"My mission is to help rejuvenate body, mind and spirit through acupuncture and massage to restore balance and achieve serenity.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan and Radiation

My heart goes out to everyone affected by everything that Japan has been going through.  This seems to be a nightmare that doesn't want to stop.  Living on the west coast, we are now in danger of radiation from the nuclear power plant explosions.  I have come across two very informative posts about radiation and potassium iodide.  Hope you are ready for some reading and information overload.
To your health.

Tamara Cullen ND, the founder of Naturopathic Family Medicine,  has this blog posted on her site that talks about potassium iodide.  I have a professional relationship with Dr Cullen and hold her in very high regards.


Radiation Toxicity: What You Need to Know about the use of Potassium Iodide

The following excerpt is from my colleague,  Dr. Suzann Wang, in Monterrey, CA (with a few additions by us).

 In the wake of the Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and resulting nuclear reactor explosions many of us on the West Coast are wondering how to protect ourselves from any future radiation exposure. Our exposure can come by way of Japan’s nuclear problem and its fallout brought to us via the jetstream and winds.  The biggest concern that you need to be aware of is the possible risk of cancers, especially thyroid cancer from nuclear fall-out. So far, the risk to Americans and Canadians is very little since the nuclear reactors have mostly been contained by the heroic nuclear experts in Japan.  However, in the interest of emergency preparedness I thought I would address the use of Potassium Iodide tablets and why it would help protect your thyroid from cancer.

Many of us know that iodine is the main mineral that is used by the thyoid to integrate into the formation of thyroid hormone. The lower your iodine levels are in your body, the more likely that your body will absorb and utilize radioactive iodine from nuclear fall-out.  The use of iodized salt has helped minimize the formation of goiters or enlarged thyroid as a result of low iodine levels historically but this alone is not sufficient to protect your body from absorbing radioactive iodine.

Enter potassium iodide or its scientific abbreviation KI.  Potassium iodide has long since been given as a preventative measure for protecting people from thyroid cancer after nuclear accidents. It’s usefulness has been especially noted after the Chernobyl nuclear accident where the risk of thyroid cancer has become an epidemic since the 1986 disaster.  In adjacent Poland where KI emergency therapy was instituted there seems to have been no increase in thyroid cancer incidence.  Potassium Iodide has an immediate protective effect for people who are at risk for inhaling radioactive iodine. Too, it is helpful in the longer term during exposure from foods that have had radioactive iodine and strontium contamination. Dr. David Brenner of the Center for Radiological research at Columbia University believes that had people exposed to Chernobyl’s fall-out been told to stop consuming dairy products, this would have significantly reduced the incidence of thyroid cancers and leukemia caused by radiation exposure they are now experiencing.  Dr. Brenner explains that KI prevents the thyroid from absorbing the toxic radioactive iodine but that in the long run 98% of radiation exposure is from the settling of radioactive particles onto the food our food sources consume. Our exposure to radioactive iodine is mostly indirect primarily due to consumption of dairy products which are derived from radioactively contaminated grass and is concentrated in the milk of cows and other milk producing animals. Also fruits and vegetables sourced near a nuclear accident location is also important to avoid due to radioactive contamination.

The American Thyroid Association recommends taking KI 12-24 hours prior to radioactive exposure at a full dose of 130 mg per adult and 65 mg for children between ages 3 and 18 and 32 mg for children between ages 1 and 3.  This dose should then be repeated every 24 hours as long as radiation is in the environment.  In truth, the FDA has published a statement saying that children as young as 1 month can be given the full adult dose of 130 mg.  Absolute precision in dosing of KI is not necessary except for the very young (under 1 month of age).  Please note that the CDC states that pregnant and breastfeeding women of infants and newborns should not repeat dosing and should instead be evacuated from the area.

Check your news channels for potential radiation exposure for your area and take your iodine tablets if your area is at risk for high radiation levels. Start taking your doses of iodine/iodide about 24-48 hours before fallout arrives to your area, and repeat dosing every 24 hours. Remember, that kids are much more susceptible than adults over 40, when the development of thyroid cancer diminishes.


If you are still with me, I have another blog post.   This one is from a recommendation from an old classmate of mine.   I do not know this author, but she had some very good  information. 

Nucear Fallout from Japan, Radiation, and the West Coast

by Brie Wieselman on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 6:13pm
          In the past week I have been bombarded by questions from clients and loved ones about how to deal with potential radiation fallout from nuclear disaster in Japan. As of Wednesday, new, worsening problems are being reported in 2 more out of 6 reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, and it is being considered a very serious problem in Japan, due to leaking of radioactive material into the environment.  Attempts to cool the reactors with seawater to prevent them from melting seem to be failing.  Radioactive Iodine and Ceasium have been detected in the region surrounding the plant; iodine accumulates in receptor sites in the thyroid gland, and ceasium affects soft tissues.  Radioactive iodine decays pretty quickly—most of it will be gone within a month.  Radioactive ceasium clears from the body within about a week, but can stay in the environment for 30 years and continue to cause problems. Levels of radiation as high as 400 millisieverts per hour have been recorded at the plant itself, but most reports are showing that on average the level at the plant since the earthquake have been around 10 millisieverts or less.—15 millisieverts is equal to one abdominal CT scan.   Exposure to levels around 400 millisieverts for several hours could cause radiation sickness.  
            At this point, while there is risk for leaked radiation to cross the pacific and reach us here on the California coast, in order for the levels that reach us to be high enough to warrant alarm, there would have to be catastrophic release of radiation in Japan. Even then, it would take 5-15 days to migrate here, and would still dissipate largely in it’s migration across the water.   That said, Dr. James Thrall, radiologist-in-chief at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and president of the American College of Radiology, said recently that  “anything more than about 50 millisieverts may be cause for alarm, including the use of potassium iodide pills to mitigate exposure.” The radiologist claims that studies conducted after the atomic bombing of Japan during World War II showed those exposed to 50 millisieverts or more of radiation were at increased risk for leukemia and cancer. 

          As of 3 days ago, health food stores throughout the west coast have completely sold out of Potassium Iodide due to the rush of people wanting to protect themselves.  As a healthcare practitioner, this is concerning to me, because while it is a “natural” substance, available over the counter, it should also not be administered in the doses needed for this kind of radiation protection without the observation of a medical professional.  Here are some of the reasons why:

The doses needed (taken daily for up to 2 weeks) to protect your thyroid from taking up radioactive iodine are as follows:
                          Birth to 1 year 65mg daily (1/2 IOSAT tablet)
                          Age 1 to Adult 130mg daily (One IOSAT tablet)

              The reason this works is basically that if all the receptor sites in your thyroid gland are saturated with iodine, they can’t take up the radioactive iodine that would compete for the same sites. 
(Here is an explanation of why Iodine Tablets are distributed by the government when radiation toxicity is a danger:

              However, it is not natural for our thyroid to have every site filled with iodine molecules, and this can rapidly promote overstimulation of the gland and too much thyroid hormone activity in our bodies. "Taking high doses of iodine can itself have adverse effects, including causing abnormalities of thyroid function,” said Dr. Alan Gaby, the author of the textbook, “Nutritional Medicine.” “Personally, I would not take a large dose of iodine without any clear evidence of radiation exposure. 

                  For people with hyperthyroidism, this is a big, big problem.   For most people with low thyroid, which happens from a variety of causes, this can actually be a really destructive thing as well.  For people with thyroid disease in their family, who don’t yet exhibit signs of thyroid disorder, or who haven’t yet been diagnosed, this can trigger the onset of symptoms related to thyroid problems.  In short, there are a huge number of undiagnosed people that these types of problems affect, walking around in the general public, who may chose to preemptively dose themselves with Potassium Iodide without understanding the proper time to use it or proper dosage guidelines, and may inadvertently cause themselves some problems! 

               The second issue is that the doses mentioned above are about 10-100 times the doses recommended on products available thru your natural food store.  1 Milligram equals 1000 micrograms.   So, in the event that radiation levels rise here on the west coast to the point that we do need to take Potassium iodide as radiation protection, it is important to understand how much to take and for how long.  Food sources, such as iodized salt or sea vegetables, simply don’t contain enough actual iodine molecules to thoroughly and continuously saturate the receptors in your thyroid gland.
The other issue is that while Potassium iodide will protect you from radioactive iodine, in the event of a nuclear disaster, there are many other types of radioactive isotopes that are released into the atmosphere:

Half Life
Accumulates (bHL)
Associated with

8 days
dissolves in water
thyroid (~100 days)
thyroid cancer

30 years
dissolves in water
cancer of liver, kidneys, pancreas

29 years
mimics calcium in body
bones, teeth (30 years)

Up to 83 million years
inhaled; P-241 decays to Am-241
liver (20 yrs) bones (50 yrs)
various cancers

430 years
inhaled or ingested in food, water
liver (20 yrs) bones (50 yrs)
various cancers
Sources: Environmental Protection Agency; Argonne National Laboratory
Note: bHL stand for biological half-life.

The final issue is side effects! 
Here are some of the possible side effects from taking iodine at these doses:  
acne, loss of appetite, or upset stomach (especially during the first several days, as the body adjusts to the medication), fever, weakness, unusual tiredness, swelling in the neck or throat, mouth sores, skin rash, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, irregular heartbeat, numbness or tingling of the hands or feet, or a metallic taste in the mouth.

                 Everyone is exposed to some amount of radiation, daily.  If you fly on airplanes, use a cell phone,  or lay in the sunshine, you are absorbing radiation.  Short of an emergency with actual reported high levels of measured radiation, I do not advise starting KI at this time.  In the meantime, there are things we can do that in my opinion are more reasonable, to protect ourselves from radiation in general.  Believe it or not, hot, soapy water, rinses radioactivity acquired from the air, off of your skin. One of the first things they do with people near the plants who they measure and find high levels of exposure, is wash them off with soap and hot water, (in a shower, not a bath) so the water rinses off of their body.    Eleuthero, or Siberian Ginseng, lessens the effects of radiation on the body. This is used often with people who are undergoing radiation or chemo to protect their bodies from the toxic side effects, and in fact, was handed out to citizens during the catastrophic nuclear spill at Chernobyl to help protect them.  Reishi mushroom prevents cellular damage. Besides having profound anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, tumor & cancer preventive actions, it also has radio protective properties.  In studies in Japan, mice treated with a compound found in shiitake mushrooms prior to radiation exposure were found to have complete protection from lowered blood cell counts normally caused by radiation exposure.  And Cordyceps has been proven to protect bone marrow and intestinal lining specifically from the effects of radiation exposure.  Supplementing with these botanicals and increasing the amount of seaweeds you eat in the next several weeks will offer you a good deal of protection from low level drift, and in the unlikely event that the west coast ends up in a crisis where Potassium iodide dosing is necessary, these herbs will offer you multifaceted extra defense.   Please call my office if you need assistance getting a hold of any of these medicinals.

Love and Light,

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mommy, my head hurts...

Headaches are something that everyone can relate with.  We all have had one at some point in our lives.  For many people, headaches are an everyday occurrence and people chose to just live with it.  The majority of headaches are benign and vascular (blood and lymph) constriction and/or muscular contractions and will ease with time.  The other percent are more severe and require medical attention. Usually headaches are your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong somewhere else, other than the head.  Well minus head injury and trauma.  Headaches can feel tight, tense, empty, heavy, achy, sharp or travel throughout your head.   ­Headaches are frequently a symptom of numerous ailments such as tension, depression, allergies, hypertension, anxiety, and colds. 

My daughter, who is 7, was just complaining of a headache the other day.   She was so confused as to why her head was hurting.  She told me where the pain was then I was able to explain to her what was going on.  My baby girl was dehydrated from being sick and agreed to drink a bunch of water.  Knowing the location of your headaches can tell you what’s going on with your body.  I’m writing about a few common occurrences and locations for headaches.  Headaches can make your head ache anywhere and this is just a intro on the subject.  Migraines are a whole other story. 

Let’s start with the headaches from head colds.  Usually the pain in located in the back of the head and neck region and can be sharp, achy, travel up and even heavy feeling.  Colds usually cause body aches, so a headache during this is not uncommon.  Usually heat will help ease the pain and give temporary relief, but not always depending on your cold symptoms.    If you have an acute cold, then you don’t want to get a massage.  Massage increases circulation therefore it can push your illness further into your body.  Acupuncture is very good for boosting the immune system to fight a cold as well as the aches with it. 

Muscle tension headaches often present the same way where they occur in the back of the neck.  For these types, heat usually helps relieve the tension as well as your typical over the counter pain relievers.  The muscle tension headaches also tend to have shoulder tightness and stress due to whatever happens to be going on.  In this case, both massage and acupuncture are very much recommended.

Stress headaches can of course cause back and neck tension which is what is causing the head pain.  Stress or anger can bring on and make headaches worse.  Stress headaches are typically located in your temples, between your hairline and eyes and/or behind only one eye.  These can be achy or sharp or travel to other parts of your head.   My previous blog post is all about stress if you want to learn more about that.   Sometimes you can get nausea and/or vomiting with the stress headaches. 

Allergies can also promote headaches causing heaviness, dizziness and traveling pain throughout the head.  Usually if it’s allergies, your sinuses around your nose are sore and achy causing the headache to travel to the forehead and up and around. 

Many women experience headaches around their menstrual cycle.  Typically before the cycle, the headaches are dull and achy while on your cycle, they can be sharp and fixed in location.  After your cycle is over, you can also experience headaches.  Your body just shed blood, so it is energetically deficient which can cause dull empty feeling aches and fatigue.     

The last headache that I will write about is frontal headaches.   When it is across your forehead, it is usually due to dehydration or lack or food from low blood sugar.  Drink some water and/or eat something and see if your headache improves. 

While most of this is remedial, I hope you found something useful.  I have always found it helpful to think about the location and then why I am having the headache.  Then I can proceed to get rid of the headache without dealing with medications.  Some medications actually have headaches listed as a side effect.  I keep trying to listen what my body is telling me rather than masking it with a pill.  There are so many types of headaches and the location really can be anywhere in the head.  I just wrote about a few common general types of headaches.  Headaches can also change in intensity and be debilitating.  Work on controlling the environment around you, low light, soothing music and don’t have a lot of noise going on around you.  If something feels wrong or your headache doesn’t go away, please see your medical provider to look into further.  It could be your body’s way of saying something more severe in going on.  In all the above instances, acupuncture can help to lessen the pain in the head and sometimes take it away completely.  Massage is also good for all the headaches except if you have an acute cold.  You can also try some self massage by rubbing circles on your temples.  Stretching your neck and shoulders can help alleviate tension. 

In health.