Tatsuichiro Akizuki, M.D., director of St. Francis Hospital in Nagasaki, saved the lives of all of his surviving patients after the atomic bombing on August 9, 1945, by prescribing a special diet of miso soup, brown rice, seaweed, and root vegetables.

Though no one in Nagasaki knew the bomb was radioactive, Dr. Akizuki had worked as a radiotherapist and recognized that catarrh, a common symptom among bomb survivors, was frequently brought on by the continual irradiation of persons suffering from uterine or breast cancer. He found that giving the cancer patients a mildly saline solution to drink would improve their condition. He had also met George Ohsawa, the father of modern macrobiotics, in Tokyo and studied the healing power of food.

“I felt something like confidence welling up in my chest,” Dr. Akizuki recalls in his book Nagasaki 1945 (London, Quartet Books, 1981). “I gave the cooks and the staff strict orders that, when they made the unpolished-rice balls, they must add some salt to them, and to make salty, thick miso soup at every meal, and never use any sugar. When they failed to follow my instructions, I scolded them remorselessly, saying: ‘Don’t ever take any sugar, nothing sweet! It will destroy your blood!’”

Thanks to this dietary method, all the patients and staff survived while living in the lethal ashes of their ruined hospital. Their hair stopped falling out, and they didn’t have any more nausea or bloody excrement. “It was thanks to this food that all of us could work for people day after day, overcoming fatigue or symptoms of atomic disease and survive the disaster free from severe symptoms of radioactivity,” Dr. Akizuki explained.

The St. Francis Hospital was rebuilt, and for many years Dr. Akizuki served as director of the Nagasaki Association for Research into Hibakushas’ [atomic bomb survivors’] Problems. Over the years, he grew more religious but still attributed the miraculous survival to the diet. “We have a mission, to tell what happened here,” he wrote in his autobiography. “That is why we feel God gave us life, to live until now.”

As the Cold War progressed, the United States and the Soviet Union conducted widespread atmospheric nuclear testing, and food contamination became an international issue. Scientists at McGill University in Montreal began a series of experiments in the 1960s designed to identify a food or nutrient that could help counteract the effects of nuclear radiation and fallout. In a series of articles published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, they reported that common sea vegetables such as kombu and kelp contain a substances, sodium alginate, that could reduce by 50 to 80 percent the amount of radioactive strontium absorbed through the digestive system.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Japanese researchers, influenced by Dr. Akizuki’s experience, weighed in on the quest. Kazumitsu Watanabe, professor of cancer and radiation at Hiroshima University’s atomic bomb radiation research center, reported that people who ate miso regularly tested up to five times more resistant to radiation than people not eating miso. Laboratory studies on mice further confirmed that miso specifically helped protect the small intestine from harm.

Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, a series of nuclear accidents resulted in further use of dietary methods to neutralize radioactive particles. In 1990, as director of the Kushi Institute, a macrobiotic educational center in western Massachusetts, I organized an airlift of several thousand pounds of miso, sea vegetables, and other detoxifying foods to physicians in Chelyabinsk and Chernobyl.

The following guidelines are recommended to help protect against radioactivity from the current nuclear accidents in Japan:

Eat 1 to 2 bowls of strong miso soup every day. Prepare with barley miso that has aged at least two years and cook with kombu, which is stronger than wakame, the seaweed that usually accompanies miso soup. Several root vegetables may also be added to the soup.
Eat sea vegetables daily. These include:
Kombu/kelp highest in natural iodine (cooked regularly in beans, grains, and vegetable dishes)
Wakame (in soups and salads)
Arame (in stir-fried dishes, salads, spring rolls)
Hiziki (in stir-fried dishes, salads, spring rolls)
Dulse (highest in iron, prepared in salads, flaked/sprinkled , or toasted)
Nori (popular in suchi rolls, flakes, condiment)
Agar-agar (clear, flavorless thickening and gelling properties, makes jello/kanten desserts and more)
Eat brown rice at every meal in whole form or ideally made into rice balls covered with nori seaweed with a dab of umeboshi plum in the center.
Fermented foods (tempeh, miso, shoyu, natto, umeboshi, non-heated sauerkraut and pickles)
Eat a variety of vegetables, including:
Root vegetables such as daikon, lotus root, carrot, burdock, and parsnips
Green vegetables, high in chlorophyll
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cabbage, spinach, cauliflower, and greens such as kale)
Dark leafy greens including broccoli, kale, romaine, endive, chicory, escarole, watercress, collard greens, mustard and dandelion greens
Dark yellow and orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins, winter squash)
Eat seeds (especially pumpkin, sesame, sunflower); all nuts sparingly
Use sesame seed oil for seasoning, which contains a substance that increases blood platelets (a must for fighting infection). Use in moderation
Eat a moderate amount of beans and bean products such as tofu and tempeh
Minimize the consumption of animal food (including meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish, and seafood), refined grains, tropical vegetables, oil, fruit, sugar, herbs, spices, stimulants, and alcohol.
All food should be well cooked and not consumed raw.
Drink bancha twig tea (kukicha) and cook with spring or well water.
Cook with gas, charcoal, wood, or other natural fuel source. Avoid electric and microwave.

Several years ago, Hiroko Furo, Ph.D., as associate professor of Japanese Studies at Illinois Wesleyan University, interviewed thirty survivors of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (including many of Dr. Akizuki’s patients) and found that up to 90 percent attributed their health and longevity to miso and other healing foods. From the ashes of World War II, their transformative experience continues to offer hope to a new generation of nuclear survivors.

 

 

Alex Jack is founder and president of Amberwaves, a grassroots network devoted to keeping America and the planet beautiful, healthy, and peaceful. He is co-author with macrobiotic educator Michio Kushi of The Cancer Prevention Diet (St. Martin’s, 2009). He lives in Becket, Mass and may be contacted at [email protected]