Iodine: An Essential Element for Thyroid Health

What Is Iodine?

Iodine is an element required by the body to make thyroid hormones, as well as other hormones. The body does not make iodine by itself, and so we must get iodine from the foods that we eat, or by taking an iodine supplement. If we don’t get adequate iodine from our food then we will develop deficiency symptoms. Without iodine, thyroid hormones cannot be synthesized. Iodine is also used in other functions of the body in conjunction with other vitamins, minerals and elements like calcium and silicon.  Iodine is also used as an antiseptic topically to kill bacteria, fungus and other microorganisms. Iodine is essential for the body to function properly.

Effects/Mechanisms:

The thyroid gland is one endocrine gland in a network of endocrine glands; it makes special groups of cells that make hormones. These hormones are chemical messengers that provide instructions to the organs and tissues of the body and therefore control processes such as: metabolism to help avoid excess fat accumulation, proper fetal growth, and ensures stable mental functioning. Iodine is essential for the proper manufacture and distribution of these hormones, without it these normal functions of the human body cannot be carried out properly.

Iodine also helps with the proper elimination of toxins from the body. Studies show that there may be a relation to poor liver function and the thyroid gland’s ability to properly utilize iodine. This might be because the liver is our detoxification organ; all toxins leaving the body must be filtered by the liver. If the liver isn’t functioning properly than toxins cannot be excreted from the body and toxins will begin to collect in the organs, especially the thyroid gland. Making sure your liver is properly eliminating toxins is a good idea when thinking about optimizing your thyroid function.

Iodine also helps the body to utilize minerals such as calcium and silicon. Calcium and silicon are essential for the proper development of bones, teeth nails and hair.

Exposure to bromide can inhibit the absorption of iodine. It displaces iodine creating a deficiency, and this deficiency leads to an increased risk for cancer of the breast, thyroid gland, ovary, and prostate – cancers that we see at disturbingly high rates today. Fluoride in our drinking water and in our oral care products can also displace iodine in our bodies, leading to deficiency. Exposure to nuclear wastes can also have a similar affect of displacing iodine in our bodies, leading to deficiency, as well as causing many forms of cancer as well as thyroid cancer.

Stress is a big factor in how your body functions, especially our thyroid. It has been shown that stress can affect how much thyroid hormone is created by our bodies. Emotional stresses can inhibit the release of thyroid hormones for one to two days at a time. Physical trauma, for instance if you have an accident or injury, has been shown to have a similar negative effect on the thyroid gland’s ability to release enough hormones for the body to function well. This is because the thyroid gland is intimately connected to the adrenal glands, which are our body’s stress hormone glands. When our adrenals are working too hard from emotional stress or physical trauma, our thyroid will suffer too.

If we do not consume adequate iodine from our food or supplements, and our exposure to toxins is high, we will develop deficiency diseases. These vary, but include:

Goiter

Goiter is where the thyroid becomes enlarged from either too much thyroid hormone, too little, or possibly from a virus. The enlarged thyroid gland is easily seen from the outside of the neck as the neck looks swollen. Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Graves Disease and multinodular goiters are common causes of goiter, and in more extreme cases cancer can by the culprit. Sometimes people develop goiter with normal levels of thyroid hormones in their blood, as seen on a blood test.

Hashimotos Thyroiditis

Hashimotos thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid thinking that its cells are an enemy to be destroyed. These attacks cause the thyroid to not produce enough thyroid hormones for the body, leading to low thyroid function which is otherwise known as hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is where the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone to supply the body with adequate hormones. This affects the body by slowing metabolism, affecting mood, impeding proper heart function, causing dry skin, hair loss and coarse hair growth, hair growth in abnormal places, abnormal menstrual cycles and difficulties regulating body temperature.

Grave’s Disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition where your immune system creates antibodies that cause the thyroid to grow and make more thyroid hormone than your body needs, making the thyroid work very hard.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidsim is when the thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone. This affects the body negatively by: affecting heart function and can cause irregular heart rhythms, causing weight loss, anxiety, restlessness, hair loss, and breast development in men. Hyperthyroidism can be very dangerous if left untreated.

Adrenal dysfunction

When thyroid function is abnormal often time people notice that their adrenal function becomes affected. The thyroid and adrenals have a close bond and rely on each other for proper functioning. Signs of adrenal dysfunction include; anxiety, inability to cope with stressors, jitteriness, insomnia and joint pain.

Complications in pregnancy

If a woman doesn’t consume enough iodine in the early stages of pregnancy, causing her to have hypothyroidism, this will cause irreversible brain damage to her baby. As well, it could cause the baby to have thyroid issues of its own when it is born. Inadequate iodine intake can also be one of the causes of low energy that most women experience early in their pregnancy.

Benefits of Iodine:

Adequate iodine intake will safeguard you against many of the conditions listed above.  It has also been shown to be a powerful antioxidant, protecting the brain from deteriorating. It is a powerful immune booster, and helps the body to ward off colds and other more serious diseases. It has also been shown to help with fibrocystic breast disease, as women who are deficient develop the disease, while women with adequate levels of iodine do not.

Iodine is known to cause cancer cells to die, especially in women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer. Adequate iodine intake can help our liver to properly eliminate toxins from the body, helping to reduce the number of toxins that accumulate in our bodies.

Other benefits of iodine are: increased energy levels, elimination of brain fog, clearer skin and regular bowel movements.

Dosage:

There is some debate about the right dose of iodine for people to take. Too much iodine can be bad for you. But, because of our farming practices, our soil is of such poor quality and depleted of nutrients, that our foods are very deficient in most essential vitamins, minerals and elements, to provide us with enough nutrients for the body to function at its best. Combine that with our poor Western diets, which are deficient in nutrients and it is safe to say that most of us are safe to take a bit of iodine in supplemental form.

Studies show that the following recommendations for iodine intake ensure optimal levels will be maintained in the body for excellent health.

Pregnant women should be getting 250-300 ug per day of iodine per day, and breast feeding women should be getting more at 225-350 ug per day. Women who are not pregnant or breast feeding should be getting about 200 ug per day of iodine.

Men should be getting about 200 ug of iodine per day for optimal health.

It is also important to remember that during times of emotional stress or physical trauma your need for iodine increases, and so your intake should increase accordingly.

It is important to source a high quality iodine supplement for excellent absorption by the body.

Best Ways to Get Iodine

It’s tricky to get adequate iodine from foods sources alone, so it is always a good idea to get some of your daily iodine intake from a supplement. There is iodine in some multivitamins, but often times extra iodine is needed to help replenish stores of iodine if a person is depleted. Good food sources of iodine include:

  • Sea vegetables such as kelp, nori and seaweed.
  • Strawberries
  • Navy beans
  • Egg yolks
  • Fish
  • Dairy
  • Chocolate
  • Potatoes

Because it is tricky to get iodine in the diet some salt has added iodine, these are referred to as “iodized salt”. But these types of salt are not ideal to consume and people should avoid them. They contain anti-caking agents to prevent them from clumping together and sticking to the container they are stored in. These anti-caking agents are not good for people to consume, and are bad for our intestinal health. If we have poor intestinal health then we won’t properly absorb nutrients, including iodine. Try using other salts in place of iodized table salt. There are many wonderful options which include: Celtic salt, sea salt or Himalayan pink salt. All of these salts are excellent substitutes and contain minerals which are essential for our body.

It is a good idea to eat a diet that supplies your body with lots of iodine. But, as stated above, this can be tricky. So it is best to take a good quality iodine supplement to make sure that you are getting enough. Most thyroid supplements include iodine, but you can check our list here to make sure.

Final Thoughts

Iodine is an essential element in the proper functioning of the human body, and more specifically the proper functioning of the thyroid gland since it uses the most iodine of all of the organs in the human body. Diseases such as: Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Graves’ disease, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiters, as well as complications in pregnancy are affected by the improper functioning of the thyroid gland. Iodine is an excellent helper in the fight against cancer.

Ensuring you are getting adequate iodine is essential for optimal health. Eating a good diet is the first step to avoid deficiency. But eating well can be challenging in our modern, fast-paced, world so sometimes taking a good quality iodine supplement is a good idea. Dosages for women, men and children are different, so keep that in mind.

Think about how you can reduce your exposure to things that can inhibit the body’s utilization of iodine. Stay away from things containing bromide and fluoride, and stay far away from nuclear facilities. Optimize your liver function to help your body eliminate toxins that you might come into contact with. Try drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning to help kick start your liver function. This will help your body to use iodine more effectively, which will make it easier for your thyroid to get the iodine it needs to function optimally.

Look into what types of water filtration systems are available in your area, and are within your budget, to help reduce your explore to fluoride and other toxins that might be in the water.  Open the windows in your house and car as often as possible to reduce your exposure to indoor air pollutants and off-gassing furniture. Look at your life, is there something that can be changed or eliminated to help reduce the amount of stress you have? Breathe deeply, meditate and be in nature often, this will help you to feel less stressed.

Sources:

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7 Foods Rich in Iodine

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