Initially used as a treatment for goiter, more and more studies are revealing a link between this essential nutrient and the prevention of cancers and other diseases.
What is iodine?
Iodine is a mineral that is found in certain foods. The body uses iodine for the production of thyroid hormones, which control the body’s metabolism and many other important functions. The body also needs thyroid hormones for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy.
The body does not make iodine, so it must be obtained through a proper diet. Iodine deficiency can lead to enlargement of the thyroid (goiter), hypothyroidism, as well as a host of other health issues.
How does it affect the body?
First discovered in 1811, iodine was first used for treatment of goiter. In the 1890’s, goiter was very prevalent in the great lakes region, with 40% of school age children afflicted. Subsequently, iodine was added to table salt in 1928 (iodized salt), which helped to eliminate the problem. Today, goiter is considered a thing of the past, only occurring in impoverished regions of the world.
Doctors have long believed that, because the incidence of goiter has disappeared, Americans are getting ample amounts of iodine in their diet- however, emerging studies and research show that many prevalent health issues today may be linked to a deficiency in iodine.
Every gland and organ in our body is dependent on iodine, especially the thyroid, breast tissue, certain areas of the brain, also eyes and bones. The thyroid is the master gland for hormones in the body, and any hormonal issues may be linked to it. It also regulates our metabolism, with a deficiency in iodine resulting in a lowered metabolism and weight gain.
Uses of iodine in the body:
- supports apoptosis (programmed cancer cell death which prevents cancer)
- involved in ATP (energy) production and management, prevents premature fatigue
- helps to keep insulin requirements normal
- supports protein synthesis
- destroys pathogens, molds, fungi, and parasites
- helps excrete toxic halogens and lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and mercury
- regulates estrogen production and helps prevent polycystic ovarian disease
- helps prevent heart disease
- affects IQ all throughout life
- supports pregnancy
- is needed for healthy nails, hair, teeth, and bones
- is required to achieve and maintain your ideal weight
- helpful in preventing cancer of breasts, colon, lungs, ovaries, pancreas, prostate, stomach, and thyroid
Estrogen’s effect on iodine levels
In 1924, 56% of the population of Akron Ohio had goiter, with ratio of 6 women to every 1 man. Interestingly enough, before the onset of puberty, the ratio of goiter was 1:1 (women:men), but after puberty the ratio becomes 6:1. The ratio of hypothyroidism in women to men is 15:1. Clearly, adult women are more affected then men in these issues, and this may be due to the high levels of estrogen in the body, since it is known that estrogen inhibits the ability of the body to absorb iodine.
A link to cancer?
It is also interesting to note that people who have goiter have a higher incidence of thyroid cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer. The thyroid gland is the primary gland which produces thyroid hormone, followed by the ovaries, and all of these tissues have the ability to concentrate iodine, including the thymus gland, pancreas, and breast tissue.
Most notable of these is the thymus gland – which manufactures killer T cells (the body’s natural defense mechanism to cancer, these cells go after and attack cancer cells in the body). There appears to be a definite link between lowered iodine levels and a lowered defense against cancer.
According to Jorge D. Flechas, MD, the absence of iodine in the human body is a promoter of cancer. Regardless of where it occurs in the body, the absence of iodine produces cysts, nodules, scar tissue, enlargement, and pain, eventually leading to cancer:
- absence of iodine in the thyroid leads to goiter, which eventually leads to cancer.
- absence of iodine in the breast tissue leads to fibrocystic breast disease, a precursor to breast cancer
- absence of iodine in the stomach produces Achlorahydria (no acid production), which leads to stomach cancer
- absence of iodine in the endometrium produces endometriosis, which leads to endometrial cancer
Though the modern diet has enough iodine to suppress the condition of goiter, many people are still very deficient in this mineral. This is largely due to industrial farming practices, which strip the soil of this essential nutrient (along with many others), leaving food with severely reduced levels of iodine. Over the years, iodine has also been removed from bread and milk, and with the onset of low- or no-salt diets, this leaves very few nutritional options for obtaining sufficient amounts of iodine. Studies have also shown that 50% women do not cook with iodized salt.
As we age, it is common practice for doctors to recommend special heart-healthy diets which are low in sodium and cholesterol- however, an unintended consequence of these diets may be a deficiency in iodine. It is interesting to note that about 25% of seniors (aged 60+) have hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of deficiency include:
- brain fog
- cold hands and feet
- swollen or sore breasts
- joint pain
- sub-clinical depression or irritability
- weight gain or problems with weight loss
- difficulty becoming pregnant
- issues with hair and/or nails
- dry skin,
- muscle weakness
- more sleep needed
- symptoms associated with hormone imbalances (for both women and men)
Low iodine has been linked to:
- thyroid disorders
- hormone related conditions
- cancers (thyroid, breast, prostate, endometrium, ovaries)
- Parkinson disease
- Alzheimer disease
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Liver disease
- Ovarian cysts (PCOS)
- Parotid duct stones
- Abnormal weight
Iodine in the diet
The following foods are considered good sources of iodine, though if a person is severely deficient, the levels present in the foods may not be enough to re-establish healthy amounts of iodine in the body, and supplementation may be necessary.
Foods that contain iodine:
- Cows milk
- Frozen Yogurt
- Ice Cream
- Iodine-containing multivitamins
- Iodized table salt
- Saltwater fish
- Seaweed (including kelp, dulce, nori)
- Soy milk
- Soy sauce
Supplementing with iodine
Because of the codependency and interaction with other nutrients in the body, it can be very dangerous to supplement iodine without guidance from a health practitioner, nutritionist, or holistic doctor who is well educated in iodine. For this reason, it is recommended that you seek medical council before supplementing with iodine. Home test kits can also be purchased online to determine whether or not you may have an iodine deficiency.
To learn more about the importance of iodine visit the following links:
Home test kits:
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