Iodine and Radiation – How it Works

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Nascent iodine offers thyroid protection from radiation – as we were clearly reminded during the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011. While iodine protects against radiation poisoning of the thyroid, its radioactive state has also proven a useful emergency medical tool.

How Iodine Protects Against Radiation

A nuclear or radiological event such as the Fukushima disaster released large amounts of Iodine-131 into the air. In a radioactive event like this, the thyroid will quickly absorb the Iodine-131. This internal contamination damages the thyroid, leading to hypothyroidism (when the thyroid fails to produce adequate hormones) or worse.

That’s because the thyroid cannot distinguish between normal iodine and radioactive iodine. In a situation like this, nascent iodine may save your life.

Here is how it works… nascent iodine floods the thyroid with stable iodine. Being full of stable iodine, the thyroid cannot absorb radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid. The necessary amounts of nascent iodine depends on the age and size of the individual in question.

Keep in mind, nascent iodine only protects from radioactive iodine – not from other radioactive substances or effects. It also does not repair a damaged thyroid.

Does Radioactive Iodine Have Any Benefit?

Some thyroid conditions require an immediate slowing of the hormone production. In situations like this, a miniscule dose of Iodine-131 can be used to slow thyroid hormone production. While this may seem counterintuitive, the amount of iodine used is very, very small. And it is used only in emergency situations. And it’s only administered in medical settings, you’re not going to get it from the corner drugstore and administer it yourself.

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