back to Health Tips


The importance of eating seaweed in an age of thyroid problems and radioactive Iodine.

Iodine Deficiency

In spite of the availability of iodized salt, and traces of iodine present in the food (from the use of disinfectants and cleaning agents in the food industry), people are still showing iodine deficiency. Apparently this is the result of both dietary peculiarities and the chronic use of fluoridated, chlorinated, and bromated water supplies, internally and externally. Fluorine, chlorine, and bromine are all more chemically reactive than iodine; when in the body, they all tend to disrupt stable iodine molecules, displacing the iodine and causing its excretion.

A good daily dietary dosage is 3-5 grams of a good powdered kelp, which should provide enough iodine and most of the essential trace elements. Four grams of powdered seaweed per day is 1 ounce per week, or 3 and 1/4 pounds of seaweed per year.
    A variety of seaweeds in addition to kelp are available. Use in total 5-10 grams of several different whole seaweeds to the daily diet; that is, 5-10 grams total weight per day, NOT 5-10 grams of each type of seaweed. For example mix 2 parts brown algae (all kelps, Fucus, Sargassum, Hiziki) to one part red seaweed (Dulse, Nori, Irish moss, Gracillaria). The mixed seaweeds can be eaten in soups, salads; or crumbled or powdered and sprinkled onto any food.
Do not cook the seaweed for best results. Best is "whole seaweed": untreated raw dried seaweed, in pieces or powder, not reconstructed flakes or granules.


Thyroid Disorders and Radioactive Iodine

Iodine deficiency is one problem, thyroid disorders need even more attention. Apparently, thyroid disorders have become common. I read that one in ten adult American women (women have a larger thyroid than men) have been diagnosed with thyroid disorders, and about one in four have clinically detectable thyroid dysfunction. What is thought to be the culprit is radioactive Iodine. Let us first have a look what radioactive iodine is. The following is taken from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: "Both iodine-129 and iodine-131 are produced by the fission of uranium atoms during operation of nuclear reactors and by plutonium (or uranium) in the detonation of nuclear weapons. In nuclear reactors, Iodine-129 and iodine-131 are gaseous fission products that form within fuel rods as they fission. Unless reactor chemistry is carefully controlled, they can build up too fast, increasing pressure and causing corrosion in the rods. As the rods age, cracks or wholes may breach the rods. Cracked rods can release radioactive iodine into the water that surrounds and cools the fuel rods. There, it circulates with the cooling water throughout the system, ending up in the airborne, liquid, and solid wastes from the reactor. From time to time, reactor gas capture systems release gases, including iodine, to the environment under applicable regulations. Radioactive iodine can disperse rapidly in air and water, under the right conditions. However, it combines easily with organic materials in soil. This is known as ‘organic fixation' and slows iodine's movement in the environment. Some soil minerals also attach to, or adsorb, iodine, which also slows its movement. The long half-life of iodine-129, 15.7 million years, means that it remains in the environment. However, iodine-131's short half-life of 8 days means that it will decay away completely in the environment in a matter of months. Both decay with the emission of a beta particle, accompanied by weak gamma radiation. Radioactive iodine can be inhaled as a gas or ingested in food or water. It dissolves in water so it moves easily from the atmosphere into humans and other living organisms. People are exposed to I-129 from the past testing of nuclear weapons, and I-131 from nuclear power plant emissions. Some industrial facilities also emit radioactive iodine to the environment, as well as medical institutions. Radioactive iodine is usually emitted as a gas, but may contaminate liquids or solid materials as well. Radioactive iodine can enter the body by ingestion or inhalation. It dissolves in water so it moves easily from the atmosphere into humans and other living organisms. For example, I-129 and -131 can settle on grass where cows can eat it and pass it to humans through their milk. It may settle on leafy vegetables and be ingested by humans. Iodine isotopes also concentrate in marine and freshwater fish, which people may then eat. When I-129 or I-131 is ingested, some of it concentrates in the thyroid gland. The rest passes from the body in urine.
Airborne I-129 and I-131 can be inhaled. In the lung, radioactive iodine is absorbed, passes into the blood stream, and collects in the thyroid. Any remaining iodine passes from the body with urine.
In the body, iodine has a biological half-life (the time an organism takes to eliminate one half the amount of a compound or chemical on a strictly biological basis) of about 100 days for the body as a whole. It has different biological half-lives for various organs: thyroid - 100 days, bone - 14 days, and kidney, spleen, and reproductive organs - 7 days. Radioactive iodine can both cause thyroid problems and help diagnose and treat thyroid problems. Long-term (chronic) exposure to radioactive iodine can cause nodules, or cancer of the thyroid."
Radioactive Iodine has entered the environment from nuclear power plants, both by accidents and intentionally. In 1992 the World Health Organization announced that a deadly form of thyroid cancer increased dramatically in children exposed to radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion. Drinking contaminated milk from cows that had eaten plants containing radioactive iodine is considered to be the cause of the cancer increase.

Radioactive Iodine is also released intentionally, in bursts, as a product of nuclear fission usually within legally allowable amounts; these allowed amounts are calculated on a per day basis rather than as high-amount bursts or episodes. This helps perpetuate the myth that the allowable releases are no health hazard. Wrong. The episodic rather than regular release of iodine-131 means we get big hits and then none at all, especially in milk and milk products. The reason that iodine -131 is so dangerous is that it has a relatively short half-life of about 8 days; this means it has a radiogenic life of about 60 days, and then the amount remaining is probably biologically insignificant. Although this short half-life is touted as a great thing for patients, the short half-life means that most iodine 131 taken into the body will decay in the body rather than being excreted. Rather than occurring over a relatively long time, the short half-life means a lot of radioactive decay of iodine 131 is within the thyroid gland, releasing unavoidably molecular-destructive gamma radiation to nearby cell molecules. There is no safe dosage of gamma radiation inside cells. It is the radiation that kills the cells in the thyroid.
Aggravating this condition is the fact that our bodies tend to be iodine aggressive in absorption and iodine conservative in excretion. If we are at all iodine deficient, we will readily take in radioactive iodine 131 and deposit it in our thyroid glands just as we do with non-radioactive iodine 127. If we have a full, ongoing whole-body complement of iodine 127, our bodies tend to not take up any iodine 131. This means that eating seaweeds regularly in the diet, especially the big northern kelps will provide both dietary iodine and protection against the ongoing iodine-131 hazards and the next unplanned nuclear disaster. You can protect yourself and it is not hard to do.

Breast Cancer and Iodine

The Thyroid is not the only place in the body that is rich in Iodine. Iodine is readily incorporated into the tissues surrounding the mammary nipples and is essential for the maintenance of healthy functioning breast tissue. Iodine is also present in the gonads and salivary tissues. Maybe the rise in cancer in these tissues is related to the destructive action of radioactive Iodine 131 present in our environment.
How strange it may sound, radioactive Iodine is used in the treatment of thyroid cancer, and this may cause problems too. Although it is said to be safe, people undergoing the treatment cannot breastfeed, kiss, have sex, or sit next to someone in a motor vehicle for more than one hour, just to give you an idea. A study at the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Foundation in Washington DC found that pre-menopausal Caucasian women who are treated for differential thyroid cancer with radioactive iodine are at increased risk of developing breast cancer five to twenty years later.

Healthy Seaweed Source

There are four major categories of seaweed based on the pigmentation used by the seaweed to aid the photosynthesis process. Seaweed is naturally low in calories but high in minerals. It is a major source of vitamin B12. It is a reliable source of potassium, calcium, magnesium and trace minerals. It is important to get healthy seaweed, as nowadays so many coastal waters are polluted.
We order our seaweed from Maine Seaweed, LLC in Maine. It is a small family owned business on the downeast Maine coast. They hand harvest and dry Atlantic seaweeds. Larch Hanson, the owner, explains that his location allows the harvesting of healthy, uncontaminated seaweed vegetables. He sells kelp, alaria, digitata, dulse, bladderwrack, and nori. We add it to our food every day, and love it!
The material in this site is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for consultation by a healthcare provider. Please consult your own physician or appropriate healthcare provider about the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your own symptoms or medical conditions.