The largest group of us probably most familiar with the results of severe radiation exposure are those persons being treated with radiation therapy. Some of those symptoms of radiation poisoning are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headache, dry mouth, loss of taste and appetite, diarrhea, malaise, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, hair loss, dry cough, inflammation of the skin and possibly the heart, sexual impotence and low blood cell counts.
[Reference: Dr. Anthony J. Cichoke]

This is an acute exposure. Most of us aren’t getting acute exposures; we’re getting low level repeated exposures. However, radiation is cumulative.

Radiation Is Virtually Impossible To Avoid
“Radiation is around us all the time in both natural and artificially introduced forms.” Dr. James F. Balch 

We get it in lower amounts from many places: cellular phones, x-rays, computer monitors, television sets, smoke detectors, and microwave ovens are common culprits. From a natural perspective we get it from the sun, radon gas is radiation, water, and the human body is a source of some as well.

It comes from electromagnetic frequencies (EMF’s) which are virtually impossible to eliminate; like the power lines in your house and along your route to work just above you, fluorescent lights and heating pads.

According to Janice Wittenberg, R.N., “All forms of radiation interfere with cellular activity and are immunosuppressive.”

Typical Levels
Radioactive elements are unstable atoms that give off energy as a result of decay of their center or nucleus. If the energy is strong enough it will dislodge other molecules in its path.

Radiation is measured in units called rem. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that the average American is getting about 360 millirem (1/1000 rem) of radioactivity per year – or about 1/4 to 1/3 rem per year. Some estimated numbers are:

Our bodies: 39 millirem
Dental x-rays: 3 millirem
Chest x-rays: 20-50 millirem
Smoke detectors: 1 millirem
All foods: some level

Acute radiation sickness, as mentioned above, is caused by exposures exceeding 100 rem that might be a consequence of some cancer treatments.
[Reference: Dr. James Balch]

The current “safe” level of occupational radiation exposure as determined by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is 5 rem.

Radiation and Nutrition
“Radioactive elements are structurally similar to their non-radioactive counterparts. This is why nutrition (vitamins, minerals) is important in preventing or blocking damage from exposure to radioactive elements… If the cells are able to obtain all nutrients they need from your diet, they will be less likely to absorb radioactive substitutes, which are then more likely to be discarded from the body.” Prescription for Nutritional Healing

Radiation Damages Immune Cell Production
A good example of what radiation does is shown in the treatment of cancer. Cells of the immune system and red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. These are bone marrow stem cells. Cell division and proliferation goes on rapidly in the bone marrow.

Cancer cells are also in a state of rapid cell division, almost continuously. Therapies that are focused on eliminating cells with rapid cell division make sense. However, cells in the bone marrow are also eliminated (collateral damage) along with cancer cells since they are also rapidly dividing cells.

“Because there is a tremendous amount of cell division going on in the bone marrow – more than almost any other place in the body – the bone marrow is particularly sensitive to drugs, chemicals, and radiation used to treat cancer cells...

High doses of radiation kill mature white cells circulating in the blood, as well as the bone marrow stem cells and the intermediate stages of blood cells developing in the marrow. ” Dr. William Clark

Radiation and Breast Cancer
Dr. John Lee states in "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer, “Most women in the United States are exposed to radiation through chest x-rays.

Radiation is one of the most potent risk factors for breast cancer, and its effects are cumulative. This means that the damage done to the breast tissue doesn’t disappear with time: Each dose of radiation to the breast adds to the last one [due to tissue damage].”

Radiation Creates Free Radical Damage
“Radiation creates increased numbers of free radicals in the tissue, and free radicals induce apoptosis (cellular death)…” When used as a cancer treatment, “Doctors hope that radiation therapy kills more cancer cells than normal cells and that the radiation will not start a new cancer.” Dr. Burt Berkson

Dr. Ralph W. Moss states, “Scientific work over the last few decades has shown that free radicals [produced by radiation] can also damage genetic material, lipids (fats), or proteins [communication molecules in the immune system are proteins].

Some Experts Believe Low Levels of Radiation Are Dangerous Too
“Arriving at safe levels of radiation exposure is hard because little data exist on how low doses affect health.” American Association for the Advancement of Science Dr. Steven Wing, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina suggests the federal standard for occupational radiation exposure may be inadequate.

He determined that Hanford Nuclear Reservation workers exposed to what is considered safe levels of radiation still died from cancer at higher rates. His findings are supported by other studies.

Radiation, Free Radical Damage, Damaged Cytokines and Immune Function
Dr. Jesse Stoff says that x-ray ionizing radiation directly affects the immune system. He states, “Free radicals [from radiation] can bind to and destroy cytokines.”

He further adds, for example, that in one flight cross-country (4hours) on a commercial airline (at 35,000-40,000 feet), you’ll receive about the same amount of radiation as if you’d had a chest x-ray. (This is also supported by Alice Stewart, well known epidemiologist.)

It attacks DNA and “behind this energy particle is left a trail of free radicals that destroy receptor sites and cytokines directly.” Note: Cytokines are communication molecules of the immune system. The immune system doesn’t function well, if at all, without their activity.

[see Immune 101 and Free Radicals/Antioxidants]
The material on this web site including radiation is offered to you for informational purposes only and is not meant to be interpreted as medical advice to diagnose, treat or cure any immune system disorder. You should consult with a qualified health professional whenever your health is in question.
Copyright Benjamin Associates LLC. All Rights Reserved
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Radiation & Immune Function
Immune System
Immune Stressors
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See also Immune 101

Fast Facts
  • Radiation is all around us – power lines, the sun, television sets, radon gas. It’s a long list and it’s impossible to avoid altogether. Airplane travel is a big one.

  • Radiation is cumulative. All forms interfere with cellular activity and suppress immune system function.

  • Radiation creates dangerous free radicals that damage cells and cytokine pathways (communication pathways) in the immune system.