Our thoughts and prayers certainly go out to those affected by Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear generating plant crisis. I’m going to give you my assessment of the radiation threat and try to help. We have certainly received many, many calls and requests for iodine.
The idea is that taking iodine (potassium iodide) can help as a preventative medication against possible radiation fallout.
However, one can do more harm than good by taking iodine if you don’t need it.
If after reading this you would simply feel better if you knew for sure whether or not you had an iodine deficiency, then call us at 743-3040 and we’ll set up a time when we can quickly check your thyroid and iodine status at no charge.*
Refer a friend or relative and let us evaluate their health. Through the rest of March we’ll give your referrals a New Patient Exam for just $29.
OK, here’s the data:
First of all, iodine in any form will only protect you against radioactive iodine (not other sources of radiation) and only if you are deficient in iodine. If you are deficient, then any iodine (radioactive or not) will be quickly taken up by your thyroid gland as it requires iodine to make various hormones.
If you take iodine that you don’t need, your thyroid may become over-active or under-active; either one is possible although commonly the thyroid slows down. This puts stress on other glands, especially your adrenal glands and pituitary. It also can create affects on mood, depression, anxiety and energy level.
Potassium Iodide has side effects like any other synthetic vitamin or medication. In the US right now, there is NO RADIATION RISK from Japan so the benefits of taking it are zero and risks of side effects are high. Side effects range from mild stomach upset to life threatening allergic reactions in addition to thyroid problems.
I have yet to hear what kind of radiation, exactly, is being emitted. Remember, the word “radiation” means simply “energy that is radiated or transmitted in the form of rays or waves or particles.” This includes light that makes it possible to see, heat, radio and so forth as well as the cesium and iodine isotopes of concern if the reactor cores ever become exposed.
Yes, we conjure up horrific thoughts when we hear the word radiation, but the fear being demonstrated (promoted?) in the U.S. is unfounded right now. The Union of Concerned Scientists have an excellent primer on the Japan reactor and exactly what would have to occur for there to be a nuclear incident of a magnitude sufficient to affect us here in the western U.S. It is well worth your time.
What we know is that hydrogen gas explosions in two reactors have damaged their cement containment shells and the shell around a spent uranium storage unit may have been damaged—although this is not yet confirmed. Those shells are the outside containment layer and there are other containments including 5 inches of steel around the uranium fuel rods. Plant operators have had to vent gases and local radiation is up above background, but no major release has been confirmed. There may have been partial melting of the fuel rods in these reactors (which compromises the steel shells), but that has also not been confirmed.
If the fuel cores become exposed to air and burn, they will release a radiation cloud that will be diluted by the time it crosses the 5000 miles to reach our coastline. If that radiation cloud were to contain the two elements of most health concern, iodine-131 and cesium-137, the iodine is of least concern as it has only an 8-day half-life, about the amount of time it takes to arrive with prevailing winds. Cesium-137 acts like potassium in the body and has a 30 year half life.
As I said earlier, the idea of taking iodine as a preventive measure can only work if you are deficient in iodine. In other words, you “fill up” your thyroid before the radioactive iodine arrives. But, you have about 24 hours of protection as your thyroid uses the iodine and needs new supplies. If you are deficient, a whole foods source of iodine is a better choice than synthetic potassium iodide. Again, it is important you not take excessive amounts of iodine as there are serious side effects.
My advice? Keep your thyroid and the rest of you healthy. Give your body the genuine building blocks it needs in any case. And give it just what it needs. Don’t waste your money (or impact your health) by taking iodine in any form at this time. Do watch the situation—and I will as well.
And by all means, come on in and get checked.
Yours in health,
*Our quick thyroid check is for patients only and is done by the Patient Advocate using our noninvasive Nutrition Response Testing. It is not a full exam and is not a urine iodine measure. If there are reasons why the check may be unreliable, we will inform you of that and recommend a complete exam by the doctor. Already scheduled for your next visit? We can check this for you during your exam if you’d like.