Turmeric and Radiation-Induced Illness: How it Can Help

Radiation can be defined as transmitted energy as waves or particles.

There are two types of radiation – ionizing radiation (high energy radiation like UV rays, gamma rays) non-ionizing radiations (low energy radiation like an infrared, radio wave, wireless signals, etc.).

A high dose exposure or low dose exposure over long periods of time to such radiation leads to the occurrence of various diseases like cancers, heart diseases, [1] skin injury [2], inflammation, chronic oxidative stress, hemorrhagic cystitis (disease in urinary tract), disorders due to lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress, etc. [3]

Most of the diseases and damage to the body are caused by ionizing radiation due to its higher energy content.

Exposure to radiations generally occurs during X-ray, CT scan, and radiotherapy or due to occupational environment or proximity to nuclear power plants.

How does Turmeric Help in Preventing Radiation Induced Illness?

Exposure to radiation due to medical treatment or diagnosis or radiation accidents leads to the occurrence of various diseases due to tissue damage, cell death, genomic instability, DNA damage, cancers, skin damage and ageing, oxidative stress, etc.

Turmeric, an amazing spice widely used in Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times, has radioprotective effects and prevents the occurrence of various diseases induced by radiation therapy and other forms of radiation exposure.

Radiation exposure causes maximum damage due to the production of free radicals in excess.

Curcumin, the major active ingredient present in turmeric is known to have anti-oxidant properties and hence removes these excesses of free radicals.

These properties of turmeric and its ability to cure and reduce the disease symptoms associated with the amount of exposure to radiation will be discussed in details in the following sections.

Also, the recommended dosage and precautions will be discussed.

Turmeric and Radiation-Induced Illness

1. Turmeric Reduces Radiation-Induced Oral Mucositis

Mucositis is a disease characterized by inflammation of mucous membranes (membranes producing mucus for lubrication).

Radiation therapy of patients suffering from head and neck cancer has been seen to create a high risk of occurrence of oral mucositis [4].

Research has shown that gargling regularly with turmeric as mouthwash can mitigate and delay the symptoms of oral mucositis in such patients. [5]

What it means?

Turmeric can reduce the severity of radiation induced oral mucositis.

2.  Turmeric Exerts Radioprotective Effects on Salivary Glands

Studies have shown that salivary glands are extremely sensitive to radiation. Hence, radiation therapy to head and neck cancer patients has a significant effect on the health of salivary glands, causing difficulty in swallowing, oral infection and other side effects. [6]

Research has shown that turmeric extract can exert radioprotective effects on the salivary glands by affecting several processes like the reduction of lipid peroxidation (a process that occurs due to oxidation of Poly-unsaturated fatty acids), lowering free radical production, etc. [7]

What it means?

Turmeric reduces radiation induced salivary gland damage.

3. Turmeric prevents Radiodermatitis caused by Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy in cancer patients often tends to affect the region surrounding the target tissue, leading to tissue damage in those cells adjoining the tumours.

This leads to radiodermatitis or radiation-induced skin damage. [8]

Research has shown that turmeric can play a major role in reducing the degree and severity of radiodermatitis in neck and head cancer patients. [9]

What it means?

Turmeric reduces the risk and degree of radiation induced dermatitis.

4. Turmeric prevents UV-Radiation Induced cell death

Research has shown that UV radiation induces DNA damage in cells, genomic instability [10] and may even induce apoptosis or cell death.[11]

Studies have shown that curcumin, the major active ingredient present in turmeric, plays a major role in the prevention of apoptotic changes (changes leading to cell death) induced in cells due to UV radiation by removing the free radicals produced by UV radiation. [12]

What it means?

Turmeric prevents genomic instability and cell death induced by UV radiation.

5. Turmeric exerts Radioprotective Effects and Treat Radiation induced Cancers

Studies have shown that regular exposure to radiation is often the cause of genomic instability (a situation that makes the DNA unstable and prone to mutations), and may lead to uncontrolled cell growth, leading to cancers. [13]

Research has shown that curcumin not only protects the normal cells from radiation by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation but may also kill the tumour cells effectively by upregulating the genes responsible for cell death. [14]

What it means?

Turmeric possesses radioprotective properties and prevents normal cells from becoming cancerous on exposure to radiation.

6. Turmeric prevents UV-B Induced Skin Damage

It has been noticed that chronic irradiation by UV-B leads to skin damage causing pigmentation, wrinkling, changes in skin elasticity, etc. [15]

Research has shown that Turmeric extract has been shown to reduce this skin damage induced by UV-B irradiation by inhibiting the expression of genes that cause skin ageing. [16]

What it means?

Turmeric prevents skin damage and skin ageing induced by exposure to UV-B radiation.

7.  Turmeric reduces Cardiovascular Diseases caused by Radiation Exposure

Research has shown that radiation exposure due to computed tomography (CT scan), cancer treatment, radiation accidents, etc. increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases depending on the amount of radiation exposed. [17]

Research has shown that turmeric can play a crucial role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases such as abnormal heart rhythm, heart failures, etc. and maintain the proper health of the heart. [18][19]

What it means?

Turmeric reduces the risk of occurrence of radiation induced cardiovascular diseases.

8. Turmeric prevents Radiation-induced oxidative Stress and hence Associated cancer risks

Exposure to radiation has been shown to increase lipid peroxidation (a process that occurs due to oxidation of Poly-unsaturated fatty acids)  and associated disorders such as DNA damage, inflammation, oxidative stress (a situation caused by lowering of oxygen and excess of free radicals) related disorders. [20][21]

Research has shown that turmeric can play a crucial role in the inhibition of oxidative stress induced by radiation.[22]

What it means?

Turmeric, due to its anti-oxidant properties, inhibits lipid peroxidation and reduces oxidative stress by removing oxygen radicals.

9. Turmeric inhibits Radiation Induced Protein Damage

Exposure to radiation leads to cleavage of proteins and enzymes, thus impairs cell functioning.[23]

Research has shown that turmeric can play a crucial role in the prevention of radiation-induced protein damage, by binding to the protein and preventing protein denaturation (the breakdown of secondary protein structure. [24]

What it means?

Turmeric can inhibit protein damage induced by radiation exposure, and thus protect the cells from apoptosis (cell death).

10. Turmeric prevents Radiation Induced Mammary Tumorigenesis

Exposure to radiation proves to be carcinogenic for the mammary glands and induces the initiation of mammary tumorigenesis (tumours in mammary glands). [25]

Research has shown that turmeric has the ability to play a preventive role in the initiation of mammary tumorigenesis induced by radiation without causing any adverse side effects. [26]

What it means?

Turmeric may play a chemopreventive role in the initiation of radiation induced mammary tumorigenesis.

Dosage

There is not exact prescribed dosage of turmeric for the treatment of radiation-induced illness.

However, one can have a regular supply of turmeric as an ingredient in curries.

But turmeric, by itself, has negligible bioavailability, hence should be taken with a combination of black pepper. [27]

Although required dosage may vary from one person to another, an amount of 400-600 mg of turmeric powder three times a day should be sufficient to exert protective effects on the body.

Also, a person may have 1-3 g of the dried powdered root of turmeric a day to stay in proper health. [28]

Precautions

Turmeric is not known to have any side effects other than blood thinning properties. Hence, patients with blood thinning medications should not have turmeric without the recommendations of a physician. [29]

Also, people allergic to turmeric and pregnant and lactating women should try to avoid turmeric.

Finally, people with complications in the gall bladder like gall bladder stones should consult the doctor before having turmeric. [30]

Conclusion

The best way to prevent radiation-induced diseases is to avoid continued and prolonged exposure to harmful radiations.

A thorough investigation and research into the role of turmeric in their prevention would go a long way in making turmeric a pivotal way of curing and treating these diseases.

About the Author

Shruti (BE Biotech. & PGD Clinical Research)

Turmeric for Health's writer team consists of passionate writers from the fields of biotechnology, pharmacy, nutrition, Ayurveda & microbiology.Our writers are highly qualified with many having Ph.D., M.Tech & MSc degrees while others having B.Tech, BSc, B.Pharm. Our differentiation lies in researching and presenting ONLY FACTUAL SCIENTIFIC information. We spend 10s of hours to write a single article. Info of our articles is sourced from reliable scientific sources which are also provided as a link alongside for readers to refer if they want. You can read more about our team in the " About us" section.

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