In This Issue
Protecting Ourselves and
Our Children from
Radiation Exposure

March 2011 Newsletter
Protecting Ourselves and Our Children from Radiation Exposure

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 sources.

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 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 radiation exposure.

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 immune functioning.

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 free 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 situation:
  • 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 pounds.
    • 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 daily.
    • 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

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