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Do You Need to Detox from Radiation After Flying on a Plane?

Plane radiation-after traveling should I be detoxing?

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was still teaching third grade at a Catholic school. I have a number of vivid memories from that time, when my journey to real food and natural living was on its first shaky baby steps (like switching from margarine to butter and letting my husband clean the toilet with the toxic cleaners so I didn’t breathe the fumes).

The first was the only time I got truly sick to my stomach, the day I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to take my husband to the airport and didn’t know enough about eating protein (and eating and eating all the time) but went right to school. Not my best morning!

The next was my consternation over writing a letter to my principal informing him of the pregnancy (and late April due date and all that would entail), only to find out that, as perhaps the most perceptive male ever born, he already knew –just by looking at my eyes, even before we had even told all the new grandparents the happy news.

It was that same sort of “elder matriarch of the tribe” wisdom that was the framework for my third vivid memory. My principal noticed me stationed in front of the microwave in the teachers’ lounge, dutifully watching my leftovers rotate and magically warm, my then-quite-pregnant belly less than a foot from the machine. He scolded me soundly – I don’t remember the exact words, but his message was clear in a tone that only a principal can employ.

At the time, I thought it was a rather overprotective and perhaps foolish gesture, but I had the sense enough to back away.

Now, with a microwave that came with the house and mainly serves as a storage space for my cast iron pan, I think we’d be pretty much on the same page on that hesitancy. (I wrote about what I learned about microwave use back in 2009 as we took tiny baby steps to reducing our usage, which resulted in surprising benefits of a microwave-free life.)

Although we’re really looking at radiation from flying in an airplane today, we must begin and end with everyday life – you’ll see why as we get going (and why you should keep reading even if you’re not flying anytime soon).

Note and update: Many in the comments have disagreed with the premise of the post completely, that there is no need or no way to “detox” from radiation after flying – that radiation isn’t something that can “sit” in your body that you can or need to shed later. However, if radiation is going to harm your body, antioxidants are still a good thing to fight the effects of radiation. So…enjoy the post anyway, but be sure to read the comments as well. Thanks!

Are X-Rays Used in Airport Security?

Are x-rays used in airport security?

There are a number of technologies regularly used to detect weapons and other means of destruction in airports: the now-old-fashioned metal detector, backscatter full-body scanners and the newest rendition, millimeter wave scanners.

“Backscatter machines…send low-energy X-rays to bounce off a passenger’s body. Millimeter wave scanners emit energy more akin to microwaves. Both see through clothing to produce a 3-D image of the person standing in the machine.” (source)

As far as how much radiation is honestly affecting an air traveler, “… people absorb less radiation from airport X-ray backscatter scanner than they do while standing in line waiting for the scan itself.” (source)

What’s wrong with waiting in line? Does it have to do with proximity to the machine…or just standing on the surface of the earth?

Traveling as a family with real food in real life is a lot of work, but it’s so worth it. Learn from my experience packing a family of 6 up in a van for a two-month road trip. See what we brought with us, what we left home, how we ate healthy for cheap while we were away from home, and most impressively how we fit everything we needed for two months in the van with all 6 of us!

Print the Road Trip Packing List: Your Guide to Stress-Free Packing

Why I Laughed at How People Downplayed the Risks of those “New” TSA Scanning Machines

Airplane Flights and Radiation Exposure

As of June 1, 2013, all the backscatter scanning devices have been removed from U.S. airports for privacy reasons (they were already banned in Europe for health concerns). (source)

These machines used low levels of X-ray technology, bouncing the rays off the person but returning a very detailed, clothing-less image that was often called “virtual strip searching.”

When they were first widely used, officials downplayed any potential radiation risk by saying things like, “Passengers are exposed to just as much radiation from the flight itself as the new scanners…” That never comforted me, because it would be just as easy to say, “New scanners double exposure to radiation!” It’s all about how you spin a statistic, isn’t it?

The TSA firmly maintains that the backscatter machines were perfectly safe and that privacy concerns were the sole reason for their removal. The machines are in storage and may be back in use if software can remedy the “too much information” problems with the body images.

Most backscatter machines have been replaced with the new millimeter wave scanners. 700 are in use in the U.S.; most other countries do not use full body scanners of any kind. Millimeter wave scanners emit radio waves similar to cell phones and microwaves and have raised practically no health concerns…at least in mainstream circles. (source)

Nonetheless, there are many people who are wary of or completely opposed to the waves emitted from cell phones, wireless Internet, and microwaves. A quick search for “EMF risks” brings up a number of questionable studies on our wireless world and the electric and magnetic waves with which we are all constantly bombarded.

Ionizing radiation, the kind used in radiation therapy for cancer, impacts DNA and has been shown to increase cancer risk. Non-ionizing radiation, what you encounter from cell phones, microwaves, and airport scanners, cannot change one’s DNA. It is thought to be a non-factor in cancers, but recent research has shown that cell phone use does change some physiological factors in the brain, so we know that the waves do affect humans, we just don’t understand how yet. (source)

Exposure to high levels of magnetic fields may increase risk of childhood leukemia, but it seems to me that an airport security check would not significantly increase even a child’s exposure to EMFs beyond normal daily life.

So if you’re flying on a plane, you can worry less about the health risks of the security checks and more about whether you’ll be able to gather up all your things at the end and make your flight on time.

The Real Source of Radiation When you Fly on a Plane

Radiation from the Sun while Flying

I won’t make you wait for the answer: it’s exploding stars and the sun itself.

For real.

Flying so high in Earth’s atmosphere exposes airline travelers to cosmic and solar radiation, simply from being that much closer to stars exploding (which are still outside the solar system) and sun flares. A 14-hour flight has a bonus dose of radiation slightly less than a quarter of that needed for a mammogram. (source)

Although that statistic is meant again to downplay the risks, mammograms aren’t exactly something people are supposed to have very often. For frequent flyers, that can really add up.

So although your heart rate has no reason to go up while you go through the security check, you might start to worry once take-off has been successfully completed and you are fired toward the sun at breakneck speed…want to know how to get the “radiation insurance policy” and “radiation cleanup crew” for before and after your flight?

How to Prepare and Protect Yourself from Radiation During an Airplane Flight

There are practical measures you can take to resist the harmful effects of radiation from any potential scanner hazards as well as the dose you’ll get while up in the air.

1. Fly at Night

Flying at Night Reduces Risk of Radiation

You reduce your risk of radiation by 99% just by flying at night – with the sun on the other side of the world, its flares are much less of a concern to your body.

If you can’t fly at night, shoot for the ends of the day rather than high noon whenever possible. (source)

EDIT 3/29/14: One knowledgeable commenter said that cosmic radiation isn’t going to change in relation to the earth’s position toward or away from the sun, so night flying may not help. Further sourcing needed!

2. Consume Antioxidants

Consuming antioxidants to help with radiation exposure

If cancer is the risk when encountering radiation, antioxidants are the antidote, literally. Your body will have more soldiers in its battle against cell mutation if you’re packed full of antioxidants, which are found naturally in many foods, particularly:

  • Kidney and pinto beans
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Artichokes (cooked)
  • Blackberries
  • Prunes
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Pecans
  • Apples (especially Red Delicious, Granny Smith, and Gala)
  • Russet potatoes

(source: Web MD)

Dr. Mercola recommends taking 2-8 mg of astaxanthin every day, a potent antioxidant carotenoid found in marine foods. One should start at least 3 weeks before flying on a plane (frequent flyers can use daily/consistently). It can even potentially help protect your skin from sunburn/damage. (source (link removed))

EDIT 3/29/14: Again, a reader with a background in X-ray technology says that there’s no way to obtain protection from any potential cell damage before exposure, but antioxidants might help afterward.

3. Opt out of full body scanners

If backscatter machines come back or if the new machines still make you nervous, you can opt out of them and ask for a pat down search instead (although make sure someone you trust is nearby as some people have had experiences much worse than low radiation exposure because of sinful TSA employees who took advantage of the manual procedures).

How to Detox your Body from Radiation – and Who Should Bother

How to detox your body from radiation exposure

The news that backscatter machines are no more and that the new machines are as safe as microwaves is all very encouraging, and although the fact that so much radiation exposure happens just while sitting on a plane is a bit frightening, what worries me the most about the research presented in this post gets right back to everyday life.

Just by living on the earth, by being exposed without consent to countless wireless Internet signals, cell phone calls and magnetic fields from power lines and radio waves, our bodies are absorbing various forms of radiation and other invisible waves every second of the day.

While most research shows that all that has little impact on cancer, if I’ve learned one thing on this natural health journey, it’s that we don’t know what we don’t understand until it’s too late. What we don’t know can usually hurt us.

Cell Phones-protecting ourselves from EMFs

So should everyone take measures to strengthen their systems against EMFs and radiation?

Probably.

Should you be a little extra careful after taking an airplane flight, particularly if it’s lengthy or during the daytime? I will from now on.

There are a myriad of options here – don’t feel that you have to do every single one. Just pick a few and make a short list for pre- and post-flight procedures for yourself.

Sea Vegetables

Frontier Kelp Powder- help reduce radiation exposureSea vegetables like kelp, kombu and dulse are high in sodium alginate which can reduce absorption of radioactive materials in the intestine. They are also usually a good source of natural iodine, which helps the body resist absorbing radioactive iodine (this may be more for actual radiation poisoning than the kind exposed to on a flight however).

Anti-Radiation Foods to Eat

Certain foods have a protective effect against radiation in the body, including:

  • leafy greens, celery, parsley, sprouts (high in chlorophyll) (Learn how to make a DIY sprouting kit)
  • spirulina, chlorella (yaeyama) and alfalfa (high in chlorophyll)Premier Chlorella- protective affects against radiation in the body
  • apples, guavas, plums, gooseberries, oranges and other citrus fruits that are high in pectin (or pectin powder supplements)
  • nutritional yeast
  • Vitamin E
  • olive oil in large quantities
  • miso
  • garlic and onions
  • beets
  • potassium and magnesium (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!) need to be in balance – eat bananas and potato skins for potassium and leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and black beans for magnesium. Many people in the U.S. are low in magnesium; a magnesium spray might be a good idea for general health.
  • some recommend a macrobiotics diet (again for more severe radiation poisoning), which cuts meat, dairy and processed foods and emphasizes whole grains and fresh vegetables.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Bentonite Clay

Bentonite Clay from Redmond- great for detoxing

Bentonite clay is a pretty powerful detox tool and can be taken internally, used in a bath or to soak the feet only, which has nearly as much detoxing effect as a bath.

To make a clay detox bath, toss a palmful of clay into water as hot as you can stand it and soak for 15-20 minutes (or more if you need a relaxing rest, too!). I like to read a magazine and enjoy the peace and quiet. Winking smile Clay has a multitude of other uses and is actually a mainstay in our own natural medicine cabinet.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

EDIT: The X-ray tech reader stated that X-rays don’t stay in the body at all, so in fact no detoxing is needed or helpful with airport scanners…but maybe for the stress and germs encountered with travel, a clay bath might still be a good idea! 😉

Others

This site has quite an extensive list, including powdered activated charcoal, propolis and bee pollen (bring on the raw honey!), and many herbs. If you’d like more ideas, this one is worth a read.

Is Detoxing Even Real?

I came across a note at snopes.com as I was reading about oil pulling the other day which threw me for a loop – it said that all forms of detoxification are myths and “the bane of real medical science for many  years.” I’ve been immersed in the natural world long enough that “detoxing” is a totally accepted word in my vocabulary, and I had no idea that people call into question the idea that our bodies need help detoxing beyond what our liver and kidneys naturally do, or the validity of detox claims.

Unfortunately, it seems that the likes of WedMD and Medical News Today think detoxing (especially through food) is akin to snake oil, which is to say a made-up malady with made-up fixes, sold together to gullible people.

None of them talked directly about clay though. Winking smile Honestly, I’ve heard enough stories of near-miraculous healing that included detoxing that I’m not ready to write it off yet. Any thoughts on that, KSers?

MY List for Pre- and Post-Flight

Can you detox from radiation after traveling?

Detoxing may or may not be real (eye roll) but foods and supplements that have a myriad of health benefits beyond radiation protection/detox certainly aren’t going to hurt anything. Here’s what I plan on having the fam do next time we fly:

A month before flying:

  1. Eat more antioxidant foods
  2. Consider an astaxanthin supplement 

After flying on a plane:

  1. Take kelp supplements for at least a month; kelp powder is something we include in smoothies once a week or so now, so that’s not a huge deal to increase the frequency
  2. Take a clay detox bath once or twice and/or a foot soak
  3. Take clay supplements internally as well
  4. Make some sprouts – why not? It’s something I should do more regularly for the chlorophyll and enzymes anyway!

I know sometimes it seems like there are too many things to watch out for, like if we really avoided all the bad things we would neither eat nor drink anything and have no fun, ever. You just have to take a deep breath, lift your family up to God and know that we can only do our best in each situation. We take baby steps and we realize that our bodies will be able to handle quite a bit of junk and detoxify itself.

But it never hurts to know a few extra precautions if they can fit easily into your life.

Do you ever take steps to avoid/heal from radiation sources? Are you flying anytime soon?
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

35 thoughts on “Do You Need to Detox from Radiation After Flying on a Plane?”

  1. I don’t believe you can’t detox to remove radiation. Everything you do gets stored on a cellular level. Emotions, toxins, etc. I have felt like crap after X-rays and decided to do a 5 day raw cleanse— on the 3rd day I felt better than I had in yrs.

  2. I wouldn’t worry too much about anything Snopes publishes. After I read that they came to the conclusion that Aspartame is perfectly safe for human consumption, I stopped reading anything from them…

  3. Very interesting questions in your post. I first trained as a Physicist and then as a Naturopath and Detox Expert.

    I’m still pondering the day or night flight problem but for sure there is no Detox issue with radiation from the Earth or in flight. The radiation either goes through us or gets stopped. In either case there are no toxic effects to deal with – except some radiation damage.

    For that the usual anti-oxidants and some very good info supplied by the Life Extension Foundation on their website here http://is.gd/lhQthr

    Alex

    1. Thanks Alex!
      I decided to update the post with a little “So, it turns out I might be completely wrong for 80% of the post” sort of note. 🙂 It’s great to hear from people with such backgrounds, so thank you for taking the time to comment. In some ways, it’s good to know there’s no need for detox. In others…well…no one wants to think about cell damage!

      Thanks, Katie

  4. What do you make of the traces of lead in the Redmond Clay? Have you done any research on this?

    1. I’m interested to know more about this as well. I was taking the clay regularly but then I read about the aluminum it contains, so I stopped. What do you think about this?

    2. Carrie/Lindsey,
      Sorry I missed your question all week; sometimes I get behind on comments during weekdays that aren’t on that week’s posts.

      The lead in Redmond Clay is explained really well here:

      http://www.redmondclay.com/2013/why-is-there-a-warning-sticker-on-redmond-clay/

      So it’s much more about strange labeling laws than anything harmful in the product. And I hadn’t really read up on the aluminum, but here’s the answer:

      http://www.redmondclay.com/2012/what-about-the-aluminum-in-redmond-clay/

      I know, that’s coming from the company selling it – but truly, I used to do side work for them, and I’ve never experienced a more upright and kind company full of good, honest people. So I trust that source completely, and plus, it makes sense.

      I hope that clears things right up! LMK if you have any other questions and I won’t leave you hanging for 5 days. 🙂 Katie

  5. Thank you for such a concise and informative post! As a young bc survivor, I have been dreading the idea of all those extra mammograms, but I will definitely start prepping for the next one with these suggestions!

  6. I have a few questions, would you suggest this same detox for x-rays with children, such as dentist etc. I try to avoid dentists because now they want x-rays of my kids every 6 months! .but I have one with a problem so we need to go again.

    Also, with the Astaxanthin from Dr. Mercola its just sunflower seed oil with water and glycerin/gel tablets I think it might be cheaper to just use sunflower seed oil….it makes great salad dressing.

    Teresa

    1. I take Mercola’s Astaxanthin and there is definitely the 4 mg of Astaxanthin recommended as a daily dose. There is also Perilla seed oil that adds the ALA needed for the absorption of the Astaxanthin.

    2. Teresa, I am an x-ray tech with 3+ years of studying radiation biology and physics. X-rays do not linger in the body in any way. Detox will not help. The x-ray can either pass through without damaging the cell or it can damage the cell causing free radicals. There is nothing you can do to prevent this. You cannot bulk up on antioxidants to make your cells able to resist the x-ray or anything like that. However, a diet with antioxidants can help afterwards with the free radicals. I agree with you — dentists are excessive with their x-rays, and I just tell them I do not want them.

  7. Cinnamon Vogue

    Just take some real Ceylon Cinnamon Tea with you when you travel. 🙂 Not only is it one of the most powerful antioxidants (top 3), it helps you relax, improves concentration, helps aching muscles when you are cramped in those horrible airline seats and improves your mood. Even better it helps digestion and gets rid of stomach flu that is the bane of travel with so many cramped together.

  8. Just to clarify, Global Entry DOES NOT EXEMPT ANYONE FROM SECURITY! Global Entry is program to allow persons who travel internationally to get back into the US faster. Instead of waiting in immigration lines, you use a kiosk (kind of like the self-check in at the airport). The fee for Global Entry also includes membership in TSA Pre-check. Approved status for TSA precheck means that you go through a different (right now shorter but as more people sign up for it it would let longer lines I’m sure) line and you do not need to remove your shoes or light jacket. You still have to go through the screening whether it be scans or metal detectors and all your carry on still goes through the x-ray machine.
    There is also an option to sign up for just TSA precheck if you don’t fly internationally, that cost is $85 and you can find more information about it at www.tsa.gov

    1. Arg, thanks Casey. I’ll update the post – I didn’t go through the process or anything but grabbed that tip from Dr. Mercola…who is often seen as a “kook” but can have some helpful information…but this just puts him further down in my mind. 🙁 If he can’t get a super simple fact like this right, as someone who himself travels often, how can we trust anything more complicated that he writes about? Grrr…so there’s no skipping security. Got it! Thanks! 🙂 Katie

      1. I’m not a big fan of his, but this process is confusing, my guess is the ‘security skipping’ he’s referring to is some of the processing you go through returning from an international flight or maybe just that you don’t go throught the ‘normal’ security procedures. My mom has bad arthirtis in her hips and hands and balance issues so she is doing this just so she doesn’t have to take her shoes off!

  9. I have unsubscribed to your blog due to this goofy post. You have informative recipes and that is why I was a member. I work with this topic on a daily basis and have for decades – your information is poorly researched and based on fear mongering. You come across as an idiot to anyone in nuclear research. You are just afraid to fly. Stick with what you know.

    1. Telly,
      It’s tempting to just delete your comment and move on – no one likes to allow negative comments to be public. BUT it’s really important to me to maintain the integrity of the information on my blog. There are always controversial topics in natural health – always! – and I hope to take the middle ground if not the conservative end rather than an alarmist (and inaccurate) perspective.

      So I’d love to hear more – what facts are wrong? What is your work/area of expertise? I put many hours into my research and did my best to source reputable facts, but sometimes I either didn’t know where to look or research couldn’t be found. If you have links you think I should read, by all means, share them.

      I’m sorry to lose a thoughtful human being as a subscriber – it’s folks like you who I am most proud to have in this community, but if you’re uncomfortable, then I understand your decision.

      Thanks,
      Katie

      1. Thanks for including her comment. I appreciate the way you handled her tactic. It seems that she is unable to support her claim that your wrote a baseless post…… which you did not. Keep on keepin on.

  10. There are different types of radiation and our bodies react differently to them. X-rays interact with our body and cause damage at the moment of impact or pass through them without causing any harm. It does not linger in the body, so detox is pointless. However, the damage that is caused is free radicals, so antioxidants do help repair the damage. On the other hand, particle radiation (alpha, beta) is radiation that could pass through your body or it could stay in the system and detox is helpful for this. In order for detox to help – you must have been exposed to a radioactive particle.

    1. T,
      So it sounds like the backscatter machines, for example, wouldn’t require any “detox” but antioxidants as a protective effort wouldn’t be a bad idea. How about the newer machines and the radiation absorbed from sitting on the plane? Does that either damage or rest in the cells? I’m guessing alpha and beta radiation are more like what you’d be exposed to after the Fukishima disaster?

      Thanks for helping me improve the info in the post!
      🙂 Katie

      1. Newer machines use low-energy x-ray to scan, meaning not enough to penetrate to deep tissues but it is still reacting with our skin. There is always potential for cellular damage with any type of radiation. Cosmic rays are both radioactive particles and the type of radiation that passes through your body. Beta and alpha are not strong enough to penetrate our skin – they must be ingested or inhaled to do damage.

        I enjoy your blog!

  11. My family and I were planning a trip to fly that would put us in the air about 4 hours there, 4 hours back. I will be about 5 months pregnant at the time and have been a little worried about the risks of flying during pregnancy. In your opinion, would you take the risks?? Would the options mentioned above for reducing radiation risks all be okay to do during pregnancy? Any opinions on flying during pregnancy would be greatly appreciated!!

    1. Janette,
      By coincidence, I’ve flown once with each of my pregnancies even though I hardly fly at all in general. I’m always a little nervous about it! But I would say to opt out of the full body scanners, and then yes, the clay, eating good foods, antioxidants etc are all totally fine for pregnancy. For one flight, I wouldn’t worry about it any more than doing what you can! Have a fun trip! 🙂 Katie

    2. If you are pregnant the TSA recommends getting a patdown instead of going through the scanner. I believe they even did that with the metal detectors. If you are really concerned about I would talk with your obstetrician, normally there are no flying restrictions for pregnant mom unless it is a high-risk pregnancy. That said, I would guess that most obgyn’s aren’t concerned about the radiation exposure, the conern is normally more about blood clots (from sitting for extended periods of time) or possibly going into labor on the flight. I would guess that for a four hour flight each way you wouldn’t get much radiation at all.

    3. I don’t have any real information to offer, but wanted to share that, as a pilot’s daughter with family overseas, I’ve flown extensively during both of my pregnancies (in the 12-16 hour range per flight, several trips!). I think it’s something we just have to trust God to care for our babies in. Most people say it is completely fine, and though I think there is more to it than that, sometimes we just can’t avoid flying. The tricky thing is that detoxing is limited while you are pregnant, so I would focus more on antioxidants, though I didn’t think very hard about it myself.

  12. You must be reading my mind lately. First the egg article and now this. It’s going to get really weird if you do my last article idea without me suggesting it! 🙂

  13. Ionizing radiation does not stay in the body after you fly (or walk away from an x-ray machine, etc.). The radiation passes through the body, possibly causing cellular/DNA damage on its journey. Charcoal, clay, etc. will remove nothing because there is nothing to remove.

    In places like Fukoshima where the air, water, and food have become contaminated, “detox” is more plausibly effective because there is actually something to get out of the body (material that is actively emitting radiation that was ingest) that is causing ongoing harm.

    That’s not to say that antioxidants, etc. aren’t potentially helpful in mitigating the damage, but i think the work “detox” implies there is a toxin to get out of the body.

      1. I would assume that if the particles are small/high energy enough to pass through the metal of an airplane, they will also pass through the body and keep on going.

        Additionally, flying at night is likely not protective. Cosmic radiation is relatively constant.

  14. I often wonder about this, as my husband is a pilot. I may have to start slipping some kelp into his morning smoothie!

  15. Lori Alexander

    I had to have radiation on my brain awhile ago and was told to take a ton of green tea for it is the best thing to get radiation out of your body. Dr. Marshall’s is the best! One teaspoon is like 14 cups of tea a day.

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