Iodine is a chemical element with the atomic number 53. The French chemist Bernard Courtois first isolated iodine in 1811 by burning seaweed and washing the ash with water. He then treated the remaining waste with sulfuric acid to produce dark purple crystals of iodine. The English chemist Sir Humphrey identified iodine as a new element in 1814, naming it after the Greek word ioeides, meaning “violet colored.”
Salt water is the most abundant natural source of iodine, where it exists as a negatively charged ion. Its high concentration in salt water is also the reason that iodine is an essential nutrient in most life forms, including humans. However, iodine is generally a rare element of Earth, making iodine deficiency relatively common in land animals.
The most significant biochemical role of iodine is the synthesis of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine and thyroxine. The thyroid gland absorbs iodine directly from the blood, so the concentration of iodine in the thyroid gland is much higher than anywhere else in the body.
Pure iodine is highly reactive, so health supplements must provide it in compound form. Iodide salts are typically used for this purpose, since they are highly soluble in water. Potassium iodide is preferable to sodium iodide since potassium iodide absorbs water much less readily.
The most common uses of iodine as a health supplement relate to the thyroid gland. Other uses include breast health, hair growth, and antioxidant support.
Iodine may help to manage hypothyroidism, which is characterized by a low metabolic rate. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include general fatigue, weight gain, and sensitivity to cold.
Iodine may have significant antioxidant activity, especially concerning free hydroxyl radicals.
Iodine may help form healthy, shiny hair. It may also help to maintain a normal rate of hair growth.
Some research shows iodine supplement may help to manage breast discomfort, especially when related to the menstrual cycle. The regimen in this study consisted of daily doses for five months.
Inland population groups are most likely to suffer from iodine deficiency, especially in arid regions that are distant from large bodies of water. People who don’t eat seafood are also at greater risk for iodine deficiency. Additional risk categories for iodine deficiency include pregnancy and radiation exposure. An enlarged thyroid gland is the most significant sign that you may need iodine supplements. Additional signs that iodine could benefit you include fatigue, hair loss, and cognitive impairments.
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