Did your mom treat a minor cut with blood-red iodine that stung like the dickens? Mine surely did. Today, there are other germ-killing antiseptics available that don’t stain fabric or make a mess like topical iodine does.
Women with vaginal yeast infections may douche with povidone-iodine which is sold over the counter as Betadine. It, too, is a messy liquid. However, the stuff is very effective at getting rid of that annoying cottage-cheesy discharge.
Iodine (I) is a chemical element which, in its solid form, is shiny and purplish-black. When it sublimes (goes directly from a solid to a gaseous state), it produces a violet gas.
Although discovered in 1811 by French chemist Bernard Courtois, it wasn’t named until two years later when French chemist and physicist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac did so, using a Greek word that means “violet-colored.”
Iodine is abundant in the oceans but rare in the soil on land. It is produced chiefly in Chile and Japan.
Iodine is vital to human health since our bodies need it to survive but can’t manufacture it. The solution to this natural dilemma is to include iodine sources with the food we eat or to take a dietary supplement – or both.
The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for iodines depends on a person’s age:
Birth to 6 months – 110 mcg
7-12 months – 130 mcg
1-8 years – 90 mcg
9-13 years – 120 mcg
Adults over age 19 – 150 mcg
Although there aren’t very many foods which contain iodine, these are high in it:
- Nori, wakame, kombu, and kelp are popular seaweeds that have been a food staple in Japan, Korea, and China since prehistoric times. In 600 BC, Sze Tue from China called certain types of seaweed “a delicacy for the most honoured guests, even for the King himself.”
Remember that iodine occurs naturally and abundantly in the world’s oceans. Different types of seaweed have varying levels of iodine. Dried iodine content in varies a lot, depending on the seaweed consumed:
Nori (Porphyra) – 16 mcg/g (microgram per gram)
Wakame (Undaria) – 42 mcg/g
Kombu (Laminaria)- 2,353 mcg/g
Kelp Flakes – over 8,000 mcg/g
- Cod is a white fish with a mild flavor and delicate texture. It is low in fat and calories, but chock-a-block full of minerals and nutrients, including iodine.
As rule, the less fatty the type of fish is, the more iodine it contains. A lean fish like cod can provide up to 66% of the daily value.
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, and eggs) provide high levels of iodine. The amount of iodine present in milk products depends on how much of it is given to the cows in their feed and whether disinfectants containing iodine are used during milking.
A 2004 study tested 18 brands of cows’ milk sold in the area around Boston, Massachusetts. At least 88 mcg of iodine were found in all the samples.
One cup of plain yogurt yields 75 mcg of iodine, half of the adult RDA.
One large egg has 24 mcg (16 percent of the adult RDA).
The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland, located in the throat, regulates metabolism, heart rate, protein production, and the central nervous system. The thyroid uses iodine to produce the hormones T3 and T4, which keep us healthy.
A body deficient in iodine is at risk of developing a goiter (enlarged thyroid gland) which presents as a swollen neck. This is a very serious medical condition. If you have neck swelling or difficulty swallowing, see your healthcare practitioner.
Low thyroid hormone levels can cause women to stop ovulating, leading to infertility. Iodine deficiency is also linked to autoimmune disease of the thyroid, hypothyroidism, and may increase the risk of getting thyroid cancer.
There is some scientific evidence that low levels of iodine hormones may contribute to other cancers, including prostate, breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer.
Table salt is sold in both iodized and non-iodized varieties. Many people rely on salting their food for their daily iodine needs. Surprisingly, even though experts say that Americans eat too much iodized salt, we are still not getting enough iodine in our bodies.
As mentioned above, low thyroid levels can indicate life-threatening medical conditions. Seek professional help if you have any of these symptoms:
- Neck swelling
- Unexpected weight gain
- Fatigue and weakness
- Hair loss
- Dry, flaky skin
- Feeling colder than usual
- Slow or fast heartbeat
- Difficulty learning and remembering
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
Pregnant women need to pay attention to their iodine levels to ensure not only their own health but that of their unborn child. After birth, the baby gets iodine from breast milk.
If you suspect you have an underperforming thyroid, a simple urine test will reveal any deficiency in your body.
Be proactive and prevent iodine deficiency by eating foods rich in iodine or take a non-prescription iodine supplement.
Your thyroid will thank you as you enjoy better health and well-being.