Nutritional MedicineSat Dharam Kaur, N.D. April 1, 2011
The effects of radiation are cumulative and may manifest as cancer anytime within 40 years after: exposure to fission products from nuclear reactors; fallout from weapons testing and the Chernobyl accident; X-rays and mammograms; and ionizing radiation from frequent flying.
Some of these effects include: damage to cell membranes caused by the formation of free radicals; a decrease in white blood cell count and depressed immunity; irregularly shaped red blood cells, which may result in anemia, fatigue, short-term memory loss(1); leukemia(2), hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, bone cancer, Hodgkin’s disease; birth defects and increased infant mortality; multiple chemical sensitivities; kidney damage(3); and depression. So what are we to do?
Thankfully, there are natural substances that can protect us from radiation-induced damage – Brown seaweeds such as Kelp (Laminaria sp.), Sargassum, and Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) contain calcium and sodium alginates, gel-like substances that bind to heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, barium, radium, plutonium, strontium and cesium in the gastrointestinal tract to form insoluble salts that are excreted in the stools.(4) In laboratory studies on rats, sodium alginate reduced the uptake of radioactive particles in bone by 80% when added to the diet.(5) And a combination of sodium alginate and egg-shell powder was used in Russia to prevent radiation damage in children who had been exposed. to cesium-137.(6)
The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission recommends that we consume two to three ounces (wet weight) of sea vegetables per week, or two tablespoons daily to protect from radiation toxicity. This should be increased fourfold during or after direct exposure to radiation.(7) An ounce of caution – excess quantities of kelp can cause acne, or an autoimmune thyroid condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, in some individuals. And some seaweeds are contaminated with lead or arsenic.(8) Look for seaweed that has been tested to be free of metal toxicity (such as kelp from the west coast of South Africa), and do not exceed two tablespoons daily over the long-term.
I also recommend the following for daily use, with dosages increased during acute radiation exposure:
1) Turmeric (two or more tsp daily), or curcumin (500 to 1000 mg three times daily) which will substantially decrease the damaging effects of radiation.(9)
2) Sea vegetables (two tablespoons) or kelp tablets (three daily) for its iodine and sodium alginate content. Sodium alginate binds to radioactive molecules and can increase excretion by 80%.(10) Iodine protects the thyroid from radiation – we need 150 mcg to 1000 mcg daily. (575 mg of Norwegian kelp contains 359 mcg of iodine).
3) Yams, squash, carrots, Swiss chard or spinach daily for beta carotene, or a supplement containing Dunaliella algae, 25,000 to 50,000 IU daily.
4) Cooked tomato sauce, 1/2 cup daily during exposure, for its lycopene content.(11)
5) Whey or soy protein powder containing cysteine, one tablespoon daily.(12) (Editor’s note: due to the prevalence of genetically modified soybeans on the market today, make sure the soy is certified organic. Note that soy is a common food allergen, so get tested for allergies before using it.)
6) Foods or supplements high in calcium and potassium aid in the excretion of radioactive particles, such as cesium-137.(13)
7) Antioxidant supplements containing vitamin C, E, Coenzyme Q10, zinc, selenium, grape seed extract, alpha lipoic acid and NAC to discourage free radical damage and the development of cancer. As well, vitamin B3 or niacin, plus B12 and B complex to help to repair DNA damage.(14)
8) Flaxseed oil – two tablespoons (unheated) daily to protect cell membranes, or uncontaminated fish oil capsules.
9) Green tea daily to remove radioactive isotopes and protect from cancer.
10) Reishi, maitake and shiitake mushrooms to sustain immune health.
11) A high fibre diet, 40 grams daily, to deter absorption of radiation and improve its excretion.
12) Foods from the brassica family daily – kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts.
13) Miso soup a few times a week.
14) Dried beans, lentils, or organic fermented soy products (tempeh) daily in the diet.
1) Bertell, Rosalie. “Gulf war syndrome, depleted uranium and the dangers of low-level radiation.” www.ccnr.org/bertell_book.html
2) Stevenson, A.F. “Low level radiation exposure, the radiobiologists’s challenge in the next millennium.” Indian J Exp Biol 2002 Jan;40(1):12-24.
3) Bertell, Rosalie. “Gulf war syndrome, depleted uranium and the dangers of low-level radiation.” www.ccnr.org/bertell_book.html
4) Tanaka, Y. et al. “Application of algal polysaccharides as in vivo binders of metal pollutants.” Proc Seventh Int Seaweed Symp, 602-607, Wiley and sons, 1972.
5) Tanaka, Y. et al. “Studies on inhibition of intestinal absorption of radioactive strontium.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 1968, 99:169-75.
6) Sukhanov, B.P., et al. “Medical and biological evaluation of new food products for children exposed to excessive radiation.” Gig Sanit, 1994 Sept-Oct; (8):24-26.
7) US Dept Health and Human Services. “Dietary aspects of carcinogenesis,” Nov. 1981.
8) Walkiw, O., Douglas, D.E. “Health food supplements prepared from kelp – a source of elevated urinary arsenic.” Can Med Assoc J 1974;111:1301-2 (letter).
9) Inano, H., M. Onoda. “Radioprotective action of curcumin estracted from Curcuma longa LINN:inhibitory effect on formation of urinary 8-hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine, tumorigenesis, but not mortality, induced by gamma-ray irradiation.” Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys, 2002 Jul 1; 53(3):735-743.
10) Gong, Y.F. et al. “Suppression of radioactive strontium absorption by sodium alginate in animals and human subjects.” Biomed Environ Sci. 1991 Sep; 4(3):273-282.
11) Kapitanov, A.B., et al. “Radiation-protective effectiveness of lycopene.” Radiats Biol Radioecol
12) Tarbell, N.J., M. Rosenblatt, et al. “The effect of N-acetylcysteine inhalation on the tolerance to thoracic irradiation in mice.” Radiother Oncol, 1986 Sept; 7(1): 77-80.
13) Gorshkov, A.I., “Comparative evaluation of radiation protective efficiency of regimens with various contents of calcium, potassium and iron.” Gig Sanit, 1994 Jun; (6):18-20.
14) Perepelkin, S.R., N.D. Egorova. “Prophylactic and therapeutic role of the B group vitamin, mesoinositol, in radiation sckness against a background of the use of a milk and egg diet.” Radiobiologiia, 1980 Jan-Feb; 20(1):137-139
Sat Dharam is a naturopathic doctor, Kundalini Yoga lead trainer, and author practising in Owen Sound, Ontario. She developed the Healthy Breast Program, designed to help educate women in breast cancer prevention through Kundalini Yoga and lifestyle change, and teaches it internationally. She was awarded the Naturopathic Doctor of the Year award in Ontario in 2000 for her work in breast health education. She also developed the “Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path to Recovery” program, and has been working closely with Dr. Gabor Maté in delivering this program as well as a psychotherapeutic modality created by Dr. Maté called Compassionate Inquiry. Sat Dharam has written several best-selling books: A Call to Women: The Healthy Breast Program and Workbook, The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer, and The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women's Health.