudice, C. Lavallee, A. Tedeschi and G. Vitiello, DNA waves and water, Journal of Physics.: Conference Series, 306 (2011) 012007, arXiv:1012.5166v1 (10)
  11. Maria de Lourdes Reis Giada, Chapter 4: Food Phenolic Compounds: Main Classes, Sources and Their Antioxidant Power, Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology » “Oxidative Stress and Chronic Degenerative Diseases – A Role for Antioxidants”, book edited by José A. Morales-González, ISBN 978-953-51-1123-8, Published: May 22, 2013    https://www.intechopen.com/books/oxidative-stress-and-chronic-degenerative-diseases-a-role-for-antioxidants/food-phenolic-compounds-main-classes-sources-and-their-antioxidant-power (11)
  12. Martin Chaplin, Water Structure and Science: Water Molecule Structure,  2000, last updated by Martin Chaplin Oct. 15, 2017, lsbu.ac.uk, http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/water_molecule.html (12)
  13. Melissa Manser, Mohamad R. Abdul Sater, Christoph D. Schmid, Faiza Noreen, Manuel Murbach, Niels Kuster, David Schuermann, and Primo Schär,

    ELF-MF exposure affects the robustness of epigenetic programming during granulopoiesis, Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 43345.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5339735/ (13)

  14. Cindy Sage, Ernesto Burgio, Electromagnetic Fields, Pulsed Radiofrequency Radiation, and
    Epigenetics: How Wireless Technologies May Affect Childhood DevelopmentContemporary Mobile Technology and Child
    and Adolescent Development, edited by Zheng Yan and Lennart Hardell, A Special Section of Child Development, 2017, Pages 1–8, https://eliant.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/de/pdf/Sage_Burgio_Childhood_2017_Epigenetics.pdf (14)

Autoimmune trivia – clothing choices for less oxidative stress

I have a new ugly sunhat and it gets just as many funny looks as the last ugly sunhat – sometimes there is no winning solution if you are unhealthy except to do what you have to do to stay healthy. I thought the new hat was slightly less odd as it’s a straw hat, summery, but oh well. I need a broad brim for sun protection. Cute hats don’t always have a brim or a large floppy beach hat has too much brim and can obstruct your ability to see.

Due to a tendency to develop severe rashes or eczema I need natural fibers. Modern fabrics can leave me itching and as my autoimmune disease has worsened I’ve even had problems with rashes that lead to a lack of skin – an open sore over a large patch is painful more than itchy. Fashion may be fun but not as much fun as having skin. Sewing my own clothes allows my own fabric choices. Hunting through resale shops for natural fiber clothing can be another way to find items that don’t make me sick. Organically grown cotton products are available in limited styles and limited places for a price that is generally more than a department store price but probably less than an expensive fashionable brand.

Laundry detergents or fabric softeners can also leave me with an allergic reaction. Having overactive white blood cells means the allergic and autoimmune sensitivities are more likely to occur – there is one bonus, cancer cells may be more likely to be identified and removed. Until it is a severe condition someone with autoimmune disease may be less likely to have cancer due to the overactive white blood cells. Increased inflammation in a patient and those with “dermatomyositis,” type of infllammatory autoimmune disease were more associated with cancer risk than some other types of arthritis like autoimmune diseases, “systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases (SARDs), in a large study.” [3] Someone with autoimmune disease can be at greater risk of developing another type of autoimmune disease however. [1]

Adequate treatment of hypothyroidism might have an additional benefit of reducing risk of demyelination and development of Multiple sclerosis. [1]

“For example, an intriguing finding based on a rodent model of chronic demyelination indicates that administration of thyroid hormone can enhance remyelination under certain conditions (3132). Relevance of this finding to multiple sclerosis in humans is unknown, but, hypothetically, routine treatment of hypothyroidism could diminish the risk of multiple sclerosis.” [1]

The sunhat is helping reduce inflammatory reactions that can make underlying autoimmune symptoms worse. Oxidative stress is another way to say inflammatory reactions and a variety of things in addition to excessive sun exposure can lead to oxidative stress and increased production of free radicals – a type of reactive chemical which antioxidant foods helps to detoxify safely rather than allowing an increase in negative health symptoms. Pollution and smoking can also be external factors in addition to excess sun exposure which can be a cause of inflammatory oxidative stress. [2]

Eating adequate but not necessarily excessive amounts of antioxidant rich foods can help the body detoxify the free radical chemicals safely. Excessive supplements or very rich food sources of antioxidants can tip the chemical balance too far in the other direction. Studies with supplements of vitamin E and vitamin A found that some is good but more isn’t. Sesame seeds are a good source of a variety of nutrients and have been tested for helping with the oxidative stress caused by athletic exercise, two tablespoons per day were found to be a helpful and safe amount. See: Effects of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Supplementation on Creatine Kinase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, Oxidative Stress Markers, and Aerobic Capacity in Semi-Professional Soccer Players. [4(G3.8)]

More information antioxidant rich foods and on oxidative stress and who is more at risk of having inflammatory oxidative stress reactions is available in this post on my other blog site: https://effectiveselfcare.info/2017/09/08/three-negative-stress-can-trigger-the-fight-flight-response-whos-at-risk/

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  1. Emily C. Somers Sara L. Thomas Liam Smeeth Andrew J. Hall, 

    Are Individuals With an Autoimmune Disease at Higher Risk of a Second Autoimmune Disorder?, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 169, Issue 6, 15 March 2009, Pages 749–755https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/169/6/749/90353

  2. Anu Rahal,  Amit Kumar,  Vivek Singh,  Brijesh Yadav,  Ruchi Tiwari,  Sandip Chakraborty,  and Kuldeep Dhama, Oxidative Stress, Prooxidants, and Antioxidants: The Interplay, Biomed Res Int. 2014; 2014: 761264. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3920909/
  3. Kuang-Hui Yu, MD, Chang-Fu Kuo, MD, PhD, Lu Hsiang Huang, MSc, Wen-Kuan Huang, MD, and Lai-Chu See, PhD, Cancer Risk in Patients With Inflammatory Systemic Autoimmune Rheumatic Diseases, Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 May; 95(18): e3540 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4863778/

  4. 8. Barbosa CV, Silva AS, de Oliveira CV, et al., Effects of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Supplementation on Creatine Kinase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, Oxidative Stress Markers, and Aerobic Capacity in Semi-Professional Soccer Players. Front Physiol. 2017 Mar 31;8:196.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28408889  (G3.8)

G3.3: Negative stress can trigger the “fight-flight” response – Who’s at Risk?

Stressful times can make fear and anxiety more likely as our body’s instincts expect to either run from danger or to freeze in position, possibly in the hopes of not being noticed by a predator.

Who’s more at risk to experience negative stress?

Who is more at risk to experience a challenge with a negative fight, flight, or freeze stress response? (G.10)  Instead of having their body or mind perceive a stressor as a positive challenge and an exciting reason to get up each morning ready to say “Carpe diem”?   

Who is more at risk to experience stress as a negative stress response instead of seeing it as a positive challenge and reason to get up and get busy?

  • Answer: many groups are more at risk for having their bodies respond to an event with more of a negative stress response than the average person.     

People more vulnerable to the negative health effects of stress include:

  • older adults;
  • mothers and especially working mothers;
  • less educated individuals;
  • divorced or widowed individuals;
  • people with financial concerns or lack of health insurance;
  • isolated or lonely people;
  • people who are targets of racial or sexual discrimination;
  • people who live in cities,
  • and people with a history of childhood trauma can be more risk to feeling stress.
  • Summarized from “Stress“: (G3.5), University of Maryland Medical Center.

Antioxidant foods can help protect against negative effects from stress.

Eating antioxidant rich foods can help protect the body from negative effects that can occur due the waste chemicals produced during normal metabolism and increased during situations that cause more oxidative stress from  either emotional or physical reasons. Angry and tense due to having to hold in your temper at work, or angry and tense because the traffic was so physically dangerous to navigate simply to get to work in the first place; – both can increase the amount of oxidative stress occurring throughout the body.

Social contact with caring people can also help the body physically detoxify negative chemicals produced during stress or produce less of them in the first place, that will be discussed more in the next post. (G3.10)

The stress response produces chemicals which can cause other inflammatory reactions throughout the body. Having extra antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables and assuring adequate omega 3 fatty acids was shown to help reduce inflammation in autoimmune Celiac sprue. (G3.6)

Dark chocolate has also been shown to be beneficial antioxidant source. Forty grams (1.3 ounces approximately) per day of chocolate was found beneficial with a college student population. (G3.7) That is quite a bit of chocolate for someone with limited room for the empty calories from sugar. Sesame seeds would provide antioxidants with no added sugar.

Eating sesame seeds as part of the daily diet has been shown in sports research to help reduce oxidative stress. The trial subjects ate 2 tablespoons per day of the seeds. See: Effects of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Supplementation on Creatine Kinase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, Oxidative Stress Markers, and Aerobic Capacity in Semi-Professional Soccer Players. (G3.8)

Using tahini in the diet regularly would have similar health benefits. Raw oil or seed butter products may have the most antioxidant content. Look for the phrase “unroasted” on a seed or nut butter product or “cold pressed” on the label of an oil or coconut oil product. Tahini is a sesame paste similar to peanut butter except it has different flavor. The flavor is stronger and to my taste does not go well with sweet jams or jellies like peanut butter or sunflower seed butter. I have found daily use of tahini to be more beneficial to my health then sunflower butter as a substitute for peanut butter – which I have to avoid. I have many dietary restrictions because I feel better without the foods, due to intestinal sensitivities and the autoimmune inflammatory reactions that can occur when I have even very small amounts of some things.

My easy answer to fueling my body so I can get back to what I like doing – reading and writing – is simply tahini spread on rice cakes. I’m used to it now and eat it plain but when I first started eating it I would drizzle a small amount of blackstrap molasses on as a sweetener with a stronger flavor and a good supply of iron and trace nutrients. Or more often I would sprinkle ginger powder on for a zingy accent that provides pain killing anti-inflammatory chemicals. Later in this section on oxidative stress TRP channels will be discussed and their unfortunate sensitivity to many common foods – including ginger. Sadly for my diet and inflammatory condition, I no longer can use ginger due to the intestinal overactivity of TRP channels – presumably, more on that in a later section –  however it may take a while, note the abrupt change in the next footnote number, there is some stuff in between the beginning and the end of the footnote list:

Chocolate and antioxidant foods and herbs found helpful for stress are discussed in more detail with references on a UCLA webpage providing information about integrating Eastern medical philosophies and treatments with Western medical methods. (G3.112)

To provide sustenance for the journey and a way to add chocolate to your diet for anyone who can’t think of any, see my antioxidant rich recipe for chocolate chip cookies. See the third version on this page of recipes and information about gluten free food sensitivity and autoimmune sensitivity for an egg free, butter free, gluten free cookie recipe. It is still a treat with calories and fat, but with fewer ingredients that contain inflammatory chemicals and more ingredients that are very good sources of antioxidants or healthy types of fats: G8.Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Regarding TRP channels – cinnamon is a spice that can activate a type of the membrane gates to allow nerve signals or other actions to occur. The spice has been to help reduce blood glucose levels for patients with diabetes. About one half teaspoon per day was found helpful. A half teaspoon of cinnamon powder is a large amount. Some people enjoy it stirred into a bowl of hot cereal in the morning. It could also be added in smaller amounts to a few cups of hot tea throughout the day, or an evening cup of hot cocoa. Cinnamon is a spice that I avoid due to migraines, it may be causative as a TRPA1 channel agonist. More is included in later sections on TRP channels and the foods that may cause problems for some people such as those with a tendency towards migraines or Irritable Bowel Syndrome or concerns with chronic itch or skin problems such as psoriasis or eczema.

The science regarding cinnamon and blood glucose is complex, some of these terms and chemicals will be discussed in more detail later, this is an introduction to the topic of oxidative stress and TRP channels:

“Cinnamaldehyde ((2E)-3-phenylprop-2-enal) is a TRPA1 agonist (Figure 1, EC50 = 100 μM). [13] The pungency of cinnamon, when it comes in contact with the tongue, is due to its ability to activate TRPA1 expressed at the nerve terminals. Further, the activation of TRPA1 can cause the release of vasoactive peptides, such as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and substance P (SP) from the nerve terminals. It is intriguing that fibers that carry pain sensation also innervate the blood vessels, although the blood vessels are considered to be insensate. [25]”

“It is likely that the vasoactive substances released from the nerve terminals have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular functions. Activation of these receptors in the nerve terminals innervating the GI tract sends signals to satiety centers and releases neuropeptides/neurotransmitters locally. It has been shown that cinnamon can decrease blood glucose
levels in type 2 diabetes. [26, 27] Diabetic animals treated with
cinnamon showed decrease in blood glucose levels, which could
be brought about by the release of incretins (glucose-dependent insulinotropic hormone (GIP) and GLP-1) and insulin release caused by activation of TRPA1 receptors. [19]” (page 1118, G3.113)

See a healthcare provider for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)

References: