The thyroid gland is one of the most important regulators of metabolism whose functioning affects the entire body. It is in turn regulated by the two master glands of the endocrine system, namely, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, both of which are seated in the brain. The thyroid gland produces hormones, known as “thyroid hormones,” from the amino acid tyrosine and from iodine. Since the thyroid gland can affect just about every cell in the body in multifarious ways, proper thyroid function is absolutely essential to overall health.
Iodine deficiency is directly related to thyroid dysfunction which in turn can lead to numerous medical problems. Weight gain and hypersensitivity to cold are common in patients with thyroid disease. Cholesterol levels typically become elevated and increase the risk of serious cardiovascular diseases such as hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure. Water retention in the upper and lower extremities can also develop due to increased capillary permeability and slow lymphatic drainage. Loss of libido and menstrual disregulation are other very common findings. In the case of women, thyroid disease can cause prolonged and heavy menstrual bleeding with a shorter menstrual cycle. Infertility may also be a problem. If pregnancy occurs during thyroid dysfunction, miscarriages, premature deliveries, and stillbirths can occur. Rarely does a pregnancy end in normal labour and delivery if the thyroid gland is not working normally. Recent studies have also linked iodine deficiency to breast cancer in women. Dermatological issues can manifest in both sexes. For example, skin can become dry, rough, and scaly while hair and nails can become brittle and thin. From the psychological and behavioural standpoint, depression, lethargy, and fatigue are usually among the first symptoms of thyroid disease. As the disease progresses, the patient will most certainly have difficulty concentrating and become extremely forgetful. Other body-wide manifestations include shortness of breath, constipation, and impaired kidney function. Finally, the musculoskeletal system will be affected as well and the individual will begin experiencing muscle weakness and stiffness along with joint pain and tenderness.
All of these problems can be averted through proper intake of iodine. However, the dietary allowance for iodine recommended by physicians and medical authorities in Australia is usually quite small at 150 micrograms per day when in fact up to 600 micrograms per day is more in accord with what the body actually needs for a healthy thyroid gland. It is therefore of supreme importance that people be educated about adequate iodine intake as well as the food sources of this essential mineral. Although common table salt is frequently iodized, there are many other food sources of iodine that we should know about. Seaweed, for instance, has long been recognized as an almost perfect source of iodine. The iodine found in seaweed works synergistically with other phytochemicals in seaweed that support healthy metabolism, digestion, and elimination of toxic waste. This type of iodine polytherapy from seaweed also enhances blood flow and helps to maintain healthy glucose levels. Kelp is very similar to seaweed and is a potent source of trace minerals, iodine, and phytochemical constituents that help to maintain gastrointestinal and thyroid health and to support normal metabolic function. Coleus forskholii is an iodine bearing herb that works directly on the heart muscle and on blood vessels to optimize blood flow throughout the cardiovascular system. It also helps to maintain healthy fat metabolism and overall immune health. Ashwagandha, often referred to as “Indian Ginseng,” is a common herb used in Ayurvedic medicine which also works synergistically with the iodine found in the body. It is used to enhance mental and physical stamina and to advance the body’s natural resistance and adaptation to stressful influences.