Iodine is an essential nutrient specific to thyroid, breast, ovarian and prostate function. The best sources of iodine come from seaweed, which include brown algae (kelp), red algae (nori sheets, with sushi), and green algae (chlorella). Iodine is found naturally in the soil and seawater as well as dairy products, meat, some breads, and eggs. The pounding action of the waves from the ocean form iodine gas, which can combine with water or air and enter the soil as it moves inland. The Great Lakes area, as part of the central plains, is deficient in iodine so consequently it was known as the goiter belt. During the early 20th century iodized salt almost wiped out iodine deficiency. However, a change in food processing and diminished salt intake has had an effect on iodine consumption.
According to Dr. David Brownstein, “Iodine deficiency is the underlying problem responsible for the high rate of cancer (particularly breast, lung, prostate and ovary) as well as the high rate of autoimmune disorders we are seeing in this country.” Dr. Jorge Flechas, MD, MPH has stated that every cell in the body contains and uses Iodine and most of it is concentrated in the glands, i.e., thyroid, salivary and parotid glands, pancreas, cerebrospinal fluid, brain, stomach skin, etc. Iodine deficiency is a cancer promoter yet iodine is not toxic to normal cells but is to cancer cells.
The thyroid gland uses more iodine then any other hormone gland in the body. Four iodine atoms attach to the amino acid tyrosine to make T4, as one iodine atom spins off it makes T3, which determines ones metabolism. The ovaries are next in line for its share of iodine. Flechas states that the greater the iodine deficiency, the more ovarian cysts a woman produces, resulting in the extreme form known as polycystic ovarian disease. Iodine deficiency is strongly correlated with ovarian cysts and may also be related to ovarian cancer.
The breast tissue also benefits from adequate iodine stores. Fibrocystic breast disease is described as painful lumps in the breasts often associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle. Approximately 70 percent of reproductive-aged women experience cyclical breast pain, and 10-30 percent of them have pain severe enough to interfere with normal activities. Fibrocystic breast may lead to breast cancer. Comparing American to the Japanese female population it has been observed that the Japanese women have the lowest incidence of breast cancer and the American women have the highest rate of breast cancer. Japanese women’s iodine intake is 50 fold greater then the average American. The consume 12 milligrams of iodine and the average American consumes 240 micrograms.
After the thyroid gland the ovaries contain the highest concentration of iodine. Researches have made the correlation between iodine deficiency and ovarian cyst, premenstrual syndrome and ovarian cancer. Iodine seems to raise the amount of anti-cancer estriol and lowers the amount of estrone and estradiol. When these types of estrogen are balanced it favors cancer prevention.
The prostate gland also benefits from adequate iodine. Again, it is postulated that because of their Iodine consumption, Japanese men have 10 times less prostate cancer then American men. Coincidentally there is a 31 percent increased rate of prostate cancer once thyroid cancer has been diagnosed. The mechanism of how iodine is protective to the prostate gland is not fully understood, however, evidence seems to suggest that iodine is protective.
A simple home “test” to check for iodine reserves is to paint a spot about the size of a silver dollar on the inside of the upper arm using colored iodine. Ideally the spot should last for 24 hours. The faster the spot disappears the greater the likelihood that one is deficient in iodine. As with all supplementation it is best to be monitored especially when consuming therapeutic doses.