Radiation Protection: Practical Solutions Beyond Potassium Iodide


by Greg Nigh, ND, LAc

Nature Cures Clinic physician

The media has us all glued to our seats seeking more information about the radiation cloud that may or may not drift over US soils. In any case, speculation on TV about where it might drift is accompanied by frenzied searches for potassium iodide tablets that we are told might help protect us.

As our previous article by Dr. Andy Swanson noted, potassium iodide is not practical protection from long-term, low-level radiation exposure — the very type that people in the US could be exposed to. Potassium iodide is to be used to protect against high-level, short-term exposure to radiation. The doses that provide this protection, though, cannot and should never be sustained beyond about 5 days. Even in this amount of time, there are serious risks involved with taking iodide in such high doses.

However, this certainly doesn’t mean that, without potassium iodide, there are no ways to protect against radiation exposure. In fact, the scientific literature is filled with hundreds of studies showing that supplements you can find at virtually any grocery or drug store can offer substantial protection against low level radiation exposure.

First, it’s helpful to understand exactly what it is that radiation does in our bodies. Once this is clear, the ways to protect against it become more obvious. Radiation that passes through our cells can create high levels of something called reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals as they are more commonly known. These free radicals have a damaging effect on cells through a process called oxidation. The best protection, then, is through substances that fight oxidation in cells. We all know what these substances are, because they are called antioxidants.

A wide range of antioxidants have been shown in scientific studies to provide significant protection against the damaging effects of radiation exposure. Just a few of the antioxidants that have shown this protection include:

1) N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
2) Melatonin, the sleep hormone that is also has strong antioxidant capabilities
3) Vitamin C
4) Vitamin E
5) Resveratrol
6) Genestein, found in soy foods
7) Selenium

These are just a few of the nutrients that have been found in scientific studies to protect against the damaging effects of radiation exposure. Even better, these nutrients have a wide range of health benefits in addition to the radiation protection they provide.

Please note: there are therapeutic doses of each of these nutrients. Do not run out and purchase them and take them all in high doses without consulting with a health care practitioner experienced in their proper dosing.

These are uncertain times. While the media and the internet have people scrambling for potassium iodide as radiation protection, common antioxidants found in most grocery stores and pharmacies are much more sensible solutions for preventing damages that could be caused by low level radiation exposures. Maintaining adequate, sustained antioxidant status in your body helps protect you far beyond the few days of protection that potassium iodide might offer.

If you’d like some help sorting through the fog of information about iodine/iodide, radiation, antioxidants or other health issues now in the news, visit with one of the doctors at Nature Cures Clinic. Let us sort through the fog for you and give you a practical plan for protecting you and your family from a potential radiation exposure.

Potassium Iodide and Radiation: A Primer

This article was written in response to the possibility of radiation exposure following the March 2011 earthquake in Japan.

Many patients are contacting our clinic for information on how to best protect themselves and loved ones from radiation.  Many have read on the news of the long-term health risks related to the effects radiation can have on the Thyroid.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended potassium iodide as a means of protecting the thyroid gland.

It is extremely important to know that potassium iodide is, by no means, an innocuous substance.  There is significant risk of throwing your thyroid out of balance, creating what we call a thyroid storm, which is extremely unpleasant and potentially life-threatening.  Additional complications exist including potential allergic responses to the medication.  Potassium iodide is not to be used haphazardly.  All that said, radiation is extremely damaging to the thyroid and potassium iodide does offer some protection.

The richest source of iodide in nature is SEAWEED, and specifically dulse and kelp.  Adults can consume 3-5 grams/day which works out to a little less than 3/4 of a level teaspoon of powder.  Children under 12 years old should get no more than 1 gram/day of seaweed.

The WHO guidelines for protection from acute radiation exposure are as follows: the potassium iodide dose for adults is 130 mg/day for 3-4 days post radiation exposure.  It is not helpful to take prophylactically.  It should be initiated 12-24 hours before exposure and continued for 3-4 days after. Under age 12, the dose is 65 mg/day.

Again, watch for any symptoms of thyroid over-activity including rapid heart rate, high anxiety, bulging of the eyes, sweating, body heat, insomnia, and/or shortness of breath.

Also, watch for allergic responses including itchy skin, hives, skin rash, sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes.

If allergic reactions and thyroid symptoms develop, potassium iodide should be discontinued immediately and one should seek medical assistance.

Please remember this is a very high dose to be used ONLY if radiation exposure is occurring. This is much too high for regular daily use.

We are providing this information for your knowledge, in no way are we suggesting that need for it currently. Be prepared and act out of love, not fear. Be safe out there and please send your prayers to those affected.

We will have more information coming out on this subject and will be making recommendations on what we will be doing personally in the upcoming days, so stay tuned.