God, Hope & Helping Others
Preface: This is written for the millions of people around the world who are worried about radiation from the Japanese nuclear reactors. For those who are not worried about radiation from Japan, you can ignore this post, or save it for any future radiation scares closer to home.
How do we protect ourselves against radiation?It is true that potassium iodide protects against high doses of a certain type of radiation. As the New York Times notes:
Indeed, virtually all suppliers of potassium iodide have sold out, especially after , the U.S. Surgeon General recommended that West Coast residents stock up.
But as I noted yesterday:
The government hasn't stockpiled much potassium iodide. As the New York Times notes:
But given that the government says that only minute amounts of radiation will hit the United States, and given that iodine-131 has such a short half-life, the whole issue may be moot (many, however, do not trust the government's assurances. See this and this). And taking high doses of potassium iodide can be harmful, especially for people with certain pre-existing medical conditions. So talk to your doctor before taking any.
Other Radiation Dangers
While iodine-131 poisoning can be prevented with potassium iodide, there are no silver bullets for other radioactive isotopes.
As I pointed out yesterday:
There is no surefire prevention for cesium-137. As the EPA notes in a discussion entitled " What can I do to protect myself and my family from cesium-137?":
Cesium-137 that is dispersed in the environment, like that from atmospheric testing, is impossible to avoid.
Neither the EPA - nor any other government agency - gives advice on how to minimize the danger from cesium-137 poisoning. Some have theorized about
So does that mean that we're sitting ducks?
Well, the fact that there is no silver bullet (although some have theorized about potential approaches) does not mean that there is nothing we can do.
Some Foods and Herbs May Help
Many foods and herbs have shown efficacy in helping to protect against radiation poisoning. Indeed, antioxidants in general have been found by some studies to reduce the consequences of radiation exposure.
A leading alternative health authority - Dr. Andrew Weil, a medical doctor who runs the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona - writes today in response to the question of how to protect ourselves against radiation:
I discussed other preventive strategies with Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., director of The Fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and an expert on botanical health. She said that there is reason to believe that taking two to four grams of curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, can help protect a number of body tissues. In addition, reishi and cordyceps mushrooms can protect bone marrow from toxic assaults, and antioxidants can help the body defend itself from radiation damage. Since radioactive particles may be carried by dust, having a HEPA filter in your home would also be a good idea in the event of a nuclear accident that is close enough to be of concern.
Dr. Tieraona Low Dog is a medical doctor who has impressive credentials in herbal medicine, and who has been tapped to fill a number of health related posts in government.
Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock - on the editorial staff of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons - alsorecommends foods and herbs to help protect us from radiation:
We understand if all of this sounds a bit flakey, crunchy, woo-woo and hippy-ish.
And none of these are 100% effective even against low doses of radiation.
But there are actually numerous scientific studies backing up the ability of some foods and herbs to help protect us from radiation. Admittedly, some scientific studies are good studies and some are of worthless quality. But the rest of this post will round up some of the scientific literature for your review.
As the Journal of Clinical Biochemical Nutrition noted in 2007:
The results obtained from in vitro and in vivo studies indicate that several botanicals such as Gingko biloba, Centella asiatica, Hippophae rhamnoides, Ocimum sanctum, Panax ginseng, Podophyllum hexandrum, Amaranthus paniculatus,Emblica officinalis, Phyllanthus amarus, Piper longum, Tinospora cordifoila, Mentha arvensis, Mentha piperita, Syzygium cumini, Zingiber officinale, Ageratum conyzoides, Aegle marmelos and Aphanamixis polystachya protect against radiation-induced lethality, lipid peroxidation and DNA damage.Many inexpensive foods have protective properties against radiation, including:
And many herbs commonly available in some parts of the world have protective properties against radiation, including:
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a health professional, and this should not be taken as medical advice. Nothing contained herein is intended to diagnose or treat any condition. You should consult your doctor before making any decisions about whether or not to take any of the foods, herbs, supplements or substances mentioned herein.
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