Natural Support for Radiation Exposure

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My heart has been, and continues to be, heavy with thoughts of the devastation in Japan. My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan, and their loved ones throughout the world, during this time of crisis. I also want to urge each of you to stop reading right now, close your eyes and take a deep breath. We all need to be in a calm and grounded place. There are so many unknowns at this point. We don’t know how much radiation has been or will be released, we don’t know how far it will travel, where it will drop, or who will be affected and to what extent.

 Whether or not radiation exposure becomes a big crisis or a small issue in the US, our ability to address what we need to do will be best served by being calm and grounded. I am heartened to read and hear about people coming together around this issue. We are all interconnected on this planet and at times like this it becomes more obvious, more visceral. 

Remember that fear is harmful to your body as well. I’m not naïve enough to believe that if you just think positive you won’t be harmed by excessive radiation exposure. What I am saying is, if you are concerned about your health, it is important to do everything we can to be healthy and whole. This includes not taxing our bodies unnecessarily by extreme, self-imposed stress.

So again, there is a lot we don’t know, and isn’t this always true in life? There are also many opinions out there and I know some of you are frustrated with all of the conflicting information you are getting. I encourage each of you to do your own research and make your own informed decision about what you are and are not going to take based on knowledge, not fear. I’m going to share what I do know and also highlight some of the valuable resources that are being made available by knowledgeable people.

Radiation

I want to put radiation in some context for a minute. This will be simple, I’m not a scientist. But I do think it is important to remember that there is naturally occurring radiation that we are exposed to all of the time; from the earth itself, the sun, certain rocks, even the elevation you live at varies your radiation exposure.

Then there are man-made exposures to radiation that are a part of our normal lives; microwave ovens, x-rays, flying in airplanes,etc.  And then there is the radiation exposure that communities around the world live with where there has been nuclear bombing, testing, plant melt downs and deposits of nuclear waste. Usually it is our poorer communities that live by/in these radioactive areas and when we talk about our poorer communities we need to remember that a large number of people in our poor communities are children (21% of children in the US live in poverty and every second child in the world). And, as I’m sure you know, children are even more vulnerable to radiation exposure than us adults. The point I want to make here is that radiation exposure is an ongoing issue not just a potentially current crisis.

Obviously, there are different levels of radiation exposure and that level of exposure is what needs to determine the choices we make to protect ourselves. I’m encouraging people to take this time as a wake up call to clean up your act. Clean up your diet even more, take more toxins out of your home environment, and overall, take better care of yourself. Because, truly, we don’t know what is coming down the road and we can be responsible in our own health care by making choices and taking control over what we have the knowledge and resources to change. 

Potassium iodide

So here is the big question on peoples’ minds and it is flying off the shelves all over the west coast of the US. What is potassium iodide? It’s a form of iodine, stronger than regular iodine. According to Medline, http://www.nlm.gov/medlineplus , potassium iodide only protects the thyroid from the uptake of Iodine 131 and there are 200 other radioactive chemicals in radiation releases. What that tells me, or I should say reminds me, is that there is no magic pill. If you still believe in a magic pill, for anything, now would be a good time to abandon that concept.

 I am not encouraging people in the US to take potassium iodide at this time.  Instead I am encouraging people to take more natural forms of iodine that won’t harm you and to strengthen your body overall. Those specifics I’ve outlined below. There is potential harm that you can do by taking potassium iodide and you have to weigh the benefit versus the harm.You, of course, must make your own educated decision based upon your personal health and beliefs. I just ask that you make an informed decision.

In deciding to use a medicine, any medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. Some of the common side effects of potassium iodide include (this from http://www.drugs.com ): acne, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, upset stomach, vomiting. These are the common ones.

The more severe side effects include: severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); black, tarry stools; confusion; fever; irregular heartbeat; metallic taste in the mouth; mouth sores; numbness or tingling of the hands or feet; skin rash; stomach pains; swelling in the neck or throat; unusual tiredness; weakness.This is not a complete list of all side effects that may occur.

The LA Times  reported last week  (3/16/11) that potassium iodide supplements are flying off drug-store shelves in the United States, according to a number of reports. I encourage any of your purchasing potassium iodide not to hoard it. The Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com , recomends only taking it for ten days.  Allow everyone who wants to take it access to it. If you have the money, buy a case and ship it to Japan. We are all in this together.

Even the more mainstream medical sources say that large amounts of potassium iodide and/or long term use are ‘possibly unsafe’. More is not always better; especially with children, frail elders, pregnant and breastfeeding women. This can also cause thyroid problems as well as potentially worsening pre-existing thyroid conditions.

There are also very serious contra-indications with common pharmacuetucals that you may already be taking. Consult with your physician and do your own research as well on the above mentioned websites.  Those are the basics that I’ve gleaned about potassium iodide. Don’t just listen to me,  make sure you make an informed decision. You are trying to protect your health, not harm it. Potassium iodide is being given in Japan to people with known high exposure to radiation, where the benefit  most likely outweighs the potential harm.

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selfheal

 Now I want to devote the rest of this space to what I do recommend.

Food to eat

Edible Medicinal Mushrooms: such as shitake and oyster mushrooms offer the benefits of being anti-cancer (potential long-term consequence of radiation exposure), deep immune building, support your vital organs, just to list a few benefits. 

Cilantro: chelates and helps pull heavy metals ( plutonium and cesium are examples) out of the body; eat lots of it, chop it up into salads, make a pesto out of it, sprinkle it on your veggies, rice, etc.

Seaweed: here is the big one to be eating, or you  may want to consider taking capsules of it (guidelines for that below); you want the brown (one way seaweeds are classified is by color) seaweeds, especially kombu, bladderwrack, and wakame; full of bio-available iodine so helps block the uptake of radioactive iodine (note: if you have thyroid issues, consult a professional before taking any significant quantity of seaweed); helps the body remove radiation;  so seaweed helps to prevent absorption of radiation as well as detoxify if absorbed; it is  important that your seaweed be from a clean water source, I’ll list some companies I trust in a minute; if you are new to eating seaweed, know that you may have some digestive upset as your body gets used to metabolizing it;  also rich in minerals and vitamins for strengthening during times of such stress. On that note, your nettles tea is also a good idea. 

Seaweed resources:

Wild Dev Ocean, http://www.wilddevocean.com , 707-684-0759

Rising Tide Sea Vegetables, http://www.loveseaweed.com , 707-964-5663 

Mama Ocean,  707-223-4318 

Ocean Harvest  707-937-1923 

Island Herbs, http://ryandrum.com  , also has excellent articles on seaweed as medicine

miso soup : highly protective; “Kazumitsu Watanabe, professor of cancer and radiation research a Hiroshima University’s atomic bomb research center, reports that when miso soup, a soy product, is eaten regularly, people may be more resistant to the aftermath of radiation.” ; helps eliminate toxins from the body; if you have high blood pressure or on a low sodium diet for other reasons use sparingly as miso is high in sodium. Also make sure that all soy products you ingest are organic, commercially grown soy beans are a highly sprayed crop.

chlorophyll-containing foods such as blue green algae or chlorella:  helps the body to detox; nutrient rich; protective

A lot of the foods that we know to be anti-cancer are protective and beneficial here:  fermented foods, cruciferous vegetables (brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.), high fiber diets. And lastly, don’t forget to drink lots of water, at least a half-gallon (about 64 oz.) per day. 

Herbs to take

If you are going to take therapuetic doses of herbs, do consult with a practitioner before mixing with pharmaceuticals and/or if you have a serious illness. Many herbs are quite safe but you want to be mindful of potential contraindications and consider your particular circumstances. That being said, below are some herbs to consider.

Medicinal Mushroomssuch as shitake, oyster, reishi are wonderful medicine that support our deep immunity and aid in protecting us from cancer. If you aren’t eating them you can take a mushroom tincture or capsules (go for the high quality freeze-dried caps if you go this route).

Lymphatic support is vital in helping our bodies to cleanse and get rid of toxins.

  • red clover : cleasnses the blood and lymph, gently stimulates the lymph, great as a tea
  • red root : more strongly stimulates the lymph and provides some liver support as well
  • cleavers : nice gentle lymph cleanser, is coming up now in many parts of the country

Liver protection is another important aspect of protecting ourselves from radiation as it helps our body to eliminate toxins, so we want it to be functioning optimally.

  • milk thistle : strongly hepato-protective (protects the liver), helps the liver to regenerate and function better; good as tincture or grind the seeds fresh onto your food
  • burdock : supports the liver, aids digestion, helps remove heavy metals from the intestines, blood cleanser; this is one you can eat as well as make a palatable tea or take tincture
  • chaparral : strongly stimulates the liver, can be too much for some people, do not use if debilitated without a practitioner’s care

What to avoid

For those of you who listen to The Herbal Highway (archives on http://www.kpfa.org ), you have heard Karyn and myself numerous times talk about the idea of lessening the toxic load. There are things that we have control over, and if we can lessen the amount of toxins that we take into our bodies and have in our environment, then our bodies have more resources to deal with the toxins we don’t have control over. Samuel Epsteins work, Safe Shoppers Bible, and check out his website: http://www.preventcancer.com . Remember that everything you know about cancer prevention is useful now.

What else to do:

Baking soda and epsom salt baths help pull radiation and other toxins out of the  body. Soak for 20 minutes then rinse off with cool water.

Drink water with sea salt, this from Margi Flint, helps to detoxify. Again watch/avoid if you are restricting sodium for other health reasons.

High doses of vit C and other anti-oxidents, help with free radical scavenging.

Cook using coconut oil, it is protective of the thyroid; also from Margi Flint.

Matthew Wood  came across this interesting tidbit. A native wildflower, spiderwort or Tradescantia virginiana, is a radioactive sensitive plant. This lovely blue flower, pictured below, will turn pink if exposed to radioactivity and is used by NASA because it is so sensitive. I think this is so amazing and such a good reminder that nature holds the answers to everything we need, even those things that we humans have taken out of their natural balance.

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Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. Northeast National Technical Center, Chester.

Homeopathy

 I had a brief discussion with homeopath Melissa Assilem regarding homeopathic remedies to use with radiation exposure. She was living in Britain during the time of Chernobyl and so had some good first hand experience to share.

The homeopathic remedies to look into include:  Radium (there are several remedies made from various forms of radiation), Sol (a remedy made from the sun, a huge source of radiation),  Iodine (you could consider taking a homeopathic form of iodine rather than a pharmacuetical dose),  Aconite (made from the plant aconite; great for  fear).

Flower essences:

Yarrow from Flower Essence Society – boundaries which are good in dealing with toxins, and specifically helps protect from radiation.

Orange rose  from Luna Fina – overcome known fears

Rainbow shower tree from Jane Bell’s Hawaiian Essences – helps us to feel showered with safety and angelic grace when we feel vulnerable to allow our full beauty and potential to shine through. It also encourages group harmony by weaving angelic grace into the fabric of family and community. I do find that many of us, when we are in a state of fear, contract and close off not just from others but from self; and it is in times of stress that we most need to pull together.

Petrified sequoia from Melissa Assilem’s Greek Tree Essences – addresses issues of the root chakra, survival of the earth, survival fears and physical health

So, instead of worrying yourself into a stress state, consider your energy might be better spent on the following:

  • cooking good food (as much organic as you can afford) and not using the microwave
  • spending quality time with your loved ones and creating stronger community
  • political activism to end the use of nuclear energy
  • raising awareness about cleaning up nuclear waste that is harming the communities living near it

I encourage each of you to use this time as a wake-up call to clean up your diet and other habits. Any positive changes you make will make you stronger overall and more resilient if you are indeed exposed to elevated radiation levels. Make informed choices about what you take and do not take into your body. You don’t want to harm yourself in an effort to protect yourself. Save irony for your reading material, not the expense of your health.

And remember that nature is an amazing teacher, we can look to the plants and the earth to see how they have survived and seek their support, their lessons and their medicine.

Be well,

Sarah