Previously by Margaret Durst: Insomnia — Natural Remedies for a Good Night's Sleep
Iodine is an essential trace mineral that we normally obtain in our diet from iodized salt. Deficiency of iodine results in goiter or enlarged thyroid gland. Goiter is usually accompanied by hypothyroid conditions such as fatigue, coldness, constipation, weight gain and poor memory.
In 1924, iodine was added to table salt to remedy the massive iodine deficiency that was occurring in the United States. Iodine is normally supplied by things from the sea, such as fish and seaweed. Up until the late 1960’s, dough conditioners that contained iodine were commonly used, increasing the average daily intake of iodine to more than four times the current RDA of 150 mcg.
In the late 1960’s, these dough conditioners were replaced with bromine which interferes with the absorption of iodine. We also get exposed to bromides from many different chemical sources. So even if we get enough iodine in our diet, we end up deficient due to other factors that limit our uptake of iodine.
Traditionally, iodine has been linked to thyroid issues, but recent research has linked iodine to other conditions including cracked skin on the hands and feet, frequent sinus infections, cysts of the ovaries, uterus and / or breasts, fibroids, hot flashes, and emotional changes during cold weather.
Women tend to need more iodine than men. Breast and ovarian tissue uptake iodine at about the same rate as the thyroid. One iodine researcher found that about one woman in seven is iodine deficient. This is very close to the ratio of breast cancer in women.
Iodine desensitizes estrogen receptors in the breasts resulting in less cell growth while promoting cell death of malignant cells. Kelp, a natural source of iodine has been studied to show its anti-tumor effect. Females on thyroid hormone replacement and no iodine have about twice the risk for breast cancer as females on thyroid hormone replacement and supplemental iodine.
Supplemental iodine can be very beneficial to those with chronic auto-immune issues such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or even cancer.
Iodine supplementation works well only if you are deficient in iodine. A great test of iodine status is to paint a spot of iodine on your skin and see how long the stain stays there. If the stain is intact in 24 hours, you have sufficient iodine and do not need to supplement. However, if the stain is gone to significantly faded, you might benefit from supplemental iodine.
Potassium iodide made the news recently as we all watched the Japanese nuclear plant after the disastrous earthquake. It was “the remedy” for the radiation that leaked from the nuclear power plant because it would tie up the receptors in the thyroid gland and prevent it from taking on the radiation.
The protocol for using potassium iodide for protection against radiation involves taking relatively high doses for short periods of time. Taking any nutrient in large doses over long periods of time results in imbalance. If you take supplemental iodine, do a skin test periodically and/or monitor thyroid function to make sure you are not getting too much.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.