Iodine, Your Key to Optimal Health    
January 2010 Dr. Mom's Natural Solutions Ezine

Iodine is a chemical element (atomic number 53). Its' name originates from the Greek word “Iodes” meaning “violet”. It is classified as a member of the “Halogen” family, along with Chlorine, Fluorine and Bromine. You may remember a bright red or violet tincture that your parents used as an antiseptic for cuts and wounds. I remember my dad using it on cuts for our family and our pets, but what I remember most was that it burned like crazy and stained everything it touched.

The Iodine we need for our body is not the bright red tincture, but the Iodine salt found in sea vegetables, egg yolks, onions, milk products and meat from animals raised by the sea. Most of us get our iodine from iodized salt, but I prefer the Real Salt in which iodine is found naturally. Many countries, including the United States have found severe iodine deficiencies in certain pockets of the population. Iodized salt is an attempt to provide a minimal amount of iodine throughout the population. This has been enough to reduce the severe effects of iodine deficiency such as goiter, cretinism, mental retardation and increased infant mortality, however it has not been able to address the current rising rates of hypothyroidism and breast cancer.

Since the early 1970’s, iodine levels in the human body have decreased drastically. This is in part due to the removal of iodine conditioners in the bread making process and the substitution of bromide, a similar halogen that interferes with iodine uptake. Additionally a decrease in the consumption of salt and eggs due to low fat and no salt diets could be a contributory factor.

Hypothyroidism is at record heights in today’s population. Two thirds of the body’s iodine is normally found in the thyroid. This gland is also responsible for the body’s metabolism and the efficient burning of calories. Could this also be contributing to the obesity problems in the U.S. ? The RDA for iodine is 150 mcg per day. This is the minimum amount needed for a healthy man to "not die of a deficiency disease".  Needless to say the amount needed for optimal health is much higher.

It is interesting to note that in Japan where women have very low rates of breast cancer the average intake of iodine is 12,000 mcg per day (80 times the RDA). Breast tissue is another area of the body where iodine is found in very high concentrations. Statistics suggest that 1 in 7 American women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Thirty years ago, when iodine consumption was twice as high as it is now, 1 in 20 women developed breast cancer. Similarly, today 90 percent of American women have some level of fibrocystic breast disease. In the 1920’s only 3 percent were affected. Animal studies back up these findings.

Iodine is an element that the human body just cannot live without. Adequate amounts are mostly found in those whose consumption of sea vegetables are very high. For the rest of us, a supplement of Dulse, Kelp, or other sea algae is what could make the difference between optimal health and disease.