(NaturalNews) Iodine may just be the most overlooked mineral, yet its importance to overall health and well being cannot be overstated. Iodine is critical for the formation of thyroid hormone in the thyroid gland. People who have difficulty losing weight even though they eat small portions of health promoting foods may be short on iodine. Iodine deficiency can lead to dull and brittle hair, balding, lack of skin tone, low energy levels, difficulty dealing with environmental temperature change, poor concentration, constipation, depression, and extreme fatigue.
Why many people are iodine deficient
Health conscious people expect conventional produce to be grown in soils deficient in essential minerals. They may be surprised to find out that organic produce is also often lacking sufficient amounts of iodine. Adequate intake of iodine was once a recognized problem that was solved by adding small amounts of it in the processing of table salt. Once this was done, the obvious symptoms of severe iodine deficiency disappeared from view, and little further thought was given to matter, though sub-clinical symptoms remained. Today's health conscious consumers have lowered their salt intake and now fail to get even that small amount of iodine in their diets. Many people have replaced processed iodized salt with sea salt, an obvious healthy alternative, except that sea salt does not naturally contain a significant amount of iodine.
Iodine has many actions in the body
A shortage of iodine can cause changes to the thyroid gland that directly lead to poor function of metabolism and immunity. Iodine deficiency promotes free radical damage in the thyroid gland that puts the gland itself at risk. Iodine blocks various compounds from binding to and accumulating in the thyroid gland, such as fluoride, perchlorate, and goitrogens. Environmental pollution significantly aggravates an iodine lack and displaces iodine in the body.
Iodine is in high concentration in the ovaries and breast tissue, acting as a buffer to the growth stimulating effects of estrogen and as a promoter of proper estrogen metabolism. Iodine assists the functioning of hormone receptors throughout the body, helping hormones communicate more effectively. Thyroid hormone governs the rate of other hormone formation, and thus governs sexual function.
Iodine is essential for proper brain development and cognitive ability. There have been many studies showing the importance of iodine during gestation when cognitive potential is formed. A mother with adequate iodine levels will be more likely to produce a child with superior brain development.
Recent research documents the importance of proper iodine levels
A study reported in the September edition of Endocrine Review noted that iodine is critical for the biological effects mediated by thyroid hormone. Iodine containing enzymes important to the action of the thyroid were also found to increase or decrease thyroid hormone signaling in a tissue-and temporal-specific fashion, independently of changes in thyroid hormone serum concentrations. It was clear to the researchers that these enzymes play a much broader role than was once thought, with great ramifications for the control of thyroid hormone signaling during vertebrate development and metamorphosis, as well as injury response, tissue repair, hypothalamic function, and energy homeostasis in adults.
The September 3 edition of Cancer Causes and Control reports a review of literature focused on risk factors for thyroid cancer. The researchers found that at present, the only recognized measures for reducing thyroid cancer risk are avoiding ionizing radiation and iodine deficiency, particularly in children and young women.
The European Journal of Nutrition, August edition, reports it widely accepted that the rapid rate of growth of the brain during the last third of gestation and the early postnatal stage makes it vulnerable to an inadequate diet. A deficiency of iodine during this critical period in brain development is associated with reduced intellectual ability.
The August 12 edition of Medical Hypotheses reports the World Health organization showing iodine deficiency to be a worldwide health problem. As iodine status is based in median urinary iodine excretion, even in countries regarded as iodine sufficient, a considerable part of the population may be iodine deficient. Iodine deficiency traditionally results in hypothyroidism, goiter, and cretinism. Researchers hypothesized that iodine deficiency may also give rise to subtle impairment of thyroid function leading to clinical syndromes resembling hypothyroidism or diseases that have been associated with the occurrence of hypothyroidism. They described several clinical conditions suspected to be linked to iodine deficiency, including obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychiatric disorders, fibromyalgia, and malignancies.
Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, August 6, reports that the trace elements iodine and selenium are essential for thyroid gland functioning and thyroid hormone biosynthesis and metabolism. While iodine is needed as the eponymous constituent of the two major thyroid hormones T3 and T4, selenium is essential for the biosynthesis and function of small numbers of selenocysteine containing enzymes that control thyroid hormone turnover.
The August 1 edition of Lancet reports that 2 billion individuals worldwide have insufficient iodine intake, producing adverse effects on growth and development due to inadequate production of thyroid hormone. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental impairment worldwide. The researchers recommended iodine supplements be used to remediate deficiency.
The Alternative Medicine Review, June edition, reports that iodine deficiency is critical in pregnancy due to the consequences for neurological damage during fetal development as well as during lactation. The safety of therapeutic doses of iodine above the established safe upper limit of 1 mg is evident in the lack of toxicity in the Japanese population that consumes 25 times the median intake of iodine consumption in the United States. Japan's population suffers no demonstrable increased incidence of autoimmune thyroiditis or hypothyroidism. Studies using 3.0 to 6.0 mg doses to effectively treat fibrocystic breast disease may reveal an important role for iodine in maintaining normal breast tissue architecture and function. Iodine may also have important antioxidant functions in breast tissue and other tissues that concentrate iodine via the sodium iodide supporter.
Determining iodine deficiency
Due to the fact that iodine deficiency can have serious consequences, it is important for people to use iodine supplementation if they are not regularly getting adequate amounts from food. Good food sources of iodine are dairy products produced from cattle fed iodine-supplemented feed and salt licks, iodized salt, seafood, saltwater fish, seaweed, and kelp. It may also be found in asparagus, garlic, lima beans, mushrooms, sesame seed, spinach, chard, and summer squash. Some foods block the uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland when eaten raw in large amounts, such as cabbage, kale, peaches, pears and spinach.
Pregnant women, the elderly and adolescents are more predisposed to iodine deficiency. More women than men are short on iodine. In addition to low thyroid functioning, symptoms of iodine deficiency include depression, weight gain, weak heartbeat, extreme dry hair and skin, swelling of the legs, decreased ability to concentrate, muscle cramps, puffiness or swelling of the eyes, and chronic aches and pains. Fatigue is a common symptom, characterized by the urge to fall asleep when not active. Hypersensitivity to cold, or cold hands and feet is another frequently reported symptom. When the metabolism is not up to par, there is less energy and heat produced.
The best known iodine supplement is kelp, which offers iodine as well as other minerals in a whole food form. Iodine from kelp is naturally in the form of potassium iodide, which is not soluble in water and may be difficult for the body to use. According to health guru Byron Richards, this form of iodine has been shown to congest the thyroid gland when taken in high doses. Kelp is readily available online or in health food stores.
Richard's company Wellness Resources produces an iodine product called Iosol that is made with iodine extracted from kelp and made into pure iodine crystals. In this process the iodine is unbound from the potassium. The crystals are combined with ammonium iodide, a form that readily dissolves in water. The result is an iodine supplement with high bioavailability.
Both kelp and Iosol supplements are highly affordable.
About the author
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.