THE BODY’S NEED FOR THE MINERAL IODINE

Most people are familiar with the need for iodine to make the hormone thyroxine in the thyroid gland. This hormone is essential for cellular metabolism. Inadequate iodine levels can lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), a condition characterized by insufficient production of thyroxine.  A growth in the neck known as goiter is an obvious sign of hypothyroidism. Lack of sufficient iodine can lead to a condition called cretinism characterized by severe mental retardation accompanied by physical deformities.  What is less known, even among health professionals, is that iodine has been shown to protect the body from a variety of additional health problems.

       Researchers have shown iodine to effectively relieve signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease.  A study published in the Canadian Journal of Surgery in 1993, found that iodine relieved signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease in 70 percent of their patients. The incidence of fibrocystic breast disease in American women was 3% in the 1920’s. Today 90% of women will have this disorder manifested by fluid filled cysts and fibrosis. Six million American women with fibrocystic disease have moderate to severe breast pain and tenderness that lasts more than six days during the menstrual cycle. Dr. Donald Miller, Jr., M.D., in his presentation, “Iodine for Health,” reported that in animal studies where female rats were fed an iodine free diet, they developed fibrocystic changes in their breast and when given iodine the problem disappeared.

        Around fifteen percent (one in seven) of American women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Thirty years ago, when iodine consumption was twice as high as it is now, one in twenty women developed breast cancer. Iodine was used as a dough conditioner in making bread, and each slice of bread contained 0.14 mg of iodine. In 1980, bread makers started using bromide as a conditioner instead. Bromide competes with iodine for absorption into the thyroid gland and other tissues in the body. Iodine was also more widely used in the dairy industry 30 years ago than it is now.

       Iodine (iodide) is part of the very reactive family of non metallic minerals called halogens. The term halogen means salt-former and compounds containing halogens are called salts. Fluoride is the most reactive of this group followed by chloride, bromide and iodide.  By reactive is meant the mineral’s ability to combine with other minerals to form compounds.  For example, sodium easily combines with chloride to form sodium chloride which is common table salt. Iodide readily combines with potassium to form potassium iodide which is a common supplemental form of iodine.

       Iodide is the “weak sister” of the halogen family as it is the least reactive compared to fluoride, chloride and bromide. All four of these halogens compete for receptor sites in the body, and the first three are able to gain acceptance by receptor sites more readily than iodide.  Both fluoride and chloride is found in municipal water supplies. Some researchers believe these two halogens adversely compete with iodide in the body and prevent its proper utilization.   

        Natural iodine is primarily found in sea weeds such as kelp and in ocean fish.  Much of our food supply is iodine deficient because our soils have become very deficient in this mineral. Therefore, iodized table salt has become the main source of iodine in the Western diet. However, because of concerns about the association between too much salt and high blood pressure, consumption of iodized table salt has decreased 65 percent over the past thirty years. Furthermore, the much higher concentrations of chloride in salt inhibits absorption of its sister halogen iodine. The intestines absorb only 10 percent of the iodine present in iodized table salt.


        Other functions of iodine that are being studied is its role in the removal of toxic chemicals from the body, its suppression of  auto-immune activity, its capacity to  strengthen T-cell immune activity and its observed protection against abnormal growth of bacteria in the stomach. It has been shown that a number of body tissues have receptor sites for the iodine molecule which indicates iodine is necessary for a variety of physiological processes in addition to its association with thyroid function. 

       Iodine is known to induce a process called apoptosis which is programmed cell death. This process facilitates the destruction of cancer cells and cells infected with viruses. It has been shown that when human lung cancer cells are caused to take up and utilize more iodine, they undergo apoptosis and shrink.

        Iodine was discovered in 1811 and for years was used for a wide variety of ailments. It has been found to be effective in gram amounts for treating various skin conditions, chronic lung disease, fungal infestations, syphilis and arteriosclerosis.  The Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Szent Györgi (1893–1986), the physician who discovered vitamin C, writes: "When I was a medical student, iodine in the form of KI (potassium iodide) was the universal medicine. Nobody knew what it did, but it did something and did something good.”

       For many years physicians used potassium iodide in doses starting at 1.5 to 3 grams and up to more than 10 grams a day, on and off, to treat bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  Good results were obtained with few side effects.

        Americans consume an average of 240 micrograms of iodine a day. In contrast, Japanese consume upwards of 12 milligrams (12,000 micrograms) or more of iodine per day.  The Japanese eat a lot of different types of seaweed on a regular basis.  The rate of breast disease is much lower in Japan compared to the U.S.  While other dynamics are involved, it would appear there is a protective factor in the Japanese diet and life style that is responsible for this much lower incidence in breast disease.  Since research has show iodine to be a dynamic in prevention of breast disease, iodine just may be the protective factor. 

        It is interesting that ductal cells in the breast, the ones most likely to become cancerous, are equipped with an “iodine pump” which is responsible for the uptake of iodine. This pump mechanism is just like the one responsible for the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland.  The very presence of such a pump in the breasts shows iodine to be a necessary nutrient to the health of this tissue.  In addition to the thyroid and breasts, a number of other tissues possess an iodine pump. Such tissues include the stomach mucosa, the salivary glands, ovaries, thymus gland, the skin, choroid plexus in the brain which makes cerebrospinal fluid, and the joints, arteries and bone.

       Dr. David Brownstein, M.D., has treated thousands of patients in his clinic with iodine supplementation.  He writes the following, “As I started to use larger amounts of iodine (12.5-50 mg/day) to achieve whole body sufficiency, I began to see positive results in my patients. Goiters and nodules of the thyroid shrank, cysts on the ovaries became smaller and began to disappear, patients reported increased energy, and metabolism was increased as evidenced by my patients having new success in losing weight. Libido improved in both men and women. People suffering from brain fog reported a clearing of the fogginess. Patients reported having vivid dreams and sleeping better. Most importantly, those with chronic illnesses that were having a difficult time improving began to notice many of their symptoms resolving”.

        In view of the body’s apparent need for iodine in many ways other than for thyroid function, it may be wise to consider increasing dietary iodine.  The daily requirement for iodine is recommended at 150 micrograms.   This amount was established by the government many years ago as the minimum required to prevent thyroid deficiency. Since many additional needs for iodine have been identified, it should be apparent that a higher level of iodine intake is justified.  As cited above, the Japanese average over 12,000 micrograms of iodine per day with no negative side effects and with apparent health benefits.  

        Since it is virtually impossible to get much additional iodine from the typical American diet, it may be wise to take a good quality iodine supplement that will supply the level of iodine discussed in this essay.  At Milk ‘N Honey, we carry a product called Tri-Iodine from the company EuroPharma which provide 12.5 milligrams (12,500 micrograms) of iodine in one daily capsule.  This product features three different forms of iodine as it has been determined that different body tissues respond better to one form versus another form of this mineral.  For those wishing to specifically target the thyroid gland, we carry the product Thyroid Care which in addition to providing the three forms of iodine in Tri-Iodine, also provides the amino acid tyrosine which the thyroid requires in addition to iodine in order to make the thyroid hormone thyroxine. For information on the thyroid and its role in the body go to: nutrition-101-part-ten.