Iodine is one of the most important elements for health, yet according to the World Health Organization, at least one third of the world’s population including 129 countries spanning all regions of the globe are deficient in this essential mineral. Other estimations report that at least 72% of the population is affected by an iodine deficiency disorder, including thyroid disease, mental retardation, circulatory problems, weak immunity and cancer. Iodine joins vitamin D and magnesium in a triad of nutrients that are severely lacking in our diet, thus creating a long list of degenerative health conditions that could easily be resolved with proper supplementation.

Iodine is a rare element that has played a key role in the evolution of life on Earth. Approximately 2 billion years after Earth was formed oxygen was first produced by a sea organism, cyanobacteria, a form of blue-green algae that released oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis. These organisms developed an affinity for iodine which served as an antioxidant to protect them from free radicals that are triggered by oxygen. To this day seaweeds are found to contain the highest amounts of iodine of any organism on Earth due to their ability to concentrate large amounts of iodine from the ocean water. Like the sea plants, our evolutionary roots were birthed in the ocean and we too need this essential nutrient for survival.

Though vital to health, iodine is a relatively rare element ranking 62nd in abundance of minerals on Earth. It is found in small amounts in seawater and rocks that formed from evaporated seawater, yet is scarce in the Earth’s crust. Iodine found in soil originated from evaporated seawater that drifted onto land and is most abundant in areas close to the sea, therefore many crops grown in inland and mountain areas are deficient in this trace mineral. In addition to seaweeds such as kelp, dulse, nori and wakame, other sources of iodine are ocean fish, and to a lesser extent, parsley, potatoes, oats, strawberries and bananas. Dairy, eggs and some meats contain trace amounts of iodine if the animals were given iodine in their feed. Foods that interfere with iodine absorption are called goitrogens since they contribute to thyroid growths called goiters. Some goitrogens are raw cruciferous vegetables (unless fermented), soy, corn and safflower oils, hydrogenated oils, peaches and peanuts. The goiter belt is the region in the U.S. around the Great Lakes and Midwest where, due to ancient glacier activity and erosion, iodine was depleted from the soil resulting in a significantly large population with goiters due to iodine deficiency.

Iodine is found in and utilized by every cell in the body, though it is most concentrated in the glandular system. The thyroid gland stores and uses the largest amount of iodine, though abundant amounts of iodine are also stored in the breasts, ovaries, prostate and salivary glands. Iodine is also concentrated in the brain’s choroid plexus and cerebral spinal fluid and the substantial nigra part of the brain that is associated with Parkinson’s disease. Substantial deposits of iodine are also found in the thymus (seat of the adaptive immune system), lining of the stomach and intestinal tract, kidneys, spleen, liver, skin, eyes, joints, arteries and bone.

Iodine is essential for the normal healthy growth of children as evidenced by the fact that lactating mammary glands can contain almost as much iodine as the thyroid, at levels up to 40 times more than is found in the blood. Severe iodine deficiency in pregnancy can cause spontaneous abortion and mental retardation, deafness and cretinism in newborns. After birth iodine deficiency will be evident in suppressed thyroid function, delayed physical and intellectual development and Attention Deficit Disorder.

Iodine was first discovered by Frenchman Bernard Courtois in 1811 while making gunpowder from potassium and sodium compounds obtained from seaweed. An accidental overdose of sulphuric acid to the mixture caused the yet unknown element’s purple vapors to arise. This newly discovered mineral was named iodine from the Greek word iode which means violet. Iodine was first used medicinally in France in the early 1800’s to treat goiter. In 1829, French physician Jean Lugol created a solution of iodine and potassium iodide, called Lugol’s solution which is still used today to treat infection and resolve thyroid imbalances and other health conditions. Two drops contain 12.5 mg of iodine/potassium iodide. Lugol’s solution is now available in a tableted form known as Ioderal. Edgar Cayce recommended a liquid form of iodine called atomodine due to its magnetic charge. Nascent iodine is a paramagnetic form of liquid atomic iodine that also holds a charge, is highly bioavailable to the body, and can be administered in very low doses with great effect.

Iodine is a strong germicidal agent that is effective against a wide spectrum of pathogens including bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and even syphilis. A 1% tincture of iodine will kill 90% of bacteria in 90 seconds, a 5% tincture in 60 seconds and a 7% tincture in 15 seconds. For many years physicians used potassium iodide in doses up to 10 grams a day to successfully treat bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with few side effects. Iodine has also been used to disinfect water, prevent surgical wound infections, and protect the body from radiation. For this reason alone, iodine is an important dietary nutrient for a strong immune system, however it has many other equally important functions in the body. Sufficient iodine is also necessary for the production of thyroid hormones T4 and T3, and to balance other hormones such as estrogens, testosterone and adrenal hormones. Iodine is also an important factor in apoptosis, which is the body’s mechanism for programmed cell death that controls abnormal cell growth in the case of cysts, tumors and cancer.

In 1924 a high prevalence of goiter (up to 56% of schoolchildren) in the Great Lakes and Midwest prompted these states to introduce iodized salt to the diet, resulting in a 75% reduction of goiter by 1951.   The RDA for iodine was established at 150 mcg, the level needed to prevent goiter. Soon after, iodized salt was adopted by the remaining states, and in the 1960’s iodine was added as a caking agent to breads and baked goods increasing the daily intake of iodine to approximately ten times the RDA. This succeeded in eradicating goiters in the U.S. for about 20 years until the 1980’s when NIH researchers erroneously determined that iodine supplementation in excess of 150 mcg per day was harmful to the thyroid and replaced it with bromide, a very toxic substance. This unfortunate event marked the beginning of an increase in thyroid disease and other health conditions caused by iodine deficiency.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey done in 2000, iodine levels in the U.S. population have dropped 50% in the last 30 years among all regions, ethnicities, economic status, population density and race. Iodine deficiency in pregnant women rose 69% during this period. The amount of iodine in processed iodized table salt is inadequate to prevent the numerous conditions associated with deficiency, and many people have cut back on their intake of all salt, without understanding the benefits of natural salt versus toxic table salt.

In addition to insufficient dietary intake of iodine, exposure to environmental toxins in recent decades, specifically in the form of the halide family of compounds compete with and bind to the body’s receptor sites for iodine, leading to further iodine deficiency. The halide compounds are bromide/bromine, fluoride, chlorine and perchlorate. Each of these harmful substances contributes to the body’s toxic overload creating more stress on a depleted system. Bromide and bromine are found in baked goods and medications including asthma inhalers like Atrovent and some drugs for bowel and bladder dysfunction. Toxicity symptoms include depression, irritability, headaches, and delirium..

Chlorine is added to drinking water, swimming pools and hot tubs and is used as a disinfectant and whitener. A byproduct of chlorine is dioxin, one of the most toxic carcinogens known to man and does not break down in the environment. In addition to cancer, Chlorine and its byproducts can cause birth defects, reproductive disorder, arterial plaque buildup and immune system breakdown.

Fluoride is added to the municipal water supply ostensibly to prevent dental decay, however there is no evidence to back this up. Fluoride has been linked to teeth discoloration, hip fractures, bone cancer, lower intelligence and kidney toxicity. Fluoride is found in drugs such as Prozac and Paxil, and Flonase and Flovent.

Perchlorate is used to produce rocket fuel and is found in pesticides. It contaminates most of our waterways, groundwater and water used to irrigate our food supply. This highly toxic chemical is particularly damaging to the thyroid, disrupts hormonal balance and weakens the immune system.

Ironically, iodine supplementation in amounts up to 50 mg or more a day can detoxify the body of damaging halides, heavy metals and chemicals and restore health. However a majority of medical professionals consider more than 1 or 2 mg of iodine per day to be excessive and potentially harmful. It is no wonder that almost two thirds of Americans are suffering from iodine deficiency, many of which are asymptomatic and undiagnosed.

More than any other organ, healthy thyroid function is dependent on adequate iodine intake. Iodine deficiency is responsible for numerous thyroid disorders including hypoactive (underactive) thyroid, hyperactive (overactive) thyroid, and the thyroid autoimmune disorders Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s disease as well as thyroid cancer. An enlarged or inflamed thyroid is the body’s natural response to iodine deficiency. When toxic halides are present, they bind to the iodine receptors robbing the thyroid of this essential nutrient, and trick the body into creating antibodies that attack the thyroid tissues.

Symptoms of hypoactive thyroid and Hashimoto’s disease are sluggish metabolism, tendency to feel cold, constipation, poor sleep, hair loss, dry skin, weight gain, slow heart rate, foggy thinking, low libido, depression and fatigue. These people desperately need iodine to produce thyroid hormones, yet medical doctors prescribe synthetic thyroid hormones instead which create side effects and are linked to increased incidence of cancer.

Hyperactive thyroid and Grave’s disease create dangerously high metabolism, fast heart rate, anxiety and weight loss. Instead of administering iodine and other nutrients to balance thyroid hormone production, it is ommon medical practice to administer radioactive iodine to destroy the offending thyroid tissue. This dramatically increases the risk of cancer and other problems since all cells in the body have iodine receptors.

Animal studies show that iodine can prevent breast cancer. Studies on rats have demonstrated the causal link between iodine deficiency and fibrocystic breast disease and breast cancer. When iodine is supplemented cysts and cancerous tumors are reduced. This finding is supported by the fact that the cancer-prone ductal cells in animal and human breasts are, like the thyroid, equipped with an iodine pump that soaks up needed iodine. Iodine deficiency can also contribute to uterine fibroids and cancers of the uterus, ovaries, prostate and other areas of the body where iodine concentrates.

Americans consume an average of 240 micrograms of iodine per day. In contrast, people in Japan consume more than 12 mg of iodine per day due to the prevalence of large amounts of iodine-rich seaweed in their diet including kelp, nori, sushi, and chlorella. Coastal Japanese residents eat even more seaweed, amounting to an intake of 200 mg of iodine per day. While Americans have the highest rate of breast cancer in the world, native Japanese have the lowest. Compared to Americans, the Japanese also have lower rates of prostate cancer and thyroid disease. Their life expectancy is higher than Americans by 4 years, and their infant mortality rate is half that of the U.S. It has been observed that when the Japanese emigrate to the U.S. and adopt the American diet and lifestyle, their disease rates equal those of Americans.

In 1997, Dr. Guy Abraham, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA initiated The Iodine Project, later enlisting physicians Dr. Guy Abraham, Dr. Jorge Flechas and Dr. David Brownstein to carry out clinical studies on the effect of iodine on health. Many of their findings are explained in Dr. Brownstein’s illuminating book, “Iodine: Why You Need It. Why You Can’t Live Without It”. Over a period of 7 years, 96.5% of the 4000 patients in this project were found to be deficient in iodine and consequently took iodine supplements ranging from 12.5 to 50 mg per day, and in those with diabetes, up to 100 mg per day which far exceeded the RDA of 150 mcg. They discovered that adequate iodine supplementation reverses fibrocystic breast disease and shrinks cancerous breast tumors. Their diabetic patients require less insulin. Hypoactive and hyperactive thyroids become balanced once again and autoimmune thyroid diseases successfully resolve. Symptoms of fibromyalgia and migraines are also relieved and higher energy levels are reported in all cases.

Researchers have found that in order to properly utilize and transport iodine into the cells, it is advisable to take therapeutic doses of vitamin C, B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and selenium, with higher doses required for cancer and thyroid autoimmune disorders. A saline solution of natural salt such as Celtic Sea Salt or the purer Original Himalayan Crystal Salt is also recommended to help detoxify the damaging halides that iodine displaces. Oral doses of magnesium chloride found in a pure grade of magnesium oil will also detoxify halides, heavy metals and chemicals.

To determine if you are deficient in iodine and personal supplementation requirements, a simple 24 hour iodine loading urine test is recommended which can be ordered without a doctor’s prescription and done at home. This test can be ordered from Hakala Research Lab in Colorado

Though iodine supplements may be needed to resolve deficiency related problems, be sure to incorporate sea vegetables as part of your daily diet to acquire iodine the natural way. Fermented seaweed is especially nutritious and immune-enhancing as the microflora break down the iodine and other vitamins and minerals so they are more bioavailable to the body. Give your body the nutrients it needs and enjoy increased energy, strong immunity and enhanced overall health and well-being. Nascent Iodine, Dulse Liquid Seaweed Extract and Thyroid Activator Capsules (with iodine- rich herbs and seaweed) are available from Sunrise Herb Shoppe.