If you are, you are not alone. The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan has affected millions around the world. Not only from the casualties and injuries from the natural disasters, but the damage done to the Fukushima nuclear reactor which has released small amounts of radioactive iodine and cesium into the environment.
I have been flooded with calls and emails from people wanting to know what they can do to help protect themselves from the radiation, should it reach their area. I thought it best to write a blog on the issue in hopes it would calm some worries out there. Here are some tips and information to help educate on the situation:
- Step 1 - Put the Iodine & Potassium DOWN - this is one of the biggest mistakes people are making. Yes, radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid and can cause thyroid cancer later in life, therefore those who are deficient in iodine have a greater risk of absorbing more radioactive iodine than those who are sufficient in the mineral. HOWEVER, I have seen several people cause thyroid disease in themselves by self-prescribing iodine before getting their levels checked. It is necessary to check your levels before taking this mineral because you can overdo it, and therefore cause hyper- or hypo-thyroid conditions that can even cause a trip to the ER. So, do the simple test. See if you're deficient. THEN, get a prescription from a naturopathic physician to make sure you're getting the correct dosage that's safe for you. The same goes for cesium, which acts similarly to potassium in the body. Potassium levels directly affect the heart and can even cause heart attacks if overdosed. Also, some medications affect potassium levels. So again, do the simple test, see and ND and get a dose that's right for you if you need it.
- Step 2 - Get the Facts - don't just trust the media especially in disasters. There's a lot of fear out there so take some time and do your own research so you can educate yourself and your family on what's really going on. Here's a great explanation on what happened at Fukushima. As this article states, the half-life of radioactive iodine is 8 days, which means half of it has disintegrated in 8 days, then half again in 8 days, etc. Cesium however has a half-life of 30 years, so this radioisotope is far more likely to be an issue than the iodine as it will take over 100 years to fully disintegrate.
- Step 3 - It's Still All About the Terrain - as an ND, I talk about the terrain a lot. Those with a healthy terrain (mind & body) are less likely to fall vulnerable to viruses, bacteria and disease in general. This remains true even when it comes to radiation. Those who are not deficient in essential minerals, especially iodine and potassium in this case, will be less likely to absorb radioactive forms. Those who get plenty of antioxidants through diet and lifestyle are more likely to prevent radiation damage. So how can you improve your terrain?
- Eat plenty of dark, leafy greens daily for plenty of vitamins and minerals
- Try to eat every color of the rainbow in fruits and veggies each day to load up on those free-radical-fighting antioxidants
- Get regular physicals, screening exams and bloodwork done yearly to make sure you're on the right track, preferably with an ND :)
- Don't overindulge, whether it be alcohol, cigarettes, food, etc. Moderation is key to everything.
- Exercise, breathe, laugh & play...doctor's orders...
I hope these tips cleared some things up for you. I did a bit of research for this blog post as I wasn't as familiar with cesium other than its use for cancer radiation therapy, so I thought I'd share some of the more interesting articles with you:
- Histamine protects bone marrow and small intestines from radiation
- Int J Radiat Biol. 2010 Apr;86(4):283-90.
- Int J Radiat Biol. 2007 Oct;83(10):653-63.
- Annual dose of Chernobyl radiation lower than radiation from cigarette smoke
- Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2007;123(1):68-73. Epub 2006 Mar 31.
- Cooking and washing catfish removes almost three quarters of initial cesium radioactivity
- J Radiat Res (Tokyo). 2004 Jun;45(2):309-17.
- Kaolin clay as an absorptive agent against cesium
- J Environ Sci Health A Tox Hazard Subst Environ Eng. 2001;36(6):1089-99.
- Fat-soluble antioxidants are best protection against radiation (i.e. vitamins E, A, D and CoQ10)
- Br J Radiol. 2009 Jul;82(979):605-9. Epub 2009 Feb 2.
- EDTA (a common chelator of heavy metals) is inefficient at removing cesium
- Isotopes Environ Health Stud. 1998;34(4):371-80.