Iodine is one of those minerals you don’t often hear about, but it’s a lot more important than you might realize.
Everyone knows that minerals like iron, zinc, and potassium are vital for a healthy body. Calcium always has a starring role as the “bone mineral”, while it’s well-known that magnesium plays a role in your muscle contractions. However, what you may not realize is that iodine is a vital mineral that affects one of the most important systems in your body: your endocrine system.
Iodine acts on the hormones of the thyroid gland, which control the body’s activity rate, growth, development and the healthiness of skin and hair. The reason iodine is NOT as well-known as the other minerals is due to the fact that its main role is producing the hormone thyroxine. About two-thirds of the body’s iodine is in the thyroid gland, while the remainder is in the hormone itself. If there is too much thyroxine the body’s activity rate – its basal metabolism – speeds up; if there is too little, the body’s activity rate slows down.
If we do not get enough iodine in our diet, the thyroid gland becomes swollen and the swelling appears just below the jaw. The enlargement of the gland is called goitre, and is common in areas where the body is iodine-deficient.
Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency
Aside from the symptoms mentioned above (slow metabolism and enlarged thyroid glands), the symptoms of iodine deficiency can actually be pretty severe:
– Mental retardation
– Poor perception
– Reduced fertility
– Higher risk of stillbirths
Some of the symptoms, though, are much more minor:
– Abnormal weight gain
– Coarse skin
No doubt you’re beginning to see why getting enough iodine is so important. If not, read the next section to find out what else iodine can do for you:
Increase metabolism – Your thyroid hormones play a vital role in your metabolic function. Iodine increases the production of the hormones that keep your metabolism firing at full speed.
Maintain energy levels – Iodine ensures that your body is producing enough energy to function properly, and helps you to use calories as efficiently as possible.
Improve reproductive health – The mineral plays a role in the growth and maturity of the sexual organs, both male and female. For women, it’s vital to get enough iodine during pregnancy, as that will reduce the risk of stillbirths and cognitive deficits in their babies.
Enhance hair, teeth, and nail health – Iodine is necessary for the production of healthy hair, skin, and teeth cells. A lack of iodine can be a contributor to hair loss.
Boost immunity – Iodine is effective at scavenging free radicals (like antioxidants), and it can increase antioxidant activity in your body. It will improve your defenses against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other health problems.
Maintain apoptosis – Your cells have a certain lifespan, an amount of time they are designed to live. After that lifespan, they are meant to die off and be replaced by new, healthy cells. Iodine helps to maintain that cycle of cellular apoptosis (death), ensuring that your body is always getting rid of the old and damaged and replacing it with new, healthy cells.
Check out the list of these foods rich in iodine:
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Need more Iodine?
Everyone needs iodine to produce thyroxine, but the signs of deficiency are easy to spot and treatment can be given. Those more at risk are women at puberty, pregnant women and children. There has been a suggestion that women in low iodine areas, are more prone to womb cancer. Some foods contain excessive levels of the minerals manganese and cobalt which interfere with the thyroid gland, extracting iodine. If you are in the habit of eating large amounts of raw cabbage you must ensure you are also getting sufficient iodine.
Some dieters believe that they struggle with their body weight because of an under active thyroid gland, this is possible, in most cases it has been found that they were simply ingesting too many calories and not active enough!