Close this search box.

Managing Radiation Exposure By Dr Neil McKinney, ND

We are all exposed to cosmic radiation, radioactive elements in the Earth below us, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, radionuclides released from nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima, and escapement from many nuclear facilities. We expose ourselves voluntarily to increased radiation when we fly in airplanes, use wifi and cellular phones (1), and when we undergo medical imaging such as PET, bone or CT scans.

Most scans such as PET and bone scans use relatively “soft-emitters” that deliver a low dose of weakly energetic particles, doing minimal damage.

Of greatest concern are CT scans, which are a huge dose of highly energetic X-rays at one time.(2) A chest CT can deliver over 100 times the dose of a common chest X-ray. This is as much or more as survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs endured. People with lowered DNA repair capacity are particularly are at risk, but even those with robust defenses are at risk of lymphoma and other cancers from approximately 11 CT scans in their lifetime.

There is no safe dose of radiation. Large biological molecules such as DNA can be damaged, sometimes irreparably. The delicate vascular endothelium is particularly sensitive, as are rapidly dividing tissues such as the bone marrow and gut lining. Irradiated tissues can lose the ability to heal. Initially there is a robust inflammatory response by the immune system, a slow but relentless chain-reaction of fibrosis or scarring ensues, gradually reducing blood flow. After many years, irradiated tissue may be unable to heal from trauma or surgery. There is locally increased risk of thrombus (clot) formation, TIAs, stroke, and myocardial infarction. Transforming growth factor beta one TGFβ-1 is involved in the injury response and subsequent persistent stromal changes in the collagen and hyaluronic acid of the extra-cellular matrix.

Be aware that you can increase this damage by taking “radio-sensitizers” such as quercetin, St. John’s Wort, niacin and niacinamide forms of vitamin B3, soy genestein,(4) cinnamon, mint, manganese, iron and copper. Do not supplement with these the day before and the day of radiation exposure. Of course we would use radio-sensitizers if we were getting radiation as a therapy such as for cancer, where killing cells is the point.

Do not put any oil-based skin care products on skin that will be exposed to radiation. Lipid peroxidation from radiation hitting fats creates rampant cell killing. You cannot wash off enough to prevent damage, so don’t use any pre-exposure.

Radiation can induce a profound drop in anti-oxidant status, marked by signs of oxidative stress such as persistently low serum albumin, bilirubin and uric acid. Antioxidant-rich foods such as berry juices(5) and aloe vera juice(7) are highly protective of mucosal surfaces and the throat.

The leading remedies to reduce and undo damage to healthy tissue hit by radiation are:

  • Vitamin A (retinol palmitate) – 50,000 IU twice daily for 2 days before and about 2 weeks after exposure. (8, 9)
  • Berberine 900-1,000 mg daily in divided doses is highly protective of the gut, bladder, heart, lungs, etc. and can undo damage such a pneumonitis or proctitis. Ironically it is also a radiosensitizer, but more for malignant cells than healthy cells. Net result is protection of good cells.(10)
  • Ashwagandha herb Withania somnifera is a significant protector of healthy cells.
  • L-glutamine 0.5-1 tsp tid at meals protects the throat, gut and nerves.(11, 12)

Remedies to consider post-exposure include:

  • Curcumin reduces inflammation, lipid peroxidation, and fibrosis (13).
  • Quercitin – 100 mg bid also heals fibrosis (14).
  • Aged garlic extracts enhance DNA repair and reduce immune suppression by radiation.
  • Super-oxide dismutase SOD repairs radiation injury to the bladder and GI tract. SOD can be elevated significantly by taking pomegranate juice, and goji berry, also called wolfberry or Lycium barbarum.
  • Shark liver oil alkylglycerols reduce secondary tissue damage by about 60%, but it’s a dirty oil.
  • Glutathione or its pre-cursor N-acetyl-cysteine.
  • Green tea polyphenols.
  • Homeopathic remedies to repertorize: Radium bromatum, Radium iodatum, X-ray, Thuja occidentalis, Cadmium iodatum, Cadmium sulpuricum, Calcarea fluoricum, Fluoric acidicum, Phosphoricum acidicum, Cobaltum metallicum, Rhus venatum, and Belladonna. Arsenicum bromatum is particularly helpful for radiation burns
  • Traditional Chinese medicine TCM describe radiation damage as “deficiency heat”. I use Da Bu Yin Wan formula to correct this imbalance. TCM formulas can address issues such as deficient qi, blood and yin, blood heat, and blood stasis. Rehmannia based formuals like this must not be used during exposure, only afterwards.
  • Red wine can reduce the risk of acute radiation toxicity, including high-grade skin toxicity, without affecting anti-tumour efficacy. Resveratrol is likely the active ingredient. Enjoy one glass daily for good health!
  • Probiotics help protect the gut from radiation injury, and protect immune competence.
  • Vitamin E helps repair tissue including radiation esophagitis by mouth and proctitis by suppository.(15)

People undergoing medical scans using contrast agents such as gadolinium can also suffer injury from the dye. Defend yourself and detoxify with green drinks, chlorella and Epsom salt baths.

[Note: Dr. McKinney worked for years in radiation research including many conventional sources, as well as sub-atomic pi meson beams at the TRIUM cyclotron at the University of British Columbia, and also researched radio-sensitizing drugs.]


  1. Hardell, L. et al. Occup. Envir. Med. 2007; 64 (9): 626-632.
  2. Smith-Bindman, R., et al. al., Arch. Intern. Med. 2009; 169 (22): 2078-2086.
  3. Horsman, M.R., et al, Int. J. Rad. Onc. Biophys. 1988; 15: 685-690.
  4. Ahmad I.U., et al. Nutr. Cancer 2010; 627: 996-1000.
  5. Borek, 2004. J. Nutr. 134: S3207-S-3209.
  6. Ravasco, P., et al., J. Clin. Oncol. 2005; 23: 1348-1349, 1431-1438.
  7. Richardson, J., et al., Clin. Oncol (R. Coll. Radiol). 2005; 17 (6): 478-484.
  8. Levenson, S.M., et al., Ann Surg 1984; 200 (4): 494-512.
  9. Levitsky, J., et al. Dis Colon Rectum 2003; 46 (5): 679- 682.
  10. Liu, Y., et al. Eur. J. Cancer 2008; 44 (16): 2425-2432.
  11. Huang, E.Y., et al., Int. J. Radiat. Oncol. Biol. Phys. 2000; 46 (3): 535–539.
  12. Savarese, D.M., et al., Cancer Treat. Rev. 2003: 29 (6): 501-513.
  13. Verma, V. World J. Clin. Oncol. 2016; 7 (3): 275-283.
  14. Horton, J.A., et al.., Radiat. Res. 2013; 180 (2): 205-215.
  15. Bairati, I., et al. J. Clin. Oncol. 2005; 23 (24): 5805-5813. 

Like this post?