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Radiation Exposure

Radiation damage may occur after a patient receives radiation therapy or is exposed to products or substances containing radiation. This includes x-ray imaging, nuclear power, or fallout from atomic weapons. Radiation damage may cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems.

Nutrients, Herbs, and Alternative Therapies Used to Treat Radiation Exposure

Nutrition and Supplements

These nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:

  • Eliminate suspected food allergens, such as dairy (milk, cheese, and ice cream), wheat (gluten), soy, corn, preservatives, and chemical food additives. Your health care provider may want to test you for food allergies.
  • Eat foods high in B-vitamins, calcium, and iron, such as almonds, beans, whole grains (if no allergy), dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), and sea vegetables.
  • Eat cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower), for antioxidant support.
  • Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes) and vegetables (such as squash and bell pepper).
  • Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and sugar.
  • Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, tofu (soy, if no allergy) or beans for protein.
  • Use healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil or vegetable oil.
  • Reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids, found in commercially baked goods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine.
  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants, alcohol, and tobacco.
  • Exercise, if possible, 5 days a week.

Nutritional deficiencies may be addressed with the following supplements:

  • A multivitamin daily, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-complex vitamins, and trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium.
  • Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus), 5 – 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day, for maintenance of gastrointestinal and immune health. Some acidophilus products require refrigeration – check lables carefully.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, 1 – 2 capsules or 1 tablespoonful oil daily, to help decrease inflammation. Be careful if you are taking blood thinning medications like aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin) while taking fish oils, as fish oils may increase bleeding in sensitive individuals.
  • Vitamin C, 500 – 1,000 mg daily, as an antioxidant. HIgher dosages of vitamin C may be used. If loose stools develop, decrease the dosage.
  • Grapefruit seed extract (Citrus paradisi), 100 mg capsule or 5 – 10 drops (in favorite beverage) three times daily, for antibacterial-antifungal activity and immunity.
  • L-glutamine, 500 – 1,000 mg three times daily, for support of gastrointestinal health and immunity.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid, 25 – 50 mg twice daily, for antioxidant support.
  • Resveratrol (from red wine), 50 – 200 mg daily, to help decrease inflammation and for antioxidant effects.
  • Coenzyme Q10, 100 – 200 mg at bedtime, for antioxidant and immune activity.
  • Melatonin, 2 – 6 mg at bedtime, for immune support and improved sleep. Higher doses may be needed in cancer treatments. Ask you health care provider.


Herbs are generally available as standardized, dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures/liquid extracts (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise noted). Mix liquid extracts with your favorite beverage. Dose for teas is 1 – 2 heaping teaspoonfuls per cup of water, steeped for 10 – 15 minutes (roots need longer).

  • Milk thistle (Silybummarianum) standardized extract, 80 – 200 mg one to three times a day, as an antioxidant and liver protectant.
  • Green tea (Camellia sinensis) standardized extract, 250 – 500 mg daily, for antioxidant effects. You may use caffeine-free products. You can also prepare teas from the leaf.
  • Panax ginseng (Panax ginseng) standardized extract, 100 – 200 mg twice daily, for symptoms of radiation poisoning. You can also prepare teas from this herb.
  • Reishi mushroom (Ganodermalucidum) standardized extract, 150 – 300 mg two to three times daily, for immune effects. You may also take a tincture of this mushroom extract, 30 – 60 drops two to three times a day.
  • Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) standardized extract, 400 mg daily, for radiation protection. You can also prepare teas from the root.
  • Chamomile oral rinse (Kamillosan), rinse and expectorate 3 – 4 times daily, for oral irritation due to radiation therapy.
  • Calendula (Calendula officinalis) topical cream, apply externally to radiation-damaged skin 2 – 3 times daily.


Radium bromatum is specific for radiation poisoning, especially followed by arthritic complaints. Acute dose is three to five pellets of 12X to 30C every 1 – 4 hours until symptoms are relieved.

Physical Medicine

A body wash of coneflower, goldenseal, comfrey root (Symphytumofficinalis), and sea buckthorn (Hippophaerhamnoides) helps healing and reduces the risk of infection. Vitamin E oil applied to the skin twice daily and Aloe vera extract applied as needed help healing.

Signs and Symptoms

Acute radiation sickness occurs within 24 hours of exposure. Chronic radiation syndrome is a range of symptoms occurring over an extended time.

Radiation damage is accompanied by the following signs and symptoms, which can occur immediately or months or years after exposure to radiation:

  • Radiation syndrome — malaise, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, fever, headache. With bleeding and complications affecting the digestive system, nervous system, heart, and lungs
  • Central nervous system diseases
  • Kidney, liver, or gastrointestinal problems
  • Poor growth in children
  • Skin conditions
  • Pericarditis (inflammation of the sac around the heart)
  • Lung infections or conditions, respiratory failure
  • Vision impairment, including cataracts

Dysfunction of the reproductive organs


Damage occurs when radiation interacts with oxygen, causing certain molecules to form. These molecules can damage or break strands of DNA in the body’s cells. This can result in cell death.


People who have been exposed to radiation and who also have the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for developing radiation damage:

  • High dose of radiation exposure
  • Young age at time of exposure
  • Use of chemotherapy, antibiotics

Exposure to radiation prior to birth (while in the womb)


If you are receiving radiation treatment to treat cancer, your health care provider can take certain precautions to help prevent or reduce the risk of radiation damage. These may include administering low-dose radiation, using radio-protectant chemicals, and special shields for other parts of your body.

Treatment Plan

The treatment plan depends on the type of radiation damage. Decontamination, if warranted, is essential. Transfusion of fluids, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets may be necessary.

Drug Therapies

Your provider may prescribe a variety of medications, depending on the specific ailments resulting from radiation damage.

Surgical and Other Procedures

Surgery may be required to prevent further cell damage, or to graft healthy tissue onto a damaged area.

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