Radiation is all around us. It comes from the rocks and soil, foods, air travel, and technical devices including laptops and cell phones, medical imaging procedures (X rays and CT scans), and microwave ovens. And of course, accidental exposure from nuclear disasters such as what happened in Chernobyl and Fukushima (which appears to be an ongoing crisis), is yet another source of man-made radiation.
It appears there are a lot of sources that are continuously exposing us to radiation, but most of these are deemed harmless on the basis of low levels of radioactivity they emanate. Well, whether or not these low levels of ionizing radiation are detrimental to our health is a hot topic for debate. But most experts in this field agree that even small doses of exposure can be damaging especially when experienced over long periods. While policy makers across the globe generally tend to downplay the risks, research suggests otherwise. In addition, experts on radioactivity also emphasize that there is no safe threshold - no safe dose below which contact is risk-free - except zero dose.
How ionization radiation causes damage?
Ionizing radiations damage your organs and DNA through excessive production of free radicals. These highly reactive and unstable molecules cause oxidative damage to DNA, proteins, mitochondria and cellular structures, giving rise to systemic inflammation, organ damage and disease. Damage to the genetic material causes mutations – increasing the risk of many different types of cancer, birth defects and fertility issues in both men and women.
Ionizing radiation also weakens immunity. In fact, the cells of your immune system are particularly prone to the damage triggered by ionizing radiation. This leads to poor immunity and makes your body ill-equipped to deal with radiation damage on its own, meaning you then need extra immune support.
So, what can you do to protect yourself, and your near and dear ones from the dangers of ionizing radiation?
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support to fight radiation damage
When it comes to dealing with the effects of radiation exposure, the main target is to prevent cancer. However, ionizing radiation can affect many tissues and organs, increasing the risk of all kinds of diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cataracts.
For example, a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Radiation Biology  found that even small dose radiation, as small as 0.5 Gy (a single Gy is defined as the absorption of one joule of radiation energy per kilogram of matter), can damage endothelial cells of the coronary artery. The researchers observed that even small dose exposure could bring about molecular changes within the endothelial cells, increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease. It is interesting to note this ‘small’ dose is what you are likely to experience after repeated CT scans.
It is plain to see that we need agents that can prevent oxidative damage to DNA, repair DNA damage, reduce inflammation and improve overall immunity to deal with the oxidative damage and resulting side effects. There has been a lot of research that shows how certain natural dietary supplements can help protect your body from the effects of radiation exposure. This list includes:
- Kelp and other seaweeds
- Gingko biloba
- Vitamin C in mega doses
- Reishi mushroom
For example; reishi mushroom contains high amounts of bioavailable compounds such as polysaccharides and triterpenes, which are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in nature. These compounds protect the DNA from oxidative damage, help in DNA repair, reduce inflammation and also improve the levels of other antioxidant enzymes in the body.
Glutathione is known as the master antioxidant of the body. Hydroxyl free radicals are one of the most dangerous species of free radicals generated during radiation exposure and glutathione is very effective in scavenging these. Studies show that glutathione may not only protect the DNA from radiation damage but may also help in DNA repair.  In addition, glutathione recharges other antioxidants in the body, including vitamin E and vitamin C, and vitamin C in itself a powerful antioxidant and plays an important role in radiation detox as well as eliminating heavy metals and other toxins from the body.
Another very important quality of glutathione is that it is primarily responsible for getting rid of most toxins, including free radicals, heavy metals, drugs, poisons and other harmful chemicals that are processed in the body.
However, there is yet another substance that can be extremely helpful in offering protection against radiation. And that is Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin mostly renowned for its role in helping the body absorb calcium and keeping your bones healthy and strong. But can it also help in protecting your cells and tissues from the effects of ionizing radiation?
Considering how vitamin D is able to boost your immune function as well as reduce inflammation in the body, it sounds only reasonable that vitamin D could be an important part of the team of natural substances that can protect you and your family from radiation exposure side effects.
Can vitamin D help in radiation detox?
A research published in the International Journal of Low Radiation suggested that vitamin D could be useful in defending against damage induced by low levels of radiation.
“Vitamin D, with its preventative/ameliorating actions, 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,” said Daniel Hayes (radiological health expert and author of this research) as quoted in a Science Daily article.
The report found that calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, has qualities that could protect before or after a low-scale nuclear accident. The findings suggested that calcitriol works through various mechanisms to offer protection against both the background radiation as well as exposure after a small-scale nuclear incident.
As quoted in the ScienceDaily, calcitriol is involved in “cell cycle regulation and control of proliferation, cellular differentiation and communication between cells, as well as programmed cell death (apoptosis and autophagy) and antiangiogenesis.” 
Calcitriol is the form of vitamin D responsible for activating vitamin D receptors (VDR’s) present on almost every cell in the body. In fact, this is how vitamin D is able to exert most of its functions. The active form of vitamin D binds with these receptors, making them active. Activated vitamin D receptors regulate various genes that make proteins needed for all kinds of functions in the body. For example, these vitamin D activated receptors regulate genes that help make proteins that work as natural antibiotics in the body. These proteins help your body fight a wide range of infections including influenza, upper respiratory tract infections and tuberculosis.
Vitamin D health benefits go a long way
Vitamin D is generating a lot of positive curiosity. Previously its benefits were only believed to be limited to maintaining optimum calcium levels and bone health. But a credible body of research has backed various other important roles that it plays in keeping you healthy.
Studies have associated low vitamin D levels with muscle pain, fibromyalgia, depression, autism spectrum disorder, asthma, poor cognitive function, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, myopia, dry eyes, cancer and autoimmune disorders.
In pregnant women, low levels may increase the risk of miscarriages, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes; with studies indicating that keeping our levels up may reduce these risks. Vitamin D deficiency also adversely influences the health of an unborn child; increasing the risk of low birth weight. It can impact the health status of a new born both in early years and even later by increasing the odds of allergies, asthma and poor immune function.
- Reduces inflammation
- Supports heart health
- Supports immune function
- Lowers the risk of auto immune disorders, such as thyroid disorders
- Reduces pain, fatigue and other symptoms associated with chronic pain and fibromyalgia, especially in people with severely low levels
- Reduce risk of allergies, asthma and skin disorders in both children and adults
- Improves insulin sensitivity and may prevent the development of pre-diabetes
- Protects eye health
The good news is that you can make your own vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun. Your skin contains a precursor or a raw material that, when exposed to UV rays, is eventually converted into an active form of vitamin D. Taking a high-quality vitamin D supplement is also an inexpensive and effective method to improve your levels and improve your health, if you are worried about spending too much time in the sun and getting skin cancer. It is not possible to attain healthy levels from diet alone as very few foods are rich in vitamin D and even these don’t contain the amount you need to get the most benefits. Mushrooms, egg yolk and fish such as sardines, tuna and salmon are some of richest food sources of vitamin D.
November is approaching fast and it marks the start of Vitamin D Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Studies show that vitamin D deficiency is very common in people living at higher altitudes such as those living in northern European countries, especially in winter months.
Considering how low levels are associated with a long list of disorders, not to mention the risk of osteoporosis and rickets, it is important to get your levels checked and take a good quality liposomal vitamin D supplement for better absorption.
It is advisable to consult your healthcare practitioner before taking any supplement as they may interfere with any existing health condition, or any medication you are currently taking. But always weigh up the advantages, and pros and cons for yourself. Do your own research and never rely solely on what others tell you. Even your doctor does not know everything.
- Azimzadeh et al. Proteome analysis of irradiated endothelial cells reveals persistent alteration in protein degradation and the RhoGDI and NO signalling pathways. International Journal of Radiation Biology. 2017
- Anupam Chatterjee. Reduced Glutathione: A Radioprotector or a Modulator of DNA-Repair Activity? Nutrients. 2013
- Inderscience Publishers. "Could Vitamin D Save Us From Radiation?." ScienceDaily. 2008.