Increasingly, our bodies are under siege from radiation from various sources, including medical testing, wireless devices, radon in and around our homes, radiation ‘therapy,’ nuclear energy waste and weapons testing. In addition, small amounts of radiation from the crippled Japanese reactors in Fukushima are being detected in the United States.
While the federal government insists there is no danger, damaging sources of radiation have been downplayed before – with disastrous results. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Nobel prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling spoke out against above-ground nuclear testing – testing which the federal government now admits was responsible for at least 15,000 cancer deaths in the United States.
Don’t let radiation damage your health
The following seven foods, herbs and nutrients have attracted researchers’ attention for their ability to ameliorate and even prevent damage from radiation.
Potassium iodide – the gold standard of emergency protection against radiation exposure.
Radiation damage occurs when radiation interacts with oxygen, causing the creation of molecules that can break fragile cell DNA – and potentially cause mutations that can trigger cancer, leukemia and birth defects.
The most common malignancy related to exposure to materials released from nuclear power plants is thyroid cancer. Reactor accidents release radioactive elements, including iodine-131, which is absorbed through contaminated air and food, then taken up by the thyroid gland – where it damages DNA and causes cancer.
Potassium iodide is an inorganic compound that can saturate the thyroid gland with protective iodine. If taken in time, it can prevent the entry of – and damage by – radioactive iodine. A first-line defense against thyroid cancer, potassium iodide has been approved by the FDA for this purpose.
Experts say that taking a 130-mg dose of potassium iodide not later than two hours after possible ingestion of radioactive iodine is the single most effective method of protecting against thyroid cancer following a nuclear disaster.
However, potassium iodide should not be taken on a regular basis – only kept on hand for emergency situations.
Miso soup features delicate flavor and robust protection from radiation.
Fermented soybean paste, a key ingredient of this nourishing Japanese soup, contains an isoflavone called genistein, which has been shown to protect mice from radiation-induced injury after a single dose. Genistein, which also promotes the production of red and white blood cells following whole-body radiation, is currently being studied for applications to protect military personnel and civilians alike from nuclear threat.
In addition, soy in miso soup also contains a radioprotective enzyme known as the Bowman-Birk inhibitor, which activates genes involved in DNA repair.
Spirulina – the unexpected power of algae.
This single-celled freshwater algae is a superfood with outstanding radioprotective properties. Phycocyanin, the pigment and protein that gives spirulina its green-blue color, binds to heavy metals and radioisotopes, trapping them and helping to flush them from the system.
Animal studies have shown that spirulina decreases radiation damage, promotes formation of new blood cells, and enhances immunity in mice with gamma radiation-induced damage. In a 2010 study published in Mutation Research, scientists found that phycocyanin promoted the activity of the body’s natural antioxidants — helping them to stimulate immune response while minimizing damage to cells, tissues and organs.
When buying spirulina, opt for an organic variety that has been certified free of toxic microcystins.
Curcumin – a potent flavonoid in a spicy package.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in the cooking spice turmeric, is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and anti-cancer properties. Now, researchers are finding that curcumin has powerful radioprotective effects as well.
Animal studies have shown that curcumin reduces DNA damage and tumor formation in rats, and can lead to increased survival rates in animals exposed to high-dose radiation. Laboratory studies have demonstrated that curcumin reduces DNA damage and dangerous peroxidation of fats in human cells.
Because curcumin has poor availability in the body, look for a newer formulation known as BCM-95, said to be more than 7 times more bioavailable than standard curcumin.
Ginkgo biloba proves its value after the Chernobyl meltdown.
One of the premier radioprotective supplements available, ginkgo biloba reduces the effects of clastogenic factors – meaning the external substances, such as plutonium, that rupture or delete DNA and cause chromosomal damage.
So potent is ginkgo biloba that it was employed to treat workers at the Chernobyl nuclear plant after the nuclear reactor meltdown in 1986.
Ginkgo extracts have been shown to protect animals’ organs from radiation-induced oxidative injury, and to protect humans from cell damage after radioactive iodine treatment for Grave’s disease.
Cherries and berries: Two sweet, yet powerful foods.
Maintaining high levels of antioxidants, such as resveratrol and quercetin, confers some protection against radiation-induced free radical damage. Animal studies have shown that resveratrol protects chromosomes from radiation-induced damage, while quercetin protects lipids and proteins from dosages of gamma radiation that would otherwise be lethal. Quercetin also shields mitochondrial DNA from oxidant damage.
Fresh, organic, dark cherries and berries – as well as red and purple grapes with the seeds – are an excellent bet for obtaining high amounts of these natural antioxidant polyphenols.
Another “dark” food high in radioprotective resveratrol is dark chocolate.
Don’t forget green and black tea.
Epigallocatechin-3- gallate, or EGCG, is a polyphenol in green tea that has been found to be among the most potent radioprotectants in the antioxidant class. Green tea catechins absorb and eliminate radioactive isotopes, and green tea and green tea extracts have been shown to protect cells from the damaging effects of radiation therapy. In several Japanese studies, black tea accomplished the same effect.
Radiation, and its hazards, is not likely to go away anytime soon. But, with the help of these seven natural foods and nutrients, you can help protect yourself from its damaging effects.