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Trace minerals are a group of minerals you need in your body in very tiny amounts- usually measured in micrograms, not milligrams- and you won't find daily values or requirements for these minerals on your food labels. All of them are important and many work together, but today, I'm specifically going to talk about IODINE.
What does iodine do in the body?
Iodine has countless roles in the function of the human body. All cells need iodine for support. Some of iodine's major roles include:
1. Supporting brain development in infants
Developing fetuses and young infants need iodine for brain development. Iodine deficiency early in life can cause developmental delays and retardation.
2. Supporting reproductive organs
Iodine is a key player in the health of all reproductive organs. Inadequate iodine can cause problems for every single reproductive organ and tissue.
3. Stabilizing blood sugar
Iodine helps stabilize blood sugar and lessen the need for insulin. Getting enough iodine in your diet can help alleviate stress on the pancreas that can lead to diabetes.
4. Detoxifying heavy metals
If you eat lots of shellfish, you definitely need iodine in your diet. Shellfish contains mercury, and iodine helps to detoxify such heavy metals in your body.
5. Thyroid support
This is a big one. All thyroid hormones bond with iodine molecules to activate, and for thyroid function, and thus your metabolism can be lessened by 50% or more if the iodine isn't there.
What are the best sources of iodine?
Iodine is found in some foods- strawberries, eggs, yogurt, and sea kelp- but in very low quantities. Iodine in the soil ends up in the food you eat, but unless you live especially close to the ocean and eat locally grown food, chances are, there isn't very much iodine in your food. Farmers do not tend to replenish the iodine in the soil, and it doesn't come back every season on its own.
So if you don't live on the coast, your best bet for getting more iodine in your diet is to take a good-quality supplement. If you're strictly looking for iodine, take it in the form of Sea Kelp capsules.
These will also contain the trace mineral selenium, which is iodine's complement in terms of thyroid function. As I've mentioned in many of my articles and videos, it is important to get your vitamins and minerals in their complete, natural form to ensure that they're really doing your body good.
But iodine and selenium aren't the only trace minerals, and a lot of people are lacking a lot more than iodine. I recommend taking a complete trace mineral supplement to ensure that you are getting iodine, selenium, and all the rest together.
What are the symptoms of iodine deficiency?
The list is very long, and this means it's easy to mistake iodine deficiency for a number of other things.
1. Thyroid-related symptoms
Decreased thyroid function as a result of iodine deficiency can cause serious, generalized weight gain all over the body. In some cases, iodine-deficient patients can develop thyroid nodules or even a goiter.
2. Neurological symptoms
Migraines, feelings of mental fog that are especially strong in the morning, migraine headaches, depression, other psychiatric disorders, and even mental retardation in children can be a sign of iodine missing from the diet.
Yes, iodine can help to ward off cancer. The iodine-rich diets of Japan seem to correlate strongly with their low rates of breast cancer, and Dr. Jeffrey Dach reports evidence that iodine supplementation could put breast cancer into remission. Stomach cancer is also related to your iodine levels.
4. Reproductive system symptoms
As I said earlier, every single part of the reproductive system (and most reproductive capacities) can be affected by a lack of iodine. In men, these symptoms include testicular cysts and an enlarged prostate.
In women, the list is much longer: cysts on the ovaries, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breasts (especially during pregnancy or breastfeeding), long/heavy/painful menstrual periods, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can all result from iodine deficiency.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a difficult ailment that can cause weight gain, facial hair growth, acne, lessened thyroid function, and a laundry list of other disruptive symptoms. Iodine deficiency can also affect pregnancy to the extent of causing miscarriage and stillbirth.
5. Other symptoms
It's hard to cover every single symptom of iodine deficiency because it is such a widely-needed mineral. Two more common symptoms are generalized fatigue and dryness of the mouth and eyes due to the relevant glands not producing fluids.
Causes of Iodine Deficiency
As with vitamin D deficiency, which is widespread yet reasonably avoidable, the causes of iodine deficiency are complex and often indirect.
1. Direct causes
Having too little iodine in your diet is as direct and simple as it gets. Many people nowadays are on low-salt, low-sodium diets. Given that iodine isn’t plentiful in fruits and vegetables, this can eliminate the last source of iron in some people’s diets.
Your food may also contain pesticides and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that inhibit iodine absorption. These chemicals fit into the same receptors as iodine, thus competing for space.
The tiny amounts of iodine you consume are no match for these chemicals. Bromide is another food additive that can compete with iodine, and most flour contains added bromide. And I think it’s safe to say that most people are eating a lot more flour than sea kelp!
2. Indirect causes
Your body produces several hormones that can block iodine absorption. One of these is the stress hormone I talk too much about- cortisol! Estrogen is the other big one.
Pregnant women often suffer from iodine deficiency, resulting to thyroid problems. Hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills, dietary hormones, and existing reproductive disorders (PCOS, long/heavy/painful menstrual periods, uterine fibroids) can result in an excess of estrogen and a lack of iodine.
Unfermented soy products like soy milk and soy protein isolate stimulate estrogen production, and should be avoided. If you have liver or gallbladder damage (due to stress or other factors) and don’t have enough bile, you can’t convert iodine.
Here’s another dietary trend that ultimately hurts you: it’s saturated fat that triggers bile release, and many people avoid fat. Let me be the first to say that high quality fats are not your enemy!
Iodine deficiency can be difficult to identify, especially because a blood test may show high levels of iodine, but not reveal the fact that the iodine is inactive and failing to be absorbed.
As one component of a larger health improvement plan, I often recommend trace mineral supplements and whole food concentrates. Replacing your trace minerals can go a long way to correcting many complex problems in the body, such as iodine deficiency and all of its symptoms included.
Unlike some of the treatments you might be recommended to treat the symptoms alone, a trace mineral supplement definitely won’t hurt you or be counterproductive in any way.