Seaweed Vs. Fukushima: Natural Tips for Guarding Against Radiation
Don’t worry, I haven’t jumped off the deep end and become a scaremonger.
I’m not heralding nuclear fall-out.
I just happened to ring in the New Year discussing with friends the (perhaps unfounded?) radiation concerns preying on the West Coast courtesy of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Is the U.S. really at risk for exposure from radioactive fallout?
I’ll leave that question for the experts.
But the truth is radioactive iodine, a toxic byproduct of nuclear fission, did infiltrate the U.S. Pacific coastline within days of the March 11, 2011 tsunami disaster.
And considering our growing reliance on nuclear power, I started thinking:what can be done to naturally bolster the body and protect against the inevitable exposure to environmental radiation?
Are you curious, too? Be warned… this is a long post. 🙂
The Hazards of Environmental Radiation
Radiation is all around us. There are naturally occurring forms (i.e. radon gas) and man-made forms (i.e. x-rays and nuclear power).
For most of us, the only radiation exposure we’ll ever experience – we hope! – will be either from nature or the direct result of some medical intervention. And such infrequent, minimal exposures pose few health risks.
On the flip side, those living near sources of man-made radiation (i.e. nuclear power plants) face daily exposure, which can be a serious concern.
There are three predominate radioactive by-products of nuclear fission: iodine-131, caesium-137 and strontium-90. All are detrimental to our health and can easily be ingested by the body through contaminated food and water, absorbed through the skin and/or inhaled.
Iodine-131 has a particular affinity for the thyroid gland; caesium-137 prefers to take up residence in the soft tissues of the body; and, strontium-90 settles in the bones. Thankfully, there are ways to guard against these killers.
Let’s talk about iodine-131, first.
Iodine: An Essential Nutrient
It’s common knowledge that our bodies require iodine for normal thyroid function.
Unfortunately, the body cannot tell the difference between radioactive, man-made iodine (iodine-131) and it’s naturally-occurring, non-radioactive cousin, known as iodine-127.
Herein lies a problem.
Should the body be the least bit deficient in iodine it will readily satisfy it’s needs with iodine-131, if that’s what is available. And once iodine-131 accumulates in the thyroid… well, bye-bye thyroid.
One great way to protect against radiation? Offer your body all the iodine it might want, with the natural, non-radioactive type it can live with.
Using Iodine to Fight Iodine
Proactively eating iodine-rich foods can help to fulfill your body’s iodine needs with healthy doses of iodine-127, thus reducing the amount of iodine-131 absorbed into the thyroid.
This approach follows the same logic as taking high doses of potassium iodide, which is a well-known countermeasure for radiation exposure.
But where do we find iodine-127?
Unfortunately, nutrient deficiencies in our soil means that iodine-127 is just one more vital nutrient no longer available to us in the land foods we eat.
Thank goodness it’s abundant in the sea, though!
Seaweed, particularly kelp, is known for its high levels of iodine and other vital minerals like potassium, iron, and magnesium. In fact, according to renown herbalist Rosemary Gladstar,
… [seaweeds] contain a wider range and broader spectrum of minerals necessary for human metabolism than any other known organism. They have been used for thousands of years to promote longevity, prevent disease, and impart health…
And including even minimal amounts of this powerful marine algae into your daily diet can contribute greatly to your body’s iodine needs, guarding your thyroid gland from lethal environmental radiation in the process.
Sushi, seaweed salad, kelp energy bars, and kelp noodles are all great ways to integrate seaweed into your diet. But if you still have trouble getting past the “gag-factor”, consider adding powdered kelp to homemade seasoning salt and shake it onto your meals throughout the day or even hide it in a smoothie!
And hey, downing kelp capsules is fine, too.
A few things worth noting:
Be sure to obtain your kelp from a quality, small business who tests their seaweed for potential toxins (like iodine-131) and practices sustainable harvesting! Also, given the current radiological concerns for the waters of the Pacific ocean, consider selecting kelp harvested from waters the North Atlantic. There are several companies who harvest seaweed off the coast of Maine, Iceland and Canada.
Also, when it comes to iodine-rich foods, more is not necessarily better. Eating too much can increase your body’s iodine to unhealthy levels, contributing either to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, both disorders of the thyroid gland that you do not want. Everyone’s iodine needs are different, so start with small amounts taken on a daily basis. Some even suggest taking a break from kelp every couple of weeks or so.
But What About Table Salt?
It’s true, potassium iodine is commonly added to table salt and therefore can serve as an alternative way to replenish iodine stores. However, there are two problems I have with table salt:
1. It is refined.
2. It contains additives.
This is certainly a discussion for another time and place, but suffice it to say that table salt contains virtually no health benefits. It is typically mined from underground salt deposits and is heavily processed to eliminate minerals. Additionally it contains an additive (magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate, calcium sulfate, potassium chloride, magnesium bromide, or calcium carbonate) to prevent caking.
(You can read more about the salts here.)
Additional Tips for Guarding Against Radiation
Your best chance at flushing caesium-137 and strontium-90 from the body is by eating well and following a regular detox routine.
1. Eat foods high in potassium. Some suggest ingesting enough potassium (from food like potatoes, bananas, and winter squash as well as herbs like parsley, blessed thistle and barley grass) can promote the excretion of cesium-137 from the body.
However, it’s worth noting that studies suggest “the effect of potassium intake on caesium excretion showed no major long-term benefits”. But hey! There’s nothing wrong with eating those foods anyway!
2. Add detoxifying cruciferous vegetables to your diet. Vegetables like Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are liver cleansers and contain unique sulfur compounds that assist in filtering out toxins.
3. Keep bentonite clay and activated charcoal on hand. Both of these natural substances are true wonders for removing heavy metals and other toxins from the body when either using them internally or externally. (You can read more about bentonite clay here and activated charcoal here.)
French green clay is another valuable detoxifying clay that’s getting a lot of attention lately. It’s had a history cleaning up nuclear fallout, too. Following the Chernobyl disaster the former Soviet government added this clay to chocolate bars and provided them to citizens in an effort to flush radioactive waste from the body. (Source.)
4. Stock up on apple pectin (a.k.a. fruit pectin)! Pectin is a great resource for flushing caesium-137 and strontium-90 from the body. It was particularly used post-Chernobyl to remove the high levels of caesium-137 from children. (Source)
At the end of the day…
I’m obviously not touting that foods and other natural remedies alone can save the life of someone exposed to lethal amounts of radiation. Furthermore, I am neither a licensed medical doctor nor a chemist. Please keep that in mind.
I’m just a wife and mother with an interest in protecting my family the best that I can.
Our world’s growing reliance on nuclear power… coupled with acts of God (Fukushima), plain stupidity (Chernobyl) and the depravity of man (weapons of mass destruction) provide me all the motivation I need!
Should the unthinkable happen, I hope to be equipped with enough knowledge to address my family’s health… naturally.
And I hope this post inspires you to do the same!