Iodine is an essential trace element that is vital for normal growth and development. Around 60% of the iodine in the human body is stored in the thyroid gland. Its health benefits 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. In fact, without it, thyroid hormones could not even be synthesized.
Iodine controls the functioning of thyroid glands in human body, which in turn has a significant influence on the metabolic processes in the body. It helps in the optimal utilization of calories, thereby preventing its storage as excess fat. Other benefits include removal of toxins from the body and assistance for the system in utilizing various minerals, like calcium and silicon.
Deficiency Symptoms of Iodine
A deficiency of iodine can have serious effects on the body. The symptoms of its deficiency include frustration, depression, mental retardation, poor perception levels, goiter, abnormal weight gain, decreased fertility, coarse skin, chances of still birth in expectant mothers, constipation and fatigue. In severe cases, mental retardation associated with diseases such as cretinism, characterized by serious physical malformations, can be the result. According to WHO reports, iodine deficiency is one of the leading causes of mental retardation all over the world.
It is somewhat rare for this deficiency to occur in North America, as many food items are either grown in iodine-rich soil, or they contain salt, which is often iodized in western nations. However, some countries do not iodize their salt, and cultures that grow crops and livestock at a great distance from coastal waters are less likely to have iodine-rich soil, so they must consider that in their diet. The body needs 100-200 mcg of iodine per day, and 1/4 teaspoon of iodized salt contains approximately 95 mcg of iodine, so you can see why nations with access to iodized salt are far less likely to suffer from iodine deficiency.
Important Sources of Iodine
It is present in large quantities in both marine plants and animals, including shellfish, deep-water whitefish, and brown seaweed kelp, which can absorb iodine from sea water. 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. Iodized salt is another important source of iodine, and bakers regularly add iodine to bread dough as a stabilizing agent.
Health Benefits of Iodine
It is required to ensure proper development and metabolism in humans. Some of its specific health benefits include:
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.
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.
Healthy nails, hair and teeth: The health benefits of iodine include the formation of healthy and shiny skin, teeth and hair. It 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.
Reproductive System: It helps in the normal growth and maturity of reproductive organs. A sufficient quantity of iodine in pregnant women is essential to prevent stillbirths or neurocognitive conditions like cretinism in the newborn babies. It can also lead to gestational hypertension, which can result in a number of complications during infancy. It also ensures proper movement and growth, along with speech and hearing abilities. Furthermore, besides affecting the health of the baby once it is conceived, a deficiency in iodine can actually make a woman infertile!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thyroid and Goiter disorders: Iodine deficiency is widely recognized as the basic cause of Goiter. You should add eggs, salt, sea food, and dairy products to your diet to avoid iodine deficiency, and also, this often works as a cure for an enlarged thyroid gland.
A Few Words of Caution: Iodine overdose of more than 2,000 mg could be dangerous, especially in people suffering from kidney ailments or tuberculosis. When taken in excess, iodine could result in thyroid papillary cancer, rather than helping to prevent it. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should be cautious not to take iodine except in specifically prescribed doses. A healthy balance is required, but different people’s bodies will react differently to dose amounts, so be careful and observant.