2011 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Radiation Detox
Part 2: Anti-oxidants and Sulfur compounds
In Part 1 of our Radiation Detox series, we highlighted the benefits of sea vegetables and other foods including spirulina, chlorella, seaweeds, green and black tea. In the second part, we are going to discuss the role of anti-oxidants and sulfur compounds in protecting our body from ionizing radiations while reinforcing our body’s overall capacity to flush out radioactive toxins.
Ionizing radiations produce free-radicals that damage delicate cellular structures such as DNA, lipids, proteins and carbohydrates. We covered the side effects of radiations in one of our blogs, ‘Fukushima Disaster Health Penalties’. Summing it up, radiations cause the body to age prematurely and cause mutations in the cells, increasing the risk of different types of cancers, birth defects and a host of other diseases – including thyroid cancer, other types of solid cancer, cardiovascular diseases, hereditary diseases, fertility problems, weakened immunity and birth defects.
The ionizing radiations wreak havoc through excess generation of free radicals, so countering them with anti-oxidants is extremely important. Anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Beta carotene, melatonin along with minerals like magnesium, selenium and calcium are proven radio-protective agents. In addition, Sulfur has been used for years as an antidote for acute radiation exposure, thus making DMSO (a sulfur compound as well as a mighty anti-oxidant) a useful natural remedy in radiation detoxification.
Vitamin C is one of the best protections against radiations effects, both short-term and long-term. The credit goes to its powerful anti-oxidant properties. The role of Vitamin C has been discussed in detail in this blog titled Vitamin C: Protection Against Radiation Exposure. A 2011 study by Dr. Atsuo Yanagisawa and team deserves a special mention here. It clearly showed that Fukushima workers who took high-dose of intravenous Vitamin C and other anti-oxidant supplements before going on to clean up the radioactive debris were remarkably protected against DNA damage and their overall cancer risk also significantly decreased.
“Four workers who took intravenous vitamin C (25,000 mg) therapy before they went in, and continuously took anti-oxidative supplements during the working period, had no significant change in both free DNA and overall cancer risk. Three workers that did not have preventive intravenous vitamin C had an increase in calculated cancer risk. After 2 months of intervention with intravenous vitamin C and oral anti-oxidative nutritional supplements, free DNA returned to normal level and their cancer risk score was significantly decreased.” 
Health experts recommend that regular consumption of Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants can fight the negative health consequences of long-term low dose radiation exposure and protect the health of future generations.
Beta-carotene (precursor of vitamin A) was given to the children who were exposed long-term to varying doses of radiation during and after the Chernobyl accident. It was found that 3 months of supplementation with 40 mg of beta carotene reduced the oxidation of lipids in the children. The results suggested that “irradiation increases the susceptibility of lipids to oxidation in the Chernobyl children and that natural beta-carotene may act as an in vivo lipophilic antioxidant or radioprotector. ”
Vitamin E works synergistically with the mineral selenium to provide protection against oxidative stress induced by free radicals.
Minerals play a big role in supporting the body in dealing with radiation and heavy metal poisoning. All trace minerals are important with magnesium, calcium, selenium and iodine playing a spectacular role in minimizing the dangerous effects of radiation exposure.
There are so many things going in favour of magnesium when it comes to offering protection against radiation exposure. Magnesium is a powerful anti-oxidant that scavenges free radicals. Our body also utilizes magnesium for several detoxification pathways. Magnesium also plays a critical role in many DNA repair mechanisms. Both calcium and magnesium helps the body to flush out Strontium 90. However, it is important to take sufficient amounts of the mineral magnesium to regulate the calcium levels. In addition, transdermal magnesium application is considered to be more effective than taking the mineral in pill form.
What makes magnesium even more useful is that it helps in the synthesis of glutathione, the master anti-oxidant of the body. Our body produces its own supply of glutathione that helps to detoxify mercury, lead and arsenic as well as to control the production of damaging free radicals caused by exposure to ionizing free radicals. Radiation depletes the stores of magnesium as well as the body’s endogenous supply of glutathione. Magnesium is an essential cofactor in several enzyme pathways involved in the synthesis of glutathione. The mineral helps in the functioning of the enzyme gamma glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), an enzyme that “plays an important role in the synthesis of glutathione. Out of all the enzymes involved in the gamma-glutamyl cycle GGT is the only one located on the outside of plasma cell membranes where it breaks down circulating extracellular glutathione and releases all-important cysteine for intracellular reassembling of glutathione” .
Iodine is possibly the most important mineral to fight the damaging effects of iodine-131, one of the most abundant radioactive contaminants released in any nuclear disaster. Iodine is a trace mineral that plays a critical role in proper functioning of the thyroid gland and in production of thyroid hormones. Thyroid glands are not able to distinguish between the normal and radioactive forms of iodine. So, when we are already deficient in iodine and exposed to radioactive fallout, the thyroid glands will absorb the radioactive form of iodine, causing massive damage to thyroid tissues. Radioactive iodine can cause thyroid cancer, stunted physical and mental growth in adolescents and hypothyroidism among new-borns.
Potassium Iodide (KI) saturates the thyroid gland with iodine, preventing it from absorbing any radioactive iodine. However, this strategy would work effectively only for 24 hours and it might not actually help in detoxifying the body from the exposure. It is best to have potassium iodide tablets at hand should any crisis emerge. Please note that overdosing with iodine can damage thyroid, so you must always consult your healthcare practitioner before starting high levels of iodine. More information on KI can be found here.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha Lipoic Acid or (ALA) is one more very important supplement to fight the radiation damage and detoxify the body. A study analysed the health status of some 6,000 workers from Latvia who went to clean-up the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant site after the nuclear accident in Chernobyl . The study concluded that the workers suffered abnormal problems in their nervous, digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine (especially thyroid) and immunological systems. It also noted that “surviving CNPP accident clean-up workers exhibit signs of immuno-inflammatory reactions causing premature aging with evidence of autoimmune diseases and immunological deficiencies or abnormalities.”
In the light of this, another study showed that lipoic acid helped workers many years after the exposure to high levels of radiation . The study showed that 600 mg of lipoic acid for two months resulted in normal levels of many though not all lab parameters, “among these were phagocytic activity of neutrophiles, content of the complement, its C3-component, and reaction of autorosette formation in the accident effects liquidators.”
- ALA helps in DNA repair
- ALA also chelates heavy metals
- ALA helps to regenerate other team of anti-oxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione, thus reinforcing the body’s anti-oxidant arsenal even further
Many studies back the fact that ALA and its metabolite DHLA stimulate the cells to produce higher levels of glutathione. It matters because taking glutathione orally is not a very effective strategy to increase the levels of this super-antioxidant.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
N-acetyl cysteine or NAC is a sulfur-containing compound and its ability to refill the intracellular glutathione supply is hard to beat. It is a powerful anti-oxidant in itself and offers remarkable protection against the oxidative damage and the resulting DNA damage both before and after the exposure to radioactive substances. In mouse models, NAC has been proven to stimulate the release of cytokines that protect the bone marrow from radiation poisoning. Moreover, NAC is a readily available and cost-effective supplement.
NAC breaks down into cysteine and further into glutathione, which we know is a body’s strongest defense in fighting oxidative damage induced by radiation-induced free radicals. Glutathione also plays a critical role in liver detoxification process and lends a useful hand in detoxifying heavy metals.
Melatonin is basically a sleeping hormone but it is also a free radical scavenger. Pre-treatment with melatonin supplements have the potential to reduce radiation damage and it is believed that melatonin provides protection to the dividing cells. Animal studies have shown the protective effects of melatonin against exposure to ionizing radiation . Melatonin has been shown to increase the survival rate in mice that were given a lethal dose of ionizing radiation, giving proof of how high doses of melatonin can offer protection from acute ‘whole-body irradiation’ .
DMSO: A Sulphur Compound
Dimethyl-sulfoxide (read more about this natural healing compound here), or DMSO, is an organic sulfur compound and the role of sulfur as an antidote for serious exposure to radioactive contaminants is well-established. As a sulfur compound and as a powerful anti-oxidant, DMSO is exactly the right remedy required to provide effective protection against radiation poisoning on a cellular level.
DMSO sets out with an aggressive agenda against harmful hydroxyl free radicals, a property that comes especially beneficial in cancer patients going through radiation therapy. A study  showed that DMSO, when applied prior to the radiation therapy, proved effective in preventing expected side-effects such as radiation burns in cervical cancer patients. While there is a substantial evidence that DMSO exerts radioactive protection by scavenging free radicals, DMSO helps through other direct mechanisms too. A Japanese study showed that even low concentrations of DMSO can facilitate DNA double strand break repair .
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