What you really need to do about radiation…

While it is true that several United States EPA air monitors, including Anchorage, are now detecting above normal radioactive iodine levels following the Fukushima nuclear plant incident in Japan, these levels are still far below the levels of public health concern and we do not expect harmful levels of radiation in our state. For a full map of detection sites and reports please visit here: (http://www.epa.gov/japan2011/)

As explained in an earlier report, taking iodine as a preventive measure is not a wise choice and can cause serious health problems, even though some fear-driven reporting has recommended doing so. Not to make small of the Japan incident, it truly has affected an enormous number of lives.

At current levels of detection the best preventive approach is to make sure your body has the tools it needs to resist environmental stressors of all kinds. Your body should be able to withstand minor amounts of radiation and there are ways to improve your resilience.

There is and always have been background levels of radiation, toxic substances, and infectious disease here on planet earth. We are constantly bombarded by stressors. The difference between people who get sick and those who don’t is whether or not their bodies have enough key building blocks and not too many stressors, environmental stress as well as emotional stress. A person living off caffeine and fast-food to “get up the energy” for a job that they hate will be more susceptible than the person who has a wholesome diet and a purposeful life.

To put the radiation in perspective, the nearly 2000 experimental nuclear detonations between 1945 and 1998 by the US, Russia, and a good number of other countries produced far greater increases in levels of radiation throughout the world—levels that can still be detected. We can’t rule out negative health effects from the increase resulting from the Japan incident, but any media focus on iodine and thyroid is misguided.

All radiation changes the way atoms move around, the way they vibrate. In other words, there are changes to the physical properties of substances when under the influence of electromagnetic fields, microwave, visible light, heat, etc. One type of radiation, ionizing radiation, has so much energy that it can break chemical bonds. When this happens, parts of the original substance break away from the atom and those parts travel across a distance. We have heard how this sort of radiation can mutate DNA. More commonly, the energy from ionizing radiation causes harm by producing “free radicals”—this occurs when an atom loses an electron and makes that molecule very chemically reactive.

Free radicals are associated with an increased risk of many chronic diseases and also come from smoking, pollution, poisons, fried foods, and as a by-product of normal metabolism. Free radicals cause harmful chemical reactions that can damage cells in the body, making it harder for the body to fight off infections. They also damage organs and tissues.

The important building blocks to help manage free radical damage are your antioxidants. These are the nutrients your body uses to replace those lost electrons so the compounds are not so chemically reactive.

Good sources of antioxidants are whole foods that contain real (not synthetic) vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E and selenium plus a powerhouse compound known as alpha-lipoic acid. Synthetic vitamins can actually cause nutrient imbalances and you often need mega amounts of them to create an effect because they are not actually the bonafide, whole vitamin.

Some of these antioxidants we hear about every day: vitamins A, C and E. While they are great, alpha; lipoic acid deserves your attention. Vitamin C works only in water, vitamins A and E help mostly fatty tissues. Alpha-lipoic acid is both fat- and water-soluble. Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that is made by the body and is found in every cell, where it helps turn glucose into energy. That means it can work everywhere throughout the body.

Alpha-lipoic acid is a “universal” antioxidant. Why? Because it helps recycle other important antioxidants. As your vitamin A, C or E neutralizes the free radical by replenishing those lost electrons, the vitamin itself now becomes non-functional. Alpha-lipoic acid restores functionality by restoring the lost electrons.

Although our bodies can make lipoic acid, the best way to get it is from our food. You can obtain alpha-lipoic acid as a supplement but most of the over-the-counter products are the inactive S-Alpha Lipoic Acid, a synthetic version that is inactive. The richest source of alpha lipoic acid is red meat (especially organ meats) and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard and kale, as well as broccoli. In the case of spinach (one of the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen”) and meats, it is important to purchase only those produced under organic standards.

As for meats, the typical feed lot product on the meat shelf is laden with antibiotics and hormones that produce free radicals while in the animals as well as in your body after your consume them. Plants that are not organic, or are not fresh, likely have their own contaminants including pesticides, herbicides, and/or may be genetically modified, to produce pesticides or resist herbicides (meaning they can grow in soils doused with powerful plant killers, thus absorbing them before they become your food).

Again, the bottom line to maintain health is to give your body the genuine building blocks it needs and minimize the stressors. While we may not be able to control the small elevations in radiation that are due to the unfortunate situation in Japan, we certainly can give our bodies antioxidant-rich whole foods and put in place effective stress management strategies; especially those that emphasize our unique purposes and goals—whatever they may be.

If you are in the Anchorage area, come see us to find out your unique  needs. After all, we all have unique lifestyles and individual situations. Nutrition Response Testing and Designed Clinical Nutrition are the perfect tools to answer what your unique body actually needs to have the health you deserve.

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