Iodine is one of the many chemical elements needed by the body. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t produce this vital chemical. Therefore, the food you eat is the only source of iodine.
Food also contains little doses of iodine although some come with added quantities during processing like salt. However, the major source of iodine in the world is the ocean courtesy of sea life like seaweed.
The body needs hormones for normal functioning and the thyroid gland is responsible for making these hormones. One of the critical ingredients used is iodine. Without iodine, the thyroid gland will have to work harder in order to produce the hormones. As a result of overworking, the glands enlarge causing a condition known as goiter.
You can also suffer from other conditions due to insufficient iodine in the body. Before looking at these conditions, here’s how iodine works in the body.
How Iodine Works in the Body
Iodine works by reducing the thyroid hormone and kills bacteria, fungus and amoeba among other microorganisms. Potassium iodide, a special type of iodine, can treat radioactive accident effects, but it doesn’t prevent.
The Uses of Iodine
Treating iodine deficiency. A person diagnosed with an iodine deficiency can top up the levels using iodized salt or other iodine supplements. This will also prevent deficiencies.
Exposure to radiation. Oral ingestion of iodine can help prevent and protect the body against radioactive iodides in case of radiation exposure.
Thyroid-related conditions. Ingesting iodine can control hyperthyroidism and thyroid storm. In addition, iodized salt can also reduce the thyroid gland after going through a surgery to eliminate a thyroid disease.
Leg ulcers. Application of cadexomer iodine to a venous leg ulcer combined with 4 to 6 weeks of compression can accelerate healing. Also, the patient can apply povidone-iodine combined with compressions to heal the leg ulcers and prevent future infections.
Conjunctivitis. Newborns are at high risk of contracting conjunctivitis. To treat this, doctors use silver nitrate, but according to research, applying povidone-iodine based solutions appears more effective. However, it isn’t as effective as chloramphenicol or erythromycin.
Uterus inflammation. Also known as endometritis, mothers who deliver through cesarean run the risk of uterus inflammation. Applying povidone-iodine around the vagina before the procedure can reduce the chances of endometritis.
Mastalgia. This is a condition characterized by pain in the breasts. A person suffering from this condition can take iodine tablets to reduce the pain in the breast, especially during the menstrual cycle/
Periodontitis. According to research, a person with gum infections can rinse the mouth with povidone-iodine to treat periodontitis.
The Side Effects of Iodine
While iodine is critical for normal body functioning, oral ingestion can cause some side effects to some people. However, some will not show these signs even when applied to the skin. Some of these side effects include:
- Running nose
- Metallic taste
- Stomach pain
In some people, the effects can be severe:
- Angioedema, which is the swelling of the face and lips
- Joint pain
- Bleeding and fever
- Enlargement of the lymph nodes
- Allergic reactions such as hives
- In some cases, death
When applied on the skin, iodine can cause irritations, allergic reactions and stains among other effects. Also, tight bandages on areas with iodine treatment can cause iodine burns, so you have to be careful when tying bandages.
Safety Measures for Special Conditions
Pregnant and lactating mothers. Ingestion by mouth is recommended for safe amounts, 1100 mcg per day for people above 18 years. If you’re between 14 and 18 years, safe iodine levels should be at less than 900 mcg, otherwise, you run the risk of developing thyroid complications.
Autoimmune thyroid disease. People suffering from this disease can develop sensitivity to the dangerous side effects caused by iodine.
Dermatitis herpetiformis. This is a kind of rash and taking iodine can worsen the situation for a person with this rash.
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), thyroid gland enlargement (goiter) and thyroid tumor. An increased dosage or long use of iodine may worsen these conditions.
Iodine is important for the body’s well-being; however, many people don’t see the benefits of this chemical element. People don’t check their iodine levels from time to time, thus leading to iodine deficiencies which are on the rise today.
Therefore, it’s important to monitor iodine levels in order to prevent iodine deficiencies or treat them before reaching critical levels. also, don’t forget to check the recommended iodine intake levels, lest you suffer from life-threatening side effects.