What is Iodine?
Iodine is the heaviest of the halogens and it is essentially a chemical element that appears in many oxidation states. While most of the people only know that it is great as a disinfectant, this element plays a major role in other biological processes as well. In all living things, iodine is a necessary addition for the flawless functioning of the organism. Its main applications reside in synthesizing the thyroid hormones, aka thyroxine and triiodothyronine.
However, the interesting thing about it is that, although its main role is to influence the production of the growth hormones, only about 30% of the element is present in the respective thyroid tissues, as well as in the hormones that are being related to them. The rest of 70% can be found all over the organism, mainly in: eyes, the gastric mucosa, the cerebrospinal fluid, inside the arteries’ walls and in both the mammary and the salivary glands, which are just a few of the locations.
And the real interesting part is this. The actual role of iodine in most of the organs is unknown, except for the mammary tissue, where it is known to influence the fetal development during pregnancy. But other than that it is still somewhat of a mystery.
The most recognizable benefits of iodine consumption are those referring to treating the deficiency. This is the most common health problem worldwide, related to this element in particular. According to various studies that have taken place over time, the iodine deficiency is a well-known cause of mental retardation and in the beginning of the 20th century, this was a common problem across US and Canada. A problem that has been since majorly improved, after the element has been included in food salt.
The main benefits of using the element in the required amounts are:
- Repels the symptoms of the deficiency, as well as preventing it in the future
- Effective in protecting against radiation poisoning, especially against the radioactive iodides
- Treats thyroid problems, especially hyperthyroidism, and it softens the post-operatory symptoms after the thyroid related surgeries.
- Aids in healing the leg ulcers, when used as a compression on the wounds and it greatly reduces the comeback of the infections.
- Possibly effective in preventing infections in people using hemodialysis catheters
- Partially effective in treating conjunctivitis
- Reduces pain in mastalgia cases, especially in women with severe pain during the menstrual cycle
- Reduces the impact of chemotherapy, mainly the soreness of the mouth as a symptom of the procedure
- Aids by diminishing the periodontitis symptoms, which is the gum infection
Although it is considered safe for most people, when used in recommended amounts, iodine could potentially cause pretty nasty side effects in some individuals. Some are particularly sensitive to this element and may experience headaches, diarrhea, a heavy metallic taste in the mouth but also stomach pain and nausea. In other cases, it can even cause the bleeding and bruising of the lips and face and trigger allergic reactions or even death when the situation worsens significantly.
But the prolonged or exaggerated use is damaging to perfectly healthy people too and may potentially cause gum soreness, throat and thyroid problems, and even depression and skin damages, especially when applied directly to the skin surface. Also, it is worth mentioning that iodine has unwanted interactions with certain drugs, especially those used to treat a hyperactive thyroid.
If you have this condition, treat with caution!
The most relevant food sources are seaweeds, primarily kelp, but also fish, dairy products, and eggs. On top of that, the common salt is packed with enough of this element to keep your body’s needs in check. In extreme cases, you can even resource to supplements for increased effects.
How much Iodine should you take?
Depending on several factors as age, health state or biological needs, iodine has to be served in amounts between 65 mg of KI (potassium iodide), which are the needs of children between 3 and 12 years old, and 130 mg of KI for adults between 18 to 40 years old or older.