This has been a thought on many health-conscious people’s minds: how do I protect myself from this invisible, potentially toxic, radiation that is drifting our way via air and water from Japan as I write. I think it is a question worth asking, even though there are those who scoff. I especially think it’s important when prevention and acting “as if” in sensible ways could only provide health benefits. From what I can find, iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days, the radioactive element that can most effect/damage the thyroid gland, but cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years! It also mixes easily with water and acts similarly to potassium in the body, and so is taken up and processed by the body similarly. Cesium and uranium both have the most potential to negatively effect the kidneys. Therefore, it appears that the thyroid gland and the kidneys are the most susceptible to nuclear radiation.
The problem with radiation in general is that we don’t really know what damaging levels are, and our exposure has gone up as more radiation is continually being emitted around us, from electronics, cell phones, etc. With the exposure to nuclear radiation through this current crisis, we may not notice immediate health problems but could experience higher cancer rates years down the road.
How do we protect ourselves? The reading that I’ve done now points to several things you can do right now, that are generally really good things for the body all the time. Some of this is based on scientific studies that looked at mainly animals, but people as well, during and after radiation exposure, to nuclear radiation as well as radiation from cancer treatment, x-rays, etc., and some is based on information we know about how radiation is processed in the body.
Makes sense, right? Radiation causes free radical damage and antioxidants can help reduce that damage. Some antioxidants to consider: turmeric (or curcumin at 2-4 g/day, a compound extracted from turmeric, which has been shown to protect the body from breast cancer after radiation exposure), Ginkgo biloba (protective after radiation exposure), rosemary, beta carotene (from carrots, kale, tomatoes, blue-green algae, etc.), vitamin E, glutathione (a powerful antioxidant made up of the amino acids cysteine, glycine, and glutamine; found in high amounts in barley and watercress, but otherwise is synthesized by taking the amino acids in supplement form or applying a glutathione cream), superoxide dismutase (SOD) (another powerful antioxidant that you can take in supplement form and is found in horseradish), selenium cysteine (found in high amounts in broccoli and garlic), and the brassica family plants (broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc.).
These wonderful fungi can help protect the body from radiation, probably partly because of a compound called beta-glucan, which is particularly protective to the bone marrow after radiation. Mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake, and cordyceps are also immune supportive and have many anticancer/tumor properties. How much do you need to take to be effective? A typical dose would be 1-2 g twice/day of the powder, capsules, or tincture. You can also incorporate some mushrooms (shiitake, maitake) into your food.
Sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda):
This substance appears to bind to both uranium and cesium and minimize their damaging effects on the kidneys, which have to excrete them. One source I found suggested 1/2 tsp, twice/day away from food.
This powerful category of plants is protective and supportive to the body in general. Particularly of note are Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng), Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng), Rhodiola, Eleutherococcus (Eleuthero), and Holy basil (Tulsi).
A therapeutic dose of these would be 2 dropperfuls (about 60 drops or 2 millileters) 2-3 times/day of the tincture (1:2 extract would provide 1 gram of herb per 2 ml of liquid ingested), 2-3 cups of tea at 1 Tbsp/cup simmered for 20-30 minutes for the roots and steeped 20 minutes for the leaves (holy basil), or 2 grams of the powder/capsules, twice/day.
Algae & Other Chlorophyll-rich greens:
Chlorella & Spirulina in particular are detoxifying to the body and known to carry radiation out the body, partly due to the chlorophyll content and due to carotenes and minerals in these superfoods. Wheatgrass is also very high in chlorophyll and shown to help with radiation.
Iodine & Seaweed:
Iodine can compete with iodine-131 for use by the thyroid gland, therefore limiting radioactive exposure. Although potassium iodide is recommended for high levels of radioactive iodine exposure, it is not recommended for long-term use. Seaweed and other iodine-containing substances (fish, iodized salt) are better long-term sources. Kelp, kombu, bladderwrack, and other “brown seaweeds” are considered the best for protecting the body. They also are a source of trace minerals that are helpful for metabolic processes in the body and have antioxidant effects. 3-5 g/day is recommended, with 3 g amounting to about 1 tsp of kelp powder.
Vitamins & Minerals:
Vitamins E, D3, C, and A are all antioxidants and vitamin D3 has been shown to support immune function, so all of these are potentially helpful. The minerals selenium, iodine, & magnesium are most cited for their potentially beneficial effects during this time.
What would a good approach be?
I’ll tell you what I’m doing. I take a tincture (a liquid extract) combining several herbs, including Adaptogens & Antioxidants. Mine includes adaptogens (American ginseng & Schisandra berry, which protects the liver) and antioxidants/liver support (Turmeric, Rosemary, & Ginkgo). I take 60 drops (2 dropperfuls) twice/day. I take 2 – 500 mg kelp capsules twice/day, so 2 grams/day. I also take 1 Tablespoon of a green powder blend once/day that contains chlorella, spirulina, kelp, alfalfa, and nettle. I take about 5000 IU vitamin D3 once/day.
It may sound like a lot, but it takes me 5 minutes out of my day to do. I put 2 squirts of my herbal tinctures in a little water, 1 squirt of my liquid vitamin D3, & toss it back with my kelp capsules with breakfast. At some point during the day I shake up my green powder in about 4 oz of water in a jar and get it down as quickly as possible (you could alternatively take this in a smoothie or with juice). I then take 2 more squirts of my tincture and 2 more kelp capsules with dinner. And I’ve done my best at getting in some good nutrients for the day, including broccoli and kale. I was, by the way, doing all of this except for the faithful taking of my kelp capsules, before I found out about the nuclear radiation from Japan.
My hope in sharing this information is to empower you with tools you can incorporate into your life to help protect you from the radiation we are going to be exposed to in some degree over the weeks/months to come. It is better to act than to ignore this potential danger or to freeze in fear. Please give feedback/insights and feel free to ask questions.