I know this may sound crazy to some, but I began noticing my own reactions to things like microwave towers, high tension power lines, CFS lightbulbs, my laptop and other electronic devices long before my diagnosis. I would get tinnitus, headaches, itching and that shaky feeling coming from the pit of my stomach that only went away after I got away from the source.
Now that I know I have mast cell disease I decided to investigate further to see if there was a connection between modern technology and its effects on mast cell activation and our immune system in general. It didn’t take long to find many connections!
First, what is EMF?
An electromagnetic field (also EMF or EM field) is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. It affects the behavior of charged objects in the vicinity of the field. The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction. It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature (the others are gravitation, weak interaction and strong interaction).
What are some common sources of EMFs?
As you can see, it’s pretty hard to escape them and getting harder every day as new technology enters our world. Even if you were to leave the planet, they exist out in space as one of the four fundamental forces of our universe.
How do EMFs affect our immune system?
Of course technology brings us levels of EMFs we weren’t previously exposed to as humans, and that’s why it can have such a devastating impact on our immune system. According to the research:
EMFs disturb immune function through stimulation of various allergic and inflammatory responses, as well as effects on tissue repair processes. Such disturbances increase the risks for various diseases, including cancer. These and the EMF effects on other biological processes (e.g. DNA damage, neurological effects, etc.) are now widely reported to occur at exposure levels significantly below most current national and international safety limits.
In a detailed report at BioInitiative.org they have a lot to say about the effects of EMFs on the mast cell specifically:
Very early immune cell alterations were observed when exposing two EHS individuals to a TV monitor (Johansson et al, 1994). In this people were placed in front of, in front of an ordinary TV set (an open provocation study). Subjects who regarded themselves as suffering from skin problems due to work at video display terminals were tested.
From these studies, it is clear that the number of mast cells in the upper dermis is increased in the electrohypersensitivity group. A different pattern of mast cell distribution also occurred in the electrohypersensitivity group, namely, the normally empty zone between the dermo – epidermal junction and mid – to – upper 17 dermis disappeared in the electrohypersensitivity group and, instead, this zone had a high density of mast cell infiltration.
These cells also seemed to have a tendency to migrate towards the epidermis (=epidermiotrophism) and many of them emptied their granular content (=degranulation) in the dermal papillary layer. Furthermore, more degranulated mast cells could be seen in the dermal reticular layer in the electrohypersensitivity group, especially in those cases which had the mast cell epidermiotrophism phenomenon described above.
Finally, in the electrohypersensitivity group, the cytoplasmic granules were more densely distributed and more strongly stained than in the control group, and, generally, the size of the infiltrating mast cells was found to be larger in the electrohypersensitivity group as well. It should be noted, that increases of similar nature later on were demonstrated in an experimental situation employing normal healthy volunteers in front of visual display units, including ordinary house – hold television sets (cf. Johansson et al, 2001). Mast cells, when activated, release a spectrum of mediators, among them histamine, which is involved in a variety of biological effects with clinical relevance, e.g., allergic hypersensitivity, itch, edema, local erythema, and many types of dermatoses.
From the results of the above studies, it is clear that electromagnetic fields affect the mast cell, and als o the dendritic cell, population, and may degranulate these cells.
The release of inflammatory substances, such as histamine, from mast cells in the skin results in a local erythema, edema, and sensation of itch and pain, and the release of somatostatin f rom the dendritic cells may give rise to subjective sensations of ongoing inflammation and sensitivity to ordinary light. These are, as mentioned, the common symptoms reported from persons suffering from electrohypersensitivity/screen dermatitis. Mast cells occur in the brain (Zhuang et al, 1999) and their presence may, under the influence of electromagnetic field and/or radiofrequency radiation exposure lead to chronic inflammatory response by the mast cell degranulation.
I have definitely had itching and other symptoms that I mentioned already just from spending too much time near a screen.
It’s not just EMFs we have to be concerned about, either. It’s ENM’s, too! In an article published last year entitled “Contribution of engineered nanomaterials physicochemical properties to mast cell degranulation”, the researchers had this to say:
The rapid development of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) has grown dramatically in the last decade, with increased use in consumer products, industrial materials, and nanomedicines. However, due to increased manufacturing, there is concern that human and environmental exposures may lead to adverse immune outcomes. Mast cells, central to the innate immune response, are one of the earliest sensors of environmental insult and have been shown to play a role in ENM-mediated immune responses.
In summary, we determined that ENMs could induce mast cell degranulation with varying degrees of response depending on the type of ENM and its physicochemical properties. Furthermore, this degranulation response was driven by ENM surface area and not a result of cell association. Our study has provided evidence suggesting a role of ENM physicochemical properties in the activation of adverse mast cell responses.
Yikes, right?! ENFs are increasingly invading our lives and there may be little we can do to avoid them, other than become Amish. We can, however, reduce our exposure to EMFs. But it’s not easy (unless you become Amish and even then..).
So how do we reduce the effects EMFs have on our MCAD?
The folks over at EMFanalysis.com have a few (radical) tips like replacing your wireless devices with wired ones, switching your cell phone to “airplane mode” as much as possible, measuring the electromagnetic levels in your home and checking to see if there are cell phone towers or other wireless transmitters near your home.
They also encourage us to take extra precautions in the bedroom:
Create a sleep sanctuary – One of the most beneficial steps you can take is to reduce EMF exposure while you sleep:
- Unplug everything in your bedroom at night.
- Keep cell phones, iPads and other electronics out of your bedroom. Use a simple battery-powered alarm clock.
- Turn off the electrical circuit breaker to your bedroom at night. Just keep a flashlight by your nightstand.
- Make sure any remaining wireless devices in your home are turned off at night.
- Sleep under a bed canopy that blocks out the microwave radiation from the local cell phone towers and wireless “smart” meters.
- Consider having an EMF professional help you create a sleep sanctuary.
Ah, a sleep sanctuary free from EMFs. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I think I’ll try some of these tips myself since I sleep with the laptop nearby and my smart phone under the pillow (what? is that weird?). Who knows, maybe I’ll sleep even better at night.
How about you? Are you willing to go to extreme measures to limit your own exposure to EMFs to keep your mast cells in check?
Good luck, and remember, we’re ALL in this mast cell craziness together!