By: Carlos M Viana, Clinical Nutritionist
People feel better when they are soaking in our beautiful Caribbean sea. Taking time off from our daily responsibilities to relax and play in nature revitalizes our spirit. And the increase in vitamin D from sunshine and iodine from the sea is benefiting our physical health as well.
Iodine is a trace element, essential for good health. Iodine is naturally present in seawater as well as many marine fish and plants. It is found naturally in some foods and is also added to salt that is labeled as “iodized”. For many years I assumed those of us who live in the tropics would have sufficient levels of iodine in our bodies. After all, we swim in the ocean regularly and our diet includes lots of fish, fruits and vegetables, which should contain iodine from the soil.
Urinary iodine levels in the US today are about half what they were in the 1970s. Since our current Island diet, like most modern diets, includes imported, conventionally grown food, we islanders, like most people are now iodine deficient. My assumptions about our iodine levels were wrong. In order not to assume and to confirm levels, I started testing our patient iodine levels. To do this, we have you collect some urine in the morning and evening. Since iodine levels are especially important for the thyroid, we send the sample to a lab specializing in hormones.
Symptoms and potential risk for iodine deficiency include: depression, infertility, feeling cold all the time or cold hands and feet, sleep disturbances, elevated cholesterol, aches and pains, dry skin, fatigue, heart palpitations, constipation, anxiety, foggy thinking, low libido, thinning hair, brittle nails, headaches, weight gain with an inability to lose weight, and menstrual irregularities, to name a few symptoms. These symptoms also appear in people with a slow thyroid, hypothyroidism.
Your thyroid gland secretes iodine- rich hormones thyroxin and triiodothyronine, which regulate your metabolism rate; but its effects are felt all over the body. Hypothyroidism disproportionately affects women at a rate of about 9 to 1 in the US. The reason for this is that the female hormone estrogen inhibits the absorption of iodine. Women who are pregnant or nursing need about 50% more iodine to provide sufficient iodine for their baby.
Iodine has a nutritional relationship with selenium. Medical researchers have found that men with the highest levels of selenium had a 52% reduced risk of diabetes, compared to those with the lowest selenium levels. Laboratory studies indicate the potentially beneficial role of selenium in the management of breast cancer. It actually could be that selenium is stimulating the iodine in the breast. The breast strongly and actively concentrates iodine into breast-milk for the benefit of the developing infant, and may develop lumpy swelling, sometimes manifesting as fibrocystic breast disease, when iodine level are low. Studies indicate that iodine deficiency can lead to breast problems and increased incidence of malignancy, while iodine treatment can reverse breast lumps. Laboratory evidences demonstrate that the effect of iodine on breast cancer is in part independent of thyroid function and that iodine inhibits cancer promotion through modulation of the estrogen pathway. Natural medicine physicians have recommended women with breast cancer or uncomfortable lumps in the breast, fibrocystic breast disease paint their breast with iodine.
Eating foods that rob iodine, such as cabbage, cassava, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts mustard greens, millet and pine nut contribute to low iodine levels. I think the worse is gluten found in wheat. Gluten sensitivity has been found to go hand-in-hand with autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune thyroid disease. Kelp, a type of seaweed is one of the best food sources of iodine. The third problem effecting your iodine levels and hypothyroidism is an amino acid deficiency. As the building blocks of every structure of your body, amino acids have an influence on the function of organs, glands, tendons and arteries. They are furthermore essential for healing wounds and repairing tissue, especially in the muscles, bones, skin and hair as well as for the removal of all kinds of waste deposits produced in connection with the metabolism. The conversion of thyroid hormones T3 and T4 involves thyroid specific amino acids, found predominantly but not exclusively in the thyroid tissue.
Get The Point! Feeling any of the symptoms listed above could indicate a problem with thyroid and problems of your body to utilize iodine. The first step is to test your body’s iodine status. Our clinic offers iodine, full hormone panel and amino acid testing. If results show you are deficient in iodine, we need like a detective, start eliminating and identifying what is blocking your body’s ability to use iodine and if appropriate, add the correct iodine supplementation.
CARLOS VIANA, Ph. D. is an Oriental Medical Doctor (O.M.D.) having studied in China; a US Board Cert. Clinical Nutritionist (C.C.N.), an Addiction Professional (C.Ad.), Chairperson of the Latin American Committee of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), a Rejuvenating Cell Therapist specializing in Age Management, has a weekly radio program, writes and lectures extensively. For information: VIANA HEALING CENTER, Kibaima 7, St Cruz TEL: 585-1270 Web Site: www.vianaheal.com.