Radiation comes from unexpected sources. We are all routinely exposed to background radiation from the atmosphere, the ground, food and water. However, it's the more concentrated forms of radiation in our environment that we should be aware of. They come in two general categories.
Ionizing radiation has enough energy to remove electrons from atoms, turning them into ions. This is the type of radiation that comes from ultraviolet rays, x-rays and gamma rays. It can damage our cells because it generates free radicals.
The most common illness associated with ionizing radiation is cancer, due to its damaging effect on DNA. Cells that have a relatively short half-life are more sensitive to the effects of ionizing radiation. Rapidly dividing tissue, such as that in growing children and infants, is particularly sensitive. Pregnant women should try to avoid ionizing radiation.
Non-ionizing radiation has enough energy to move atoms within molecules, but not enough to remove electrons. It is typically used to send frequencies or transmit heat, and comes from power lines, radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves and cellular phones.
While there is no definitive link between non-ionizing radiation and illness, we are being exposed to more and more of this type of radiation every day. As with most things, there may be a relationship we do not fully understand.
So how do we protect ourselves from radiation? It’s difficult to avoid background radiation, but we can protect ourselves from potentially dangerous forms.
- Use sunscreen to avoid ultraviolet radiation.
- Eat foods high in antioxidants, such as green leafy vegetables, spices (turmeric, basil, thyme and oregano), fruits, nuts and seeds.
- Avoid foods that promote free radicals such as charred meats, fried foods, and highly processed foods.
—By Joseph Garrett, ND, resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.