Tracking & Mitigating Radiation Poisoning from the Inside Out

Tracking & Mitigating Radiation Poisoning from the Inside Out

This article focuses on internal exposure to ionizing radiation, its detrimental effects on health, and what nutrition-related steps you can take to reduce exposure and absorption in the body.

We are all exposed to radiation in some form and very likely on a daily basis. However what this daily dose of radiation means to you depends on what type, how much, and what the ultimate effects will be. Radiation is a form of electromagnetic energy; non-ionizing radiation is at the low-frequency end, ionizing radiation is at the high-frequency end. Examples of non-ionizing radiation include radiowaves, microwaves, electric power lines, electronic devices/motors, wireless technologies, etc.[1]Examples of ionizing radiation include high-frequency ultraviolet (UV) light, alpha and beta particles, gamma rays, X-rays, radioactive elements, and neutron radiation.[2]

Each of these types of radiation has the potential to disrupt our metabolism and lead to dysfunction and disease. This article focuses on internal exposure to ionizing radiation, its detrimental effects on health, and what nutrition-related steps you can take to reduce exposure and absorption in the body. Stay tuned for article 2 on non-ionizing radiation and the TILT phenomenon, as well as our upcoming e-courses on both non-ionizing and ionizing radiation.

Source: Berkeley Lab Electromagnetic Spectrum. http://www2.lbl.gov/MicroWorlds/ALSTool/EMSpec/EMSpec2.html.

Accessed November 18, 2014.

Ionizing Radiation

Ionizing radiation, a known carcinogen, is the form of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) that is most destructive because it can penetrate tissue and cause immediate cell damage.[3][4]According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "The ability of alpha, beta, and gamma radiation to produce cancer in virtually every tissue and organ in laboratory animals has been well-demonstrated."[5]

Specific sources of ionizing radiation include nuclear fission (e.g. nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons production and testing, nuclear power plants); medical radiation (e.g. X-rays, CT scans, radiation therapy); cosmic radiation (e.g. solar flares, exposure during air travel, etc.); terrestrial radiation (e.g. radon, radium, uranium, thorium, etc.); food irradiation facilities; and release of radioactive elements from various nuclear/irradiation facilities (intentional and unintentional).[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]Radioactive elements are present in the emissions released from coal-fired power plants as well.[18][19]

In the 1930s, radioactive radium was a significant source of ionizing radiation because it was used for medical purposes (rheumatism, mental disorders, and a general tonic) and as a component of "glow in the dark" paints.[20]Fortunately the hazards of this practice were recognized and it was discontinued. Radioactive elements such as thorium and tritium are sources of ionizing radiation and are currently used commercially.[21]

Medical diagnostic radiation is an obvious and yet perilous source of ionizing radiation. According to the National Toxicology Program's 13th Report on Carcinogens, "Epidemiological studies of radiation exposure provide a consistent body of evidence for the carcinogenicity of X-radiation and gamma radiation in humans... most strongly associated with leukemia and cancer of the thyroid, breast, and lung."[22]There is a cumulative effect associated with medical ionizing radiation as well, especially with CT scan exposure.[23]Medical radiation may also be a risk factor for ischemic heart disease.[24]

Safe Dose of Ionizing Radiation?

Many experts, including late pioneer John Gofman MD, PhD, believe there is no safe dose of ionizing radiation. Dr. Gofman was a physician, nuclear physical chemist, and biomedical researcher for the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (Livermore) at the University of California.[25][26][27][28]He revealed that actual risk from exposure to low-dose radiation was 20 times greater than officially stated.[29][30]Dr. Gofman declared that "50% of all cancers in the 20th century have been caused by ionizing radiation of the type we would call low level."[31]Although initially assigned to study (and downplay?) the health effects of ionizing radiation, Gofman's discovery of a linear non-threshold radiation model ("no safe dose") made him quite unpopular with those who had aspirations for the commercial use of radiation.[32]

Not only can minute amounts of ionizing radiation be harmful, but low doses over a long period of time can be even more damaging than high-dose acute exposure. This is known as the Petkau effect.[33]In view of the fact that low doses of ionizing radiation can be especially harmful, no exposure should be dismissed as "negligible." The Physicians for Social Responsibility group states "There is no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources. Period."[34]

Radioactive Elements as Nutrient Imposters

You may be wondering how nutrition is related to radiation exposure. Many essential micronutrients have radioactive counterparts. These unstable, radioactive forms (also called radionuclides or radioisotopes) are produced during nuclear fission (splitting of the nucleus of an atom). These radioactive elements are released into air, drinking water, and food during nuclear bomb testing/execution and nuclear activity (routine and catastrophic).[35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43]

The radioactive elements masquerade as essential nutrients and get absorbed by the body.[44][45][46]For example, radioactive iodine-131 and -129, strontium-90, cesium-137, and plutonium-239 mimic iodine, calcium/strontium, potassium, and iron respectively. Cobalt-60, sulfur-35 and zinc-65 will be taken up as if they were vitamin B12, sulfur, and zinc respectively.[47][48][49][50][51]Unlike their essential stable counterparts, radioactive elements become dangerous free radicals (e.g. oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and hydroxyl radicals) and cause extensive tissue and organ damage.

Internal Irradiation

It is important to point out that ingestion of radioactive elements can be more insidious than exposure to "background" radiation or external X-rays. Radioactive elements may enter the body through eating, drinking, inhalation, or absorption through the skin.[52][53][54]Radioactivity in drinking water has been significantly associated with cancer incidence.[55]

Following the path of essential nutrients, the radioactive imposters settle in bones, tissues, and organs and emit ionizing radiation powerful enough to steal electrons from surrounding molecules. This free-radical activity can then impair cell membranes, break up cell nuclei, damage cellular DNA, and wreak havoc on cells and organs.[56]

For example Sr-90, routinely released from nuclear power plants and weapon testing/detonation, settles in bone and "irradiates" the bone marrow where red and white blood cells are produced. This can lead to suppression of both red blood cells (leading to anemia) and white blood cells (leading to immune dysfunction).[57][58][59]According to the EPA, "Internal exposure to Sr-90 is linked to bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia."[60]Cesium-137, another commonly released radioactive element, concentrates in endocrine glands, pancreas, thymus, and heart where levels can reach 10-100 times higher than other organs.[61]

Internal exposure to ionizing radiation is prolonged when radioactive elements are incorporated into living tissue, though the World Health Organization assures us that "internal exposure stops when the radionuclide is eliminated from the body."[62]However if radioactive elements remain in tissues and are not eliminated, the radioactivity of these elements can persist for extensive periods of time due to their prolonged half-life. The half-life of a radioactive element is "the time that it takes for one half of the atoms of that substance to disintegrate into another nuclear form..."[63]It does not necessarily mean that half the radioactivity is eliminated. For example uranium-238 (used in nuclear weapons) has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. It decays into radium-226 (half-life of 1600 years) which then decays into radon-222 (half-life of 3.82 days). Strontium-90 (Sr-90) decays into yttrium-90, and so on. The decay products themselves continue to be radioactive and maintain their own half-lives.[64][65]

Radioisotope Emitted

 

Half-Life

Essential Nutrient Mimicked

Tissue Affected

Iron-55

2.6 years

Iron

Red blood cells

Barium- 137

Cesium-137

2.5 minutes

30 years

Potassium

Kidney, muscle

Endocrine glands, pancreas, thymus, heart

Carbon-14

5730 years

Carbon

Bone

Cobalt-58

Cobalt-60

71.3 days

5.3 years

Vitamin B12

Liver, kidney, bone

Ovaries

Iodine-129

Iodine-131

15.7 million years

8.1 days

Iodine

Thyroid

Ovaries

Phosphorus-32, 33

14.3-25 days

 

Phosphorus

Bone

Plutonium-238

Plutonium-239

87.7 years

24,4000 years

Iron

Liver, ovaries, bone

Strontium-89

Strontium-90

52 days

29 years

Calcium

Bone, nerve and muscle cells

Sulfur-35

87daus

Sulfur

Skin

Uranium-237

Uranium-238

6.8 days

4.5 billion years

 

Lungs, bone

Liver, bone

Yttrium-90

64 hours

 

Bone, pancreas,

reproductive organs

Zinc-65

245 days

Zinc

Bone, reproductive organs

Ionizing Radiation and Children

Ionizing radiation can be especially damaging to the embryo, fetus, and growing child. Critical periods of development can be irreversibly disrupted, leading to altered functioning of the brain, nervous system, cardiovascular system, etc. According to the CDC, "the human embryo and fetus are particularly sensitive to ionizing radiation, and the health consequences of exposure can be severe, even at radiation doses too low to immediately affect the mother. Such consequences can include growth retardation, malformations, impaired brain function, and cancer."[66][67]Ionizing radiation, specifically strontium-90, appears to be associated with low birth weight. "The 1945-1965 rise in the percentage of live births below 2500 grams is highly correlated with the amount of strontium-90 in human bone, both peaking in the mid-1960s."[68]

Children are highly susceptible to the negative health effects of ionizing radiation, cancer in particular.[69][70][71][72][73][74][75][76][77][78]Exposure to radioactive iodine following nuclear accidents is significantly associated with childhood thyroid cancer.[79][80]Other cancers, including leukemia, were more prevalent in young children exposed to radioactive waste/fallout (e.g. from the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear accidents). There is increased incidence of cancer in children under age 10 living near nuclear power plants; a trend that was correlated with levels of strontium-90 in their baby teeth.[81]Children who were exposed to ionizing radiation in infancy had a dose-response reduction in learning ability and logical reasoning later in life.[82]Research suggests that if the relationship between age of exposure and dose-risk are not taken into account when attempting to calculate health effects from radiation exposure, then total lifetime risk will be grossly underestimated.[83]

Measuring Radioactive Elements in the Environment, Food, and Water

The potential for radioactivity to enter the human food and drinking water supply following accidental or incidental environmental release is well recognized. Radioactivity measured in drinking water has been found to correlate significantly with cancer incidence.[84]Computer models have been developed in an effort to estimate contamination levels for a variety of scenarios.[85][86][87][88][89][90]

Monitoring for environmental radioactive contamination is carried out following a nuclear accident. However, not all important radioactive elements are screened for[91]and accurate measurement of all radioactive emissions is likely not possible.[92][93]Direct measurement of in-body radiation reveals that actual exposure may be up to eight times the official estimates for annual dose burden.[94]A child's radiation exposure to contaminated foods is estimated to be three to five times higher than an adult's due to differences in weight and metabolism.[95]Also, monitoring and measurement of total radioactivity released and concentrated in the human body during routine nuclear facility operations appears to be lacking.

Chernobyl

Radioactive contamination can spread far and wide following a nuclear accident. Radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe reached as far as away as North America. Studies of the health effects of radioactive fallout from Chernobyl conclude that "Irradiated populations of plants and animals exhibit a variety of morphological deformities and have significantly higher levels of mutations that were rare prior to 1986."[96]Researchers further concluded that locally concentrated radioactive fallout contributed to premature aging, mutations, and death.[97]Children who ingested milk contaminated with radioactive iodine from the meltdown had an increased incidence of thyroid cancer.[98]Actual number of deaths contributed directly to Chernobyl continues to be debated.[99]

According to a 2009 study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Chernobyl fallout continues to expose approximately 5 million individuals due to consumption of locally contaminated foods.[100]Unfortunately up until 1991, the United States continued to import foods contaminated with Chernobyl radioactive fallout including "juices, cheeses, pasta, mushrooms, hazelnuts, sage, figs, tea, thyme, juniper, caraway seeds, and apricots."[101]In Norway, measurement of radioactive fallout following Chernobyl revealed that commonly consumed wild foods such as berries and mushrooms were a significant source of radioactive elements.[102]The study also revealed that certain types of foods concentrate considerably higher doses of radioactive elements (e.g. Leccinum spp. of mushrooms).

Fukushima

Following the 2011 nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant, local monitoring of food and water for radioactive elements revealed significant contamination of tap water, raw milk, vegetables, mushrooms, fruit, nuts, seaweeds, marine invertebrates, coastal fish, freshwater fish, beef, wild animal meat, brown rice, wheat, tea leaves, and other food items around Fukushima.[103][104][105][106][107][108]The initial accident resulted in the release of a number of radioactive elements and global fallout was a grave concern due to the ability of atmospheric winds to carry and disperse radionuclides.[109]Iodine-131 was the first radioactive element from Fukushima observed in Finland within 9 days of the accident.[110]Radioactive iodine was detected in the United States within two weeks of the accident.[111]

Radioactive iodine was detected in the thyroids of 46 of the 62 Japanese adults and children from a small sample measured approximately a month after the accident.[112]More than a year after the Fukushima accident, animals living 70 km from the accident site were found to have significantly elevated levels of radioactive cesium in muscle that correlated with significantly low levels of white and red blood cells, hemoglobin, and hematocrit.[113]More than 3 years after the meltdown, radioactive water continues to flood the clean-up site.[114]

"Clean up"

Despite clean up efforts following radioactive contamination, several radioactive elements may persist in the environment for decades, centuries, or even longer.[115][116][117][118][119]For example, clean up of the Washington state Hanford nuclear site (established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan nuclear weapons project) continues[120]and desperate efforts are being taken to "protect the Columbia River from further adverse impacts... groundwater contaminants consist of strontium-90, tritium, nitrate, and hexavalent chromium."[121]Radioactive contamination was detected in wild game within and around the Hanford site (1995-2007).[122]Ground water around abandoned uranium mines on Native American lands was found to be significantly contaminated with radioactive elements as well.[123]Apparently removal of radioactive elements is a difficult and elusive operation.

Radioactive Iodine

Monitoring for radioactive iodine is crucial following a nuclear accident due to its role as a causative agent in thyroid cancer. Unfortunately, routine monitoring includes only the short-lived radioactive iodine-131 and not iodine-129 which has a half-life of 15.7 million years.[124]Reporting only iodine-131 allows officials to claim that most radiation following a nuclear accident will dissipate in a relatively short period of time. Of course this is not the case with the long-lived iodine-129. Oddly in the 1970s when the EPA attempted to project radiation exposure from nuclear power operations, their report did address iodine-129, acknowledging that it has a half-life of millions of years.[125]The EPA continues to recognize the serious nature of iodine-129 contamination from processing and storing of spent nuclear fuel and weapons[126]but doesn't require that it be monitored following nuclear accidents. There is a strong correlation between soil levels of iodine-131 and iodine-129, begging the question of why iodine-129 isn't monitored over time following all nuclear accidents.[127]Nuclear processing plants and waste storage facilities routinely release "low levels" of iodine-129 into the environment as well.[128]

Measuring Ionizing Radiation and Exposure in the Body

Radioactive elements may be measured in air, food, water, and human tissue. Though measurement of air and water is convenient, [129]it does not reflect the bioaccumulation (buildup in living tissue)[130]of radioactive elements that occurs with acute and chronic exposure. Measurement in human tissue best reflects how much we are actually absorbing and retaining. In-body measurement of radioactive elements has not been done extensively although when carried out, it has been quite revealing.

In the 1950s, extensive above-ground nuclear bomb testing was being carried out in the United States and in the Soviet Union. Scientists and healthcare practitioners became concerned about potential health effects from the radioactive elements (e.g. radioactive iodine, strontium, and cesium) that were being released during the testing. The landmark St. Louis Baby Teeth Study grew out of these grave health concerns.[131][132][133]The study was designed to measure the accumulation of radioactive elements in the body. Specifically, human deciduous (baby) teeth were collected in order to measure them for strontium-90. Sr-90 is a man-made radioactive form of the nutrient strontium. It is released during nuclear fission and passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy. Measurement of Sr-90 in a baby's first set of teeth gives a "snapshot" of what the baby was exposed to while in the womb. Measurement of Sr-90 in baby teeth in Great Britain and Ireland revealed that children had absorbed Sr-90 and plutonium from the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant.[134]

Strontium-90 is produced by the fission or splitting of uranium and plutonium and not surprisingly, excessive amounts are release during nuclear weapons testing.[135]Stronium-90 is referred to as a "bone-seeker."[136]It mimics calcium in the body, traveling to brain and nervous tissue and concentrating in bones and teeth. Ultimately Sr-90 can contribute to birth defects, learning disorders, cognitive changes, anemia, osteoporosis, immune disorders, hormone disruption, breast cancer, and child and adult cancer and leukemia.[137][138][139][140]

Ernest J. Sternglass PhD, professor Emeritus of Radiological Physics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, published concerns about radiation exposure and its relationship to childhood cancer and disease in the June 1963 issue of Science.[141][142]He testified before congress in the early 1960s and his testimony became part of the debate and eventual moratorium on above-ground nuclear bomb testing.[143]Dr. Sternglass continued his research on low-level radiation and its association with human health and disease. Dr. Sternglass' book Secret Fallout: Low-Level Radiation from Hiroshima to Three Mile Island is available at no cost (http://www.ratical.org/radiation/SecretFallout/).[144]

Dr. Sternglass cofounded the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP) with Dr. Jay Gould (author of The Enemy Within: The High Cost of Living Near Nuclear Reactors).[145]The research group developed The Tooth Fairy Project (a parallel to the 1950s St. Louis Baby Teeth Study) and conducted modern-day measurement of Sr-90 in baby teeth 1998-2006.[146][147]I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Sternglass in 1997 and he graciously invited me to become involved in research for The Tooth Fairy Project. Project data demonstrated that in areas around nuclear power plants, Sr-90 levels in baby teeth were as high as they had been during 1950s nuclear bomb testing. RPHP researchers concluded that there is significant correlation between childhood cancer incidence and Sr-90 in-body concentrations as well as radioactivity in surface water and nuclear releases.[148]Researchers also correlate an increase in childhood cancer to exposure to low-level radiation.[149][150][151]

Specifically, researchers found that "in each state studied, the average Sr-90 concentration is highest in counties situated closest to nuclear reactors. It is likely that, 40 years after large-scale atmospheric atomic bomb tests ended, much of the current in-body radioactivity represents nuclear reactor emissions."[152]The Radiation and Public Health Project is the only research study actually measuring in-body radiation near U.S. nuclear power plants.[153]

"The baby tooth study remains the only study of radiation in bodies of Americans living near nuclear plants. The tooth project was modeled after several previous studies, including the original 1958-1970 study of Strontium-90 in baby teeth from atom bomb fallout by Washington University in St. Louis. The RPHP study measured nearly 5,000 teeth, and results were published in five peer-reviewed medical journal articles." –Joseph J. Mangano, MPH, MBA and RPHP researcher.

RPHP was given 85,000 teeth to analyze from the original 1950s St. Louis Baby Teeth study. Results revealed that the average level of Sr-90 in the baby teeth of individuals who died from cancer (born 1959-1961) was significantly higher than for matched controls (p < 0.04).[154]

The nuclear industry refutes the methods and claims of the current RPHP baby teeth study, suggesting that 99% of the strontium-90 in our environment is left over from previous testing of nuclear weapons and considers nuclear power plant emissions of Sr-90 to be miniscule.[155]In response Joseph Mangano points out

1. "As time went on, Strontium-90 levels got higher and higher (if it was just bomb fallout, averages would be falling). The average went up 50% from children born 1986-1989 to children born 1994-1997)

2. Strontium-90 levels in teeth were highest in areas closest to nuclear plants in CA, FL, NJ, NY, and PA - which makes no sense. Bomb fallout didn't "select" the areas it would enter, because they were sites of future nuclear plants!!! The excess was 30 to 50% higher near plants."

Dose-Related Health Effects of Ionizing Radiation Exposure

Exposure
(rem)

Health Effect

Time to Onset
(without treatment)

5-10

changes in blood chemistry

 

50

Nausea

Hours

55

Fatigue

 

70

Vomiting

 

75

hair loss

2-3 weeks

90

Diarrhea

 

100

Hemorrhage

 

400

possible death

within 2 months

1,000

destruction of intestinal lining

 

 

internal bleeding

 

 

and death

1-2 weeks

2,000

damage to central nervous system

 

 

loss of consciousness;

Minutes

 

and death

hours to days

Source: EPA. Radiation Protection: Health Effects.[156]

Hopefully as a society we will move to reduce the amount of radioactive elements released into our environment, air, food, and water. Unfortunately with the current focus on reducing greenhouse gases, there is a dangerous potential to turn to nuclear power because it may not directly contribute to carbon emissions. Nuclear power does however indirectly contribute to carbon emissions because of the mining, transportation, and processing that nuclear fuel involves. Also, we must remember that just because we cannot see radioactive emissions doesn't mean they aren't harmful.

What Can We Do?

In our struggle to stay healthy, it's important to not be afraid but Be Aware! Once aware of the potential sources of ionizing radiation you may be exposed to, do your best to reduce total exposure. Also ensure that you are "nutrient sufficient" to minimize uptake of radioactive elements that may be lurking in air, food, and water.

Reduce Exposure

The most obvious solution to reducing internal exposure to radiation would be to reduce external exposure. Of course avoiding or at least minimizing exposure is paramount but may be difficult when some exposure is out of our control. Although it is nearly impossible to assess uptake and storage of radioactive elements without full analysis of tissue, bones, or teeth, the EPA has created an algorithm for attempting to estimate ongoing radiation exposure.[157]The following key points can help you minimize your exposure to ionizing radiation.

  • Exposure to X-rays, especially CT scans should be minimized or avoided if possible.
  • Minimize air travel as much as possible.
  • Avoid living within 20 miles of a nuclear facility or coal-fired plant; avoid food and water that may be contaminated by facility activities.
  • Have drinking and well water tested for radon and other contamination.
  • Many radioactive elements, including Sr-90, can be removed from water via reverse osmosis or distillation.[158]Be sure to replace essential minerals and trace elements lost in the process of reverse osmosis, purification, or distillation.
  • Avoid exposure to UV light from tanning beds[159]or even excessive exposure from the sun. Remember stratospheric ozone protects us from solar radiation but this protection is diminished as the ozone layer is depleted.[160]For extended periods in the sun, it is best to cover up with clothing and hats and avoid chemical-bases sunscreens that may be harmful. Also most sunscreens don't protect against damaging UVA radiation.[161][162][163]
  • It is important to have enough sun exposure to synthesize and maintain adequate vitamin D levels in the body but not to cause sunburn. The Linus Pauling Institute recommends that adults supplement with at least 2,000 IU (50 mcg) daily and maintain a serum level of at least 80 nmol/L (32 ng/mL).[164]
  • Consume a diet rich in plant-based foods and their protective phytonutrients.
  • Consume a nutrient-dense diet and supplement as needed to maintain tissue saturation of essential nutrients (i.e. selective uptake).

Selective Uptake

Selective uptake is based on the principle that in the presence of nutrient sufficiency, radioactive elements will not be absorbed as extensively as they would be in the face of nutrient deficiency. The principle applies to plants and humans. Nutrients applied to the soil can reduce uptake of radioactive elements by plants (e.g. calcium compounds reduce strontium-90 uptake, potassium-rich fertilizers reduce radioactive cesium uptake, etc.).[165][166]Similarly when human cells and tissues are saturated with vital nutrients, radioactive elements won't be taken up as readily. In fact, research indicates that being deficient in vitamins and minerals (e.g. vitamin B12, B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, zinc) can cause as much cellular DNA damage as radiation itself.[167][168][169]So the combination of nutrient deficiency and radiation exposure can exponentially compound health effects.

The principle of selective uptake is employed by the FDA in their guidelines for potassium iodide (KI) administration in the event of a nuclear accident.[170]Guidelines state that KI should be taken "before or just after you are exposed to radioiodine."[171]Unfortunately we may not be notified of an accident in a timely manner or have the corresponding dose of KI.

Protective Foods

Plant-based foods top the list of radio-protective foods due to their abundance of phytonutrients (aka phytochemicals) that possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties.[172][173][174][175]Plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, cocoa, herbs, and spices) in their whole, unprocessed state are naturally high in antioxidants and other protective components. Antioxidants protect us against the oxidizing effects of free radicals and therefore may reduce the damage caused by ionizing radiation and radioactive elements.[176][177]Choose produce that has been allowed to ripen on the vine and is grown locally so that the plant's production of antioxidants and phytonutrients will be maximized and losses will be minimized.

Several phytonutrients and their sources have been researched for their ability to protect cells from radiation damage including holy basil, carotenoids (e.g. lycopene, alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, astaxanthin), resveratrol, silibinin/silymarin, green tea and black tea polyphenols, broccoli sprout glucoraphanin and sulforaphane, curcumin, grapes, grape seed proanthocyanidins, terminalia chebula, aged garlic extract, dark chocolate flavonols, black soybean, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, grapefruit, fennel seed, ginseng, walnut, vanillin, omega-3 fatty acids, spirulina, and vitamin C. [178][179][180][181][182][183][184][185][186][187][188][189][190][191][192][193][194][195][196][197][198][199][200][201][202][203][204][205][206][207][208][209][210][211][212][213][214][215]

Overall, choose nutrient-dense foods every day to optimize your own nutritional status. Healthy foods high in calcium[216]can help block strontium-90 uptake, including organic dairy products, almonds, collard and turnip greens, blackstrap molasses, spinach, and sardines and salmon with the bone in. Foods high in potassium[217]are also important; baked sweet and white potatoes, tomato paste, white beans, carrot juice, bananas, and spinach are good examples.

Cruciferous vegetables (arugula, Bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustards greens, radishes, turnips, wasabi, and watercress) provide antioxidants, indoles, and sulfur for added protection.[218]

Pectin appears to be an effective way to protect organs from internal radiation exposure. Following the Chernobyl meltdown, children were given 10 grams/day of apple-pectin food additives and experienced a significant reduction in organ burden of cesium-137.[219][220][221][222]Pectin may be obtained from other sources such as currants, grapes, seaweed, etc. as well.

Snacks should be nutrient-dense and contribute to one's daily intake of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and protective components. You can plan for and prepare your own healthy snacks. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, herbs, and spices into quick breads, muffins, cereals, and even make up a daily "nibble tray." Pediatrician Dr. William Sears has great success promoting nibble trays to his young patients[223]but even adolescents and adults would benefit from a healthy, easy-to-reach nibble tray!

Clinical research is being conducted on a whole-food based bar (CHORI-bar) that provides micronutrients and antioxidants and supports our natural antioxidant mechanisms as well.[224][225]Renowned scientist and researcher Dr. Bruce Ames helped create and test the CHORI-bar, a micronutrient-dense fruit/chocolate-based bar that markedly improves metabolism in many human trials[226]and could improve metabolism in those with poor diets and help them transition to better diets."[227]

Supplementation

Supplements can help create a nutrient-rich environment in which radioactive imposters are crowded out and absorption and uptake is reduced. A pectin-vitamin supplement was found to significantly reduce body burden of radioactive strontium and cesium in animal studies.[228]Antioxidants appear to be protective when administered before and after radiation.[229]

Plant-based foods grown, transported, and prepared under ideal conditions are crucial to a radio-protective diet. However, when nutrient needs are increased or radiation exposure is elevated, targeted nutrition supplementation may be indicated. Taking a high-quality supplement that provides antioxidants (e.g. vitamin C, natural vitamin E complex, mixed carotenoids, CoQ10, selenium) along with adequate levels of bioactive B vitamins, vitamin D3, and essential minerals would be a prudent start. Be sure to choose the natural form of folate (5-MTHF) and not synthetic folic acid. 5-MTHF protects against UV radiation while synthetic folic acid can promote DNA damage by UVA radiation.[230]Be sure to discuss supplementation with a qualified healthcare practitioner. See tables (Protective Factors in Radiation Exposure and Protective Supplements in Radiation Exposure) for more information on protective foods and supplements.

Protective Factors in Radiation Exposure

 

Well-nourished individuals are best equipped to block uptake, excrete radionuclides, and repair DNA damage from EMR exposure. Nutrient deficiency can be detrimental while nutrient sufficiency and saturation have protective effects.

 

Alkalizing Diet

Goal: arterial blood pH 7.45, first morning urine pH 6.7-7.5. Fruits and vegetables in general tend to be the most alkalizing foods, while sugar, meat, dairy, fried foods, and trans-fats are most acid-forming.[231]Mineral sufficiency is also crucial.

Antioxidants and Phytonutrients

Antioxidants: vitamins C and E, alpha-lipoic acid, ubiquinol, superoxide dismutases, glutathione.

Phytonutrients from plant-based sources: carotenoids, flavonoids, indoles & glucosinolates, inositol (phytic acid), isoflavones, isothiocyanates, polyphenols, terpenes.[232]

Detoxification Support

Phase I: B-complex, glutathione, branched-chain amino acids, flavonoids, phospholipids.

Phase II: glycine, taurine, glutamine, N-acetylcysteine, cysteine, methionine, methyl donors.

Intermediary: Vitamins C and E, selenium, copper, zinc, manganese, CoQ10, thiols, bioflavonoids, silymarin, pycnogenol.

Fiber

 

Insoluble (cellulose, lignin) and

soluble (pectins, gums, gels) fiber plays an important role in radioprotection.

Fiber adds bulk, speeds gastrointestinal transit time, absorbs toxicants, and promotes the growth of protective, probiotic bacteria.

Herbs and Spices

 

Herbs and spices are rich sources of antioxidants and phytonutrients that can inhibit carcinogen formation and activation, upregulate phase II detoxification enzymes, inhibit oxidation and inflammation, and demonstrate anti-tumor activity.[233]Herbs and spices studied for their protective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects include garlic, chives, onions, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, watercress, horseradish, dill, bay leaves, turmeric, and tea.

Legumes

Legumes (dried beans)

contain minerals, chelating-phytates and radioprotective protease inhibitors.[234]

Miso

 

Miso, a lactobacillus-fermented paste made from soybean and sea salt (aged ~18 months),

has an alkalizing effect and is a source of calcium, iron, B vitamins, and zybicolin which helps bind and eliminate radioactive elements.[235][236]

Nuts & Seeds

 

Nuts and seeds provide full spectrum vitamin E, B-complex, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, fiber, pectin, phytates, and omega-3 fatty acids. Sesamol from sesame seeds was also found to be radioprotective and exhibited a free-radical scavenging capacity 20 times that of melatonin.[237]

Sea Vegetables,

Seaweed, Sodium Alginate

Seaweed such as kelp, nori, dulce, and sea vegetables help block uptake of radioactive iodine-131 and strontium-90.[238][239][240]Of course it goes without saying that these should not come from areas contaminated with radioactive fallout! Seaweed also contains radioprotective pectin.[241]Sea vegetables, (including agar, dulse, hijiki, irish moss, kelp, wakame, and nori from uncontaminated sources) are rich in minerals and found to reduce intestinal absorption of Sr-90. Supplementing with sodium alginate from kelp and other sea vegetables was found to have a profound radioprotective effect as it blocks intestinal absorption and bone uptake of radioactive strontium, and increases Sr-90 excretion without interfering with calcium metabolism.[242][243]

 

Selective Uptake

 

Stable elements will block uptake of radionuclides: Calcium blocks Sr-90; Cobalamin blocks cobalt-60; Iodine blocks iodine-131; Iron blocks plutonium 238,239; Potassium blocks cesium-137; Sulfur blocks sulfur-35; Zinc blocks zinc-65.[244]

Tempeh

Tempeh, a fermented soy product, contains beneficial bacteria, phytates, and analogues of B12 that can block cobalt-58,60.

 

Vegetables

 

Vegetables contain fiber, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. The Brassicaceae family (broccoli, cabbage, collard, kale, watercress, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radish, etc.)

contains sulfur compounds which protect cells from radiation.

 

Water Purification

Reverse osmosis, distillation, and ion exchange can remove radionuclides.

Whole Grains

 

Whole grains, as tolerated, provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytates (which bind radionuclides but can also bind nutritive minerals).

 

 

© 2015 Beth Ellen DiLuglio, MS, RDN, CCN, Nutrition Is Your Best Health Insurance!® www.NutritionMission.org.

Used with permission.

Protective Supplements in Radiation Exposure

Adaptogens

Adaptogens (astragalus, ashwagandha, ginseng, eleutheroccus, schizandra, rhodiola, maitake and reishi mushrooms, holy basil, and boerhaavia diffusa) exert radioprotective effects and modulate neuroendocrine-immune communication.

AGE

AGE (Aged Garlic Extract) protects against ionizing radiation, scavenges reactive oxygen species, enhances cellular antioxidant enzymes and cellular glutathione, protects DNA from free-radical damage, and inhibits multi-step carcinogenesis.[245]

Alpha-lipoic Acid

(ALA)

Alpha-lipoic acid, a potent antioxidant, regenerates vitamins C and E, increases intracellular glutathione, and protects the intracellular and extracellular environment.[246]"ALA may be beneficial to people exposed to high levels of radiation."[247]The Linus Pauling Institute at OSU recommends 200-400 mg/d for healthy people.[248]

Antioxidant Enzymes

Radiation depletes antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase, superoxide dismutases (SODs), and catalase. SODs utilize the essential minerals copper, zinc, manganese, and iron. Manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) and copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD) are key intracellular antioxidants. Glutathione, a tri-peptide produced endogenously from glutamic acid, glycine, and cysteine, is also available in IV, topical, and oral form (as stable s-acetyl glutathione). Glutathione and MnSOD are particularly protective against ionizing radiation.[249][250]

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a primary antioxidant and regenerates other antioxidants. Radiation and heavy metal exposure, stress, infection, and temperature changes increase requirements. The Linus Pauling Institute at OSU recommends a base dose of 250 mg vitamin C BID. For optimal health, Dr. Pauling recommends 2.3 grams or more per 2,500 Kcals.[251]

Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is a xanthophyll carotenoid primarily found in marine organisms such as microalgae (Haematococcus pluvialis, and Chlorella zofingiensis) krill, trout, salmon, shrimp, crayfish, and crustaceans, as well as bee propolis.[252]Astaxanthin possesses radioprotective, antioxidant, and immune-stimulating effects.[253]

Beta-glucans

 

Beta-glucans are plant and microbe-based polysaccharides found in barley, oats, baker's yeast, and mushrooms. Beta-glucans stimulate hematopoiesis following ionizing radiation,[254]stimulate immune cells, and down-regulate immunosuppressive cells.[255]Administration prior to, and within 24 hours of radiation exposure reduced signs of radiation sickness, enhanced immune cell response,[256][257]and may be considered for use during nuclear emergencies and RT.[258][259]

Chlorella

Chlorella species are a type of single-celled fresh water green algae known to bind and eliminate toxins and heavy metals.[260]Chlorella's radioprotective, bioprotective, and antioxidant effects have been documented in several studies.[261][262][263][264][265][266][267]. Chlorella should be consumed in "broken cell wall" form to enhance its bioavailability. Dr. Joseph Mercola recommends at least 4 g daily (from uncontaminated sources) combined with fresh cilantro for a synergistic effect.

Fatty Acids

Conditionally-essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are considered anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive with EPA specifically protective against UV radiation.[268][269]Cold water, oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon, and purified fish oils are excellent source of EPA and DHA, while flaxseed, chia seed, hemp seed, and English walnuts are excellent sources of their precursor – alpha-linolenic acid. Flaxseeds were found to mitigate the negative effects of radiation, including inflammation, pulmonary fibrosis, and cytokine secretion.[270]USDA "Adequate Intake" of omega-3 fatty acids is 1.1-1.6 g/d for adults. Eating omega-3 rich seafood or consuming 2 g of high-quality fish oil is recommended several times per week by the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU.

Genistein

Genistein, a phytonutrient found in soybeans, exerts radioprotective, antioxidant, and anti-tumor effects[271]Genistein applied following radiation was found to mitigate oxidative damage, lung fibrosis, and pneumonitis.[272]

Glutathione

Glutathione is a master antioxidant and is produced in our bodies from glutamate, glycine, and cysteine. Cordyceps, gotu kola, milk thistle, and alpha lipoic acid have been shown to increase glutathione production.[273]A topical liposomal glutathione cream can boost internal levels as well.

Melatonin

Melatonin, produced primarily in the pineal gland from serotonin, possesses radioprotective and antioxidant properties in addition to its role in circadian rhythm regulation.[274][275]. Recommended doses range from 0.5-6 mg at bedtime.[276]

Pectin

Pectin appears to reduce body burden of radioactive elements, especially cesium-137.[277][278][279][280]

Potassium Iodide

Potassium iodide protects the thyroid during acute exposure to radioactive iodine.[281]CDC: "The thyroid gland cannot tell the difference between stable and radioactive iodine. It will absorb both. KI (potassium iodide) blocks radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid."[282][283]Iodine supplementation reduces risk of thyroid cancer while iodine deficiency increases it.[284]FDA guidelines for high dose potassium iodide administration must be followed.[285]

 

Spirulina

Spirulina plantensis, a radioprotective, unicellular blue-green algae,[286][287]was used therapeutically following the Chernobyl nuclear melt-down in workers[288]and children with radiation sickness at a dose of 5 g per day for 45 consecutive days [289][290][291]

The phycocyanin content of Spirulina contributes to its radioprotective effects.[292]Spirulina inactivates superoxide and exerts dose-dependent anti-inflammatory effects which can help reduce negative biological effects of radiation exposure.[293]

Vitamin D

(1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D3)

Vitamin D, a hormone produced in the body from cholesterol in the presence of UV light, can be administered in supplement form to protect individuals from background radiation as well as nuclear accidents. Protective mechanisms include "cellular differentiation and communication, Programmed Cell Death (PCD) (apoptosis and autophagy) and antiangiogenesis... vitamin D... should be considered among the prime (if not the primary) nonpharmacological agents that offer protection against sublethal low radiation damage and, in particular, against radiation-induced cancer."[294]Endogenous synthesis is inhibited by inadequate sunlight exposure, amount of body fat, skin pigmentation, amount of skin exposed, and use of sun block. Deficiency occurs at a serum level less than 20 ng/mL and sufficiency occurs in the range of 33-80 ng/mL. "Studies indicate that intake of vitamin D in the range from 1,100 to 4,000 IU/d and a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration [25(OH)D] from 60-80 ng/mL may be needed to reduce cancer risk"[295]while a supplemental dose of 9,600 IU/d was needed to achieve at least 40 ng/mL in 97.5% of a community-based cohort. Few foods contain vitamin D and supplementation may be indicated. The Linus Pauling Institute recommends that adults supplement with at least 2,000 IU (50 mcg) daily and maintain a serum level of at least 80 nmol/L (32 ng/mL).[296]

Zeolites

Zeolites, hydrated aluminum silicates with cation exchange capacity, occur naturally but also can be synthesized and are frequently used as ion-exchange agents, filters, and water softeners. Both natural and synthetic zeolites have been utilized in the removal of radionuclides from biological tissues as well as from water supply systems.[297][298][299]

 

© 2015 Beth Ellen DiLuglio, MS, RD, CCN, Nutrition Is Your Best Health Insurance!® www.NutritionMission.org.

Used with permission.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any health conditions. This information is not a substitute for acute medical advice.

© 2015 Beth Ellen DiLuglio, MS, RDN, CCN, Nutrition Is Your Best Health Insurance!® www.NutritionMission.org. Used with permission.

Resources and General References

Pubmed Collections

Radiation and Nutrition http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/collections/public/10Y8ze7toeOIOe2sQTEAGSy5_/

Fukushima Radiation

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/14kLZyBx-u5Qr/collections/45664614/public/

Radiation and Public Health Project

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/14kLZyBx-u5Qr/collections/46131107/public/

Bodri W. HOW TO HELP SUPPORT THE BODY'S HEALING AFTER INTENSE RADIOACTIVE OR RADIATION EXPOSURE. Review. 2004. http://meditationexpert.com/RadiationDetoxDraft.pdf. Accessed November 9, 2014.

Cline J.C., & DiLuglio B.E. (2012) Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity and Implications for Metabolism. In I. Kohlstadt (ed.), Advancing Medicine with Food and Nutrients. 2nd ed. (pp. 799-820). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Environmental Protection Agency. Radiation Protection. Radiation: Non-ionizing and Ionizing. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/. Accessed November 10, 2014.

Environmental Protection Agency. Cosmic Radiation. http://www.epa.gov/radtown/cosmic.html.

Accessed November 4, 2014.

Environmental Protection Agency. Commonly Encountered Radionuclides. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/index.html. Accessed November 22, 2014.

Freeman, Leslie J. Nuclear Witnesses: Insiders Speak out. New York: Norton, 1981.

Gofman, JW. 2001. http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/pbcarchive/11th/xradgammarad/gofman-09-11-01.pdf. Accessed November 4, 2014.

Gofman JW biography: http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/inmemoriam/johngofman.html. Accessed November 4, 2014.

Gofman JW interview in Freeman, Leslie J. Nuclear Witnesses: Insiders Speak out. New York: Norton, 1981. http://www.ratical.org/radiation/inetSeries/nwJWG.html . Accessed June 5, 2014.

Gofman, John W. Radiation and Human Health. ISBN-10: 0871562758 ISBN-13: 978-0871562753. Random House, 1982.

Gould JM, Sternglass EJ, Sherman JD, Brown J, McDonnell W, Mangano JJ. Strontium-90 in deciduous teeth as a factor in early childhood cancer. Int J Health Serv. 2000;30(3):515-39. PMID: 11109179.

Hamada N, Ogino H, Fujimichi Y. Safety regulations of food and water implemented in the first year following the Fukushima nuclear accident. J Radiat Res. 2012 Sep;53(5):641-71. doi: 10.1093/jrr/rrs032. PMID: 22843368.

Integrated Environmental Management. http://www.iem-inc.com/information/reference-material/bibliography. Accessed November 7, 2014.

Kalckar HM. An international milk teeth radiation census. Nature. 1958 Aug 2;182(4631):283-4. PMID: 13577816.

Karpas Z, Paz-Tal O, Lorber A, et al. Urine, hair, and nails as indicators for ingestion of uranium in drinking water. Health Phys. 2005 Mar;88(3):229-42. PMID: 15706143.

Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Research Center. Cruciferous Vegetables. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/foods/cruciferous/. Accessed June 4, 2014.

Iodine. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/iodine/. Accessed June 5, 2014.

Mangano JJ, Gould JM. Sternglass EJ, Sherman JD, McDonnell W. An unexpected rise in strontium-90 in US deciduous teeth in the 1990s. Sci Total Environ. 2003 Dec 30;317(1-3):37-51. PMID: 14630411.

Mangano JJ, Sternglass EJ, Gould JM, Sherman JD, Brown J, McDonnell W. Strontium-90 in newborns and childhood disease. Arch Environ Health. 2000 Jul-Aug;55(4):240-4. PMID: 11005428.

Mangano JJ, Sherman JD. Elevated in vivo strontium-90 from nuclear weapons test fallout among cancer decedents: a case-control study of deciduous teeth. Int J Health Serv. 2011;41(1):137-58. PMID: 21319726.

Petkau A. Effect of 22 Na+ on a phospholipid membrane. Health Phys. 1972 Mar;22(3):239-44. PMID: 5015646.

Radiation and Public Health Project. RPHP. www.radiation.org. Accessed January 1, 2013.

Reiss LZ. Strontium-90 absorption by deciduous teeth. Science. 1961 Nov 24;134:1669-73. PMID: 14491339.

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Sternglass EJ. Cancer: relation of prenatal radiation to development of the disease in childhood. Science. 1963 Jun 7;140:1102-4. PMID: 13983978.

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