Iodine supplements and radiation exposure


A few weeks ago there were news reports about a spike in radioactivity after rocket test failure in northern Russia. People in the area were given iodine supplements to protect them from radiation damage as iodine can block the thyroid gland’s uptake of radioactive iodine. Most of us will never be in the vicinity of a nuclear radiation leak but we are subject to other types of radiation every day. Would taking iodine supplements help protect us from every day sources of radiation such as air travel, cigarette smoke, screen-time, and drinking water?


What do iodine supplements do?

The thyroid gland is very sensitive to radioactive iodine. Potassium iodide (KI) is a non-radioactive source of iodine that can help block radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid gland. In the event of a radiation injury, KI supplements can help protect the thyroid gland.


Iodine is a naturally-occurring chemical element present in some foods and also available as a dietary supplement. Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3 that regulate metabolic activity as well as skeletal and central nervous system development before birth and early childhood. Iodine deficiency leads to goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland that results from the body’s attempt to trap more iodine from circulation. Iodine is found in many fruit and vegetables with seaweed being the best source. More than 70 countries put iodine in their table salt. If you eat a varied diet then you are in little danger of iodine deficiency.


Do I need an iodine supplement?

Short answer: no. KI only protects against radioactive iodine taken into the body. It does not protect against any other external or internal radiation sources. The only sources of large amounts of radioactive iodine are from a nuclear weapons denotation or an accident in a nuclear reactor. KI does not offer protection from spent nuclear fuel or a so-called “dirty bomb”.


Iodine does have many other uses including treatment of skin inflammation, mouth and digestive tract inflammation, and for water purification. The thyroid gland can store a limited amount of iodine and too much causes, – among other things – nausea, stomach pain, diarrhoea, hives, bleeding, lymph node enlargement, throat inflammation, and soreness of teeth and gums.  Supplements are only given in the short term after radiation exposure.


Protecting yourself from daily radiation sources

If no supplement will help against the other radiation sources that bombard us each day, what can we do to protect ourselves? The best way is diet and eating lots of antioxidant containing foods like leafy, green vegetables and colourful foods such as cherries, berries, and sweet potatoes. Antioxidants help clean up the free radicals that get into our bodies and damage cells. Also, drink at least 8 glasses of filtered water every day.  Your heart will thank you.


James Kneller treats atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia, and other heart conditions.  He is an internationally recognized authority on cardiovascular health and personal development.





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