Whether you’re taking a flight for a holiday or for business, you may not realize the health risk associated with flying. Radiation exposure during a flight gives you a hundred times more radiation than CT scans, dental X-rays, and airport scanners because you’re high up in the atmosphere and exposed to cosmic rays. Did you know a round-trip, cross-country flight is like getting a chest X-ray?
How to mitigate the effects of radiation exposure
Eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants helps reduce and promote greatest protection against DNA damage. Antioxidants, such as phytonutrients from plants, are key players in protecting against radiation damage. These dietary antioxidants, such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, and lutein-zeaxanthin for example, are not only health promoting but are also phytonutrients you need for reducing free radicals produced from radiation. Combinations of fruits and vegetables have synergistic effects, and individuals consuming a variety of these whole plant foods reap the benefits of protection. During a flight, you want maximum protection and choosing something convenient and powerful like kale chips, ginger chews, prunes, or packets of lemon balm or ginger tea to brew while flying is wise. You want to focus on foods with the highest amount of antioxidants.
What the science says
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health did a study on airline pilots since they have high radiation exposure. The results showed a diet consisting of a variety of fruit and vegetables, a natural source of antioxidants and other protective factors, offers the best protection against cumulative DNA damage. They conclude their results apply to flight crews, astronauts in space flight, and frequent flyers of the general population.
After following Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors for decades, the same observance applied here as well. Models based on the data from the Radiation Effects Research Foundation suggest the cancer risk in exposed persons decreased, dropping to 30% from 50% after daily green and vegetable consumption. Fruit consumption exhibited similar effects as well.
Researchers at the Manipal Life Sciences Center found that zingerone, a phytonutrient in cooked ginger, protects against DNA damage. They studied cells blasted with gamma rays and observed the presence of ginger phytonutrients lessened DNA damage, and fewer free radicals existed. This prompted screenings of other plants, and the same radiation-protective effects are in garlic, turmeric, goji berries, and mint leaves.
A study done on hospital workers exposed to radiation showed similar results. Technicians who run x-ray machines suffered chromosomal damage. They have higher levels of oxidative stress within their body. Researchers found that radiation staff who drank two cups a day of lemon balm tea for a month – an herbal tea known to have high levels of antioxidants – had an increase of antioxidant enzyme levels in their bloodstream. Levels of free radical damage also decreased, suggesting lemon balm tea protects against radiation-induced oxidative stress and improves the antioxidant defense system.
What to remember the next time you’re flying
Already, a myriad of environmental factors harms our health daily. Flying is just one of them. Living in a modern world, the convenience of flying is necessary in some cases. We can’t avoid radiation exposure while flying, but we can mitigate it. Eating a daily dose of fruits and vegetables is beneficial to our health in many ways, and it’s even more crucial to include these antioxidant-rich plant foods into your diet as a frequent flyer. These phytonutrients found from plants provide an excellent health insurance. They may not eliminate risks of radiation completely, but they sure can reduce it.
Final thoughts and airport scanners
As a traveler, I wrote this post to share with other avid travelers so you’re aware of the consequences of air travel. This doesn’t mean you should avoid flying altogether, but keep in mind your health and take precautions in minimizing or mitigating radiation exposure at the airport and while flying. Of course, if you can take a train or drive, it’s always better to do that instead.
Before with the backscatter X-ray, people were exposed to radiation and hence the reason for it being obsolete. The company that designed it said it was designed to function, not for public’s safety.
The current scanner is the millimeter wave scanner, which comes in two varieties: active and passive. Active scanners direct millimeter wave energy at you and interpret the reflected energy. Passive systems create images using ambient radiation and radiation emitted from the body. Millimeter wavelength radiation is a subset of the microwave radio frequency spectrum. Because it is lower in energy in the electromagnetic spectrum, it is thought safer and incapable of causing cancers. However, the World Health Organization classifies it as a possible carcinogen to humans because the millimeter waves penetrate into the tissue, albeit less than 1 mm, but irradiation localizes the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin and causes thermal effects.
Nick and I never go through the airport scanner when we have to fly as well, even though the airport workers claim it’s harmless and that there is no radiation exposure. They are informed that but really have no in-depth knowledge of the consequences. We always avoid it no matter what, always opting out for pat-downs. We’ve been given a hard time at times, especially at Heath Row, but our health is our number one concern. We arrive early to airports and allow ourselves enough time to get pat-downs in the event we’re chosen for the scanner.
As for flying, we always pack kale chips, ginger chews or ginger products to consume during the time of flight. And just in general, we practice healthy eating on a daily basis, consuming antioxidants all throughout the day, every day.
I encourage those who fly often to think about your health when flying. We already have a myriad of health concerns to deal with. Radiation exposure from flying is just one of those concerns, so travel wisely and safely.
We leave Barcelona tomorrow and will be flying to Toronto for our next sojourn. So, see you from Toronto the next time I post!
Safe and happy travels!
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