Radioactivity and your Health

Many anxious patients and readers have called in recent weeks inquiring about the health threats of radiation from the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan. This is an attempt to address concerns about radiation and provide strategies to naturally prevent or lower exposure and even ways to  decontaminate from excess exposure. Radioactivity from Japan has little impact on people in the U.S.

The damaged reactors in Japan spewed radiation only as high as 500 meters or 1,640 feet, according to John Beddington, the U.K.’s Chief science officer. In comparison the Chernobyl incident sent radioactive particles as high as 30,000 feet. Although a small amount of radiation was detected in Sacramento from the Japanese reactors, it was only one millionth of what people get from natural background radiation, posing no threat to residents of the United States.

Avoid foodstuff grown on or raised near the fallout zone

Foodstuff such as spinach and dairy produced within the radioactive zone in Japan has had vastly elevated radioactivity. Radioactivity was also found in the ocean near the nuclear plant, but over time that should dissipate as the reactor is cooled and stops spewing particle ash and dust. For now it would be wise to avoid seafood caught in Japanese waters. Other than avoiding the potentially contaminated food, there should be no concern for residents of the Americas. There is no need to panic or hoard potassium iodide pills and certainly no need to take them.

Natural background radiation is all around

We live with radiation all around us—the sun and stars, rocks, earth, even our own bones emit natural background radiation. There is radiation from television, smoke detectors and microwave ovens. It is estimated that the annual average of acceptable exposure from radiation is around 1 millisieverts or mSv.

What is radiation?

There are two types of radiation: electromagnetic (EM) and particle radiation. EM waves range from low to high energy. Low energy EM includes electrical, infrared, visible light, and ultraviolet (UV). These, with the exception of UV are relatively harmless and even therapeutic such as the far-infrared wave. At the high energy end of EM are diagnostic and therapeutic waves like gamma rays. These are more powerful and exposure must be monitored and limited. Particle radiation includes electron, proton and neutron beams

produced from splitting atoms from the likes of plutonium and uranium as in a nuclear reactor or bomb. High exposure to these types of radiation can cause cancer, genetic defects and death. For example, a 2009 New York Academy of Sciences report on the death toll from the Chernobyl accident indicated that from 1986-2005, one million people died from genetic damage caused by the radioactive fallout and numerous people suffered from thyroid cancer and leukemia.

How much radiation exposure is there from medical diagnostics?

The average acceptable exposure per person is 1 mSv per year. A simple chest x-ray is about 0.03 mSv—or put another way, it will take about 33 chest x-rays for one to reach their yearly radiation allowance. However, a series of upper GI x-rays is equal to about 3 mSv and a CT scan is about 4 mSv. Though these numbers are high, the benefits usually far outweigh the alternatives of not doing the tests.

Natural ways to lower radiation burden in your body

Start by incorporating seaweed, kelp and other chlorophyll-rich foods like blue-green algae, spirulina and chlorella into your diet. These plants contain rich minerals such as iodine that binds up the receptor sites in your thyroid so that any radioactive iodine that enters your system will be less able to harm your thyroid. They also contain selenium and other potent anti-oxidants to prevent destructive free radicals and cancerous growths as well as chelating agents that bind to toxins and help eliminate them from your body.

Eat colorful foods that are full of antioxidants like cherries, blueberries, pomegranates, yams and sweet potatoes that consistently assist your body in mopping up free radicals and toxins. Drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water daily. You can also increase your intake of vitamins C, E and D or take alpha lipoic acid—a nutrient that protects cells from radiation damage. There are also herbs like dandelion, peppermint and chrysanthemum that help the body detoxify. Medically supervised detox programs like the Tao of Wellness Detox Retreat can support your body’s healthy cleansing function. Finally, if you find yourself in theunlikely situation of excess radiation exposure, there are medically supervised chelation treatments using EDTA and other treatment methods.

I hope this article helps to assuage your fears about radiation and that you will use the information to live long, live strong and live happy.