February 1, 2013

Virender Sodhi, MD(Ayurved), ND

March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused the largest nuclear accident since Chernobyl. Citizens were concerned about radiation exposure, panic spread to North America. People were concerned about airborne radiation and contaminated seafood. Fears persisted that the Japanese nuclear contaminations would have lasting consequences for Americans. Today we will talk about what are the sources of radiation and what we should be doing to protect us from radiation. We all ignored the radiation sources around our daily lives, which are much more considerable than those from the Japan disasters. We are constantly exposed to radiation from TV sets, cell phones, microwaves, fluorescent lights, and even hair driers, and we rarely protect ourselves from this type of radiation.

According to United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, on average, Americans receive a radiation dose of about 0.62 rem (620 millirem) each year. Half of this dose (0.31 rem or 310 mrem) comes from natural sources of radiation like [1] radon gas, cosmic rays and the Earth itself. There is not enough evidence that natural sources of radiation poses any health risk, but higher radiation exposure from medical, commercial and industrial sources poses health risks. Benefits in medicine for diagnosis and treatment in terms of human lives saved are enormous. Radiation and nuclear medicine have enhanced our diagnostic and treatment capabilities. Radiation is key treatment in certain types of cancers. Three out of every four patients hospitalized in the industrial countries have some forms of nuclear medicine. At the same time we are overusing and abusing these diagnostic and treatment modalities.

We should do everything in our means to reduce our exposure to the manmade radiation sources. Two kinds of radiation are commonly differentiated by the ways they interact with normal chemical matter: ionizing and non-ionizing radiations. The word radiation normally refers to ionizing radiation (i.e., radiation having sufficient energy to ionize an atom), but the term radiation may correctly refer to non-ionizing radiation as well. The common physical forms of ionizing radiation are alpha particles (α), beta particles (β) and gamma radiation (γ). Alpha particles can be stopped by a sheet of paper, beta particles can be stopped by an aluminum plate, and Gamma radiation is dampened when it penetrates lead or cement. Sources of non-ionizing radiation includes radio waves (mobile/cell phones, cordless phones, TV, FM, AM and SM radio,), microwave (PCS phones, cordless phones, microwave ovens, motion detectors, long-distance telecommunications, radar and Wi-Fi), heat, visible light, infrared light and ultraviolet light.

Both ionizing and non-ionizing radiations can be harmful to us. In general, however, ionizing radiation is far more harmful to living organisms, since the ions that are produced by ionizing radiation, even at low dose, have the potential to cause DNA damage. Most non-ionizing radiation is considered harmful if it produces significant temperature rise and may produce DNA changes.

Are we overusing radiation in Medicine:

Dr. Eric Topol, the Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape Genomic Medicine and theheart.org network, have serious concerns about overuse and abuse of radiation exposures to patients in USA. We have the highest use of radiation in USA than any other country in the world..[2] We have runaway uses of nuclear scans, CT scans, and PET scanning, and we don’t even warn our patients; and we don’t give patients any data on the dangers. This has come to a crisis point in children. Children who have a diagnosis of a pediatric malignancy, for example, go through all sorts of radiation imaging, and there have been clear-cut trends that this is increasing. It’s worrisome and, in fact, it could even engender additional problems in children burdened with cancer. “We really need to change this.” said Dr. Topol in his conclusive remark.

Radiation and radioactive substances are used for diagnosis, treatment, and research. X-rays, for example, are used in health subjects for the purpose to screen possible risks of diseases.[3] In cardiology, for example, there are more than 10 million nuclear scans being performed each year., We know from all the data we have today that 2%-3% of cancers in this country are related to use of medical imaging and ionized radiation. A CT angiogram of the heart is equivalent to 800 events of chest x-rays. A typical nuclear scan is equivalent to 2000 chest x-rays. In cardiology this is a routine and patients aren’t told about any dangers of radiation.

Another over-use of ionized radiation is mammography. Mammography is not the best preventive tool but just a diagnostic tool, very much like PSA test for prostate cancer.[4] There is debates regarding the necessity of annual mammograms, certainly mammography has been oversold as an early detector of cancer.[5] According to the National Cancer Institute, mammography actually misses 20-40 percent of cancers that are present at the time of screening. This is particularly true for women with dense breast tissue. X-ray screening machines at the airports get us extra exposure to ionized radiation, and accumulative radiation can be problematic.[6] No amount of X-ray exposure is considered beneficial, especially for pregnant women and younger kids. Especially frequent travelers and flying staff, are exposed to excessive radiation. European Union banned all the X-ray body scanners in all European airports as of November of 2011. Non-ionizing UV radiation from the sun have been demonized and use of sun screens been promoted, leading to epidemic low vitamin D levels in the history of human race. Deficiency of vitamin D has been implicated in lots of diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more. Healthy sun exposure is not only very important but also promotes your natural vitamin D production. Other sources of non-ionizing radiation includes cell phone, TV set, microwave oven, Wi-Fi, and even a hair-drier. Even though cell phone companies and carriers claimed that there is no evidence showing that the radiation of cell phone is causing tumor, multiple sources indicate that there are risks. French High Court ruled against a telecom company In February 2009 by stating that the cell phone related radiation "can be considered serious and reasonable”,[8] and the Italian supreme court in October 2012 granted a businessman a pension for cancer, court found link between his cancer and the mobile phones use. Businessman was using cell phone six hours a day during the past twelve years.[9]

How Ayurvedic Medicine can help to reduce effects of harmful radiation:

Ayurveda is an ancient healing system that originated in India at least 5,000 years ago.Considered to be the oldest medical system in the world, Ayurveda is a form of holistic medicine that encompasses a broad range of therapies to restore balance in our bodies in order to prevent illness and promote wellness.

Ayurvedic medicine focuses on balancing with nutrition, exercise, yoga, meditation and life style changes according to seasons, environment and use of natural remedies. Scientific research confirms botanicals from both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine traditions selectively protect normal tissue and increases repair following radiation therapy.[12] Studies in vivo and in vitro indicate that botanicals like gingko biloba, centella asiatica ( Gotu Kola), hippophae rhamnoides, ocimum sanctum (Tulsi), panax ginseng, podophyllum hexandrum, amaranthus paniculatus, emblica officinalis ( Amla), phyllanthus amarus ( Bhuiamla), piper longum ( Pippli), tinospora cordifoila (Guduchi), mentha arvensis, mentha piperita, syzygium cumini, zingiber officinale( Ginger), ageratum conyzoides, aegle marmelos (Bilva) and aphanamixis polystachya protect against radiation-induced lethality, lipid peroxidation and DNA damage. Turmeric has phenomenal effects in preventing damages of radiation too. You can use turmeric in your diet to prevent the toxic effects of radiation. Try to limit use of devices which omit radiation. I had very interesting experience with my cell phone, whenever I put my cell phone in my pocket next to heart, I felt sinking of heart. I thought it is just incidental. But then I started to see a link. I discussed with my cardiologist friend, he also had the similar experience. While doing Fellowship in Integrative Oncology, one of our teacher from MD Anderson, Texas showed his hip x-ray. Osteopenia was noticed on the side where he hanged his cell phone. Now I keep my cell phone away from my body. I recommend use of Amla, Tulsi, Turmeric, Guduchi, Pippli and Ginger to protect yourself from toxic effects of radiation.