Iodine and Health


I just finished reading Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It  written by David Brownstein, MD. The book does an excellent job of explaining how iodine deficiency can have a profound impact on not just thyroid hormone production, but estradiol production as well. If you are a woman with any type of hormonal dysfunction, I strongly encourage you to read this book.  

What Is Iodine?

Iodine is an essential nutrient that can only be obtained by ingestion. It is found in two forms, iodine and iodide. Most people associate iodine as something that is needed for proper thyroid function. While iodine is used by the thyroid gland, every cell in the body has an iodine receptor. It is concentrated in the ovaries and breasts and is very important for optimal health and function of these tissues. A quality iodine supplement will contain a combination of iodine and iodide since iodide is utilized by the thyroid while iodine is utilized by the breasts.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), over the last 30 years urinary iodine levels have dropped by 50% in the United States.

Why The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) Of Iodine Is Not Enough

To understand why the RDA of iodine is not enough you first need to know how the RDA for nutrients was established. The RDA was established during the Second World War in order ensure the health of U.S. soldiers. The goal was to find the minimum amount of nutrient necessary to prevent nutrient deficient diseases such as Scurvy (low vitamin C), Rickets (low vitamin D), and Goiter (low iodine).

The RDA of iodine is 0.15mg per day. While this level has been enough to prevent Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland due to iodine deficiency), it is not enough to support healthy breast, ovary or thyroid function1. The Japanese safely consume about 13mg of iodine per day in their seafood and seaweed-rich diet. That is almost 100 times the U.S. RDA. Japanese women have ¼ the rate of breast cancer as American women. They also have lower levels of endometrial and ovarian cancer and lower rates of thyroid disease, menopausal symptoms and fibrocystic breast disease. Japanese men have lower rates of prostate cancer. Could their iodine consumption be the reason why?

Why Are We Deficient?

Iodized salt is the main source of iodine in the American diet, but iodine in refined salt is poorly absorbed. Also, bread used to be fortified with iodine, but this is no longer the case. Bromine has replaced iodine in bread and is a direct competitor with iodine at the iodine receptor. Bromine blocks and inhibits the body’s ability to properly utilize iodine. In addition to bromine, chlorine and fluoride from municipal water supplies also compete with iodine.

Why You Need Iodine For Optimal Health

The ovaries have the second highest levels of iodine in the body after the thyroid. Iodine deficiency has been shown to cause the ovaries to produce more estrogen. It also causes the estrogen receptors in the breast to become more sensitive to estrogen. This double whammy increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

Iodine is necessary for the natural process of apoptosis (cell death). Healthy cells are programmed to die and be replaced by new cells. Cancer is a condition where the cells have lost this ability and continue multiplying over and over.

Animal studies have shown that iodine deficiency causes precancerous breast conditions. The longer animals were iodine deficient the more likely they were to develop breast cancer.

Iodine supplementation has been shown to reduce symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease. This condition involves painful cysts forming in the breast tissue. Fibrocystic breast disease is sometimes associated with abnormal cell changes in breast tissue.

Rats given breast cancer causing carcinogens did not get breast cancer when supplemented with iodine.

In conclusion, iodine is an important nutrient for hormonal balance and optimal health. As you can see, countries like Japan have much lower rates of hormone related cancers like breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate. If you are struggling with any of the above conditions, I encourage you to increase your intake of iodine with supplementation.

Note: As always, make your doctor aware of any supplements that you are taking. If you are currently taking medication for a thyroid condition, it is imperative that you talk with your doctor before beginning iodine supplementation. Iodine may change your need for these medications and your doctor may need to adjust your dosing accordingly.

Dr. Guy Abraham

To read more about the Tim, visit his website: My Wellness Consultant

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