WHAT IS IODINE AND DO WE NEED IT?
Iodine is one of the Halogens, chemical element atomic number 53 to be precise (and for those of us who were napping through GCSE chemistry classes), named after “iode” the Greek for violet, the colour of its vapour, by French chemist Louis-Joseph Gay-Lussac who recognized it as a new element in 1811.
Most of us know that it has something to do with the thyroid gland and that it is used as protection against radiation. But we may not know that it is essential to human health and is found concentrated not only in the thyroid, but in the salivary glands, the brain, the cerebrospinal fluid, gastric mucosa, in the breasts, ovaries and eyes. It is critical to normal growth and intellectual development and its deficiency manifests in goiters (thyroid gland enlargement) and cretinism. It was once a universal panacea and is still associated with the treatment and protection against a a myriad of health conditions and has been used for;
Endocrine system regulator, especially for Estrogen dominant syndromes
Cancer: induces cancer cell apoptosis or cell death.
Detoxification of other halogens and toxic metals
Immune system enhancement
Skin; fungal infections
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
General Sluggishness of mind and body
Like many of history’s medical breakthroughs, most famously penicillin, iodine was discovered by happy accident in 1811. Pouring sulphuric acid into the corroded copper vats that he had used in an attempt to extract potassium nitrate from seaweed when stocks of wood ash were low and Napoleon’s troops needed more gunpowder manufactured, Bernard Courtois was surprised by a violet cloud that solidified into dark shiny crystals. A new element had been found.
The new age of medical chemistry soon ushered in iodine’s heyday of glory as a universal panacea. The discovery did not of course mean that iodine had not been used before this time, indeed even before becoming named and known as an element, apparently as far back as 2700 B.C., there are records showing that Emperor Shen Nung used seaweed to treat goiters. But the element as medicine gained popularity until the US government eventually iodized table salt in 1924 in an attempt to reduce the incidence of goiter, its deficiency disease, that was rife in certain inland areas of the American mid-west, where crops and animals feeding on them were iodine deficient. These regions were known as “goiter belts” ; they existed in Europe too, most notably in the Alps where alpine cretinism was prevalent.
IODINE’S FALL FROM FAVOUR
Iodine enjoyed a good century and a half of preeminence as a universal panacea but during the second world war patented pharmaceuticals began to replace iodine. In 1969, an apparently erroneous study by Drs. Wolff and Chaikoff claimed that large amounts of iodine were harmful. This led to US dropping its RDA of iodine to 150 mcg per day. Until the mid 1900s the RDI was 5000 times this. In the late 70s, iodine was replaced with bromide as a flour conditioning treatment in bread manufacturing.
ENTER THE UGLY STEPSISTERS
Quite the Gothic Princess of elements, with her signature formation of black crystal and violet vapour, iodine also has her ugly stepsisters! Also from the halogen family, (that penultimate column of the periodic table), they are iodine’s rivals, antagonists and saboteurs.
Bromine, iodine’s ugly stepsister, a rival halogen of no use to the thyroid
Chlorine, fluoride, and bromide, ubiquitous in the food and drugs of today as well as a result of our environmental exposure, block the thyroid’s receptor sites for iodine and prevent its uptake. This is a crucial point to understand.
STEALING THE GLASS SLIPPER – THE BATTLE FOR RECEPTOR SITES
WHY WE NEED MORE IODINE
While the presence of these substances in our bread and water has increased, the presence of iodine has decreased. These substances have deleterious effects on our health. (see the Bromide Dominance Theory of Breast Cancer). Perchlorate in drinking water, phthalates and BPA in plastics, fluorine in toothpastes and soft drinks, chlorine in tap water and swimming pools, and bromide in in plastics, paints, electronic parts and fabrics, bromated flour, bromated vegetable oils, etc all block displace or disrupt iodine uptake and compromise thyroid function.
Guy Abraham, whose work with David Brownstein and Jorge Flechas is to be credited with the current revival of interest in the use of iodine, has shown that iodine supplementation alters the competitive bromide-iodine relationship causing bromide excretion. Bromide dominance is thus decreased and proper iodine enzyme metabolism may be restored.
HOW TO COMBAT DEFICIENCY
Evidence is increasingly pointing to a worldwide global iodine deficiency epidemic that is putting our health at risk. But how much do we need? It remains a controversial issue and more research is needed. The RDI is the currently at 150mcg/ day – this is the minimum amount to prevent goiters and cretinism. The Upper Limit is considered by the FDA to be 1,100 mcg/day.
But what about optimal health?
Abraham & Brownstein argue that, given our widespread bromide and fluoride toxicity levels, supplementation is required and that 1,500 mcg (1.5mg) /day is the average requirement.
Interestingly, Japanese women, who have the highest rates of longevity coupled with the lowest rates of breast cancer in the world, consume an average of 1,380 mcg (13.8 mg)/ day, more than 50 times that of Western women.
HOW TO GET MORE IODINE
Live by the sea!
How to increase it naturally through foods.
These foods are high in iodine, in order:
Fruit and Vegetables (notably, asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, strawberries, coconut)
There are many brands and forms of iodine supplementation. Nascent and Lugol’s are my favourite. If you decide to supplement, check out your options at Amazon:
SOURCES OF INFORMATION:
You will find a plethora of articles about iodine across the internet. Here are some that I used to investigate the topic.