Protecting Ourselves and Our Children from Radiation
As everyone is acutely aware, the situation in Japan has been dire. Our hearts go out to the Japanese people and everyone who has lost loved ones or who have loved ones who are in continued danger.
We have received many calls regarding our risk,
in California, for radiation exposure from the nuclear event occurring
in Japan. I don’t think anybody really knows as events are still
unfolding, but from scientific forecasts considering the 5000 miles
that the radiation would have to travel to reach us and its rapid rate
of dissipation, by the time any radiation reaches us, the levels should
be very low.
According to various news sources, direct measurements
of radiation on the West Coast through March 18th
have revealed no significant increase so far. Radiation
dose is measured in something called millisieverts.
Background dose due to natural radiation exposure
varies from place to place but is about 3 millisieverts
a year. Nuclear plant workers are limited to 20
millisieverts a year. One hundred millisieverts
in one dose can increase the risk of cancer. One
hundred to 500 millisieverts can cause bone marrow
damage, leading to infection and death. A chest
x-ray is 0.1 millisieverts. The Tokyo Metropolitan
Government announced today that radiation levels
in downtown Tokyo were at 0.000047 millisieverts
an hour, barely higher than the 0.000035 millisieverts
an hour that is typical. CBS News nuclear safety
consultant Cham Dallas, a PhD in toxicology who
spent ten years studying the impact of Chernobyl,
stated in an interview that, as it stands now,
any cumulative radiation exposure to people on the
West Coast as a result of the Japanese accident
should be clinically insignificant, amounting to
less than a tenth of a chest x-ray (0.01 millisieverts).
Finally, on March 18th one of the monitoring
stations in Sacramento, California detected miniscule
quantities of the radioactive
isotope xenon-133. The origin was determined to
be consistent with a release from the Fukushima
reactors in Northern Japan. The levels detected
were approximately 0.1 disintegrations per second
per cubic meter of air (0.1 Bq/m3), which results
in a dose rate approximately one-millionth
of the dose rate that a person normally receives
from rocks, bricks, the sun and other natural background
Will these radiation levels remain low enough to not worry about
any health consequences? We do know that they will be low enough to
not worry about acute radiation syndrome, which would only occur from
a very high dose of radiation exposure, as was the case in Chernobyl.
They should also remain low enough to not worry about a flooding of our thyroid
gland with radioactive iodine and the subsequent increased risk for
thyroid cancer - this being the only case where taking a dose of potassium iodide would be indicated.
We DO NOT recommend taking potassium iodide supplements
right now. Potassium iodide can cause severe allergic
reactions and interact with certain medications.
There have already been reports of
problems from potassium iodine toxicity. Iodine
in these high dosages, when unnecessary, can actually
cause thyroid damage and lead to hypo-
or hyper-thyroidism and thyroid cancer. Moreover,
potassium iodide will only protect the thyroid
from radioactive iodine exposure, and will
not protect the rest of the body from other types
of radiation exposure. To be effective, potassium
iodide needs to be taken just before, or
as soon as possible after, a known exposure to
high levels of radioactive iodine, and not on a “preventive” basis.
For details about the correct usage of potassium
iodide, please see the CDC website at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/ki.asp.
However, ensuring that our diets are full of foods
rich in iodine, like kelp (seaweed), yogurt, and
iodized salt (in moderation) can ensure
that our thyroids are as healthy as possible and
less likely to sustain damage in the event of actual
If at all, the low levels of radiation that we
may be exposed to have the potential to cause more chronic and subtle
problems down the road. These problems have to do with the effects that
low levels of radiation can have on our cell’s ability to repair
DNA damage that has occurred as a result of radiation exposure. When
a cell’s DNA is damaged, there are 3 potential outcomes that can
occur: (1) injured or damaged cells repair themselves, resulting in
no residual damage; (2) cells die, much like millions of body cells
do every day, being replaced through normal biological processes; or
(3) cells incorrectly repair themselves resulting in a biophysical change,
like genetic mutations or cancer.
In order to prevent such damage from occurring,
the best strategy seems to be to figure out ways to improve our cell’s
chances of repairing DNA damage effectively and efficiently. These include
commonsense measures such as eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty
of water, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress. In addition, we
can improve our body’s DNA repair mechanisms by boosting the levels
of antioxidants in our body, enhancing liver detoxification, supporting
our mitochondria and methylation process, and optimizing our gut and
When cells are damaged, it causes several pathologic
processes to occur in our bodies. We have an increase
in free radical production – a process called increased oxidative
stress. Free radicals are generated everyday in
our bodies, and we rely on a good supply of antioxidants to mop up those
radicals and prevent damage. Antioxidants are found
in all the colorful fruits and vegetables, the
more colorful the better - berries, pomegranates,
carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, kale, etc.
Antioxidants are also found in a variety of supplements,
including Vitamin C, beta carotene,
vitamin D, green tea, coenzyme Q10, glutathione,
and milk thistle. Coenzyme Q10 has the added benefit
of protecting our mitochondria (see below).
Glutathione and milk thistle protect our liver
from damage and enhance our liver’s ability to eliminate the toxic
byproducts of radiation exposure. Glutathione may be taken orally in
a “liposomal” form that is well-absorbed. However, glutathione
in general is not well-absorbed orally and other ways to boost glutathione
in our bodies include epsom salt baths, topical glutathione creams,
and other supplements such as n-acetyl-cysteine and alpha-lipoic acid.
When damage has occurred to our cells, our cells’ powerhouses,
called mitochondria, undergo increased stress as they try to churn out
more energy packets called ATP. Anything that will support our mitochondria
will enhance our body’s ability to repair itself after radiation
exposure. One of the most important nutrients to do this is coenzyme
Q10. When a cell’s DNA has been damaged, repair occurs through
a mechanism called methylation. Damage to the methylation process has
been found after radiation exposure, and nutrients such as folic acid
and vitamin B12 can enhance proper functioning of this critical process.
Last but not least, our immune system and digestive
tract (the heart of our immune system), can sustain significant damage
from radiation exposure, leading to an increased risk of immune problems,
blood and GI cancers, and serious infections. Supporting gut and immune
health are key in preventing radiation-induced damage. Important gut
support nutrients are those that many of you may already be taking such
as fish oils and probiotics. Additionally, L-glutamine, arabinogalactan,
and beta glucans can be useful. L-glutamine protects the gut lining
from radiation damage. Both arabinogalactan and beta glucans have been
found to have protective effects against radiation-induced damage. Arabinogalactan
is a natural sugar derived from the bark of the larch tree and provides
important immune and gut support as mentioned in our previous cold/flu
newsletter, while the most important Beta glucans are derived from a
beneficial yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
This is a ton of information to digest, and I don’t necessarily
recommend that you follow all of these recommendations. My goal is to
inform you of some of the various options we have to protect our bodies
from the possible low levels of radiation we might be exposed to, and
to clarify the misconceptions around the current need for potassium
iodide. In the meantime, what I recommend are those same things that
I recommend in general for overall good health. I have listed some very
general dosage guidelines, but these may vary depending on each individual
- Eat a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Get enough sleep
- Reduce stress levels
- At a minimum, take the following supplements:
- A good multivitamin with folic acid and vitamin B-12
- Fish oil -
If you’re taking cod liver oil, you can give ½ teaspoon per 25 pounds
of body weight. Metagenics High Concentrate EPA-DHA is more concentrated
so you can give a much lower dosage of around1/8 teaspoon per 25
- Probiotics -
I recommend a high-potency probiotic
with as many different strains as possible. I generally recommend
Klaire Labs Therbiotic Complete for children over 2 years and
adults at a dosage of ¼ teaspoon daily, and Klaire Labs Therbiotic
Infant formula for children under 2 years at a dosage of ¼ teaspoon
- Vitamin C -
Children may take 500-1000mg daily, in
2-3 divided doses. Adults may take
1000-3000mg daily, in 2-3 divided doses.
- Vitamin D3 -
The recommended daily dosage is 1000IU per 25 pounds of body weight.
- Consider these additional supplements:
- coQ10 -
Children may take 25-50mg daily. Adults typically take 50-100mg daily.
- Glutathione -
If you would like to take glutathione,
I recommend a liposomal glutathione
called “ReadiSorb”. The recommended
dosage is 1/8 - 1/4 tsp for every 30
pounds of body weight.
- L-glutamine -
Children may take 250-500mg daily. Adults
typically take 1000-3000mg daily.
- Arabinogalactan -
i. Dosage may vary depending on which
arabinogalactan supplement you take and can vary widely. I recommend
following dosage guidelines on the bottle.
- Beta-glucan -
i. Dosage may vary depending on which
beta-glucan supplement you take and can vary widely. I recommend
following dosage guidelines on the bottle.
We wish you and your family the best of health.
Dr. Elisa Song and all of us at Whole Child Wellness