Iodine Overview, Health Benefits, Source Food, Deficiency, Side effects
Iodine is a chemical element. The body needs iodine but cannot make it. The needed iodine must come from the diet. As a rule, there is very little iodine in food, unless it has been added during processing, which is now the case with salt. Most of the world’s iodine is found in the ocean, where it is concentrated by sea life, especially seaweed.
Iodine is regarded as one of the most important trace minerals for human health and it plays a vital biochemical function in the regulation of hormone levels in the body. Iodine is essential in the bio-synthesis of the hormone thyroxin, also known as the thyroid hormone. The metabolic rate of the human body is regulated by thyroxin and the secretion of this hormone in the body is directly dependant on the availability of iodine in the body. Around 60% of the iodine in the human body is stored in the thyroid gland. The health benefits of iodine play a very important role in the normal functioning of the thyroid gland, which secretes thyroid hormones that control the base metabolic rate of the body.
Iodine controls the functioning of thyroid glands in human body, which in turn has a significant influence on the metabolic processes in the body. The health benefits of iodine help in the optimal utilization of calories, thereby preventing its storage as excess fat. Other benefits of iodine are the removal of toxins from the body and assistance for the system in utilizing various minerals, like calcium and silicon.
The appropriate amount of iodine in the body is obviously important for effective functioning of the bodies biochemistry. Iodine deficiency causes a number of other health concerns. Lack of iodine may lead to the development of such conditions as hypothyroidism, mental retardation, stunted physical and mental growth, deafness and certain forms of cancer. Iodine deficiency may also lead to a variety of symptoms including inability to produce saliva, dry skin, lowered IQ, inattention, muscle pain, fibrosis and fibromyalgia. Additional tissues that need iodine for maintenance and health include the adrenal glands, ovaries, hypothalamus, thymus and pituitary gland.
A deficiency of iodine can develop in people who avoid all dairy products, seafood, processed food, and iodized salt. The functional state of the thyroid is lowered if iodine levels are low in the body, this deficiency can also induce goiter and cretinism in such individuals. These days, most western countries do not have iodine deficiencies as a health concern in a significant way, and such deficiencies are rare.
Reasons for iodine deficiency
Iodine deficient soil. Australia, India and several African and European countries have geographical areas of severe iodine deficiency. They are usually located long distances from the sea. Deficiency may also be caused by erosion, desertification and soil overuse.
Food sourced from inland areas with no access to sea-sourced foods. This particularly applies to poor people who cannot afford fish or seaweed in their diets.
Eating a modern diet, high in processed foods. Iodine is usually added to salt in rich countries, and sometimes to other foods such as milk and breakfast cereals. However, the tiny amount of iodine added is insufficient for good health, being merely enough to prevent goitre.
Health diets. Many so-called healthy diets are very low in iodine. If you are a vegetarian you are at high risk. Sea salt contains virtually no iodine. If you (sensibly) avoid processed salt and other processed foods, it is essential to eat plenty of kelp / kombu, or to supplement iodine.
Goitrogens. Goitrogens are substances that prevent the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland, and uptake in the rest of the body. Our exposure to goitrogens is much higher than 50 or more years ago. Their primary effect is suppressed thyroid function. Grasses are some of the most potent goitrogens, such as millet (grass seed) and bamboo shoots. The two main food categories of goitrogens are cruciferous vegetables and soy beans. Crucifers include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard, rutabagas, kohlrabi and turnips. Soy foods include soy milk, tofu, tempeh and TVP. Other goitrogenic foods include peach, strawberry, peanut and spinach. Goitrogens are also prevalent as halogens in the water supply and environment. Fluorides are added to the water supply, toothpaste and some medications in some countries, in the mistaken belief that they strengthen teeth. Research shows that fluorides lead to behavioural disorders, hypothyroidism, hip fractures, bone cancer and kidney damage. Bromine is used as a fire retardant, in carpets and clothing, in the preparation of white baking flour, as an antibacterial agent, as a fumigant and pesticide, in the manufacture of some carbonated drinks, and in some pharmaceuticals. Chlorine is added to drinking water as a disinfectant and has been linked to heart disease and cancer.
Symptoms of iodine deficiency
Severe deficiency of the essential trace element iodine causes goitre - a swelling of the thyroid gland. Long-term deficiency causes cretinism - stunted growth, mental retardation and many other health problems. The introduction of iodised salt in the early 1900s, and the addition of iodine compounds to other foodstuffs such as flour and milk has reduced the incidence of severe iodine deficiency (goitre) in many affluent countries. However, few people get enough iodine for optimal or even good health. Goitre-producing iodine deficiency is still a problem in many parts of the world, particularly in poorer nations and places where there is little iodine in the local food.
Fibromyalgia. This is the classic ailment presenting a variety of the symptoms listed below, and caused primarily by an excess of fluorides and other goitrogens in the body.
Glandular and hormonal problems. With insufficient iodine the thyroid gland may develop autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease. An increased incidence of anti-thyroid antibodies may lead to subclinical infections, gluten intolerance, and mercury or food allergies.
Fatigue - iodine deficiency can cause abnormal pituitary-adrenal function as well as low thyroid function.
General aches and pains, most noticeable in muscles and joints.
Ongoing subclinical infections from a compromised immune system. Iodine plays a role in protecting against bacteria, fungi and protozoa. Fungal infections such as candida/thrush, tinea, nail infections, bacterial and protozoan infections in the gut, and a variety of other chronic infections.
Build-up of fluorides, bromides and heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, lead). Iodine is one of a group of similar elements (halogens) including bromine, chlorine and fluorine. Halogens compete with each other in the body, particularly in the thyroid gland. Unfortunately bromine, chlorine and fluorine are toxic. When there is a deficiency of iodine, the other halogens build up, causing hypothyroidism. Most of us are deficient in iodine and in a constant state of halogen toxicity. The good news is that when sufficient iodine is present, the other halogens are excreted from the body, along with other toxic heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead.
Depression and a variety of other neuropathies.
Irregular mood or metabolism.
Reduced intelligence in infants and children. A reduction of up to 15-20 IQ points, even when no other symptoms are present. Sufficient iodine is essential during pregnancy and lactation.
Indirectly, obesity and weight gain. Bromides make it difficult to lose weight once body fat starts to build up, and iodine displaces bromine.
Iodine assists with antioxidant activity. A lack manifests in faster aging and higher levels of disease.
Iodine is necessary for healthy breast and ovary tissue. Breast cancer, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovary syndrome and fibrocystic breast disease (painful breasts with nodules and cysts which are more symptomatic prior to menstrual periods). Fibrocystic disease often reverses with sufficient iodine replacement. Iodine is also effective at eliminating ovarian cysts. This is because of its effect on estrogens.
Cardiovascular diseases. Lipoprotein is a sticky substance as that produces arterial plaques from blood platelets, calcium and fibrin. Sufficient iodine can reverse this lipoprotein build-up.
Lung diseases. Iodine has been used successfully for treatment of asthma, bronchitis, viscous phlegm and other pulmonary ailments.
Dry skin with a decreased ability to sweat.
Weak digestion and a variety of digestive problems. Lack of stomach digestive acid production (achlorhydria).
Tests for iodine deficiency
Iodine patch test
This is a quick, rough, simple, inexpensive test. Paint a 5 cm (2 inch) square of iodine tincture (such as Lugol's solution) onto your inner arm or thigh. If the stain disappears or almost disappears:
- In less than 5 hours, then you are almost certainly extremely deficient.
- In less than 10 hours, then you are probably deficient.
- In less than 24 hours, then you may be deficient.
- remains or only slightly lightens after 24 hours then your levels are considered normal.
You can repeat this test every couple of weeks to see when your iodine dose can be reduced.
Iodine urine test
Take 4 iodine tablets (12.5 mg each) or 8 drops of Lugol's solution in half a glass of water. You will need a laboratory or test kit to monitor the iodine in your urine during the next 24 hours. If you have sufficient iodine, 90% of the 50 mg dose will be excreted during the next 24 hours. If iodine is lacking the body retains most of it with little appearing in the urine.
Good food sources of Iodine
Iodine is found abundantly in sea foods, such as fish and seaweeds of all kinds. Iodine supplementation is normally not required by a person on a diet with plenty of fish and seaweeds. Iodine is also found in milk and baked goods - these are not necessarily reliable sources for dietary iodine as they are not natural foods. Iodine may not be available in the same levels in all milk and baked goods, for example, the local bakery may not use iodine compounds as a part of dough conditioners, the dairy may not give iodine salt licks and disinfectants to their cows - the results will be low or insignificant iodine in the baked goods and the milk. As far as humans are concerned, the mineral iodine is considered an essential mineral whether the intake is from supplements or from natural foods rich in iodine. Eating plenty of seafood is the ideal way to ensure that sufficient iodine is being consumed; this is also the best way of supplementing iodine without the need to increase the intake of iodized salt.
Iodine is found abundantly in all kinds of seafood, in iodized salt and in sea weeds such as for kelp. Iodized salt is also found in many types of processed foods. Be sure to include abundant quantities of canned sardines, canned tuna, lobster, oyster, clams, cod, haddock, halibut, herring perch, salmon, sea bass, and shrimp in your monthly diet. Dulse, kelp, and seaweed also contain dietary iodine. Garlic, lima beans, Swiss chard, summer squash, sesame seeds, soybeans, turnip greens and spinach are rich in iodine as well. Dairy products also frequently contain significant amounts of iodine. This essential mineral is also found in abundance in vegetables grown in iodine rich soils around the world.
Health benefits of Iodine
Iodine is required to ensure proper development and metabolism in humans. Some of its specific health benefits include:
Health benefits of Iodine for Metabolic Rate
Iodine influences the functioning of thyroid glands by assisting in the production of hormones, which are directly responsible for controlling the body’s base metabolic rate. Metabolic rate affects the efficiency and efficacy of many of the body’s organ system and regular processes, including absorption of food, sleep cycles, and the transformation of food into usable energy.
Certain hormones, like thyroxin and triodothyronine, influence heart rate, blood pressure, body weight and temperature. The body maintains the BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate) with the help of these hormones, which also helps in protein synthesis. Ensuring their normal creation and distribution in the body is key to maintaining health, so maintaining the thyroid gland which they come from is essential.
Health benefits of Iodine for Energy Levels
Iodine also plays an important role in maintaining optimal energy levels of the body by ensuring the efficient utilization of calories, without allowing them to be deposited as excess fats.
Health benefits of Iodine for nails, hair and teeth
The health benefits of iodine include the formation of healthy and shiny skin, teeth and hair. Iodine is an important element for hair care, as a lack of this mineral can result in hair loss. Moreover, it also speeds up hair growth and increases follicle strength.
Health benefits of Iodine for Reproductive System
Iodine deficiency and the resulting low levels of thyroid hormone can cause women to stop ovulating, leading to infertility. Iodine deficiency can also lead to an autoimmune disease of the thyroid and may increase the risk of getting thyroid cancer. Some researchers think that iodine deficiency might also increase the risk of other cancers such as prostate, breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer.
Iodine deficiency during pregnancy is serious for both the mother and the baby. It can lead to high blood pressure during pregnancy for the mother, and mental retardation for the baby. Iodine plays an important role in development of the central nervous system. In extreme cases, iodine deficiency can lead to cretinism, a disorder that involves severely stunted physical and mental growth.
One problem that many pregnant women face is not realizing that they must consume iodine for herself and her child, because iodine passes into breast milk and a great deal is lost every day. Studies show that a pregnant or nursing woman can actually lose more than her entire required dose of iodine every day, which can result in serious iodine deficiency for her, even after pregnancy and breastfeeding is over, due to the changes in activity of her hormonal glands.
Health benefits of Iodine for Immune System Strength
Most people focus on the thyroid gland implications of iodine, but it has other functions, including being a major booster of the immune system. Iodine is itself a scavenger of free hydroxyl radicals, and that, like vitamin-C, it also stimulates and increases the activity of antioxidants throughout the body to provide a strong defensive measure against various diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Some studies showed iodine directly protecting brain cells of rats from the harmful effects of free radicals by bonding to fatty acids in the cell membranes, leaving less room for free radicals to affect the organism.
Health benefits of Iodine for Hypothyroidism
This condition is characterized by an under-active thyroid gland, and results in the general slowing down of all bodily processes as the chemical balance in your body goes off track. One of the most common results of hypothyroidism is a large increase in weight, because your body simply doesn’t burn off the calories of food and turn it into useful energy. Although hypothyroidism can occur for a number of reasons, not just iodine deficiency, it is still a good idea to increase your intake of iodine and stimulate the hormonal activity that will help you lose the weight and body fat that is so common to hypothyroid patients.
Some other effects of hypothyroidism are fatigue, dry skin, trouble concentrating, constipation, cramps, and leg swelling. If not treated, it can even result in more serious conditions like heart failure or a coma.
Health benefits of Iodine for Fibrocystic disease
Iodine can significantly reduce conditions like fibrosis, turgidity, and breast tenderness. Iodine acts as a relief for fibrocystic diseases and is widely used in therapies, both alternative and modern. Studies have shown a significant correspondence between molecular iodine and a reduction in the signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease.
Health benefits of Iodine for Cancer Prevention
Probably the most important health benefit of iodine apart from its thyroidal influence is its anti-carcinogenic properties. Studies have shown that cancer cells shrink after being injected with iodine, and at times, they even undergo apoptosis (automatic cell death) and are then replaced with healthier cells. The exact mechanism of this process is still unknown, but studies have found this positive connection, particularly in terms of iodine’s effects on inducing apoptosis in breast cancer carcinoma cells.
In terms of thyroid cancer, iodine is essential in preventing this extremely dangerous form of cancer. Studies have shown that Thyroid cancer patients consistently show an improvement in symptoms after increasing their levels of iodine intake, and the appearance of thyroid cancer is far more common in people who suffer from iodine deficiency. Basically, iodine is a preventative measure and a cure of sorts for thyroid cancer.
Health benefits of Iodine for Iodine programmed cell death
Iodine ensures the apoptosis or the programmed cell death which is essential in the formation of new organs as well as in the removal of malignant cells like cancer cells or diseased cells, which might prove harmful to the individual. This function is mainly derived from its activities on the thyroid gland and subsequent hormonal secretion and regulation from the thyroid gland. However, without iodine, vital processes like these could never occur.
Health benefits of Iodine for Iodine removes toxic chemicals
Iodine can flush out chemical toxins like fluoride, lead, mercury, and biological toxins. The role of this “extrathyroidal iodine” that does other work throughout the body is very important. It has certain antibacterial qualities, particularly against Heliobacter pylori, which is a dangerous bacterial infection of the stomach, more commonly called H. Pylori, which has been connected with causing gastric cancer.
Health benefits of Iodine for Thyroid and Goiter disorders
Iodine deficiency is widely recognized as the basic cause of Goiter. The thyroid gland needs iodine to make hormones. If the thyroid doesn’t have enough iodine to do its job, feedback systems in the body cause the thyroid to work harder. This can cause an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which becomes evident as a swollen neck.
Other benefits of Iodine
Iodine is also used for treating a skin disease caused by a fungus (cutaneous sporotrichosis); treating fibrocystic breast disease; preventing breast cancer, eye disease, diabetes, and heart disease and stroke; and as an expectorant.
Iodine is also used to for radiation emergencies, to protect the thyroid gland against radioactive iodides. Potassium iodide tablets for use in a radiation emergency are available as FDA-approved products (ThyroShield, Iosat) and on the Internet as food supplements. Potassium iodide should only be used in a radiation emergency, not in advance of an emergency to prevent sickness.
Iodine is applied to the skin to kill germs, prevent soreness inside the mouth (mucositis) caused by chemotherapy, and treat diabetic ulcers.
Iodine Side effects and cautions
Supplemental iodine may also induce side effects of a mild nature in some; the initial physical symptom is typically a rash resembling acne.
Iodine can cause significant side effects in some people. Common side effects include nausea and stomach pain, runny nose, headache, metallic taste, and diarrhea.
In sensitive people, iodine can cause side effects including swelling of the lips and face (angioedema), severe bleeding and bruising, fever, joint pain, lymph node enlargement, allergic reactions including hives, and death.
In both children and adults, there is concern that higher intake can increase the risk of side effects such as thyroid problems. Iodine in larger amounts can cause metallic taste, soreness of teeth and gums, burning in mouth and throat, increased saliva, throat inflammation, stomach upset, diarrhea, wasting, depression, skin problems, and many other side effects.
When iodine is used directly on the skin, it can cause skin irritation, stains, allergic reactions, and other side effects. Be careful not to bandage or tightly cover areas that have been treated with iodine to avoid iodine burn.
Thyroid disorders, such as too little thyroid function (hypothyroidism), an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), or a thyroid tumor: Prolonged use or high doses of iodine might make these conditions worse. Likewise, excessive iodine in the body may cause lymphocytes or white blood cells to infiltrate the thyroid and even block hormone production.
Iodine consumed at very high doses - several milligrams daily - might interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland and supplements of iodine at high doses may be used only following approval from a nutritionally oriented doctor experienced in iodine supplementation.