A healthy hormone – or endocrine system – is critical for immunity and slowing the process of aging. The hormone glands are very affected by diet, exercise, and sleep. Abuse of any of those three elements can lead to an imbalance in how the glands that produce hormones function.
Iodine is a chemical element essential for the production of thyroid hormones that regulate growth and metabolism. Diets deficient in iodine increase risk of retarded brain development in children (cretinism), mental slowness, high cholesterol, lethargy, fatigue, depression, weight gain, and goiter: a swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck. Please note that both too much and too little iodine can cause hypothyroidism.
The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones. It participates in these processes by producing thyroid hormones, the principal ones being triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine which can sometimes be referred to as tetraiodothyronine (T4). These hormones regulate the rate of metabolism and affect the growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body. T3 and T4 are synthesized from both iodine and tyrosine. Anything interrupting the functionality of the thyroid can affect the health of the metabolic and endocrine system – and thereby accelerate aging and decrease immunity.
What foods are naturally high in iodine? Iodine is a component of almost every living plant and animal. No standard measurements of iodine in food exist because iodine concentrations vary across the world. In general, foods from the sea contain the most iodine, followed by animal foods, and then plant foods. Of all foods seaweed, like kelp, is the most famous and reliable source of natural iodine, however egg and dairy products can also be good sources. Other than dried seaweed and fortified salt the concentrations of iodine in foods can vary wildly.
How much iodine do I need? In your entire lifetime you will need less than a teaspoon of iodine to ensure good health, however, your body cannot store iodine so you have to eat a little bit every day. You only need 150 micrograms (or 20,000th of a teaspoon) to meet your daily requirement.
There is no exact answer as to why iodine deficiencies occur, however, two theories exist:
1. People live in a part of the world with low levels of iodine in the soil or sea.
2. People eat high amounts of refined foods that lose their iodine content during refinement. Refined sugar, for example, has no iodine.
Some countries, like the U.S., show risk from excess iodine intake which suggests over consumption of foods fortified in iodine, like salt.
Beware: Too much iodine can be bad for you. Over consumption of iodine can be toxic and just as damaging as a deficiency. As little as 1000 micrograms of Iodine in a day causes irritations like burning of the mouth and throat, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, and even coma. Like under-consumption, too much iodine prevents proper production of thyroid hormones leading to goiter.
Is there Iodine in Breast Milk? New mothers should be aware that their breast milk contains iodine for their new born children. The amount of iodine in breast milk will depend on the mother’s diet. A 1984 sample of women from the United States found the average concentration of iodine excreted in breast milk to be 114µg per day. This more than meets the adequate intake requirement of 110µg per day for infants ranging 0-6 months, but falls a little short of the 130µg per day requirement for infants ranging 7 months to 1 year. This should not necessarily be taken as a cause to eat a lot more iodine on the part of lactating women, as too much iodine can also be harmful.
If you don’t eat salt, meat, or seaweed, where can you get iodine? Your options are to consider supplements, buy foods enriched in iodine, or ensure that the plant foods you consume come from parts of the world where the soil is rich in iodine.
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