Healthy Pregnancies: Looking at Epigenetics and the Difference a Healthy Lifestyle Makes

Healthy Pregnancies: Looking at Epigenetics and a Healthy Lifestyle

Friends, fellow blogger Lee from the website, Well Fed Family, is sharing an important message with us today about how the study of epigenetics is showing that our lifestyle choices can indeed make a difference in the health of our pregnancies and the future of our children. This is great news!  As someone who has lost a baby to a birth defect, I think it’s also important to say that this information is not shared to create parental guilt, but rather to give hope that our choices matter. If you have dealt with childhood illness, or the death of a child, you may want to read my post, When a Healthy Diet Doesn’t Translate into a Healthy Baby.

I hope that this post from Lee encourages us that while we can’t control everything and every outcome, that our choices and lifestyle decisions do play a crucial role in the health of the next generations.- Kimi 

By Lee, From TheWellFedFamily

What if it were possible to press a genetic reset button? To wipe away something that has been plaguing generations of your family. To give your children and grandchildren a fresh new future. The key to finding this genetic reset button lies within the science of epigenetics, and then the application of some timeless wisdom.

This article is possibly one of the most exciting for me to write because this topic melds two fields about which I am passionate; these fields intrigue me and make me want to learn more and more and more. The first is the cutting edge field of science called epigenetics, and the second is the historically significant field of ancestral diets. “Cutting edge science combined with dusty old diet studies from 100 years ago or more? How can this possibly excite?” you ask. Well because when you link the new information with the old you have the ability to radically change families, to help parents give their children AND grandchildren the best health possible, in some cases to even save lives.

From two words – “epi” meaning above or on top of, and “genetics” or the study of our genes – epigenetics studies the many layers of chemical signals and switches able to activate, silence or crank up our genes. What many people don’t realize is that just because you have inherited the genes for something doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen. Many genes stay dormant or asleep until something in their environment flips the switch that turns them on. As British writer David Derbyshire explains, “[Epigenetics] is where nature bumps into nurture.”

Dr. Bruce Lipton, considered by many to be the founding father of epigenetics, verifies we now have research showing it is absolutely possible for lifestyle choices and our environment to profoundly affect our genes without actually changing their basic blueprint. Meaning we can control and modify our genes by what we do, eat, breathe, where we live and even what we think. Amazingly these “above genetic” influences can actually be passed from generation to generation.

Although the field of epigenetics is still relatively new there are already real life applications to be made. One thing we know for certain is that there are definite periods during growth and development that are particularly sensitive to these outside influences on our genes. Furthermore the things that happen during these sensitive times are powerful enough to continue influencing our cells throughout their lifespan and beyond as they multiply, grow and make more cells. Nowhere is this more true than with the creation of a new life.

The first sensitive period is during the development of germ cells. If you recall your high school biology, germ cells are types of cells involved in reproduction, the two most well-known being the sperm and the egg. The second extremely sensitive period is during the first five to seven weeks following conception when everything about this tiny life is brand new and full of promise and potential.

Conception and following

Let’s examine the second period first. From the moment of conception the two parent cells fuse and combine into a tiny ball of life and energy growing at amazing speed. It is during this time that old epigenetic information, including baggage epigenetic information inherited from mom and dad, can be removed. Here is that window of opportunity – that reset button! But at the same time this microscopic person is extremely vulnerable to environmental damage. Looking at it optimistically, however, this means this little person is extremely open to positive and protective influences as well.

Parents who take time prior to conception to become as healthy as possible, optimizing their gut flora, cleaning up their diet and eliminating unhealthy habits are setting the stage for positive epigenetic support. Lifestyle changes which reduce or eliminate exposure to both dietary and environmental toxins as well as stress are also particularly powerful.

Germ cells

Depending on whether the baby is a boy or a girl determines when the germ cells, the reproductive cells, begin to develop.

With boys the sperm lie in wait until puberty when they are then able to mature, and from puberty onward new sperm cells continue to be made giving males the gift of being able to make constructive lifestyle choices (including diet) that positively affect each new generation of cells.

With girls, however, these germ cells begin forming even while the baby girl is still within her own mother’s womb. This places mothers of baby girls in the unique situation of having three generations – herself, her daughter and her grandchildren – under the influence of her personal environment and lifestyle choices. How many of us realize this when we are pregnant?

So now that we know all of this, what does this mean? What can we do?

Every choice we make is important – from the time we reach an age of fertility through to the conception, birth and the entire upbringing of our children. Our choices determine not only our children’s health but that of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We hold impressive power for health or disease. If you, or someone in your care, is of childbearing age then begin right now to nourish their bodies and nurture a healthy lifestyle.

Someone once said that the seeds of adult disease are sown in the womb and the first two years of life. I would amend that epigenetics shows us the seeds of disease are sown in the lifestyle choices of our parents as well. You see, a baby is not nourished simply from whatever momma eats once she learns she is pregnant. There are many crucial nutrients needed by baby that come from reserves momma has built up in her body in the years before conception. And not only mothers, but epigenetic studies prove that the lifestyle choices (such as smoking) by the fathers, even before they reached adolescence, can affect their children’s life chances.

This is where respecting the wisdom of traditional cultures, and learning from their lessons becomes a valuable part of this puzzle. Studies of healthy traditional cultures done by Dr. Weston Price  show that these cultures knew to give special care to those of childbearing age to insure continued generations of healthy children. Just as the seeds of adult disease are sown in the womb, so are the seeds for lifelong good health. Giving purposeful, thoughtful preparation for parenthood should be more important than the kind of detailed planning frequently given to the wedding day. The wedding may be expensive, but it only lasts a day. Children are yours for a lifetime.

(I am not a doctor or health care provider, and the above and below are offered for educational purposes only.)

What we can do:

Coursera – epigenetic control of gene expression by Dr. Marnie Blewitt, University of Melbourne
(Lipton, Bruce, PhD. The Biology of Belief. p 67-68. CA:Mountain of Love/Elite Books, 2005.)

Lee headshot2Lee holds a Masters in Music Education from Florida State and was a band director in her past life. Married to her college sweetheart for over 27 years, she has been homeschooling their two children for the last 9 years. A lifelong foodie, her real food journey got a kickstart when her sister took her to hear Sally Fallon speak on Nourishing Traditional Foods in 2007. Together with her sister, she produced a DVD on making nourishing traditional breads using the soaked flour method. Today Lee is co-leader of her local WAPF chapter, and teaches about real food and alternative health topics to her local community. She is busy pulling out the shrubs from her home in the suburbs of Orlando and replacing them with edible landscaping. She also blogs at Well Fed Family, shares videos on the Well Fed Family YouTube channel, and interacts on all the usual social media networks: Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

7 Tips for Freezing Nourishing Foods

Freezer meals can be made with healthy and nourishing ingredients. Here are some quick tips to get you started. Home Page and Above Photo Credit: CelioSilva/Freeimages  (Disclaimer: Some links below are affiliate) 

I started out with a bang with freezer meals. I was making freezer meals for my family during my high school years and loved the convenience of it. When I got married, I was so committed to freezer meals that I actually made and froze most of our dinners for our honeymoon and brought them with me! Now that’s commitment. (For the record, yes, my husband and I were total penny-pinchers when we got married, thus the yummy freezer meals on the honeymoon. But we also really loved good food, and so instead of eating out every meal, we made a lot of our own food, and then spent some of the money we saved to go out to a really nice restaurant for a couple of dinners.)

But in the freezer meal department, things have gone really down hill lately. Okay, more like down hill for the last five years! I can directly correlate this downhill spiral to when I started trying not to use freezer bags anymore, and switched to using mason jars. Like many, I had way too many jars break or burst for no reason at all (even when following “best practices”). There is nothing like throwing away good food to cool your enthusiasm.

And the trouble is, plastic really is a problem! I have let it creep back into my kitchen and life lately, but re-reading some of the research on the troubling effects it can have made me remember yet again how important it is to avoid.

Thankfully, there are now better solutions to freezing without plastic that I am so eager to try! And the real reason I got back on this topic again, was because I was so inspired by two of the books in The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle on the topic. I realized how much it would serve me, and my family, if I got back into the habit.

I’ll be honest. We really need freezer meals right now, and I am going to make this a priority.

So with that in mind, I am gathering my tips learned in the past and new ones just learned, and also sharing some of the research I’ve been doing on plastic-free freezing! I’m excited.

1. The short on time freezing method

The first thing that really intrigued and inspired me from the freezer meal eBooks in the bundle was using a different method from what I used to use (which was the achingly long, all-day cooking project that left your feet aching like crazy). Instead of that, there are other ways to build up a freezer full of meals!

One of the eBooks I read was Crystal’s (from Money Saving Mom) Guide to Freezer Cooking. In it she talks about how she also used to do full day freezer cooking, and how exhausting that was! Instead she recommends shorter times, more often. She gives a few other options, such as a 4-6 hour block (enough to get serious work done, but not be so tiring), and even doing (her current preference) one hour, and even 15-minute blocks of time! I may now find it hard to set aside a whole day for freezer meals, but I can definitely set aside an hour or two.

2. The Time Block Method

The other method that was totally new to me was the one outlined in Cara’s wonderful
Grain-Free Freezer Meal eBook. (You can get both of these books as part of the bundle for the next few days, which I highly recommend for the price and all that you get for it, but you can also buy Cara’s book anytime here).

She also doesn’t recommend the “whole day” freezer meal concept. Instead she recommends using “time blocks” working with certain categories. Her method probably makes even more sense for those on a whole food, nutrient dense diet. She says,

“The ‘cooking blocks’ are designed to be easier to fit into busy schedules. I have done freezer cooking in the past, but I would normally spend 8-10 hours straight cooking. Many of us have young families, special needs children, homeschool, work outside the home, or any combination of the above- and separating the cooking into 2-3 hour blocks is much more doable.
To stay the most efficient, these blocks should be planned to be together (i.e. you use meat cooked on meat days to put together Shepard’s pies after you cut/cook the veggies on veggie day), but they can span several days and still fill up your freezer with nourishing foods.”

Her blocks are set up with different categories, such as “meats” “vegetables” and “grain-free baking”. I feel this concept makes so much sense!

3. Start small

Regardless of what method you use, I think the idea of starting small, and taking on bite size jobs is a much more doable task that we can all do! It can be as simple as doubling up the muffin recipe you are making, and freezing half of it. If you are like me, sometimes having too high of standards for yourself and what you’d like to accomplish can actually derail your efforts and enthusiasm. This busy mommy needs doable goals!

4. Double up

With that in mind, use the double up method. Basically, any recipe that would freeze well and you already know you (and your family like), double-up on when you are making it next. It will most likely only take a few more minutes of your time, and you end up with double the food for your effort. I used to do this a lot, and I need to get back into it as it just makes sense to do.

5. Make a growing recipe list

The other thing that ended up derailing my freezer meal project was my changing dietary needs (we found out that one of my daughters and I have multiple food sensitivities). What this meant was that my list of freezer meals no longer worked well for us as I worked on learning new recipes. I now have plenty of meals worked out that would be easy to freeze, I just need to keep a running list of our favorite freezer friendly meals as a reference! Overtime, you can continue to add to your list, so that you have a wide range of meals that you can easily freeze.

6. Freeze components

But don’t feel that you need to freeze whole meals. Freeze components as well! Meats with marinades, homemade broths, sauces, unbaked doughs, chopped vegetables for starting soups, cooked beans, and more are some of the simple components you can freeze for an easier meal start-up in the future. Some methods aim for not having to cook a single dish in the near future. But it can be really simple to start a pot of rice, and reheat a frozen chicken curry. So don’t feel that you have to have every single component of the meal frozen. In fact, I’d encourage you to get out of that mindset as so many fresh vegetables don’t freeze well, and need a little prep work. This type of method can also help when working with small freezer spaces. Just freeze the things that take the most time to make (such as the chicken curry, instead of the rice).

7. Plastic-free freezing

I do have friends that use all sorts of jars to successfully freeze meals. They just make sure to leave plenty of headroom, and defrost slowly, and they have no trouble. I am not one of those lucky souls. However, I didn’t realize that there are specific mason jars that are made to especially withstand freezing. (I certainly was never using them when I attempted to freeze before). I first noticed this at a local store, when I noted that some of the mason jars were marked for freezing and some weren’t.

If you go to the Ball website, you find this chart of jars to select from. Notice that some of the jars are marked as freezer safe and some aren’t.

I am pretty excited to try freezing mason jars again. I have some Amazon credit to use from a gift card, so I was looking there for options. From what I’ve read, wide mouth is the way to go for freezing, so
these jars would be an example of what you could use.

Even with these, I’d make sure you left plenty of headroom, and defrosted in the refrigerator for less temperature shock. Just to make sure.

There are some other, much more expensive items too. If you wanted to still use baggies, you could use these silicone baggies, for example, and there are a wide range of stainless steel and glass containers that are also freezer safe.

Finally, certain items can be frozen with the wax paper and foil method. You can see how that works here with these homemade freezer burritos.

If you do decide to use plastic freezer bags for freezing food, just make sure that you thoroughly chill food before placing it in the plastic, as heat releases more of the chemicals from the plastic.

I’d love to hear your tips, and what recipes work for you. Plus, have you tried freezing in mason jars? I’d love to hear about your experience!

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Finding Seafood Untouched by Fukushima

Finding seafood untouched by Fukushima

I shared recently both the negative and positive news about radiation from Japan and our Pacific Ocean seafood. While there is much to reassure, I know that some of my readers are choosing to avoid Pacific seafood. I decided to share some of my personal research on the topic, not to try to influence anyone’s decision, but simply shared in the hope that it would be helpful to others also looking into the same topic. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the resources I’ve found for buying Atlantic seafood. This is especially geared towards those who have personally felt compelled to stop consuming all or some of Pacific Ocean seafood.

Disclaimers: I am not saying that everyone should switch all of their seafood to Atlantic, because that would be a costly decision for Pacific fisheries that could be unnecessary. Yes, there is news that there are elevated radiation levels in certain species that carry more risk of exposure, such as tuna, because of their migration patterns. But there are a variety of opinions on how concerning that should be.  For those wondering what we are currently doing, we do still enjoy Pacific seafood, but I am buying most of our canned seafood (such as tuna) from Atlantic waters, and when there are options for it, fresh Atlantic seafood about half the time. So I do both still, but have decreased some of our Pacific seafood consumption. Also, when applicable, I have used affiliate links below.

Why consider keeping seafood in your diet

You may wonder why keeping seafood in your diet should be a serious consideration when there are so many concerns about it. Here are a couple reasons to consider it: First, not only is it a great source of protein and many important vitamins and minerals, but it is a very important source of Omega-3 fatty acids (most believe that there are many who don’t make the necessary conversions necessary from vegetarian precursors of Omega-3’s, such as flax seed). Because Omega-3 fatty acids are so important for pregnant women, many studies have linked seafood consumption during pregnancy to a decrease of complications, and healthier, smarter children. It could also be important for preventing depression, heart disease, strokes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Price was also very impressed with the health of those with a seafood centered diet.

Here are just a couple of the studies supporting these claims:

Buying Fresh or Frozen Atlantic Seafood:

I’m sure that this varies completely by store and area, but I’ll just let you know what I have found locally, and that will hopefully help you know at least some things to look out for in your own area. I would recommend asking your local fish market what they carry from Atlantic waters, and checking the frozen seafood section. It’s usually easy to find the origin of the seafood on the back.

  • At New Seasons, I’ve gotten whole Mackerel from Norway (delicious, frugal, beautiful).
  • Zupans carried frozen mussels and clams that may have come from safer waters (I need to go back and check again).
  • I’ve also heard through the grapevine that a local fish market, Flying Fish Company, carries some Atlantic seafood as well.
  • A quick Google search for “where to buy Atlantic seafood online” will give you many companies that allow you to order online (just expect high shipping costs, unless you buy over a certain amount and qualify for free shipping).

Finding Seafood Untouched by Fukushima

Atlantic Canned Seafood:

Where I’ve really struck gold is finding canned seafood that is not from the Pacific Ocean. There are actually a variety of brands and options that are fairly easily found. I’ve both ordered online, and bought from a variety of nearby stores (they all seem to carry a slightly different collection). Because many of these brands are considered “gourmet”, checking out stores that cater to the gourmet or health food shopper is a good idea. There are many brands, and while I have found that all of these brands are all higher end, I’ve tried to keep with the more moderate priced brands below as it can get incredibly expensive.

Tuna: I ordered some amazingly delicious tuna from Radiant Life Catalog that comes from the southern coastal waters of Portugal. The brand name is Cole’s. Packed in olive oil, it is one of the best tasting tunas I’ve tried. (It does look much darker than the white tuna you often see, just so you’re not surprised.) This tuna is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Because tuna is more likely to have elevated radiation levels because of their migration patterns, this would be the most important seafood item to switch out for those concerned.

A couple other brands that I haven’t tried yet, that look promising (if you eat a lot of tuna, are pregnant, or feeding to young children, I’d check out whether these tunas are low-mercury): Ortiz Bonito Del Norte White Tuna in Olive Oil (from Spain), Frinsa Albacore Tuna in olive oil (in a glass jar) from Spain.

Wild Mackerel: Radiant Life Catalog also carries Cole’s wild mackerel in a variety of sauces that look delicious and are also fished from Portugal waters.

Sardines: Here is where I really struck gold. Sardines are a great source of protein, calcium (when the bones are left in), and Omega-3’s – A perfect health food. Through seeking out other brands I have finally found sardine brands that I actually enjoy eating, which I am thrilled about. (I’ll note my favorite brands below).

First, Cole’s also has Portuguese Sardines that come in a variety of sauces. I’m sure they are great after seeing the quality of their tuna, but I haven’t tasted them yet.

Crown Prince Wild Caught Skinless, Boneless Sardines: These are caught in Morocco, and are an excellent option for those wanting the omega-3 fatty acid benefits to seafood, without having to eat bones (which many sardines still contain, and are a good source of calcium, but not everyone’s cup-of-tea). It’s also canned in a BPA-free can.

Crown Prince Natural Brisling Sardines: Now, these were one of the great finds for me, as I found I personally really enjoy eating these sardines! First, they are much, much smaller, so texturally much better for me (I’m a texture freak sometimes). Secondly, they are smoked, and I found that I LOVE smoked sardines! I was so happy to finally find a brand that I could enjoy eating straight from the can. These are from Scotland, and are also in a BPA-free can. Check out the different flavor options too, available on Amazon.


And just this last week we got the chance to try two types of Matiz Gallego Sardines after finding them at a store we don’t normally shop at, and they were absolutely a hit. They are caught off the coast of Galicia, which has a long tradition of excellent seafood. This company uses methods that respect the biological cycles of the species, which I really like as well.

Matiz Gallego Sardines in Olive oil: These ones are a lovely basic sardine. Our can contained fairly large sardines. My oldest (who is seven) loved them. Because they are larger sardines, they aren’t my favorite. They also have a lemon flavored version, and canned octopus as well!

Matiz Gallego Sardinillas with Piquillo Peppers: Oh my goodness, this is my new favorite sardine! Even my three year old, who usually won’t eat sardines, loved this one! It has two things going for it, first “sardinillas” apparently means baby sardines, so they are small and tender, and not mushy like the big ones can be. Secondly, they have a delicious, sweet pepper sauce that just highlights the flavor enough to make you really enjoy them. I’m a fan.

Other brands I haven’t tried yet:

I also wanted to share a couple other brands that I haven’t had the chance to try yet, but fulfill similar criteria.

Bela-Olhao Sardines: These are fished from Portugal, canned within eight hours of being caught, and come in four flavors, olive oil, hot sauce, tomato and lemon sauce.

King Oscar Brisling Sardines: As I mentioned before, brisling sardines are so much smaller than other types, that texturally I like them so much better. This brand also smokes them, cans them in olive oil, and they are fished from the coastal water of Norway. BPA-free. These are also a great price on Amazon right now. Also check out all of the available flavors here.

NW Polar Kipper Snacks: Fished from North Sea and North Atlantic

Does anyone have some other great brands to add? I’d love to get more recommendations!

Thanks for supporting this blog by purchasing through any affiliate links! It keeps this blog up and running. 

Is Pacific Seafood Safe from Radiation?

Is Pacific seafood safe from radiation?

(Photo: Clams in a Saffron & Herbed Broth with Pan Fried Crumbs from Everyday Nourishing Foods)


Ever since the horrible emergency in Japan, there has been a lot of turmoil over whether Pacific seafood is currently – or in the future going to be – contaminated with radiation from Fukushima. There are a lot of opinions on this subject, and I’ve read myself in circles over it ever since this disaster. While clearly those living close to Fukushima in Japan are by far those with the most concerns, I think it’s a valid question for us to consider what – if any – effect Fukushima could have on us through our environment and/or food.

Because seafood is an important part of a healthy diet according to a traditional, Dr. Price inspired viewpoint, I am loath to cut out this important food unless absolutely necessary.

I don’t feel comfortable giving you a pat answer to this complicated question, but I thought I would share some of the different opinions and information I came across in the hopes that it would help you be more informed. There is so much information out there (and a lot of wild opinions and speculations too), I’m not going to be able to cover everything, but please feel free to add your opinions and other links to the comment section. And don’t miss my resources for Atlantic seafood (for those who remain concerned about Pacific seafood) coming soon.

First, I want to primarily deal with the issue of eating Pacific seafood, however here is a brief overview of different information on radiation in our general environment. For those of us on the West Coast of the U.S., there has been a concern with how much radiation could be falling on us through the air and in our rainwater. I was reading a children’s book to my two girls recently that explained that dust particles from Japan will reach the U.S. in one week, a rather grim reminder of how connected we are to each other – even across a wide ocean.

Negative news on radiation levels on the West Coast

So I guess it’s no surprise that according to this study “ Just days after the meltdowns, I-131 [radioactive iodine] concentrations in US precipitation was measured up to 211 times above normal” and “Highest levels of I-131 and airborne gross beta [radioactive particles] were documented in the five US States on the Pacific Ocean.” This study linked this rise to congenital hypothyroid cases that rose 28% shortly after the disaster.

To further this discouraging vein (especially for those, like me, who live on the West Coast), an article published in 2012 (written by some experts on radiation issues) gave us this information on the short-term impact of Fukushima,

“How much radiation entered the U.S. environment? A July 2011 journal article by officials at Pacific Northwest National Lab in Eastern Washington state measured airborne radioactive Xenon-133 up to 40,000 times greater than normal in the weeks following the fallout. Xenon-133 is a gas that travels rapidly and does not enter the body but signals that other, more dangerous types of radioactive chemicals will follow.

A February 2012 journal article by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at radioactive Iodine-131 that entered soil from rainfall, and found levels hundreds of times above normal in places like Portland, Ore., Fresno, Calif., and Denver, Colo. The same places also had the highest levels of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 in the U.S. While elevated radiation levels were found in all parts of the country, it appears that the West Coast and Rocky Mountain states received the greatest amounts of Fukushima fallout.

On Dec. 19, 2011, we announced the publication of the first peer-reviewed scientific journal article examining potential health risks after Fukushima. In the 14-week period March 20-June 25, 2011, there was an increase in deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control by 122 U.S. cities. If final statistics – not available until late 2014 – confirm this trend, about 14,000 “excess” deaths occurred among Americans in this period.

We made no statement that only Fukushima fallout caused these patterns. But we found some red flags: Infants had the greatest excess – infants are most susceptible to radiation – and a similar increase occurred in the U.S. in the months following Chernobyl. Our study reinforced Fukushima health hazard concerns, and we hope to spur others to engage in research on both short-term and long-term effects.”

Positive news about radiation on the West Coast

That’s pretty depressing news, as reported closer to the actual disaster! On the other side of things, however, both the FDA and grassroots radiation monitoring seem to agree that there aren’t currently (or for the last couple of years been) abnormal radiation levels. The grassroots network is made up of people around the world who have invested in proper radiation meter equipment who turn in their readings. You can follow their map for hourly updates.

On the EPA website you can check out the nearest radiation monitor near your address, which is pretty cool, and see a graph of radiation levels.  According to the Oregon state government, there hasn’t been a significant increase in radiation levels.

And this is a nice transition into our main topic – radiation and Pacific seafood – while there had been a small increase in radiation in seaweed near the California coast two years ago, those levels, as reported in January of this year, have been dropping ever since. 

Why there is concern about radiation from Fukshima

There is good reason to have concern about our sea life and environment. It’s also important to weigh the evidence in deciding what seafood we eat from the Pacific Ocean. Why is there concern? Since the disaster, 300 tons of radioactive water has flowed into the ocean everyday. That’s a problem. But how much of a problem?

Good news about radiation in seafood on the West Coast

Independent results confirm low or no radiation

Let’s start with the good news this time. First, many fisheries, responding to this concern, have sent seafood samples into independent labs to test for radioactive content. Vital Choices (an Alaskan fishery) has so far found none. 

Another company dealing with the customers’ fears about radiation in seafood sent samples to labs with reassuring results.

“It sent seven samples of salmon caught in Southeast Alaska and Puget Sound to a laboratory in Louisiana, at a cost of $1,200. The company released the reports in January and posted the results on its website.
What did it find? Five samples did not register any level of radiation. Two showed very low traces—well below any limits set by the government and consistent with background levels of radiation in common foods, says Knutson.”

FDA testing confirms no need for concern

An FDA update in March 2014 says that our food supply (including seafood) remains safe, and we don’t need to alter our eating habits because of Fukushima.

Even at its worst, radiation levels are very low (bananas could be worse than fish!)

Chris Kresser, a well-respected practitioner of integrative medicine in the real food world, shared his views on this issue in a podcast. He was able to put into perspective the fears of radiation in fish. He put it so well, I wanted to share an excerpt from the transcript.

“There was one large review in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS, the journal, and it evaluated the health risk of consuming Pacific Bluefin tuna that was caught in the Pacific after the Fukushima event around San Diego, I believe is where the fish were caught were for this study. And the study was done by some researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a couple other organizations around the world, and they’re all independent researchers. There were no conflicts of interest, nobody that was working for the fish lobby! And let me just highlight a few of the findings for you. They estimated that a typical restaurant-sized portion of Pacific Bluefin tuna that was contaminated with radioactive isotopes cesium-134 and cesium-137 contains about 5% of the radiation you’d get from eating one uncontaminated banana and absorbing its naturally occurring radiation.

The really important thing to remember here is that all foods contain radiation because there’s radiation that’s just naturally a part of our planet. Bananas contain much more radiation in them, despite not being contaminated by Fukushima fallout, than a restaurant-sized portion, a 7-ounce portion, of fish. So, the issue is not whether we’re exposed to radiation, because we are, all of us, on a daily basis exposed to radiation in food, just walking around. If we go on a cross-country flight, we’re exposed to radiation. Like every other toxin, the question is what’s the dose? A small amount of toxin we can handle. A large amount of toxin causes problems. That’s really important to keep in mind with this. It is true that cesium-134 and cesium-137, which are these radioactive isotopes, have been found in fish because of Fukushima, but the levels are so low that they’re not going to cause any health problems, even in people who are eating fish at extremely high levels. For example, if you ate three-quarters of a pound a day of this contaminated Bluefin tuna for an entire year, you’d still receive only 12% of the dose of radiation you’re exposed to during a single cross-country flight from LA to New York. That should put it into perspective a little bit. Also, at that same level of consumption, the excess relative risk of fatal cancers would only be two additional cases per 10 million similarly exposed people, and that’s such a low number that in statistics and health there’s really reason to believe that’s no more than chance. And, in fact, statistically significant elevations in cancer risk are only observed typically at doses of radiation that are 25,000 times higher than what you’d expect to be exposed to by eating the three-quarters of a pound a day of Bluefin tuna.”

Bad news about radiation and seafood

That’s the good news. What about the bad news? Here are a couple things to consider.

Certain currents are bringing more radiated water to U.S. coasts now (this started late 2013). While many scientists say the radiated water will be too diluted by the time it reaches us, others disagree. It’s an unknown situation.

Another concern is that different radioactive material is now being leaked from the plant – some of which lasts much, much longer and is considered by some to be even more dangerous.

There is more concern with certain fish that travel extensively, namely tuna and salmon (in 2012 tuna was found to contain elevated radiation levels). Because of the wide traveling habits of these fish, they are more at risk to contain higher amounts of radiation. While the more conservative voices say that there is little to worry about, the more concerned voices point out how unprecedented this situation is, and how little we know for sure. Because of that, there continues to be a push for more testing by the FDA, as well as pro bono testing by a variety of universities and concerned scientists. Because the situation is hardly stable or contained in Japan at this point, the far-reaching future effects of the situation are still unknown, although most research to date is reassuring.

My personal conclusion

Overall, I find that there is a general agreement of reassuring research for those of us in the U.S. But I remain concerned enough to continue to keep track of new information as it comes. For those who simply no longer feel comfortable eating Pacific seafood, I’d like to give you a couple of resources for Atlantic seafood in another post soon to be published. So stay tuned for that!

Other articles of interest on