The classic sign of iodine deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland. Some people with hypothyroidism develop an extremely large thyroid, known as goiter. Today, iodine deficiencies in the United States and other developed countries are rare because table salt is supplemented with iodine and crops in developed countries are generally grown in iodine-rich soil. In developing countries, however, where soil is often low in iodine, more than one billion people are estimated to be at risk for disorders caused by iodine deficiencies.
Iodine offers a variety of potential therapeutic uses, primarily in the prevention of hypothyroidism. A health care provider may also recommend iodine supplements for the following conditions:
Fibrocystic Breast Changes
There is some evidence to suggest that hypothyroidism and/or iodine deficiencies may contribute to the development of fibrocystic breast tissue. People with fibrocystic breasts experience tenderness, particularly just before menstruation. Certain foods may worsen breast tenderness such as caffeine (including from chocolate) and high fat foods. During a physical exam, the doctor can feel cysts and fibrous (hardened) tissue. A review of clinical studies found that iodine replacement therapy (particularly for those with low levels of iodine) may improve the tenderness associated with fibrocystic breast tissue. The women taking iodine experienced very few side effects.
Iodine deficiency has also been associated with ovarian cysts, breast cancer, thyroid goiter and hypothyroidism. Recent work in the field of iodine deficiency has shown that replacement therapy decreases the risk of breast cancer and promotes the reversal of fibrocystic breast disease.
Many women with chronic vaginal symptoms use over-the-counter preparations such as iodine to relieve symptoms. Iodine, used as a douche, may reduce vaginal inflammation as well as the itching and discharge that go along with this health condition. Povidone-iodine has the advantage of iodine without the disadvantages of stinging and staining.
Douch for vaginitis: generally two tablespoons of an iodine solution to one quart of warm water once per day. Douching should not be done without first consulting your healthcare provider.
Iodine is commonly used as a topical treatment for wounds. Ointments containing iodine are frequently used on burns to lower the risk of infection.
Iodized salt is the primary dietary source of iodine. Plant and animal sea life, such as shellfish, white deep-water fish, and brown seaweed kelp, absorb iodine from the water and are great sources of iodine. Garlic, lima beans, sesame seeds, soybeans, spinach, Swiss chard, summer squash, and turnip greens are also good sources of this mineral. Bakeries may also add iodine to dough as a stabilizing agent, making bread another source of iodine.
FOODS THAT PREVENT THE BODY FROM UTILIZING IODINE
Foods that prevent the body from using iodine are: turnip, cabbage, mustard greens, cassava root, soybeans, peanuts, pinenuts and millet. These foods are called goitrogens and excessive consumption can cause goiters. However, cooking usually inactivates goitrogens.
Available Forms of Iodine
Sodium iodide (iodine) is available as part of a multivitamin/mineral combination or as a topical treatment for wounds.
Sudden, large doses of iodine may impair the production of thyroid hormones, causing hypothyroidism temporarily in someone with otherwise normal thyroid function. Excessive iodine intake can also increase the risk for other thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto's, Graves', certain thyroid cancers, and thyrotoxicosis (a dangerous condition due to an excessive amount of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream). For these reasons, iodine supplementation is not recommended for people who live in areas where iodine levels are sufficient.
11/24/2006: Our Bangkok contributor Ted writes, "Iodine is taken when you suspect you have a deficiency. But it is not taken everyday at all and often it is taken once or twice a week. Only when you know you need it. Seaweed contains both iodine and bromine, which generally means you can't overdose on iodine. The reason is simple: bromine displaces iodine. But when bromine and iodine are present together, it makes for iodine bioavailability, while bakery products high in bromine will displace the iodine. The interesting thing is when bromine and iodine (found in nature) as in seaweed are found together, once the body doesn't need iodine it can easily be removed due to the presence of bromine. I have not seen any case of excess iodine consumption from taking of seaweed, but I have seen quite often excess consumption of iodine when they are added in the salt and taken too much. The reason is nature presents us with many minerals in their respective ratios and their antagonism preventing such an overdose and allowing the body to achieve greater equilibrium. This issue appears to be consuming foods from natural rather than chemical if you fear of any possible overdose. Ted"