There’s been some reported evidence that radioactive iodine and cesium are being released into the environment from the malfunctioning nuclear reactors in Japan, said Kathryn Higley, director of the Oregon State University department of nuclear engineering and radiation health physics.
As radioactive material decays, or breaks down, the energy released into the environment has two ways of harming a body that is exposed to it, Higley said. It can directly kill cells, or it can cause mutations to DNA. If those mutations are not repaired, the cell may turn cancerous.
Radioactive iodine tends to be absorbed by the thyroid gland and can cause thyroid cancer , said Dr. Lydia Zablotska, an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
But radioactive iodine is short-lived and will be around for only about two months after an accident, said Andre Bouville of the National Cancer Institute, who has studied radiation doses from the fallout of the 1986 Chernobyl explosion in Ukraine. So, if the exposure to the air comes after that time, radioactive iodine does not pose a health risk, Bouville said.
Children are most at risk for thyroid cancer, since their thyroid glands are 10 times smaller than those of adults, he said. The radioactive iodine would be more concentrated in them.
Radioactive cesium, on the other hand, can stay in the environment for more than a century. But it does not concentrate in one part of the body the way radioactive iodine does.
The Chernobyl accident released a plume of radioactive materials into the atmosphere in a fraction of a second. In the following years, the incidence of thyroid cancer among those exposed as children increased in Ukraine and nearby countries, Zablotska said. The cancer showed up between four and 10 years after the accident, Bouville said.
Children were exposed to radioactive material mainly from eating contaminated leafy vegetables and dairy. There have been no detectable health effects from exposure to radioactive cesium after the accident.
In general, it takes a pretty high dose of radiation to increase cancer risk, Higley said. For instance, there were reports that one Japanese worker was exposed to 10 rem (100 millisievert, mSV), a measurement of radiation dose. From that exposure, his lifetime cancer risk would go up about half a percent, Higley said. According to Higley, the dose is the equivalent of about five CT scans . Americans are exposed to about 0.3 rem (3 mSv) each year from natural sources, such as the sun.
No increases in cancer rates were observed after the release of radioactive from a power plant on Three Mile Island, Pa., in 1979, Zablotska said.
A person’s risk of getting sick depends on how much radiation the body absorbs. Those exposed to high levels of radiation, about 200 rem, (2000 millisievert ) could develop radiation sickness, Bouville said. A chest X-ray is about 0.02 rem, (0.2 millisieverts mSv), according to the Interational Atomic Energy Agency.
People are exposed to about 0.24 rem (2.4 mSv) per year from natural background radiation in the environment, the IAEA says.
Radiation sickness is often fatal and can produce such symptoms as bleeding and shedding of the lining on the gastrointestinal tract, Zablotska said. About 140 people suffered from it as a result of the Chernobyl accident, Zablotska said.
A radiation dose of 40 rem, (400 mSv) per hour was reported at one of the Japanese power plants at one point following the March 11 earthquakes and tsunami that damaged their cooling systems, according to the IAEA. This is a high dose but was isolated to a single location, the IAEA says.
“That is definitely an area where you do not want to stay for prolonged period,” Higley said. She notes that a total dose of 400 to 600 rem can be lethal. But the radiation levels have been decreasing after the observed spike, she said. She speculates the spike may have been due to the release of a puff of radioactive material when pressure dropped at the facility.
Say some maniacal world leader finally hits the big red button. Or maybe a terrorist takes out the local nuclear reactor. You survive the initial attack, and you’re left to endure a world poisoned by nuclear radiation. How’s that gonna feel?
Measure the dosage
When nuclear reactions get going, they spit out particles with enough energy to rip electrons off of atoms or molecules. The altered bonds produce ion pairs that are extremely chemically reactive. This is known as ionizing radiation, and it’s where the problems start.
There are many types of ionizing radiation. Take your pick from cosmic, alpha, beta, gamma or X- rays, neutrons, or from a handful more. What really matters is how much an organism is exposed to—a concept called absorbed dose.
One way to measure absorbed dose is in units of Grays (Gy). Another common unit is the sievert (Sv), which takes the Gy measure and multiples it by the type of radiation to calculate the effective dose in living tissue. The average radiation exposure during a couple of seconds of an abdominal X-ray is 0.0014 Gy—it’s a light dose, and it’s locally administered, so it’s not that bad. When you really get into trouble is with whole-body exposure, like, say, in the Chernobyl control room immediately after the explosion. There, you would soaked up 300 Sv per hour. But you wouldn’t last an hour. The dose would be lethal in just 1-2 minutes.
How you would die
Large doses of ionizing radiation in a short time period lead to Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), aka radiation poisoning. The severity of ARS symptoms depends on the level of exposure. A radiation dose as low as 0.35 Gy could feel a bit like you have the flu—expect nausea and vomiting, headaches, fatigue, and fever. If the body is exposed to a higher dose, somewhere between 1-4 Gy, blood cells begin to die. You could still recover—treatment of this kind of radiation syndrome usually involves blood transfusions and antibiotics—but you could also suffer a weakened immune response due to a drop in white cell count, uncontrollable bleeding due to a lack of platelets, and anemia due to a reduction of red blood cells. You’ll also notice a kind of odd sunburn if exposed to 2 Gy or more of ionizing radiation. Technically referred to as acute radiodermatitis, its effects include red patches, peeling skin, and sometimes blistering. Expect it to show up within 24 hours.
Between 4 and 8 Gy, however, a dose can be fatal—but the route to death still varies on the level of the exposure. Patients at this level suffer vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and fever. Without treatment, you could die just a few weeks after exposure.
The physicist Louis Slotin, who died of ARS during his 1946 research on the Manhattan Project, was exposed to a radiation dosage estimated to be just over 10 Gy of gamma and x-ray radiation. He wouldn’t survive today, even with modern treatments like bone marrow transplants. Patients exposed to radiation between 8 to 30 Gy experience nausea and severe diarrhea within an hour, and they die between 2 days and 2 weeks after exposure.
Absorbed doses greater than 30 Gy cause neurological damage. Within minutes, patients experience severe vomiting and diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, and unconsciousness. Seizures and tremors are common, as is ataxia, or the loss of control of voluntary muscle function. Death within 48 hours is inevitable.
But if you avoid enough radiation to stay alive
Just because you dodge ARS following a nuclear blast or meltdown doesn’t mean you get to enjoy a happy ending. Long-term exposure to ionizing radiation, even at doses too low to produce any symptoms of radiation sickness, can induce genetic mutations and cancer. This is the biggest risk facing survivors of the Fukushima disaster—the accident emitted a fraction of the radioactive material released at Chernobyl. But the most recent estimates predict the fallout may still cause more than a thousand deaths from cancer.
Normally, cells are controlled by the chemical structure of DNA molecules. But when radiation deposits enough energy to disrupt molecular bonds, strands of DNA are broken. While most repair properly, around a quarter don’t—and so begins a long, slow process which results in an increased rate of mutations in future generations of cells. The probability of cancer increases with effective radiation dose—but, cruelly, the severity of the cancer is independent of the dose. Exposure is what counts, and it doesn’t matter if the radiation level was high or low.
With long-term exposure, models predicting the level of risk remain controversial. In fact, the most widely-accepted model suggests that, in terms of affecting most people, low-level background radiation is the most hazardous source of radiation. So while ARS may be a horrible way to go, it’s the slow burn that ought worry you most.
Exercise helps your lymph system in the short term as well as the long term. Aerobic exercise will move your lymph up to five times faster then typical resting lymph flow. This is why many people cough out crud and mucous as they being to exercise. Strength training of your upper body, which improves muscle mass and muscle contraction, directly helps improve the long-term health of your lymph system. As I have pointed out, exercise can be friend or foe to your immune system function, so learn to do it right.
Getting a good response to exercise and actually doing exercise are basics for improving lymph function. Stagnation of your body is public enemy number one. Any exercise helps.
A simple exercise for those with a very congested lymph system is to lay on your back and place each hand on your opposite shoulder (this takes tension off the thoracic ducts in your shoulder area). Keeping your feet flat, move your feet up towards your rear end and keep them about shoulder distance apart. Put your knees together, forming a teepee look with your legs (this rolls your hips out and takes pressure off the thoracic duct moving from your gut up the left side of your spine). Stay in this position for 2 minutes to 20 minutes, however long it takes for you to feel the pressure decline at which point your lymph will move better. This simple exercise helps many people prevent or stop a potentially difficult lymph headache or major pressure problem. It is a favorite for people with fibromyalgia, as they may not be fit enough to do aerobic activity.
Of course, massage of the upper back invariably helps move your lymph along and those with a long-term history of lymph problems will eventually need to be able to tolerate deep tissue massage in this area so as to break up the “”scar tissue”” that is linking their connective tissue into such a stiff condition. Chiropractic can sometimes help, but results are short-lived unless the underlying lymph problem is addressed (as the lymph pressure will just push the spine back out of alignment). It is generally best to have muscles massaged and relaxed before an upper back adjustment is attempted, especially in those with long-term lymph struggles.
My favorite nutrient for moving the lymphatic system is arabinogalactan. This nutrient helps enhance macrophages (garbage eaters) and other immune cells within lymph tissue. It is often used before bed and in the morning, up to four times a day when fighting a bug. Arabinogalactan is one of the best natural remedies for helping to clear fever. It helps the immune system clear trash better so that a fever isn’t needed (far different from an anti-inflammatory drug that stops fever but leaves the toxins). I was one of the original users of arabinogalactan in clinical practice (it is far superior to Echinacea – which I no longer use due to allergy issues). Back in the 1990s I became a believer when a client, who had just been to the hospital with their infant who had been running a high fever for three days, stopped by my office on their way home (an hour drive) to see if I had any suggestions (the doctors offered nothing). Because arabinogalactan is a carbohydrate with no toxicity, I suggested they may want to give it a try as it had some preliminary studies showing it helped ear infections in children. They mixed some up in my office and gave it to their child. They called when they got home, the fever had broken. Countless children have benefited ever since.
My second choice is proteolytic enzymes, especially bromelain and papain, which are themselves “”garbage eaters”” and anti-inflammatory nutrients (helping reduce excess trash formation). Many digestive enzyme products will have a secondary benefit for cleaning internal trash, which of course helps move sluggish lymph.
Quercetin can help relieve the congestion that is associated with lymphatic overload, while helping front line troops stabilize and be more effective. Quercetin has been shown to help reduce the likelihood of the flu.
Oregano oil is a potent immune support nutrient based primarily on its active component, carvacrol. Carvacrol, as well as other oil components in oregano such as p-cymene and thymol, are terpenes that are also a fat-sludge solvents, i.e., help to dissolve sludge in the lymph system (and gall bladder for that matter). This is one reason oregano is so helpful for clearing out baseline sinus congestion along with its other multiple immune support benefits. Such baseline sinus issues are often fungal in nature. Oregano is one of the best natural antifungals available.
Those with fluid retention issues often benefit from herbs like horse chestnut, hawthorn berry, and grape seed extract, which help strengthen and tone capillaries, the water-holding tissues between capillaries and the lymph system, and the lymph system itself.
Any nutrients that help you reduce inflammation, boost your energy, or help you tolerate stress will help your lymph system by reducing the amount of trash it has to deal with in the first place.
Any nutrients that help your liver, gall bladder, or digestive tract handle trash better, help lymphatic stagnation because improvement will enable trash to flow out of the lymph system and smoothly get out of your body. Thus, some people will benefit from a more detailed understanding of the entire subject of detoxification.
Any nutrient that helps you sleep better will help your lymph system because sleep time is the main time your lymph tries to do its housecleaning chores. If you feel like crud when you wake up, it is directly reflective of how poorly your lymph system functioned while you slept. While a lack of sleep will always make matters worse, improving your lymph function in general will always help you sleep better.
Improvement in the baseline function of your lymph system is required for optimal immunity. If you do get sick, your lymph system will not only have its hands full helping to mount an immune response, it will also be working overtime trying to clear trash that is coming from the battlefield. If you can’t keep up with trash clearing your body will go to a back up plan called run a fever so as to break the toxic bonds of waste products coming from the infection.
The more that your body feels like it is being run over by a Mack truck, the more the garbage removal capability of your lymph system is being tested. This is a time to use higher amounts of lymph clearing nutrients, which not only help get you out of that horrid feeling but also improve the ability of your body to get over the hump and win the battle.
If your lymph system remains clogged during a battle it can go on and on and when you do finally get better you will be much more at risk for the infection coming back or for a new infection taking hold.
When you manage your lymph system for healthier function, both in terms of its baseline health and supporting it in a time of need, you will go a long way towards having a better immune response for fighting the flu, including the swine flu.
Herbal Treatments Supporting Healthy Lymphatic Systems
Common herbs that can be used to support the health of lymphatic system include Echinacea, Calendula, Burdock, Red Clover, Queens Root and Poke root. These herbal remedies help to support the immune system. Echinacea particularly stimulates white blood cell production which is important in fighting off infection. Burdock is useful for treating a blocked lymphatic system. It is a lymph fluid purifier and helps the body to eliminate toxic metabolic waste products. The other herbal remedies mentioned here help to stimulate the action of the lymphatic system and lymphatic organs. Herbal remedies should not be used without consulting you physician first. Herbal preparations can interfere with your current medications, cause an allergic reaction in some sensitive people and can cause side effects.
In conclusion, the lymphatic system plays a vital role in the body. Ensuring its optimal health by nourishing it with the right foods, improving flow through exercise and massage are key lifestyle changes we all can make. Lymphedema is caused by a blockage within the lymphatic system. It causes a build of fluid in body tissues resulting in swelling, pain and loss of movement. It is quite a common occurrence that requires medical intervention. The lymph nodes filter out viruses, bacteria, cancer cells and metabolic waste products, hence ensuring their health is vital. The lymph system sadly is often the cause of cancer cells being spread throughout the body causing what is commonly known as metastases. (Cancer spreads from the primary cancer to other organs throughout the body). If you are experiencing swelling of any tissue in any part of your body of unknown cause, consult your doctor immediately.
The healthy function of your lymphatic system is required for an optimal immune response. Millions of Americans struggle with a sluggish and stagnant lymph system, a clear immune system disadvantage. This is because your lymph system, in addition to its immune-related chores, is also in the trash removal business and the absorption and transport of fat business. The speed with which you mount an immune response can be drastically impaired by poor lymph function. It is worthwhile to understand how well your own lymph system is working.
During the course of infection cells that have identified the invader, such as the dendritic cells of your front line immune troops, must migrate into your lymphatic system and present their finding to a sub-group of lymphocytes called T Helper cells that are residing within lymph tissue.
Your T Helper cells have various meeting rooms within lymph nodes and lymph tissue where they discuss the problem and refine their identification of the invader. I might add that this is a far superior operation than health care officials traveling over to China to make a guess at which viruses should be in next season’s flu vaccine.
Once T Helper cells reach consensus they present the identification tag of the invader (antigen) to the higher-powered air force of your immune system, so that your big-time military knows what the enemy looks like. Troops resting in the barracks of your lymph tissue spring into action, having specific knowledge of the enemy’s appearance. At the same time the call goes out to manufacture more immune troops, requiring your liver to send protein and only happening really well if you are nutritionally adequate in many basic nutrients. See my article, Using Nutrition to Perceive and Combat Swine Flu, for more information on this important topic.
In addition to your liver distributing nutritional priorities for the formation of your immune troops, the latest research shows that your liver participates in antigen recognition and production of immune troops as well.
While various nutrients are needed to properly energize these immune cells so that they can move about, similar to the idea of having gasoline in your car and an engine that works, the issue of the condition of the highways being traveled upon is of the utmost importance. In the case of your immune response, those highways and roads are your lymphatic system. If your roads are cluttered with sludge or in a state of disrepair, dendritic cells have a harder time getting to the meeting rooms of the T Helper cells, troop production is reduced, and the speed of deployment is handicapped.
When you realize that a viral enemy is rapidly multiplying, the lack of an optimally swift immune response can make all the difference in the severity of infection.
What is Lymph Stagnation?
Yes, I know, this is not a common medical term. It should be. If doctors understood the subject they would have a lot better results with their patients. A properly flowing lymph is essential for a speedy and effective immune response. A stagnant or congested lymph spells trouble, in direct proportion to the amount of stagnation present.
The fluid between every cell of your body becomes lymph fluid as it enters your lymphatic vessels. Waste products of metabolism that are too large to put into your blood and breathe out are transported via your lymph to your liver for processing. The greater the amount of wear and tear you are under, from any source, the more trash must be hauled out through this system.
Your lymph fluid flows towards two main thoracic ducts (about the size of garden hoses) on either side of your spine between your shoulders. A sluggish and stagnant lymph system is marked by a variety of symptoms related to the pressure build up in this area of your body, a type of internal “”constipation.””
Your lymph circulation does not have its own pump. In comparison, your heart pumps your blood. Rather, it runs primarily on muscle contractions that massage it along. Immediately you can see that inactivity and loss of muscle tone are major problems for healthy lymph flow.
The classic symptoms of lymph stagnation involve stiffness and pressure in your shoulder area. This is a location where muscles (stress tension), nerve-related stress (brain stem excitation – such as anxiety, stress overload, or pain), and the thoracic ducts of your lymph system all converge (they all cross-talk with inflammatory cytokines). A problem in any one of these systems causes problems to the others. A history of whiplash injury can severely handicap lymph function due to the injured tissue. Even once the injured tissue heals the lymph congestion may remain. Part of true fibromyalgia always involves significantly impaired lymph function in the shoulder area; causing trash to back up in muscles and make them hurt.
Your lymph system is a pressure system. When it is stagnant in the main shoulder area it forces pressure and waste products up into your head. This can cause headaches that start in the back of your neck and work their way up. It can cause pressure type headaches on the top of your head or behind your sinuses. It causes you to make excess mucous following a meal, as a way to discharge waste that cannot make it through the normal lymph channels. It causes you to have excess mucous in the morning, a plan B for getting rid of excess trash that could not be processed normally.
It often results in ongoing sinus problems, as fluid in your head must drain down through your lymph system and if it is sluggish in the shoulder area then you head fluids also are at risk for becoming stagnant. A stagnant lymph is responsible for repeat ear infections in children, as the back up of fluid in the eustachian tubes of the ears becomes a breeding ground for infection.
Because your lymph system likes to do house cleaning at night, if you have problems, the thoracic ducts will swell while you are sleeping (an overworked trash removal system) and press on nerves that go to your hands and arms (and to a lesser extent your legs and face). Compression on these nerves may cause your hand or arm to fall asleep while you are sleeping. Many people notice they have such a problem every now and then, which invariably is associated with a flare up of lymph troubles due to wear and tear overload. Those who have this problem more often than not have significant lymph stagnation.
Because your lymph system is a pressure system if it is stagnant you will be more susceptible to changes in environmental pressure. Those who feel worse when a weather front comes through or following an airplane ride often have a baseline of lymph sluggishness. Even the gravitational pull of a full moon or a new moon can adversely influence a congested lymph system and cause symptoms of stagnation.
Your lymph system also has the duty of absorbing and transporting most of the dietary fat you consume. Thus, high fat meals in someone with pre-existing lymph stagnation or a high fat meal before bed will have a high likelihood of severely slowing down lymph flow, and thus be highly immunosuppressive if you need to fight an infection (in addition to provoking snoring or sleep apnea).
I know a number of examples of people waking up with extreme dizziness, rushing to the ER, and having zillions of dollars of tests run to find out there isn’t anything wrong. If only the doctor had enough sense to ask them if they ate right before bed (the answer is always yes). The fat content of the food forced extra sludge into the lymph when the lymph wanted to do housecleaning. The pressure backed up fluid in their eustachian tubes, forcing pressure on the balance centers in the ear and causing dizziness. Recurring dizziness not related to standing up too fast, ear popping, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus) are always made worse by lymph stagnation – and many times caused by lymph stagnation.
Too much dairy fat in small children often congests their lymph system, setting the stage for repeat ear infections.
On the other hand, dietary fat is in some ways a stimulant to the flow of lymph, along with physical activity. My point is that too much fat, especially a large meal or eating before bed can stress lymphatic flow, a problem made worse if a person is already in a trend of sluggish lymph function. A real mistake if you are fighting a bug.
Stress is a major challenge to your lymph system, as it literally shrinks your thymus gland, a main training center for lymphocytes. Additionally, too much stress tends to create surplus amounts of trash that must be carted off through your lymph system.
Half of your lymphatics are actually around your digestive tract and work to maintain proper immune response to whatever is in your gut. Constipation in your digestive tract causes a back up in your internal lymphatics, as there is no place for new trash to flow. Gut health is vital to lymph function and internal lymph flow. Lymph trash flows into a major vein, then to your liver for processing, then mostly through your gall bladder, into your gut, and out. A problem anywhere along this functional lineup of trash handlers causes a rebound negative effect, like dominoes falling in the wrong direction.
Edema or water retention is another classic sigh of a struggling lymph system. Thus, by definition, fluid build up in your legs or the need to use medical diuretics are signs that your lymph system and thus potential immune response are not in tip top working order. In fact, blood pressure medication can actually cause lymph stagnation by lowering the normal “”push”” that your circulatory gives indirectly to your lymph system.
There are a thousand shades of gray in terms of the function of your lymphatic system, ranging from highly effective down through various levels of stagnation and impaired immune response, until we reach the fibromyalgia level of major lymph problem.
Whatever your baseline of lymph function, it is vital to help improve it or maintain optimal function so that your immune system can work better to fight a flu infection.
The lymph system plays a very important role in the body. It carries watery lymph fluid throughout the body. Lymph fluid consists of lymphocytes which are white blood cells and contains antibodies. Both these substances are vital for protection against infections and diseases. Additionally it consists of proteins, glucose, salts and urea. It also filters and removes any unwanted substances from the body and drains fluid from body tissues back into the bloodstream. The bodily structures involved in the lymph system include the spleen, bone marrow, tonsils, adenoids, lymph nodes and thymus. The lymph system can often become blocked as does not have a pump to move fluid throughout the body. Lymphatic blockages can be prevented and broken up within the lymph system by making some lifestyle changes. This article discusses how you can ensure a healthy, unblocked lymphatic system by making simple lifestyle changes and safe effective herbal remedies that support the health of the lymphatic system.
Foods that Support the Lymphatic System
Fatty meals are the enemy of the lymphatic system, especially saturated fat. You should avoid too much fatty meat in your diet. Too much saturated fat in the diet has been associated with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, cancer of the lymphatic system.
Some foods support a healthy lymphatic system which includes potassium rich foods. Examples of potassium rich foods include bananas, sweet potatoes and broccoli. Another good source is wild salmon.
Water is also important for a healthy lymphatic system. The lymphatic system relies on adequate hydration levels to function optimally. Ensuring that you drink at least 8 glasses of water a day can provide protection.
The lymphatic system requires an adequate intake of healthy fats to function. Healthy fats include walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, avocados, salmon, rainbow trout and sardines.
Fiber is also important for a healthy lymphatic system. Including whole grains, lentils, baked beans, split peas and plenty of fruit and vegetables can booster the lymph system.
Exercise for the Lymph System
Exercising regularly has been found to support lymphatic health. Low impact exercises that gently contract muscles have been found to be most effective. Improvement to lymph fluid flow within the lymphatic system has shown to improve 3 times as much with exercise than while resting. The gentle contraction of muscles helps improve the flow of lymph fluid. An example of low impact exercise would be to jump up and down on a mini trampoline or engage in lifting light weights both for the legs and arms.
Having a weekly massage provided by a skilled masseuse can help unblock lymph vessels and help improve the flow of lymph fluid throughout the body. There are some qualified masseuses that specialize in lymphatic massage and treating lymphodema caused by blocked lymphatic flow.