Detox Learning Center

Radioactive Elements: Possible Exposure, Symptoms, and Protecting Your Health

What silent, tasteless, and often odorless substance could negatively affect your body without you knowing it? Radioactive elements.  

When you first hear “radioactive,” you may think of superheroes. But radioactive elements can apply to more than just comic books and movies—they may also impact your daily life. 

Sometimes these elements occur naturally, but that doesn't make them safe. Human activities, such as mining, can stir up these elements and increase your exposure. Radioactive elements could also reside in your home and water. Many medical procedures contain them as well.

Radioactive elements might be the underlying factor behind chronic fatigue, brain fog, pain, and hormone issues. They are also linked to cancer.

But more than that, radioactive elements affect you on a deep cellular level by compromising your mitochondrial function. And when you can’t function at the lowest level, you will certainly not function at higher levels. 

What Are Radioactive Elements? 

When elements like plutonium, uranium, and radium begin to break down, they become unstable. That’s called radioactive decay. It can give off a tremendous amount of energy called ionizing radiation. (1)

This type of radiation is so strong that it can knock electrons out of molecules. That could damage your tissues all the way down to your mitochondrial function and DNA. (1

Radioactive elements keep “decaying” or transforming until they become stable. Each transformation yields a new product. A radioactive element's half-life is the time it takes for the element to reduce in strength by half. Each one has a different half-life, ranging from seconds to billions of years. (2

This means that radioactive elements may affect you for long periods of time, not just for a passing moment.

There are three main types of ionizing radiation: (1)

  • Alpha radiation: The largest of the three radioactive element particles, alpha particles lose their energy relatively fast over a short distance. Skin or clothing easily obstruct them. Alpha radiation is most dangerous if you inhale or ingest it. Radon is an example of alpha radiation and is commonly found in drinking water, which we will discuss later in more depth.
  • Beta radiation: This type is faster, stronger, and can travel farther. Beta radiation can pass through your first few layers of skin and possibly cause a burn. But similar to alpha radiation, beta radiation inflicts the most damage when inhaled or ingested. Think of standing close to a fire versus swallowing a hot coal. Lead-210—found in high-phosphate fertilizers and cigarettes—emits beta radiation.
  • Gamma radiation: These radioactive particles are pure energy and are the strongest, most dangerous ones we have discovered. Gamma radiation can easily pass through your body. It would take several feet of concrete to stop gamma particles. They can generate severe mitochondrial and DNA damage. Examples include nuclear fusion, radioactive tracers for medical tests, and cancer treatment.

As already mentioned, radioactive elements are silent, odorless, and tasteless. You may have been exposed without knowing it. 


Radioactive elements may be found in water and food


How Are You Exposed to Radioactive Elements?

Areas where a nuclear incident has occurred—such as Chernobyl, Fukishema, or Three Mile Island—are obvious places where radioactive elements would exist. You may think you’re safe from exposure if you live far from these parts of the world. 

But lingering effects of these tragedies spread. Since the half-life of some radioactive elements goes far beyond a lifetime, these harmful substances don’t disappear quickly. They may creep into your body in several ways without your permission. Plus, there are many other possibilities for exposure during your everyday life.

Food and water

Radioactive elements in soil and rocks can leach out and contaminate water supplies. You may think that city water has been “treated.” But municipal water treatment plants are usually unequipped to remove radioactive elements. (3, 4)

Even when a community has the ability to monitor radioactive element levels, they don't always do so. Unfortunately, they don’t always report their findings either. (5)

Studies in several countries—including the United States, Thailand, and Canada—show that some areas of those countries have high levels of radioactive elements in their water supply. Researchers observed an increased rate of cancer in the more contaminated regions. (6

One analysis suggests that 170 million people across all 50 states in the U.S. may have potentially dangerous levels of radioactive elements in their drinking water. Since alpha and beta radiation are more dangerous ingested or inhaled, that makes radioactive elements in your water a serious health issue. (7

If radioactive elements are in your water, it stands to reason that they may exist in your food as well. After all, plants absorb water and are exposed to the same environment as you. Trace amounts of radioactive elements may also reside in seafood, meat, eggs, milk, and plant-based foods. (8)   

More concerning, though, is how glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, may increase the amount of radioactive element plants absorb from the soil. One study demonstrated that applying glyphosate to plants at the end of the growing season skyrocketed uranium levels from 2.5 to 17 times. (9

Phosphate-based fertilizers may also contain significant amounts of radioactive elements, such as uranium, thorium, radium, and others. As phosphorus is made into fertilizer, the radioactive elements are concentrated. Then if plants absorb the fertilizer, these elements enter the food chain. (10)   

Your environment

As you already read, radioactive elements can be naturally occurring. Some areas have natural deposits of radioactive elements that are higher than others. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analyzed every U.S. county. They determined the level of radon, a specific radioactive element, for each area. States such as Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming currently have the highest radon levels. (11)

Radon can seep into your home from cracks in your home’s foundation or walls. It can also come in through plumbing pipes that aren't sealed well. Once in your home, radon can’t escape. It builds up, contributing to mitochondrial dysfunction—even while you sleep. (12, 13)

Remember, radioactive elements lack an odor for you to notice. Because people aren’t alerted to radon’s presence, exposure in the home may account for thousands of deaths every year. (12)

Some of your home’s building materials can also give off low levels of radiation. Granite countertops, concrete, sandstone, and brick are a few sources of naturally occurring radioactive elements. (14)

Other ways radioactive elements could release into your air and environment include: (15

  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Oil and gas production
  • Coal use
  • Cigarettes 

Surprisingly, research suggests that radiation from industry and manufacturing may account for a person’s lowest exposure amount. It may only add up to around 0.1% of your yearly exposure. (16



Medical procedures

Different types of diagnostic imaging your doctor orders could have radiation or radioactive elements. In fact, medical procedures account for the largest amount of radiation exposure for the average person. It may add up to as much as 48% of total exposure for the US population. (16)   

You are subjected to radiation through: (16, 17

  • X-rays
  • Fluoroscopy (several continuous x-ray images, almost like an x-ray “movie”)
  • Angiograms (x-rays of your blood vessels)
  • Computed tomography scan (CT scan)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Medical isotopes or “contrast dye” (injections or oral material you swallow containing radioactive elements to obtain a better picture from your CT scan, PET scan, or MRI)

It’s important to note that it doesn't matter which of these tests you receive. Some will expose you to slightly less radiation than others, but there is no safe dose of ionizing radiation. (18

Cancer treatment may also involve radiation and not just because you may receive some of the above tests. Doctors may use concentrated beams of radiation on cancerous cells to help kill them. Oddly enough, research suggests that 8% of cancers are from radiation cancer treatment. (17, 19

Symptoms of Exposure

If you are suddenly exposed to high levels of radiation in a short period of time, you’re likely to notice significant symptoms. You may have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite. Skin issues like rashes, itching, and blisters could happen as well. People undergoing radiation cancer treatment, for example, might experience these symptoms. (20)  

But what about the chronic lower levels of radioactive elements that may reside in your food, water, and home? What would those symptoms be?

The truth is constant low levels of radiation exposure aren't obvious. And the symptoms aren’t either. You could experience any of the following issues. (212223, 2425)

  • General symptoms: You may connect your fatigue, low iron levels, dry and itchy skin, low blood cell count, or hair loss to other issues when the root cause is actually radiation. 
  • Chronic candida infections: Candida is an opportunistic yeast that takes advantage of lower immune defenses. Studies on people undergoing cancer treatment suggest that radiation doesn’t kill candida and may actually give it an environment to flourish.   
  • Brain issues: You may have seizures, earaches, headaches, brain fog and forgetfulness, speech and learning difficulties, and hormone irregularities with your hypothalamus, thyroid, or pituitary gland. It may also impact your mental health. 
  • Head and neck challenges: Issues like a sore or dry mouth, taste changes, trouble swallowing, hoarse voice, dry eyes, stiff jaw, and tooth decay could be radiation symptoms.
  • Chest issues: That chronic heartburn, cough, or breast swelling may be linked to radiation. Irregular heartbeat, a pounding heartbeat, or heart failure are among the chest-related radiation concerns.
  • Abdominal symptoms: You might brush off your indigestion, bloating, gas, or diarrhea as coming from other sources. But radioactive elements may inflame or kill cells in your gut. Stomach ulcers and kidney issues could also surface.
  • Pelvic area issues: Pooping may become painful, and you might experience discomfort while peeing or bladder infections. You could also lose control of your bowels or bladder. Fertility concerns and sexual dysfunction in both men and women may be linked to a radioactive element exposure. A study in mice showed that low-dose radiation might kill sperm. 

  • This list of potential symptoms related to radioactive elements is long. But how does chronic radiation exposure really impact your body?


    Chronic low levels of radiation can cause a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms


    How Does Radiation Affect Your Health?

    Because radiation alters molecules right down to their electrons, it can affect every part of your body. Radioactive elements may hinder your mitochondrial function, DNA, and immune system. Any exposed cells are in jeopardy of becoming damaged. (26

    Mitochondrial function

    Mitochondria are your biological batteries within all cells, excluding your red blood cells. You possess hundreds to thousands per cell, depending on the location in your body. (27)

    Your health depends on these powerful little organelles. And not just for energy, but also for new cell production, virus protection, detox, and DNA repair.  (28, 29)

    But radioactive elements could throw a wrench into mitochondrial performance. Radiation generates significant amounts of free radicals. That can mutate your mitochondrial DNA over time. Mitochondrial DNA is more vulnerable to damage because it cannot produce all the same proteins as your cellular DNA. That makes it difficult to repair broken DNA. (30, 31

    Once mitochondria have mutated, so has their ability to function. Energy creation goes down, which could potentially lead to premature aging, muscle weakness, and the breaking down of your nerves. That can lead to issues such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. (30)

    Your mitochondria are programmed to “recycle” when they mutate to make way for new mitochondria. Exposure to radioactive elements blocks this process, which may eventually trigger your cells to die. (31)


    Chronic low levels of radioactive elements may lead to cancer in the same way they harm your mitochondria—through mutation. Your DNA are living “blueprints” for cell creation. If the blueprints are changed (mutated), you will produce dysfunctional cells. (32)

    Your cells work hard to fix damaged DNA because they want to keep the blueprints the same. But radiation may cause more broken DNA than your cells can correct. Plus, sometimes your cells aren’t able to make repairs correctly. (32)

    For example, let’s say you have radioactive elements in your drinking water. Your stomach would bear the brunt of the radiation. If the half-life of the radioactive elements you ingest is 3.8 days, and you drink water every day, the damage would accumulate. You’d eventually reach a point of having more damage than your cells could fix. (6

    Mutations may not happen immediately, either. They can occur in the next set of cells produced and may increase whenever a cell replicates. These mutations can cause cells to grow out of control, which may lead to cancer. (32)

    As mentioned above, areas with higher levels of radioactive elements in their water had increased rates of cancer. And research suggests that living near a nuclear power plant may raise the risk of cancers, such as childhood leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. (6, 32)

    Additional effects

    We see how radioactive elements impact your mitochondrial function and DNA. But how does that affect your body organs and systems?

    Ionizing radiation may undermine the following areas.

  • Bone health: The radioactive element radium is a “bone seeker.” It is chemically similar to calcium and may replace calcium in your bones. Radium also lowers blood flow to your bones, reducing the amount of nutrients getting to your bones. Uranium can usurp calcium in your bones as well. Because of this, radiation may be a factor in osteoporosis. (25, 33, 34)
  • Immune system: Your immune cells start their formation in your bone marrow. If radiation compromises your bones, that will also affect your immune system. Radioactive elements devastate your immune system because of how they mutate your immune cells and cause dysfunction. (26, 34
  • Kidney function: Your kidneys help filter out wastes and toxins, including radioactive elements. Radiation injures the delicate tubes in your kidneys, and they absorb and store 12–25% of the radioactive elements that pass through. It may also change your kidneys’ abilities to absorb water for the rest of your body. (6)
  • Heart health: Population studies of groups receiving higher amounts of radiation (medical treatment or healthcare work) suggests that radiation may increase your risk of heart disease. Animal tests reveal radiation may cause your blood vessel lining to swell, as well as cholesterol to clog your arteries. (35)
  • Future generations: A study on pregnant women suggests radioactive elements may increase birth defects. Because of their healthcare jobs, these women had higher levels of ionizing radiation exposure. Their babies had elevated levels of birth defects, such as the baby’s intestines forming outside of their bodies, or the baby’s colon partially or altogether missing. (36)

  • All these issues can sound scary. But being aware of and educated on radioactive elements means you can take action to protect you and your family.


    Protect yourself from radioactive elements


    Ways to Protect Yourself

    Radioactive elements may exist all around you, but you can still take steps to minimize and counteract their effects. You can enhance both your body and your environment to protect yourself from radioactive elements. 

    Your body

    The best place to start is strengthening your body and removing radiation from your tissues. You can begin this process through the following lifestyle changes or supplements. (33, 3738, 39, 4041)

  • Increasing drainage: You eliminate about 98% of radium through your poop, so make sure you are pooping 2 to 3 times a day. Bowel-moving herbs like ginger, aloe, and fennel can help open your drainage pathways
  • Carbon-based binders: Research suggests that the fulvic and humic acids in carbon-based binders bind and remove radioactive elements. Carbon-based binders also contain building blocks to help repair tissues. 
  • Mitochondrial support: Supplements containing super-charged polyelectrolytes from carbon-based binders may help restore mitochondrial function. That could help prevent your all-important biological batteries from mutating.  
  • Fulvic acid and humic acid minerals: As mentioned above, the presence of organic minerals in your body may help your DNA stabilize and avoid damage. 
  • Iodine:
    When iodine properly combines with carbon-based binders, it can help kick radioactive elements out of your cells. This element with carbon-based binders may boost thyroid function, even if you have autoimmune issues.  
  • Kidney and liver support: Since your body uses your kidneys and liver to filter out radioactive elements, help shield your kidneys and liver from damage with herbs that strengthen them. For example, beetroot, milk thistle, and parsley.
  • Drink safe water: You need water to detox your body, but make sure to drink safe water (free of radioactive elements). Reverse osmosis or distilled water are your best choices. 
  • Zinc: Zinc may help protect your DNA from the harmful effects of radioactive elements. This mineral stabilizes your DNA, enhances DNA repair, and acts as an antioxidant against free radical damage.

  • Your environment

    If you live in the United States, check the radon map to see whether you live in a high-radon area. You may be especially vulnerable to high levels of radon in your home if you live in Colorado, Iowa, or Minnesota.

    Getting your home tested for radon is a good thing to do, even if you don’t live in a red area. Old and new homes can have issues with radon. Also, radon levels can change throughout the year. Radon typically increases in colder months when you need to heat your home. 

    Around 1 in 15 homes in the United States may have elevated radon levels. Ask your state government department about contractors trained to fix radon issues.  

    Be Proactive Against Radioactive Elements

    Radioactive elements—both naturally occurring and man-made—are all around you. They could reside in your water, food, and home. Your highest exposure may be through medical procedures.

    Ionizing radiation damages your mitochondrial function and breaks your DNA. It’s linked to cancer, candida infections, fatigue, and gut issues. 

    Fortunately, you can take action against it. You can support your mitochondria and help protect DNA from mutating. Carbon-based binders, iodine, zinc, and plant-based minerals help remove radiation. They also stabilize DNA and boost your ability to repair tissues. Plus, herbs to enhance kidney and liver health can help guard your detox organs against radiation damage.

    To avoid ingesting radioactive elements in the first place, drink safe water. You can also check and fix your home if it’s a source of radon exposure. 

    Effective, simple steps are usually the best ones. And there are many you can take to protect you and your loved ones from radioactive elements.

    What’s the first step you will take?

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