Radiation detox

2011 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Radiation Detox

Part 1: Spirulina, Chlorella, Seaweeds, Green and Black Tea

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in 1986, and the recent 2011 triple-disaster in Japan that culminated into the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl. All of these unfortunate incidents had overwhelming consequences for the environment – exposing people and the entire ecosystem around us, including water, air, soil, plants and animals, to ionizing radiations.

We covered the Fukushima disaster health penalties as well as the damaging effects of ionizing radiations in our last posts. To things sum up, radioactive isotopes can remain in the body for many years and continue to cause volatile chemical reactions and uncontrolled free radical generation that can damage the DNA, resulting in many types of cancer and inherited mutations. Health risks from prolonged exposure include increased risk of thyroid cancer, other types of solid cancer, hereditary diseases, fertility issues, impaired immunity, birth defects, nervous system disorders and cardiovascular diseases. Even more frightening is the fact that children are far more susceptible to the adverse effects of ionizing radiations.

Cesium-137 is possibly the most prevalent radioactive isotope released in any nuclear fallout. It has a half-life of 30 years and can continue to remain radioactive for roughly up to the next 300 years. What’s more, the radionuclides can travel through air and water for hundreds and thousands of miles, corrupting the world outside of the disaster territory. Yes, the data is discouraging indeed, but fear will not help the situation.

Fortunately, we have a wealth of reference information coming from long term studies as well as the Nagasaki and Chernobyl experience, that can steer us towards real-time planning and preparation, rather than focusing on fear. Mother nature has provided us with amazing foods with remarkable potential in protecting our body from ionizing radiations and toxins, and fortifies the body’s adaptive and acquired immunity to fight the free radicals damage. These super foods can even mitigate the damage already caused by radiation exposure. Most importantly, we are going to discuss practical therapies that are commonly available over the counter and some, in fact, that are in your kitchen.   

Spirulina

Spirulina is a blue-green algae known for its radio-protective effects. It was extensively used to treat children exposed to radiation fallout from the 1986 nuclear melt-down at Chernobyl. The disastrous event led to increased incidents of birth defects, leukaemia, anaemia, cancers, thyroid disease, degeneration of spinal fluids, liver and bone marrow, and severely compromised immune systems.

The Institute of Radiation Medicine in Minsk, Belarus found that taking 5 grams of spirulina daily for 45 days reduced urine radioactivity levels by 50% in only 20 days. Remarkably, the positive effects were reported even when the radiation poisoning was in a very advanced sate. In addition, the healing occurred in spite of the continuous presence of radiation as well as contaminated food and water sources. A 1993 study concluded that “Use of spirulina decreases radiation dose load received from food contaminated with radionuclides, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. Spirulina is favourable for normalizing the adaptive potential of children’s bodies in conditions of long-lived low dose radiation.” [1]

A 1999 study found that spirulina “is an effective natural adsorbent of long-life radionuclides cesium-137, strontium-90, and potassium-40 and can lead to a reduction of radioactive contamination in children ages 10 to 16 years of age.” [2]

So, what gives spirulina this amazing capacity to control the damage caused by ionizing radiations? Spirulina is chock full of easily digestible vitamins and minerals that play a vital role in strengthening the immune system functions. In addition, the nutrient-dense algae contain phycocyanin, a protein pigment complex responsible for its typical blue-green colour. It is believed that phycocyanin binds to heavy metals and radionuclides and facilities the elimination of these toxic elements from the body.

A 2010 study analysed the effects of phycocyanin on the lymphocytes of nuclear power plant workers, exposed to low doses of ionizing radiation and compared them with the effects on lymphocytes from non-exposed controls. The study found that the biliprotein stimulated the expression of the antioxidant enzymes manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), catalase and Glutathione-S-transferase (GST) during the early radiation response of lymphocytes from workers but not from the controls [3]. The study also noted that phycocyanin selectively stimulates the enzymatic antioxidant defence pathways in lymphocytes of occupationally exposed people.

Tying in another radio-protective benefit, Spirulina along with other algae also contain high levels of metallothionein compounds. Scientists believe these metallothionein substances bind to the damaging radioactive particles and chaperone them out of the body.

Sea Vegetables (Seaweeds)

Studies prove that sodium alginate present in brown algae binds with radioactive strontium in the gastrointestinal tract and carries it out of the body [4]. Sodium alginate, also called alginic acid, is a polysaccharide found abundantly in brown algae like Kelp and other common varieties of seaweed such as wakame, arame, hijiki, kombu, dulse, and nori.

In fact, sea vegetables have another important function when it comes to providing protection against radiation poisoning. Sea plants are a rich source of Iodine 127. When the body is saturated with this form of natural iodine from seaweeds, it will prevent the uptake of radioactive Iodine 131. On the other hand, if a body is iodine deficient, it will readily absorb Iodine 131, which in addition to the intestinal absorption, can easily pass through the skin and the cells lining the alveoli of the lungs. Once inside the body, Iodine 131 quickly accumulates in the thyroid gland and emits highly damaging beta particles and gamma radiations – leading to thyroid related ancillary diseases, including thyroid cancer. 

Diet of Brown Rice, Seaweed and Miso

After the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, many people died from radiation toxicity. But it was observed that many patients at the St. Francis’s Hospital survived the radiation poisoning in spite of the fact that the hospital was just one mile from the disaster site. Strange? Not exactly. Tatsuichiro Akizuki, who was the Director of the Department of Internal Medicine at the hospital, fed his patients a strict diet comprising of brown rice, miso and tamari soy soup, wakame, kombu and other seaweed, Hokkaido pumpkin, and sea salt. He also banned the consumption of sugar and sweets as these foods are known to supress immune system functions.

This diet, rich in sea vegetables, helped him to save the lives of all his patients. While no one succumbed to the radiation sickness at this hospital, people who were occupying the hospitals located at a distance much further away from the accident site suffered a severe death toll. It is believed that much of the benefits of the strict diet came from the sea vegetables as they contain helpful substances that bind to the radioactive elements and expel them from of the body [5]. 

In his book ‘Fighting Radiation & Chemical Pollutants with Foods, Herbs, & Vitamins’, Steven Schecter, a Holistic Health Practitioner and a clinical nutritionist, writes “There is no family of foods more protective against radiation and environmental pollutants than sea vegetables … sea vegetables can prevent assimilation of different radionuclitides, heavy metals such as cadmium, and other environmental toxins.”

He further explains: “Alginate is non-toxic and is not reabsorbed into the rest of the body from the gastrointestinal tract. Alginate is specific and consistent in its reaction, is resistant to stomach acidity and the enzymes present in the intestinal tract … it has also been shown to have no adverse effect on the ability of humans to assimilate calcium and other natural minerals.”

A word of caution: Buy only deep ocean harvested seaweed or a product that been screened for metal toxicity.

Chlorella

Chlorella, a fresh water single cell algae, shows amazing detoxifying and radio-protective properties. Chlorella contains the highest concentration of chlorophyll among all the known plants. Chlorella not only prevents radiation damage by removing radioactive particles from the body but also restores the damage once it has occurred.

Similar to spirulina, chlorella is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that help in detoxifying and fighting inflammation. It also helps in repairing DNA damage. A 2012 study published in the Nutrition Journal found that chlorella boosts the functioning of immune systems in healthy people. The study concluded that short-term chlorella supplementation enhances natural killer cell activity and early inflammatory response [6].   

A word of caution: Make sure you are buying chlorella supplements in cracked or broken cell wall form to enhance its absorption. Chlorella has tough exterior cell walls that are very difficult to digest.

Black and Green Tea

Black and green tea both show radio-protective benefits when consumed either before or after radiation exposure. These benefits have been backed by many Japanese and Chinese studies, suggesting that some ingredients in tea; namely tea catechins and EGC are responsible for its anti-radioactive assistance.

Tea catechins are known to absorb radioactive isotopes and eliminate them from the body, similar to how sodium alginate, the active ingredient in kelp and other seaweeds, functions. Green tea also contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol that defends the body from free radical damage induced by ionizing radiations.

Studies show that Jiaogulan tea (click here to read more on this amazing herb) also protects the cellular structures against the tirade of gamma, beta as well as ultraviolet radiation. Jiaogulan is a rare adaptogenic herb that has been associated with longevity and an overall healthy body. It is a powerful anti-oxidant, hardly surprising as it contains more than 150 saponins, which are the main bioactive ingredients. Saponins stimulate the body’s inherent facility to produce its very own anti-oxidants arsenal.

Jiaogulan helps the body to produce the three most important and potent anti-oxidants: Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), Glutathione and Catalase. Researchers link Jiaogulan’s super anti-oxidant potential to its anti-aging, and disease preventing effects. By stimulating the production of glutathione, Jiaogulan significantly contributes to the body’s natural detox machinery. Glutathione is a master anti-oxidant in the body and is critically involved in both phase one and phase two of the liver detoxification process. It acts a strong chelator and binds heavy metals and toxins.

Jiaogulan also contains a gamut of nutrients and micronutrients; vitamins, polysaccharides, bio-flavonoids, amino acids, proteins and several trace minerals – strengthening the body’s immune system, which is an extremely essential requirement in people who have either suffered the radiation exposure wrath or want to be proactive and shield the body from any future exposure. 

A 2012 study published in Molecules reported that bioactive components in Jiaogulan helps in the faster restoration of a supressed immune system, “Gynostemma pentaphyllum could increase host defence in immunocompromised situations such as stress-induced immunosuppression.” [7]

References:

  1. Loseva, LP, Dardynskaya IV. 1993. Spirulina natural sorbent of radionucleides. Research Institute of Radiation Medicine, Minsk, Belarus. Paper presented at the 6th International Congress of Applied Algology, Czech Republic. Sep 1993
  2. L.P. Loseva. Sep 1999. Research Institute of Radiation Medicine, Minsk, Belarus. 8th Int’l Congress of Applied Algology, Italy. Belarus.
  3. KG Ivanova et al. The biliprotein C-phycocyanin modulates the early radiation response: a pilot study. Mutation Research 2010.
  4. Y. Tanaka et al., “Studies on Inhibition of Intestinal Absorption of Radio-Active Strontium,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 99:169-75, 1968. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1924324/pdf/canmedaj01276-0023.pdf
  5. Tatsuichiro Akuziki, M.D. Nagasaki 1945, London Quarter books, 1981
  6. Jung Hyun Kwak, Seung Han Baek, Yongje Woo, Jae Kab Han, Byung Gon Kim, Oh Yoen Kim, Jong Ho Lee. Beneficial immunostimulatory effect of short-term Chlorella supplementation: enhancement of Natural Killer cell activity and early inflammatory response (Randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial). Nutr J. 2012
  7. Im SA, Choi HS, Choi SO, Kim KH, Lee S, Hwang BY, Lee MK, Lee CK. Restoration of electric footshock-induced immunosuppression in mice by Gynostemma pentaphyllum components. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). 2012 Jun 25;17(7):7695-708. doi: 10.3390/molecules17077695.