There are many reasons for concerns about environmental pollution and radiation exposure in this day and age. This is more true around big cities, but even in the rural sections of this nation, air and water contamination is spreading, and pesticides are a danger everywhere. Unless we want to go live in the wilderness, we need to be aware of many environmental toxins and learn how to protect ourselves from them; however, the wilderness is likely to be contaminated these days as well. Also, the air and waterways transport industrial and agricultural pollutants, and radioactive fallout may affect living things anywhere.
Environmental pollution has become a major political and health issue for all of us. The issue of short-term profit versus the health of our planet and ourselves is what we are really addressing. Many of the specific issues and individual environmental toxins, as well as the politics involved, are discussed in detail in Chapter 11. This section also examines some of the specific toxins but is primarily designed to offer a general program on how to minimize, handle, and protect ourselves from the many environmental pollutants and their effects upon us.
Exposure to environmental pollution is inevitable. A healthy human can adapt to mild and periodic exposure to pollutants in our air, water, and food. Some chemicals are easier to avoid than others. We have more control over what we take into our body than what goes into our air and water. Healthy food choices, such as “organic” produce and purified water, and avoiding food additives, cigarettes, and home chemicals will certainly diminish our risks.
Our immune defenses, gastrointestinal and liver functions, and other systems of elimination all play an important role in handling and clearing body toxins. With increased or prolonged exposure or with a diminished ability to handle chemical contamination for a variety of reasons, such as a weakened immune system or a liver overworked with excessive demands from processing certain drugs or consuming too much fat in the diet, our interaction with these toxins can have many damaging effects. The damage may range from mild tissue irritation or immune suppression to an increase in the formation of carcinogenic cells. If these processes continue unchecked, cancer could develop. (See Chapter 11 for a discussion of chemical carcinogenesis.)
Understanding the hazards and where and how we are exposed to these environmental dangers is an important beginning. Our greatest insurance is maintaining a healthy, functioning body and immune system through positive lifestyle habits, such as eating a wholesome diet, exercising regularly, minimizing stress and maintaining positive attitudes. In addition, many nutrients in our diet and extra nutritional supplements can both support needed functions and protect against possible dangers.
This program is designed for people subject to regular (daily) environmental exposure, such as those living in a smoggy industrial city, as well as for people who are chronically or acutely exposed to particular chemical agents. These include artists, chemical workers, metal workers, electronics workers, people who use pesticides, printers, those exposed to x-rays, either as technicians or as patients, and those who work around or at nuclear or other power plants.
- The basic guidelines for staying healthy in an increasingly polluted environment involve avoiding certain subtle dangers, protecting ourselves against others, and taking positive personal and political actions.
It is wise to live, if possible, where the air is relatively clean, or, if we cannot, to invest in a home air purifier and to take protective supplements. Stopping smoking and avoiding others’ cigarette smoke are also important steps. Making sure our water is clean wherever we live means testing it and possibly investing in a good quality, solid-carbon-block filter or reverse osmosis water purifier to ensure that water, our most important “nutrient,” does not add to our contamination (see Chapter 1, Water). Buying and eating “organic” foods as much as possible will also help to minimize further exposure to pesticides and other chemicals used to treat food. Growing our own garden is an even better idea and will orient us toward eating more fresh and wholesome food. Avoiding overuse of chemicals at home is also a good idea, as is reducing exposure at work whenever possible. Commonly used steroid drugs can suppress our immune function and reduce our natural defenses’ ability to protect us from toxins and microorganisms as well as lead to slower healing. These steroid drugs with their complex and suppressive effects should be avoided, and if possible, natural healing should be supported and encouraged.
Avoiding excessive sun exposure, especially of the face and particularly in fair-skinned individuals, is very important. There has been a marked increase in skin cancer in recent decades, thought to be a result of the thinning of the ozone layer caused by air pollution with chlorofluorocarbons. This means that the sun’s ultraviolet rays are less filtered and more dangerous now than they were 25 years ago. A sunscreen, 10–15 SPF, is suggested whenever sun exposure will last longer than an hour. Many natural sunscreens contain PABA, a B vitamin. (For more ideas on healthy survival, see the 88 Survival Suggestions at the end of Chapter 11.)
Our nutritional plan to counteract exposure to environmental pollutants and radiation begins with a diet that will keep us healthy and not compromise our immune functions with irritating or allergenic foods. That means a diet that provides adequate, balanced protein, is high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat and sugar, and includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. A minimum of four to six glasses of purified water, as well, helps keep everything moving and favors elimination of toxins. Remember, “dilution is the solution to pollution.” Taking “medicinal” baths can also be used for detoxification of certain pollutants and radiation exposure.
- Metal or chemical exposure—use the Clorox bath, which helps remove pollutants through skin. Add 1 cup Clorox bleach to hot bath; soak for 15–20 minutes.
- Radiation exposure—try this salt-soda bath—a good suggestion following airline flights or long hours at a computer. Add 1 pound each of sea salt and baking soda to hot bath; soak until bath is cool.
- Energizing detoxification bath—add 2 cups apple cider vinegar to hot bath; soak 15–30 minutes. Can be used for radiation exposure in place of salt-soda.
- Bath Therapy Salts—available in stores to add to bath water for relaxation and relief of muscle aches.
Because chemical bombardment can lead to a weakened immune system, an increase in allergies, and more symptoms and disease, avoiding foods high in chemicals is definitely part of the plan. Some people become hypersensitive to the chemicals in the environment as a result of chemical exposures, and foods can be a major factor. The most important food additives to avoid are the food colors found in so many artificial foods and the nitrates and nitrites used in cured meats, such as bacon, ham, bologna, and salami. Artificial flavors and other food additives, such as sulfites and MSG, should also be avoided.
Chlorophyll-containing foods, such as the greens—lettuces, spinach, chard, and kale—are good choices, as are the cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts, which are thought to be anticancer foods (these should all be “organic,” as these skinless vegetables may concentrate chemicals). All of these foods, as well as most sprouts, are good sources of vitamin K; these cruciferous vegetables are also known to protect us from cancer development. Foods rich in beta-carotene, such as these same cruciferous vegetables, as well as carrots and sweet potatoes, will add more of this antioxidant nutrient. Some freshly made vegetable juices daily, with carrots, greens, and others, adds a vitalizing and purifying drink. Miso, a fermented soybean paste used for soup broth, is known to protect against pollution and radiation. Seaweeds, high in natural metal-chelating algins, are likewise useful antipollution foods. They are also high in minerals. Some authorities believe that yogurt and other fermented milk products help protect against pollution. Extra kelp (seaweed powder), brewer’s yeast, or liquid lecithin may also give additional support.
|ANTI-RADIATION SOUP||—Serves 2|
|by Bethany ArgIsle|
For “Anti-Radiation Soup,” add the tofu and seaweed (nori or kombu) to boiling water and simmer for a few minutes. Stir in some miso paste for flavor (do not boil the miso), add juice of lemon and the optional ingredients if desired, cover, and let sit for 15–20 minutes. Serve with brown rice—eaten separately or stirred into the soup. This macrobiotic dish was shown to reduce radiation sickness after the Hiroshima bombing and will probably protect us from some of the hazardous effects of x-rays and metal exposures.
Many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can counteract some of the actions of environmental toxins. A good-quality “multiple” will provide many of them. The antioxidant nutrients will decrease the potential of free-radical toxicity. Vitamin A provides immune support and tissue protection. Beta-carotene specifically reduces the carcinogenicity of many chemicals, especially airborne ones and the chemicals in cigarette smoke; it also helps decrease the negative effects of ionizing radiation. Vitamin C protects the cells and tissues against the effects of water-soluble chemicals such as carbon monoxide, metals such as cadmium, and metabolic by-products such as carcinogenic nitrosamines made from nitrites. At least several grams of ascorbic acid daily are needed for this protection. Vitamin E, about 400–800 IUs, and selenium, 200–300 mcg., work together to protect the cells from pollutants including ozone, nitrogen dioxide, nitrites, and metals, such as lead, mercury, silver, and cadmium. For environmental protection, the sodium selenite form of selenium may not be as effective as the more direct-acting selenomethionine form, especially in regard to its detoxifying function.
Many minerals are useful in this program. Zinc is probably most important as an immune strengthener and tissue healer that is needed for the functioning of many detoxifying enzymes, thus helping to protect the cells from pollutant toxins. As an example, zinc, as well as copper and manganese, function in the superoxide dismutase system to detoxify oxygen free radicals which might be generated from ozone and photochemical smog. Calcium and magnesium help to neutralize some colon toxins and decrease heavy metal absorption from the gastrointestinal tract.
The B vitamins are also important. A B complex formula with sufficient thiamine, pantothenic acid, and niacinamide is usually helpful. Niacin, the B3 “flushing” form, has an interesting role in the purification process, especially with many chemicals and pesticides. A combination of high amounts of niacin and other vitamins and minerals, long saunas, fluids, and exercise offers a very purifying process. There have even been claims of improvement of symptoms from Agent Orange (2,4,5T) toxicity with the use of this kind of detoxification program. This type of program is usually carried out over periods of about two or three weeks. It can even be done on occasion after recent exposure or excessive drug intake (see General Detoxification in Chapter 18).
Lipoic acid, a cofactor in the metabolism of pyruvate, is another interesting relative of the B vitamins. It is not essential in humans, but it does have some medicinal effects and is safe. It helps protect the liver and aids in detoxification, particularly for the effects of radiation. This vitamin can be taken at levels of about 100 mg. daily for these effects.
The sulfur-containing amino acids have a protective and detoxifying effect. L-cysteine, the primary one, may help neutralize many heavy metal toxins and toxic by-products (aldehydes) of smoking, smog, alcohol, and fats through its precursor role in the formation of glutathione, a tripeptide essential to the action of several important enzymes, particularly glutathione peroxidase. Since glutathione itself is not very stable or thought to be well utilized as an oral supplement, L-cysteine appears best utilized for this protective purpose. Methionine, another sulfur-containing amino acid, also has mild detoxification and protective functions.
Fiber, both the insoluble type, such as wheat bran, and the more soluble psyllium husks, encourage natural detoxification in the colon, binding toxins and reducing absorption of metals. Another chelating fiber is the algin molecule, sodium alginate, that comes from seaweeds. It can be utilized as a supplement to decrease absorption of minerals, especially the heavy metals and radioactive metals used in nuclear power plants and medical testing. The chlorophyll-containing algae, such as chlorella and spirulina also provide this chelating effect, though more mildly than the alginate extracts. Several studies have shown a decreased absorption of radioactive strontium (Sr90) as well as barium, silver, mercury, cadmium, zinc, and manganese with the use of oral alginates. Two other nutrients that are popular in antioxidant and antistress energizing formulas are the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) and dimethylglycine (DMG). Although there has been little supporting research on the oral use of these nutrients, many people who take them describe improved energy and mental clarity.
Regarding radiation exposure, the first suggestion is to avoid it whenever possible. Minimize irradiating medical tests. Particularly avoid medical body scans, which may require injection of radioactive metals such as cobalt 60, iodine 131, or technitium 90. With x-rays, shield the thymus gland, an important immunological organ in the upper chest. When dental x-rays are taken, ask the dental technician for a thyroid (neck) screen. The dentist should have a lead “thyroid collar” available. Do not live near a nuclear power plant or an industry that employs radioactive wastes or toxic chemicals. Also, do not eat fish caught from waters containing effluents from these factories. Frequent high-altitude airline flights increase radiation exposure. Avoid irradiated foods that may be treated with nuclear waste containing cobalt 60 or cesium 137. We do not “officially” know the effects of consuming treated food, but I am not overly optimistic. (See Chapter 11, sections on Food Irradiation and 88 Survival Suggestions.)
With any radioactive iodine tests or exposure to iodine fallout, take kelp or iodine for several weeks before and after the test to occupy the iodine-binding sites (unless, of course, this will interfere with the test) so that the least amount of the radioactive element will stay in the body.
Strontium 90 competes with calcium and also lowers vitamin D. Taking extra vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium plus kelp and algin, pectin and lecithin, and L-cysteine may reduce absorption and speed elimination to prevent strontium 90 from getting stored in the bones.
Radiation causes many undesirable internal reactions, especially in the most prolific tissues, such as the gastrointestinal tract and skin. Radiation therapy may affect the appetite, tastes, and the ability to eat. Radiation is cumulative, and many things may add to it, from color TV and microwaves to x-rays and fallout exposure. We need a good protective program! When living in areas with high background radiation, it is wise to take higher amounts of antioxidants regularly.
Several writers have offered guidelines for protection against the effects of radiation. Paavo Airola, in How to Get Well, suggests a plan of high amounts of vitamin C with rutin, extra pantothenic acid, brewer’s yeast, yogurt, vitamin F or essential fatty acids, inositol and lecithin, and lemon juice or lemon peel. Stuart Berger’s guide-lines in The Immune Power Diet include extra potassium, 1200 mg. of calcium, and 800 mg. of magnesium in addition to his usual environmental protection plan of 4–6 grams of vitamin C, 600 IUs of vitamin E, 100 mg. of zinc, and 20,000 IUs of beta-carotene. In The Complete Guide to Anti-Aging Nutrients, Sheldon Hendler recommends vitamins C and E, niacin, and copper to protect against the effects of x-rays and environmental toxins.
In addition to radiation, this program will also help against environmental pollutants, including a number of toxic chemicals, such as carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide from the air, various pesticides and volatile hydrocarbons, food additives such as nitrites and sulfites, and toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. Cigarette smoke is a big problem, mainly for those who choose to smoke or cannot quit. (A Nicotine Detoxification program is offered in Chapter 18.)
A number of herbs and food extracts can be used to help detoxification and decrease the risks from environmental pollution. The algins, mentioned earlier, help clear metal and radiation toxins. Fibers such as wheat (or oat) bran and psyllium seed husks help to increase toxin elimination. Alfalfa, rich in chlorophylls and vitamin K, may help reduce tissue damage with radiation exposure. Apple pectin also helps bind and clear intestinal metal and chemical toxins. In The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine, Daniel Mowrey recommends a formula for environmental pollution including alfalfa, algin (from seaweed or algae), wheat bran, apple pectin, and kelp. These help to decrease the toxicity of chemical and metal pollutants; in addition, this high-fiber formula helps to reduce cholesterol levels and is often useful in treating colds and flus, where bowel elimination is so important. Extra vitamin E and fish oils containing DHA and EPA as well as an antioxidant formula with additional vitamin C may make this formula work even better. Of course, we as a culture must pay heed. Even our potential healing sources (water, food, oils, etc.) can become toxic if we do not care for Earth’s environment.
The table on the following page concentrates on the nutrients that protect against damage by toxins and free radicals. These nutrients offer protection by providing immune support, antioxidant and anticancer effects, and detoxification. The amounts listed are daily totals, usually taken in several portions over the course of the day.
|Vitamin A||10,000–15,000 IUs||Iodine||150–300 mcg.|
|Beta-carotene||15,000–30,000 IUs||Iron||15–20 mg.|
|Vitamin D||400 IUs||Magnesium||350–650 mg.|
|Vitamin E||800–1,000 IUs||Manganese||15 mg.|
|Vitamin K||500 mcg.||Molybdenum||600 mcg.|
|Thiamine (B1)||25–75 mg.||Selenium,|
|Riboflavin(B2)||25–75 mg.||Silicon||100 mg.|
|Niacin (B3)||150 mg.||Zinc||60 mg.|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||1,000 mg.|
|Pyridoxine (B6)||50–100 mg.||L-amino acids||500 mg.|
|Pyridoxal-5-phosphate||25–50 mg.||L-cysteine+||500 mg.|
|Cobalamin (B12)||100–200 mcg.||L-methionine+||250 mg.|
|Folic acid||800 mcg.||Lipoic acid||100 mg.|
|Biotin||500 mcg.||Chlorophyll||6 tablets or 2 tsp.|
|PABA||100 mg.||Sodium alginate||300–600 mg.|
|Vitamin C||6,000 mg.|
*A high-fiber diet and/or 6 g. each of wheat bran and psyllium husks.
+Take with three times the amount of vitamin C.
Anti-Stress, Immune Enhancement, Cancer Prevention, and General Detoxification