Few people know about the amazing element iodine and the importance it holds in maintaining good health. My goal over the next few weeks is to offer a multi-part blog series on the topic of iodine so that you can “digest” the information slowly. It can get confusing and to those who are new to the topic can feel overwhelming. So let’s start with the basics.
If you bring up the topic of iodine to a medical professional he or she will undoubtedly link it to the function of the thyroid gland and they would be partially correct. The thyroid is the primary consumer of iodine within the body. When fully saturated it can hold 50 mgs of iodine.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland that sits in the neck just above the collar bone and wraps around the windpipe. It is responsible for controlling the bodies metabolic rate. You cannot live without this gland. If it is removed you will be forced to take a thyroid hormone replacement medication for life. Before I forget….. Just to dispel a common belief about iodine for the thyroidless – yes you still need it. But that’s for a future blog post.
Iodine is used within the thyroid follicular cells. It enters into the cell through the Na/I Symporter (NIS) or sodium iodine symporter located on the basolateral membrane. Iodine enters from the blood stream through the NIS which acts as a pump to pull it into the cell. Once iodine passes through the NIS, it enters into the follicular cell. It then moves to the follicle colloid where a hydrogen peroxide reaction occurs on it converting it to iodide. This is then used in the thyroid hormone creation process. When you see the hormones T4 or T3, the number represents the number of iodide molecules in that hormone. The process is a little more complex than what I have described here but this gives you the basic concept. You can look at the diagram below for more detail.
Iodine levels in the soils have become depleted over the years and in some areas, like the goiter belt, they have historically been low. The area depicted in pink in the image below has been described as the deficient area. Currently it expands to pretty much all of the states in the union. It was in the 1930’s that the government decided to try adding iodine to the salt in order to eliminate goiters in school children and it worked. This is how we obtained iodized salt.
After the release of a research paper in 1948 which described a phenomenon called the “Wolff-Chaikoff effect”, iododphobia (as Dr Guy Abraham describes it) became rampant. In this paper, they described how ingesting “too much” iodine would shut down the thyroid hormone creation process causing hypothyroidism. The problem was that it was a transient event and the levels eventually normalized. An update to this research was posted at a later date but the damage had already been done. Even today this study is used as defense against milligram supplementation of iodine. You can read more about this in Dr Guy Abraham’s article, The Wolff-Chaikoff Effect: Crying Wolf. Because of the W-C effect fear, the usage of iodine in foods became less and less and with its restriction came an increase in thyroid disease.
When the thyroid gland has too little iodine, the result can be goiter, nodules, cysts, hypothryoidism, hyperthryoidism, autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimotos and Graves) and at its worst, thyroid cancer.
Iodine is antimicrobial, antibacterial, anticancer, antiparasitical, and antiviral. It’s a powerhouse in an element.
Today, there are a few doctors who are returning to the old methods of supplementation and discovering the amazing benefits. Many patients are going it alone because finding support in the medical arena can prove to be challenging. That is why I created the Facebook Iodine group in 2009. It now has almost 13,000 members. It exists to teach individuals about the benefits of iodine supplementation and how to put it into practice safely and effectively.
You can join us by going to the IODINE Facebook group.
If you want to get a head start on reading about iodine, you can download the guide to supplementing that I share on my group. It is located in the resources of this site.
Next blog post: Thyroid Disease and Iodine