Don’t think the Japanese Fukushima nuclear disaster is over. Heartbreakingly, the tragic effects are showing themselves in Japan with increases in thyroid cancers and other cancers related to radiation exposure including leukemia. Without question, this has turned out to be the worst nuclear accident in world history. But even as unprecedented amounts of radioactive wastewater continue to pour into the Pacific Ocean, experts cling to the mistaken notion that such large amounts of radioactivity won’t endanger other parts of the world.
But three years later, people are discovering we haven’t been spared. Radioactive isotopes, particularly cesium, are finding their way to North American shores, entering fisheries and infiltrating marine life.
Even more alarming: While experts assert that the radioactive pollution reaching North America is minimal and harmless, it appears these levels are not even being monitored by the United States or any international agencies. Instead, underfunded oceanography institutes are calling for “citizen scientists” to help analyze samples taken from the Pacific Ocean.
U.S. Thyroid Problems
And it looks like we’re already seeing the effects on the U.S. West Coast. A recent study indicated that babies born on the West Coast right after Fukushima are 28 percent more likely to develop hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) than children born the previous year. While the study was focused on the Western U.S., the authors note that Fukushima radiation may have already reached the entire Nation in varying degrees.
But there’s a bigger story that’s been developing even before Fukushima. Thyroid cancer rates have more than doubled since the 1970s. While some of this increase may be attributable to better detection, that alone doesn’t account for such a significant increase.
These findings underscore a growing environmental issue or, likely, a combination of problems that are leading to more cases of thyroid cancer and other thyroid diseases, like hypothyroidism (low thyroid function).
Links between environmental toxins and thyroid issues have been shown in other reports. Since the thyroid plays crucial roles in our health and physiology, we must take steps to protect this vulnerable gland from environmental damage, stress and exhaustion.
There are a number of ways to support thyroid health. One is to consume sufficient amounts of natural iodine. The thyroid tends to absorb iodine or anything it mistakes for iodine. This could include radioactive iodine 131 or other toxins that can mimic the mineral, such as pesticides and chemicals like chlorine, fluorine and bromine. These chemicals can bind to sites that iodine normally does, blocking iodine’s ability to function.
Natural, dietary iodine can help protect you. It blocks the dangerous radioactive type of iodine, as well as the chemicals that the body mistakes for iodine. Some of the best iodine sources are sea vegetables, such as kelp, which can help protect the thyroid from absorbing dangerous compounds. It’s worth noting that kelp also contains alginates, which are excellent detoxifiers and particularly good at removing radioactive isotopes. Alginates were an important part of the detox regimen used after the Chernobyl disaster.
Other sea vegetables include nori, dulse and arame. Besides containing iodine, they are rich in vitamins A, C and E as well as the B complex. They also contain calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and other minerals.
However, with questionable levels of radioactive pollution now in the Pacific, it’s critical to get sea vegetables from areas like the North Atlantic Ocean; and ask manufacturers if they’ve been tested for radioactivity.
A botanical ingredient that’s used together with alginates is modified citrus pectin (MCP), derived from the white pith of citrus peels. Like alginates, MCP has been shown in studies to be excellent for detoxifying the body. It can be used for removing heavy metals, which can also impair thyroid health, as well as radioactive isotopes. MCP binds to the inflammatory protein galectin-3, which has been implicated in a variety of conditions, such as heart disease and cancer — including thyroid cancer.
Another way to support thyroid health and reduce your chances of thyroid cancer is with medicinal mushrooms. They convey a vast range of health benefits. They are known to prevent cellular radiation damage, particularly in the bone marrow and intestines. They also promote cells’ natural repair processes.
Mushrooms are used to cleanse the body because they help absorb a variety of toxins. Perhaps most importantly, medicinal mushrooms have a powerful effect on the immune response, optimizing it to respond precisely to any threats. Maitake, shiitake, agaricus, coriolus, cordyceps, polyporus and tremella are all excellent varieties with multiple health-promoting properties.
Antioxidants And Minerals
Radiation can directly affect DNA, leading to mutations that can cause cancer. It often also indirectly attacks DNA by generating free radicals, aberrant molecules that have a negative effect on cells in general and DNA in particular.
To protect ourselves, we need to incorporate more food-based nutrients into our diets. Berries are good sources of polyphenols, compounds that benefit health on a number of levels, including cellular and genetic. I also recommend supplementing with the antioxidants glutathione, R-lipoic acid and N-acetyl cysteine, as well as vitamins A, B complex, C, D, mixed tocopherols and coenzyme Q-10. A Tibetan herbal formula with decades of research behind it contains tannin-rich ingredients that deliver a number of important antioxidant, polyphenol compounds to help fight free radicals, reduce inflammation and support circulation and immunity. These supplements can help protect cellular health and DNA, fight free radicals and harmful invaders, and reduce chronic inflammation.
A gentle, seasonal cleanse is a great idea, removing accumulated toxins that disrupt thyroid and other hormonal functions. It’s also important to avoid processed food, high glycemic-index foods, and other pro-inflammatory items. This strategy goes beyond a seasonal cleanse: Eating whole, nutrient-dense foods is a critical strategy in preserving long-term health.
If you have underactive thyroid, aka hypothyroid, it’s also important to avoid overconsumption of goitrogenic foods that can cause the thyroid to enlarge and slow thyroid function even further. These include raw cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower and others.
There are also minerals that support thyroid health, including selenium, magnesium and zinc. Choose foods that are sources of selenium, like wheat germ, organic beef liver, eggs, mushrooms, garlic and onions. Essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats are also helpful for thyroid health.
Unfortunately, nuclear disasters are a threat to everyone in today’s age, and their consequences resonate for decades. Radiation from Fukushima will continue to contaminate air, soil and water in Japan and nearby countries. With alarming reports rising from the West Coast, the aftermath appears to be spreading at a rate unknown. Right now, the most important things we can do are be aware of it and take extra measures to protect ourselves and families.