When it is time to undergo a bone examination to determine if a fracture is healing or if bone density is changing, there will often be concern on the part of many of us about the radiation exposure and damage that X-rays and scans produce.
These concerns are valid: Every time energy from X-rays or gamma radiation interacts with human tissues, chemical reactions occur that generate free radicals - negatively charged oxygen-hydrogen molecules that easily react with many other molecules.
These free radicals are capable of damaging DNA, which is what leads to an increased risk of cancer in people with exposure to radiation.
Almost all of us have ever been exposed to images with ionizing radiation, whether from a dental X-ray, bone density scan, chest X-ray, mammography or CT scan.
In fact, per capita radiation exposure from medical procedures (excluding dental or X-ray radiation therapy) has increased dramatically each time.
While medical imaging can be a life-saving tool, it is an unfortunate truth that having scans means exposure to radiation, and exposure to radiation is cumulative. But that doesn't mean there is nothing you can do.
How Antioxidants Protect Against Radiation Damage
There is an Antioxidant Protocol designed to help protect against DNA damage from exposure to medical radiation. It is based on a protocol developed by researchers at the University of Toronto.
In devising a way to protect yourself against harmful radiation, researchers at the University of Toronto hypothesized that the body is loaded with antioxidants, which are positively charged chemicals that could quickly bind to free radicals before they could damage tissues and cellular DNA.
It may help limit the damage of radiation therapy and detection. The idea was that antioxidants could extinguish the free radicals generated by radiation before they could damage DNA.
They studied this question by obtaining blood samples from a group of patients scheduled to undergo an X-ray or other radiation exposure.
One group of patients received a course of oral antioxidants before their exposure, while the other simply underwent the exposure without prior treatment.
The researchers then took another blood sample after exposure and compared it to the pre-exposure sample.
They found that those patients who did not have the antioxidants had significantly more evidence of cell damage compared to those who did.
This means that your hunch that antioxidants might help limit the harmful activity of free radicals was correct.
Antioxidant Protocol to limit radiation damage
· 2ooo mg of completely reduced buffered ascorbate (such as Alkalini-C)
· 600 mg of lipoic acid
· 1,200 mg of N-acetylcysteine
· 30 mg beta-carotene
We suggest that, if possible, patients should take these antioxidants at least five days prior to radiation exposure to have sufficient levels of antioxidants in the body at the time of exposure.
This antioxidant protocol should be helpful for radiation exposure from medical scans such as DEXA, mammography, or CT scans.
How much radiation are you exposed to
Not all medical images offer the same amount of radiation exposure. Some common testing techniques, such as DEXA bone density tests, dental X-rays, chest X-rays, and mammograms expose you to much less radiation than CT scans.
The radiation exposure from nuclear medical imaging and CT scans is several times higher than from conventional X-rays. And, as CT scan devices become more available, more scans are done each year.
In Canada, about 159 CT scans were performed annually per 1,000 residents. In the US, that number was 270 CT scans per 1,000 residents.
Still, medical imaging accounts for half of all radiation exposure in the US, and half of that radiation exposure from medical imaging is the result of CT scanning.
Of note is the fact that CT scan procedures are becoming more common among children and an Australian study from 9.5 years ago reported that between 0.3% and 1% of all cancers among pediatric patients could be attributed to CT scan.
A common sense approach to medical imaging and radiation
Protecting ourselves from all levels of radiation exposure is something that will only improve our health. Best of all, it's not difficult to do when we take a common sense approach:
Limit all radiation exposure as much as possible
Strengthen ourselves with a colorful, nutrient-rich, plant-based alkaline diet to provide the body with a wide range of dietary antioxidants on a regular basis. Exciting new research points to the radioprotective power of several flavonoid plant antioxidant compounds, including quercetin, EGCG, genistein, and apigenin found in many plant foods.
Get at least 2g of vitamin C and a multivitamin with selenium. Vitamin E, beta-carotene and other antioxidants - daily. Using high doses of vitamin C is particularly interesting because it appears to reduce radiation-induced cell damage, even if you take it after radiation treatment.
When medical imaging, especially CT scans or nuclear scans, is essential, get an extra layer of protection by following the Antioxidant Protocol.
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