For years, it has been common medical knowledge that iodine has a clear and crucial relationship to the thyroid gland. And scientific research has supported this fact time and time again.
Historically, this critical link between iodine and thyroid health has been of key importance to governments and global health care organizations, as iodine deficiency is the single most common trigger for the incidence of preventable brain damage and retardation in children.
In fact, studies show that lack of iodine can lead to a multitude of highly preventable conditions such as growth impairment, goiters, general immune weakness, autism, miscarriages and other birthing complications. Studies are now looking into more links between iodine levels and child mental development, as well as impairments in hearing, speech and movement.
How It All Works: The Role of Iodine in the Thyroid Gland
There is a complex relationship between iodine and the thyroid gland, one that has scientists still scratching their heads. Research clearly affirms that iodine, a micronutrient present in many of the foods we eat (in trace amounts), is a key player in helping the thyroid gland make thyroid hormones. As the body cannot produce iodine by itself, we are required to get it from the foods we eat or supplemental sources.
Sadly, as micronutrient concentrations in the soils are depleted, due to natural or toxic-overload factors, the foods that used to hold iodine have been depleted of their natural levels. And it is our thyroid gland that suffers. Moreover, people have gone from eating plant and sea-based foods, to processed junk foods. Again, iodine levels suffer.
Illustration of the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is commonly referred to as the “master gland.” One of the largest endocrine glands in the body, it is responsible for a variety of super-important processes such as the use of energy, the creation of proteins and our overall reaction to other forms of hormones. The key bodily functions that the thyroid manages are impossible to implement without the creation of its main hormones, known as T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). The thyroid cannot make these two hormones without first hosting three and four iodine molecules (as well as the trace nutrient tyrosine) in both of these two main hormones.
The body does this by capturing iodine from the blood stream, and encasing it in a “iodine trap.” Without the correct amounts of iodine, these hormones cannot be produced, and when this occurs, your health may suffer drastically.
In fact, T3 and T4 are critical in a well-functioning metabolism, include metabolic rate, as well as the growth and smooth functionality of almost all of the body’s major organ systems. Research shows that, on a daily basis, a minimum of approximately 70 µg of iodine is needed to produce T3 and T4 hormones in the thyroid gland every day. Moreover, when the thyroid does not have enough iodine, it can’t fulfill its ability to produce calcitonin, a chemical related to the body’s ability to keep calcium levels in balance.
In this sense, its easy to see how the delicate relationship between the thyroid gland and iodine levels are key in our overall sense of health. Without iodine, energy levels plummet, hormones can become unbalanced, and our our physical and emotional states can suffer.Related Articles The Health Benefits
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Uses For Iodine
Many thyroid problems come from a lack of iodine. In fact, in many areas of Europe, Russia, Asia, Australia and Africa, iodine deficiency is a serious health concern. Sadly, this deficiency may be more common in the West than we realize. In general, scientists agree that iodine deficiency is still a serious global health issue, and that insufficient levels of iodine in the thyroid is the most common cause of global brain damage. Estimates show that approximately 1.6 billion people are at risk for brain damage due to lack of iodine, and that these numbers fall heavily on unborn fetuses and children. Globally, a lack of iodine will effect around 50 million children.
Another staggering statistic from the World Health Organization estimates that around 1 billion people will suffer from some form of health issue due to a lack of iodine in the diet. Estimates on countries in Latin America, for example, show that up to one fourth of the population show risk for goiters, due to faulty thyroid function, and a lack of iodine in their diets. And it is not only a problem of the developing world.
A 1998 report from The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reported that rates of iodine deficiency had dramatically increased in the United States over the past 20 years. In fact, the number of U.S. residents with low intake of iodine had increased four fold. These scientists suggested that lowered rates of iodine intake could be traced to dietary changes.
Iodine & the Thyroid Gland
Because of the complex balance of amounts of iodine in the thyroid, it is simplistic to think we can all just begin taking iodine to solve our thyroid problems. Some people suffering from thyroid imbalances have a genetic condition, such as the case of the most common thyroid condition, known as autoimmune thyroid disease.
It is important to determine if the condition is based on iodine lack, and this can generally be determined by looking at geographic location (i.e. a place where iodine is lacking in soils), as well as diet. A qualified doctor or nutritionist can easily let you know your current iodine levels through a simple urine test. Be aware, a small percentage of people are iodine sensitive, so monitor yourself closely, and begin supplementing with nascent atomic iodine in small amounts to prevent a thyroid flare-up.