Step into an EMF Sanctuary: An interview with Maria Struve by Denise Cicuto, L.Ac.
This post isn't about acupuncture but it is about health and energy. Energy is Qi and I say that's a good fit for an acupuncture blog. Energy affects people in different ways. Some people are more sensitive to some types of energy than other people.
I recently got a chance to interview Maria Struve from Alameda, California. Maria works in Accounting and Human Resources and also has a website for parties called Tinselbox. She has “always been deep in the technical world with lots of screens and computers.” Maria sat down with me to talk about her journey over the past three years, and how three months ago, she found out that the energy from modern technology was making her sick. And she talked about what she's been doing to improve her health since then. These are her answers to my questions.
I met you through the Alameda Women in Business Wisdom Circle. I was fascinated when I saw a note you put on a party invite that read 'Please turn off your cell phones before you come inside.' I thought it was more of a request to shut down our cell phones so we could socialize with each other. Can you tell us more about that?
One of the great things about this is, it is more fun if nobody has their cell phones on. The parties I've had, or I've been to, where people turn off [their phones], or their husbands can't call, sometimes people will say 'Thank you so much. That was great just to feel disconnected.'
But the reason that I have it turned off is I found out that I have something called Radiation Sickness which is also sometimes called EMF Sensitivity or Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. It means that a lot of the signals that are in our technology today are making me very sick. I'd been sick for over three years and did not know this was the reason. The symptoms look like food intolerance, like you're overweight, sluggish, or your kid kept you up all night, migraines, stomachaches, blues, etc. You're never really sure where they came from. I was just sick all the time, but it was nothing a doctor could pinpoint.
Invitation to 80's Week: Let's see what it was like to have no iPad or Internet and very few channels on TV.
How did you discover this for yourself? how did you figure it out?
It's a pretty fun story. My daughter, who is nine, decided she wanted to live the way mom and dad lived back in the ancient 70's and 80's. She said 'I want to see what it was like to have no iPad or Internet, barely any channels on the TV.' She made us invitations to what she called '80s week' and when it started we turned everything off. To appease her, and just for fun, we turned off the Internet, we put our iPhones in a box, we powered them down, iPads, everything.
That night when I go to sleep – first of all, my four-year-old slept through the night for the first time in years - and I slept through the night for the first time in years in a very deep, very deep way and I have some insomnia issues when I wake up and can't go back to sleep.
So it was very interesting and so profound. I woke up and said, 'Is this a thing? Could my technology be irritating me? What in the world is this?' It was very easy to find research online that this is becoming more common. People are realizing that the radiation coming out of all of our equipment is affecting our health.
That was how I discovered it and my daughter loves taking credit. She doesn't like the fact I have to carry around a meter to check everywhere I go, but she does like the fact that this is her doing.
Tell me about the meter.
In the first couple of weeks I tried to just turn off the main things I thought it would be - don't use the microwave; turn off the Wi-Fi. That helped a little but I could still tell there was still something going on so I bought a meter. The [EMF] meter was a lifesaver for me because I'm an information person. I carried it in a secret bag everywhere I went for about a month.
That's a pretty big meter for a secret bag.
It's gigantic. I have a really big meter so I had to buy a really big bag. I took it to restaurants to figure out which of my favorite restaurants I can go into. I found a couple of local restaurants. Dragon Rouge has beautiful energy inside of it with really no conflicts, but Starbucks may have a lot. I found places I know that are safe because it's really hard to be constantly worried about this. I found some places, like the area outside of Panera. I found places that don't have much EMF at all. I can still go to Julie's Tea Garden in the back. There's even a sign that says 'no cell phones' and the people who have them are not really using them.
What you learn when you have a meter is that it is bad when [a cell phone is] just on. But it is really bad, really high EMFs when you start looking at Safari or a making a phone call.
I carried [the EMF meter] around for a month and that helped me collect the data on where the EMFs were coming from. There were a lot of surprise places so it is kind of hard to discover all of it without a meter. You turn off your Wi-Fi but then there's also the Xbox, PlayStation, maybe it's on your computer, on your mouse. There are a lot of places.
Speaking of mouse: you had an issue come up this morning. Can you tell us about that?
This morning I was sitting on the couch doing some work. I've set up my living room to be like a garden – it has no EMFs in it. So I'm sitting here doing some work and I'm feeling hot and my heart is racing and I'm starting to feel irritated and a headache is coming on and I think to myself 'What in the world?' I know there's no EMFs in here and I start to think 'Is it something I ate? Why am I feeling that way?' I get out the meter just to be sure and I found a wireless mouse that my husband was using. It was turned on, underneath the couch right under where I was sitting, emitting about 2000 milliwatts a minute of radiation. That's how strongly I can feel it.
Now imagine three years of being that sick and just never really knowing why. The more people I meet, the more I find it's affecting a lot of people or agitating conditions they already have. This especially true if they don't go outside a lot. if they don't put their feet in the ground, and they don't meditate then it can really affect people's energies. EMF is energy and we're energy, so it pulses through your body. It's really disrupting what's natural about us.
This weekend we went out to the mountains to a retreat and we were in a really quiet room and every night. We slept like babies because there were no cell phones, nothing was on. It's what people experience when they're on vacation and they leave the Wi-Fi in their home and they leave all of the electronics, smart TVs, smart home stuff behind.
What are the symptoms - aside from what you described from this morning - that you've had alleviated by turning all the stuff off?
For me, when I when I first start feeling it, I get hot and irritated. My heart starts to race and I can get a sore throat really centralized in the middle of my throat, kind of a burning. If I've been at it longer then I get a really hard migraine and shooting pains in my shoulders and back. It feels like you've been sitting wrong and it hurts. If I'm in it longer than that then I will get brain fog. I've actually been in the ER because I could barely stand before I knew what this was.
If I'm in it too long I also catch the flu a lot. It lowers my immune system. I think since November I've had the flu or colds six times. I just go the doctor and they'd say 'These colds are really persistent this year.' But they might be persistent because we're all lowering our immune system, not just in this way - I'm sure it's a lot of other stuff too - but this is a way that people don't realize is also affecting them on top of other environmental things. Especially if you have a condition like migraines or allergies or Lyme Disease, this can irritate them, at least as far as my research.
How long ago did You discover this?
Just over three months ago.
So this is really new?
Yes, super new. The first month was miserable because we had to go and change everything in our whole lifestyle and I was still sick on and off. I've had two months, maybe two and a half months, of being healthy, but I'm still kind of learning how to navigate. In that two and a half months, my awareness has really grown. Now I'm in this community of hundreds of thousands of people who are very knowledgeable on the topics of smart meters, cell phones, all the smart technology coming out. I'm learning a lot about it and I'm just surprised there isn't more awareness. I'm so glad that you're bringing a little bit of awareness to this so people can just start thinking about it. If there's any resonance in their own life, maybe some of this could help them.
Absolutely. How did you find the online communities?
There's a lot but there's one [person] I really like called Jeromy Johnson. He's the one that did the TED Talk about EMFs. He's a software engineer from Silicon Valley and discovered this is and is one of the top speakers. He travels the world speaking about this and has a lot of great articles on how to hardwire your home, what meters to choose, how to navigate. That's one of my favorites but there's a lot actually if you Google "EMF sensitivity Facebook groups" but it's tricky. They could be shut down because Facebook doesn't really want everybody stop using their phone, so I don't know how long those will last.
What else have you done to reduce EMFs in your home?
The two big things I did that were huge for me: I turned off my Wi-Fi at night. That's the first one I always tell everybody. Just plug it into a surge protector and turn it off at night, even if you're not feeling as sensitive as I am. If you turn off at night, your body heals from whatever happened during the day; you will sleep better. It's so much better for you to get a deep sleep. A lot of my friends have tried that and called me the next day and said 'Wow. I didn't know this was affecting me.'
The next thing is in our house we just turned off the Wi-Fi. We don't even have Wi-Fi anymore because you'd be surprised how you're not really using it for anything.
If you want to use your cell phone, you can use the cell signal. You don't really need Wi-Fi pulsing through your house all the time. For the computer, you hook it up with an ethernet cord, which is actually faster than Wi-Fi anyway. We just turned off the Wi-Fi on everything and plugged in the computer and that was the biggest change that we made. We moved to cable boxes cause they don't have EMFs. Some people only have Internet, but you can hardwire a Roku, you can hardwire a cell phone. You just have to buy the equipment.
I think it depends. Some people are so sensitive it's like a disability. Some people like to turn it off at night. It's probably something all of us should do. And I'm somewhere in the middle. There's a whole spectrum of the way this affects people.
How is your family adjusting to all this?
At first, my husband was like 'You are not getting rid of my Wi-Fi,' which is what my friends' husbands say when I tell them and I bring my meter over. But the kids actually are so much better. They use their iPads now in airplane mode which is just far less exciting than when they had it all hooked up to the world. They had quite the iPad addiction before. If I was gonna be really, really honest, I was that mom that was giving it to my kids anyway despite people saying 'Don't do it.' Now they only use it in airplane mode which has zero radiation and they just don't want it that much. It was at a little bit tough in the first three days. There was a lot of begging to have it back.
How old are your kids?
My oldest is nine and my youngest is four. They both have quite the awareness of the technology.
They're the generation that is growing up with all this stuff like it's just second nature.
Yes, and a lot of my friends were expressing the same thing I was experiencing. The kids get so addicted it becomes kind annoying to the mother. They say 'Can I get my iPad?” when they come home. My kids have stopped doing that because it's not as exciting.
On that note, people don't realize that there are tons of things you can do in airplane mode. You can still play apps, you can still download from cable, you can download from Netflix, you can download music. There's just a ton of stuff you can still do and everybody, including adults, can be just doing that in airplane mode. You don't have to have the radiation.
If I showed you on my meter, you would see in airplane mode it's [the iPad] at three milliwatts, so it doesn't have anything. When it's on, it's like 2000 milliwatts a minute of radiation. It's like sticking your hand on the microwave while it's cooking, which none of us would do. Or being out in the sun without sunscreen for a long time.
The problem is that a lot of the research that we were told is accurate was done by biotech companies. Also, the countries that have government healthcare, those are the countries that have banned Wi-Fi in schools, and they acknowledge this [EMF Sensitivity] is a disability. They have larger groups of people. The doctors acknowledge it and can give advice on what to do. Doctors don't do that here. They just look at you like you're crazy. At least that's been my experience. You can't even find anybody who is willing to talk to you about it.
In other countries like Sweden, France, I think the other one is Denmark, Wi-Fi is banned in schools because a child's brain isn't developed enough to resist the radiation, etc. Here not only does my daughter have Wi-Fi at her school, she's in a metal box where the signal bounces around all day. If her classmates are feeling stomachaches and headaches and stress we just say 'Well, fourth grade is hard.' but it upsets me because I know all these kids - their parents may not be aware that this is dangerous yet.
It could be another form of Sick Building Syndrome.
Yes well, we've been through this before with cigarettes, X-rays, sunlight, suntans. The technology comes out, everyone gets on board, and then we sort of figure out down the road that it's not good for us.
I do see lots of research coming out that it's not good for us. I'm talking about it, and you're sharing my story. There's a lot of things: Fitbit just recalled one of their products this week because of all the symptoms happening to people, including really deep rashes on their wrists.
I hope more people will know, especially for our kids. I mean it's bad enough if we're sick but these kids don't have the skulls and the body structure. Cancer takes about 5 to 10 years. I don't want wait that long to find out we have a generation of sick children.
WHEN I WAS BACK IN ACUPUNCTURE SCHOOL, I WORKED PART-TIME FOR AN ACUPUNCTURIST WHO HAD A LITTLE DISK THAT SHE WORE AROUND HER NECK THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO PROTECT YOU FROM EMFS. HAVE YOU EVER TRIED ANYTHING LIKE THAT?
I've tried a lot of things. I am a believer that if someone tells me something helps them, then I believe that. There may be no scientific research but I just believe in the genuineness of people. A lot of people said they felt it helped but the meter does not show any difference and it didn't feel it feel like it helped me.
I tried some other things like a grounding mat which kind of gets a little spark and that helps if I get overloaded. Standing in the grass helps just as much. Standing on the beach, just grounding yourself. I found some shamanic music that helped me. Salt baths, saunas, steam rooms, swimming in a lake. There is some weird stuff out there that helps but the biggest thing that helps is just getting rid of the exposure.
Sounds like, interestingly enough, the things you describe are about getting back to nature. That's what they have in common!
Yes, yes. Getting your energy back. Meditating with my feet in the grass like for 10-15 minutes really helps. I've tried some natural healing things. Stones didn't help me. I tried a salt lamp. I'm just going based on how I was feeling. I think probably different things work for different people.
And I'm quite sure that food has some correlation here because when you're having a bad food day, I do find it to be more irritating. You're already not in a good state, or your allergies are acting up, then exposure seems to make it a lot worse.
Bad food day, meaning?
Well, for me it's if I eat things that have dyes in them like jellybeans or something awesome that's already bad for me. Then I find being around somebody with a cell phone to be more irritating. I've heard in my groups that that's true for people that have Fibromyalgia or Lyme disease or allergies or gluten-intolerance. When people have other conditions EMF exposure kind of makes those things feel worse.
What kind of skepticism have you encountered from people?
I've encountered so much and it's OK. If I saw an alien and I was sitting here telling you I saw an alien, you I would just have to know I was speaking my truth. People that really know me, first of all, take it seriously because they know me and they know why in the world would I be saying this if it wasn't true? People don't really want to give up their cell phone so there's a strong motivation there. I get it because that was me and my kids.
My thing is, I just want to plan to seed with people that I love, at least to get good sleep with no Wi-Fi because then you can fight off whatever toxins happen during the day. If you feel this, you know it's true a hundred percent. I literally could feel someone standing behind me if they took out their cell phone and turn it on. I can feel the pressure in my head and tingling in my teeth because I have metal fillings. For me, there's no way it's not absolutely true.
But I will say people have been very, very kind. Most people I know are very kind so I haven't had anybody be very rude to me about it. I haven't lost a friend yet and I make them all power down. So far so good but a lot of them are still wearing their Apple Watch, so I haven't converted everyone.
Well, you may have converted me from the from the Leaf, which is like a fitbit. I took it off because you were talking about the fitbit when I walked in.
We should see when your phone is not on airplane mode too because they [the Leaf and cell phone] will ping each other. If it means somebody isn't getting sick unknowingly or doesn't end up with cancer, that's a great thing.
One of the other things that really kicked this up for me: 3 1/2 years ago when I got sick I moved my office to home so we got a very strong Wi-Fi signal, and an extender because I had an old brick and mortar house. We needed all that. And then I started getting sick. We also adopted a baby so I just thought I was getting sick because I was so run down. I start gaining weight. She was up all night. We moved here and we got a new system - the latest and greatest Xfinity system - the strongest thing out there today. That made me so sick that I discovered that I have this.
"I just want to plant a seed with people that I love, at least to get good sleep with no Wi-Fi because then you can fight off whatever toxins happen during the day." - Maria Struve
When you see the commercials for the latest and great, please, people, don't go get them. The companies just want to dominate all the airspace so we're all using their products.
Is there anything else you want to add?
I just want to plant a seed for people to start thinking about this, especially people who have undiagnosed chronic conditions. And definitely for people to turn it off at night for their children, especially kids, so they sleep better. We just plug it into the surge protector and just turn off. In the morning you can turn it back on - really easy. That seems to be making a big difference for people.
Often people come to see me for acupuncture when they have conditions that can't be explained. Doctors have done all these tests and say they're fine but the person is still having symptoms. It's interesting to see that this could be another cause.
It could be another cause. There are some really great organizations that have done research on these symptoms. Again, I hope to plant the seed with people that it could be more than one thing.
If people want to contact you, how should they do that?
People can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org If anybody wants help - if they live in Alameda and they want to use my meter - I'm happy to come over. Truly the one thing that makes me feel better about all that sickness I went through it at least I can help a few people try to get out from under the same thing. I'm super happy to help.
Thanks to Maria for taking the time for the interview. The “EMF Sanctuary” is a graphic that Maria made and can email to you.