Friday, June 3, 2011

Natural Cures for Radiation?

Whenever there is a nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) scare people break out the natural or holistic treatments to protect themselves and loved ones. Some of the natural treatments have some scientific basis which may produce statistically significant results, most don't. From a total lay point of view, I want to look at the logic.

With Fukushima, I have only really looked at the most common radioactive isotopes in the fallout. Since I am not there, I look at things rather coldly. I am more concerned with the increased real risk and economic damage. Nuclear energy so far have proven to be pretty safe, but situations like Fukushima have a low probability of happening and the degree of damage has various level of probabilities. Following Fukushima, there have been plenty of inaccurate reports, most appear to be due to poor translations and inaccurate conversion of the confusing units of radiation levels. One was a report that spinach in one area of Japan tested over the limit of 2000 Becquerel per kilogram. The actual limit on foods like spinach is 500 becquerel per kilogram. That sounded odd, so I did some checking and 2000 Bq/kg is not really that far fetched compared to the UK limit of 1000 Bq/kg for meat.

When food contamination or fallout exposure is at or below the limits set by a government they should be safe, i.e. no probable statistically significant health risk. 2000 Bq/kg meets that assumption depending on manner or methods used. It is getting pretty close to the gray area when competing methods begin to diverge.

Statistically significant isn't all that well understood by the public. Any risk from accidental radiation fallout is significant in their opinion despite the fact that being 10% over weight has a greater probability of harm than 2000 Bq/kg of radiation in your hamburger may have.

Combating Radiation Poisoning is one of many websites that have tips to reduce your radiation damage with natural means. Some of the treatments produce desired results, but do they by combating radiation or reducing other risk factors?

The Macrobiotic diet is a big one. The story behind this one starts with a doctor at a hospital one mile away from ground zero of the WWII Nagasaki blast saving all his patients from radiation poisoning. One mile is very close to the blast. But the terrain of Nagasaki protected some areas from the initial blast, so that part is believable. The items in the diet are very unique to the Western world, but probably not all that unusual for the area. The combination of items in the diet are given credit for the survival of the patients. One of the interesting foods was Hokkaido pumpkin, which is a winter squash as best as I can determine.

Winter squashes are good, nutritional foods. They are high in vitamin C and potassium as well as other stuff good for you. Potassium should be a very good nutrient to reduce absorption by the body of various radioactive "salts". Most of the more dangerous radioactive isotopes react with moisture to produce salts which the body thinks are normal salts that it incorporates to maintain electrolyte levels. Cesium 137 forms an ion similar to potassium for example. If your body has a normal potassium level or more that it needs, it is less likely that it will use the Cesium. Another dietary item is sea salt. Sea salt would balance the body's need for sodium as an electrolyte, doing the same thing. So far so good.

Sea salt contains traces of iodine. Stable iodine is used to prevent the absorption of radioactive iodine in the thyroid, so it has to help right? Not so much. Stable iodine is given in very high dosages to protect the thyroid. There is just not enough iodine in sea salt or iodized salt to have much impact.

Without going into all the other food items, the overall diet is healthy but not high enough in calories to promote obesity. Sugar was not a part of the diet which would be normal for a restricted war time diet. The lack of refined sugar and rather high in fiber diet would promote regularity which would help reduce the time radioactive isotopes spent in the body before flushing. That is basically reducing the metabolic half life of the isotopes in the body. So overall the diet is a good preventative method to reduce risk of radiation harm to the body. It is not the particular dietary items, but the diet in general. So a healthy diet with plenty of electrolytes, vitamins, fiber and fluids is a good thing.

Baking soda and sea salt baths are also touted as being good for releasing radioactive energy from the body. I am not particularly a fan of the logic behind this idea. It does have benefits that are real. Cleanliness is next to Godliness is a clique for a reason. It has health benefits, especially when radiation is involved. Cleating, detoxifying or neutralizing the radioactive isotopes may have a minor impact on the radiation, but cleaning is the most important part. About equally important is the relaxation that you could get from a twenty minute bath and laying naked in the sun afterwards. The naked in the sun afterward may be inconvenient and potentially harmful if you are not a normal naked in the sun layer. If you are on a good healthy diet and in good physical shape, the laying naked in the sun may benefit others, always something to consider.

Baking soda gargling with or without exotic salts is excellent within reason. Too much of anything is bad and too much baking soda can cause gastrointestinal issues. Gargling though is cleaning so it has a benefit depending on how dirty your mouth and throat are.

Clays and rare earths are highly touted by some "experts". Radioactive isotopes often form ions because they react in moisture to become salts. Ions easily react to form other compounds some of which are more stable that others. This is the cleating angle assumed to detoxify, but some of the compounds formed may be toxic negating the "detoxifying". Clays and/or rare earths may form less toxic compounds when they react with radioactive ions or they may not. Outside of the body, you can control the reaction to decontaminate different isotopes. Inside the body it is a little more of a crap shoot. All things in moderation, but as with stable iodine, it normally takes much higher quantities to be therapeutic which pushes other health concerns.

Teas and beverages are good because they promote flushing, can improve electrolyte levels and provide vitamins, minerals and simple sugars. I would be skeptical of detoxifying beverages, but anti-oxidants are beneficial. There are various food items high in anti-oxidants, chocolate is one of my favorites, red wines, dark beers, darker beans, about anything with darker natural color has decent anti-oxidant properties. While some elaborate teas may be more beneficial a dark beer with some potassium chloride salt to kill the head is similar. Teas and beverages are going to be beneficial as long as they don't overly act as a diuretic. Maintaining proper hydration and electrolyte levels is more important.

One of the biggest things to remember are the other risk factors. Twenty times normal background radiation may increase cancer risk by a fraction of a percent. 100 times normal background may increase risk between 1 and 5 percent. Being 20 pounds over weight increases your other risks by about 15 percent. Smoking increases your risk about 50 percent. Improper hydration increases your risk proportionally to how dehydrated you are. Being overly stressed increases risk. It is normally better to relax and weigh your options. Have a beer, wine or some tea and think over the situation.

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