There is a lot of confusion, apprehension, and fear swirling around the Internet following Friday’s earthquake, aftershocks and tsunami in Japan, which may have caused nuclear power plant meltdowns in several locations. If this turns out to be the case, those on America’s west coast may be in the direct path of a radioactive plume in the coming days or weeks. Should we all stock up on potassium iodide (KI), a form of iodine that can be used to “fill up” the thyroid’s store and prevent the uptake of radioactive iodine from fallout? Is there anything else we can do to protect ourselves from the effects of radiation?
I looked into this myself over the past couple days since I live in Arizona and could potentially be in the path of any radioactive plume coming our way. What I found is that potassium iodide has a certain amount of risk involved in taking it. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns:
Adults: Adults older than 40 years should not take KI unless public health or emergency management officials say that contamination with a very large dose of radioactive iodine is expected. Adults older than 40 years have the lowest chance of developing thyroid cancer or thyroid injury after contamination with radioactive iodine. They also have a greater chance of having allergic reactions to KI.”
Oi, what’s a 40+ year old girl with severe and extensive food allergies to do?! I decided that for now, my exposure risk is low enough that I would just focus on an iodine-rich, radiation-protective diet going forward, starting…tonight! It’s not just the thyroid we have to worry about and protect; all other organs and tissues can be affected by radiation. The obvious additions to my meal plan: miso, seafood, and seaweeds – such as kombu, wakame, kelp, dulse, and nori.
The not-so-obvious additions:
- Mineral-rich nettles infusions – High in iodine, as well as many other nutrients including vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E and K, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, chromium, silica, silicon, selenium and sulphur.
- Burdock root (Arctium lappa) – Removes radioactive isotopes from the body.
- Orange and dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, collards, sweet potatoes, winter squash – According to herbalist Susun Weed, “Japanese researchers found that diets high in carotenes significantly reduced DNA damage in humans exposed to radiation. Supplements of beta-carotene (or of vitamins C or E) did not show this effect. Eating lots of orange and dark green foods (sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, carrots, kale, collards, chard, and spinach, for example) can protect you from radiation-induced cancers.”
- Broccoli, cabbage, mustard greens, arugula, cauliflower, bok choy, and other cruciferous vegetables – Brassicaceae or Cruciferae, also known as the crucifers, the mustard family or cabbage family is a family of flowering plants that can help protect your cells from radiation damage.
- Dried beans such as lentils and mung beans – Contain protease inhibitors, known to block and prevent formation of tumor cells. According to herbalist Susun Weed, dried beans can even reverse DNA damage done by radiation.
- Anchovies – High in iodine and calcium.
- Black and green tea – In Fighting Radiation and Chemical Pollutants With Foods, Herbs and Vitamins: Documented Natural Remedies That Boost Your Immunity and Detoxify, Steven Schechter says that both black and green tea showed “radioprotective effects” whether taken before or after exposure to radiation.
Susun Weed shares a lot of other wonderful radiation-protective food, herb, and lifestyle tips in her column Antidotes for X-Rays on Planet Thrive.
I decided to make a nutrient-packed anti-radiation soup for dinner tonight. I am completely winging it – no recipe, no amounts, no clue how all these ingredients will mix together! Admittedly, you probably could forego the potatoes, broccoli, lentils and rice and still create a deliciously nourishing dish.
Anti-Radiation Miso Soup with Kombu
(1) clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2″ ginger, finely chopped
handful black peppercorns, smashed
several dashes of seaweed gomasio
(1) strip kombu seaweed, cut into small bits
(1) potato, diced
(1) head broccoli, cut into small florets
(1) bunch of kale, cut into small strips
1/4 cup red lentils
1/4 cup basmati rice
2-3 liters filtered water, depending on how thick you want it to be (the rice will soak up some of the water)
(1) piece wild Alaskan King Salmon
(1) tablespoon white miso per serving
olive oil as needed
(1) bunch scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
- Sauté garlic and ginger in olive oil in a big stock pot.
- Add diced potato and brown on all sides.
- Add water, broccoli, kale, lentils, gomasio, pepper, kombu, and rice.
- Bring to a boil then simmer for ~30 minutes, covered, until lentils and rice are cooked through. Add salmon ~10 minutes before done. Check to make sure salmon is cooked through.
- Pour into bowl, adding scallions and miso to taste. Note: Do not add miso to soup while liquid is on heat or boiling or you will kill the good bacteria in it.
Makes 4-6 servings
As common sense dictates, if you have a thyroid condition or have trouble tolerating iodine, please consult your physician before adding iodine-rich foods to your diet.