Iodine was discovered in 1916 by Dr David Marine, but it wasn’t until the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) realized how important this mineral was to health that they approved a program for the addition of iodine to salt. Liberal use of salt followed and iodine deficiency and goiters became a thing of the past, until greatly increasing rates of high blood pressure and heart disease became apparent
The health conditions resulting from iodine deficiency
Following a massive campaign in the 1970s proclaiming salt as a danger to health and a cause of high health problems, the public was urged to reduce their intake drastically. Unfortunately this has now resulted in a population that is largely iodine deficient and suffering the consequences. Apart from goiters being a physical manifestation of iodine deficiency, many other health conditions can be linked to this problem.
Conditions such as increased risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers, fibrocystic breast disease, ovarian cysts, miscarriages, fatigue, children’s learning difficulties and ADD are now much more prevalent. Thyroid imbalances such as obesity or anorexia, heart disease, nervous disorders, depression and even suicidal thoughts are common.
The connection between iodine deficiency, and breast and other cancers
Research is discovering a link between lack of iodine in the diet and the risk of breast cancer. Take for example, people living in the “goiter belt” in the US, where the soil level of iodine is very low, and the rates of breast cancer are high. Compare this with Japan, which ranks amongst the lowest for its breast cancer and fibrocystic breast disease rates, and its corresponding high intake of iodine from the traditional diet. They obtain most of their iodine from kelp, nori, fish and seaweed, and the high iodine content of the soil.
Also their infant mortality rates are the lowest in the world according to Phyllis Leppert, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester, U.S.A.
Eating iodine-rich foods has a strong anti-tumor effect and prevents the side effects of chemotherapy such as hair loss, nausea, etc and also cancer recurrence rates.
Are you getting enough iodine?
Iodine is lost from the body through perspiration especially affecting athletes, sports players and strenuous exercisers. Vegetarians are also at greater risk of low iodine levels since plant foods are less rich in iodine than the animal based foods. Fluoridated drinking water also depletes iodine absorption as does iodine-blocking bromides which may be added to commercial breads, some sodas, and medications.
By performing a simple test at home, you can check your iodine levels. Put a few drops of iodine tincture (buy from your local pharmacy), onto the palm of your hand or make a 2 inch square on your inner arm or thigh. If the stain has disappeared within 1-3 hours, you are likely to be iodine deficient. If however, the stain remains after this time, your iodine levels are satisfactory.
Other signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency
Abnormal fatigue, cold hands and feet, difficulty concentrating, intolerance to cold, thinning hair, constipation, gaps between teeth, increased need for sleep and dry skin may all be the result of lack of iodine in the diet. Children may show signs such as increased infections, boils or school sores, and also having bad reactions to vaccinations or medications.
How to increase your intake of iodine
Recommended sources of iodine include kelp, nori, fish, seaweeds, dulse, and vegetables such as watercress, asparagus, lima beans, swiss chard, mushrooms, soybeans.. Lugols solution can also be painted on the skin for increased iodine uptake.
Iodine can also be applied to wounds, cuts, infections and melanoma. Applying iodine to the skin before X-rays can counteract the radiation exposure.
Some foods are known to block the uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland when eaten raw or in large amounts such as cabbage, kale, cauliflower, spinach, brussel sprouts and turnips. If you have an underactive thyroid, you should limit your consumption of these foods. If you have an autoimmune disorder that may be causing thyroid dysfunction, consult with your natural care practitioner before increasing your intake of iodine, as it may be contraindicated.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.
- Smyth Peter, The thyroid, iodine and breast cancer, Breast Cancer Res. 2003; 5(5): 235–238.
- Davis William MD, Life Extension Magazine, Ft Lauderdale, LE Publications, 2010
- Leppert, Phyllis MD, An analysis of the reasons for Japan’s low infant mortality rate,Journal of Nurse-Midwifery, Vol. 38, Iss 6, 1993, Pages 353-357