What is Iodine?

A mineral substance, iodine is a health supplement that the body cannot produce – it must be introduced to the body by way of food or, in some cases, supplements. Similar to minerals like calcium and magnesium, iodine is found naturally in the ocean and oceanic materials. Seaweed, as well as other plants and animals from the sea, contain relatively high amounts of the mineral. As such, countries like Japan that maintain a diet rich of seafood and seaweed tend to possess much higher rates of iodine in their bodies.

Why Is Iodine Necessary?

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, iodine is important for thyroid function and also well being of the whole body. Iodine's most important role is in the thyroid, which produces hormones that regulate the metabolism and support development of the skeleton, brain and other parts of the body. The thyroid needs at most around 70 μg/day to synthesize the main two thyroid hormones (known as T3 and T4)

Iodine is particularly important for children as it regulates both physical and mental growth. The proper amount of iodine facilitates effective development of basic skills including language, movement and hearing. The mineral also plays an important role in determining general intelligence.

The cardiovascular system also relies on iodine. Hormones in the body regulate the dilation of the blood vessels, in turn, causing blood to flow throughout the body. Without appropriate levels of iodine, this process and several others are incapable of continuing.

Iodine as an antiseptic

Iodine is often used as an antiseptic, however elemental Iodine is much too strong so it needs to be made into a solution first. It can then be applied to open wounds to control bacterial growth. It can also be used to swap an area of unbroken skin, prior to a surgical procedure.

Iodine Deficiency

The appropriate amount of iodine in the body is obviously important for effective functioning of the body's biochemistry. Iodine deficiency causes a number of other health concerns. Lack of iodine may lead to the development of such conditions as hypothyroidism, mental retardation, stunted physical and mental growth, deafness and certain forms of cancer. Iodine deficiency may also lead to a variety of symptoms including inability to produce saliva, dry skin, lowered IQ, inattention, muscle pain, fibrosis and fibromyalgia. Additional tissues that need iodine for maintenance and health include the adrenal glands, ovaries, hypothalamus, thymus and pituitary gland.

Iodine RDA's

The RDA for Iodine depends on both age and purpose. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, the typical adult requires roughly 150 micrograms a day (150 µg). Infants up to 12m need slightly less at around 110 - 130 µg per day. Children up to aged 8 yrs need around 90 µg a day, increasing to around 130 µg a day for children up to 13 years. Pregnant and lactating women need the most at 220 µg and 290 µg per day respectively. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for adults seems to be agreed to be around 1,100 μg/day (1.1 mg/day).

Iodine-rich foods

Supplementing the diet with a variety of iodine-rich foods is the best way to boost iodine levels. Foods such as fish, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and iodized salt contain iodine in sizeable amounts. Common dietary staples including milk, yogurt, cheese, bread and cereal often contain the mineral; however, most processed foods do not.

Iodine Supplements

As many individuals these days do not eat a diet that is balanced enough to deliver the recommended amount of iodine daily, taking a supplement can sometimes be an option.

Iodine supplementation is taken orally via a tablet or liquid drop. While some iodine specific supplements are available, iodine is often rendered through other supplements such as kelp (seaweed). Taken as a Kelp herbal supplement, iodine is delivered to the body in a more natural form.

Effects of too much Iodine

While iodine deficiency is the major concern, it is also possible to get too much iodine in the system. Just as not enough iodine poses serious health concerns or risks, so does too much iodine. Generally speaking, the body breaks down or indirectly uses iodine that is delivered via other sources. As such, taking a straight iodine supplement is difficult for the body to process and may deliver too great a concentration of the mineral.

According to research, iodine excess may cause additional health concerns including sub-clinical hypothyroidism. Likewise, excessive iodine in the body may cause lymphocytes or white blood cells to infiltrate the thyroid and even block hormone production. Dr. Mercola suggests using diet to obtain an adequate amount of iodine and avoiding high dose supplements.