To better understand how the body interacts with and responds to magnetic fields, we must appreciate how much our bodies themselves are electromagnetic. The body’s own internal magnetic fields are generated by the extraordinary amount of internal electrical activity that keeps our bodies alive. These biomagnetic fields interact with all of the other magnetic fields on the planet and control our basic chemistry.
The adult body is comprised of more than 70 trillion individual cells, and that’s not counting the millions of bacteria we carry in our gut. Each of those trillions of cells carries out several thousand metabolic processes every second. In order for that level of complexity to function smoothly, there must be a great deal of communication between and within these trillions of cells. Thankfully, our cells are programmed for this type of communication, and are able to make changes in a fraction of a second when necessary.
The human body produces complex electrical activity in several different types of cells, including neurons, endocrine, and muscle cells – all called “excitable cells”. As all electricity does, this activity also creates a magnetic field.
The biomagnetic fields of the body, though extremely tiny, have been measured with techniques including magnetoencephalography (MEG) and magnetocardiography (MCG). These techniques measure the magnetic fields produced by the electrical activity in the body. The findings through objective basic research of these endogenous fields serves to determine their magnitudes as well as leading to the development of new non-invasive means of measuring cellular function. This is clinically useful in order to help guide treatment of the brain and heart.
Cells normally go through at least 7,000 chemical reactions per second, which is an indication of the complex and continuous process involved in adaptation. This level of complexity is beyond the scope of simple biochemistry. By using electromagnetic stimulation, modern measuring techniques have increased the understanding of electromagnetic bio-communication that makes the coordination of the living system possible.
The body’s electrical activity happens primarily in the cell membrane. It is hugely important that the cell membrane maintain an appropriate “charge” or voltage. A healthy cell has a transmembrane potential of about 80 or 100 millivolts. A cancer cell, for comparison, has a transmembrane potential often as low as 20 or 25 millivolts. When a cell becomes damaged or sick, the voltage of the membrane drops, causing an increased voltage in the interior of the cell. When the membrane voltage is low, the membrane channels can’t function properly, leading to a domino effect of disease-causing actions (or inactions).
The cell membrane is there both to protect the contents of the cell and to act as a sort of gatekeeper – opening and closing channels (like doorways) through which ions can flow. These channels are sometimes referred to as “pumps.”
The cell membrane itself has a voltage called a “potential” (or membrane potential, or transmembrane potential). Membrane potential refers to the difference in electrical charge between the inside and outside of the cell. The channels in the membrane are opened or closed based on the polarity of the membrane. When the channels are closed, a cell membrane is at its “resting potential” and when it is open it is at its “action potential.”
Action potential (channel opening) requires electrical activity. During this process, the electrical potential of the membrane rapidly rises, allowing the channels to open up. As the channels open, ions flow into the cell, causing a further rise in the membrane potential, prompting even more channels to open up. This process produces an electric current (and therefore magnetic field) across the cell membrane, and the cycle continues. Once all channels are open, the membrane potential is so great that the polarity of the membrane reverses, and then the channels begin to close. As the entry channels close, exit channels are activated. Once the process is complete, all channels close and the membrane returns to its resting potential.
Only certain ions flow in and out of a cell this way. Most commonly these are sodium, calcium, and potassium. The primary type of action potential is often referred to as the “sodium-potassium pump”, during which sodium flows into the cell via an entry channel and potassium flows out of a cell via an exit channel.
Action potentials play different roles depending on cell type, but are generally responsible for cellular communication or to activate a cellular process. Muscle cells, for example, use action potentials as the first step to achieving muscle contraction.
If a cell is injured or otherwise not well, this activity slows or stops. The energy required by action potentials is relatively small but can be insurmountable for a sick cell. Applying an external, therapeutic magnetic field to the body supports this function by providing the cell with the energy it is incapable of producing itself.