The Health Benefits of Iodine

The Health Benefits of Iodine


Introduction & Biological Role

Iodine is a trace element, essential for life.

The primary biological role of iodine is to function as a precursor of various thyroid hormones, namely thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are produced in conjunction with the precursor amino acid tyrosine. the I’m not going to dive into the role of the thyroid gland in the human body, but it’s function is primarily centered around metabolism and I encourage read more if you are interested.

Health Benefits/ Uses

I would not advise you to supplement iodine without discussing it first with your physician. That said, let’s review some of the medical conditions it can be used for.

Oral Mucositis

This is a fancy term for inflammation of the mucous membranes of your mouth, often associated with chemotherapy or radiation. It can be very painful. There is limited evidence to suggest that an oral iodine mouthwash may help reduce the intensity and severity of these symptoms.

Fibrocystic Breast Changes

Fibrocystic breast changes are when the connective tissues of your breast feel lumpy or rope-like. This is also termed nodule or glandular breast tissue and more than half of women experience this. These can cause discomfort or pain to women, especially associated with the menstrual cycle, however they do not increase your risk of cancer. Evidence suggests that women taking iodine replacement therapy had improvement in the tenderness associated with fibrocystic breast tissue.


Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina, which can be caused by a variety of things. Iodine douches have been shown to reduce inflammation, itching and discharge.


Iodine-based products are commonly used as a disinfectant by medical providers. It has natural anti-septic properties and can be found in over the counter wound care products.

Radiation Exposure

In individuals exposed to radiation, giving thyroid supplementation can prevent radioactive material from having negative effects on the thyroid gland. Fortunately, this probably won’t be an issue for most folks.


Deficiency is uncommon in developed nations, but can manifest as:

  • Mental retardation
  • Hypothyroidism (fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, sensitive to temperature)
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid, typically first symptom)
  • Cretinism
  • Other growth/ developmental abnormalities

Deficiency in selenium, iron or vitamin A may exacerbate iodine deficiency.


Although rare, excess iodine does occur and can manifest as:

  • Goiter
  • Hyper or hypothyroidism
  • Increased risk of thyroid cancer


In the western world, roughly 30% of iodine comes from salt, which is added to potassium. Keep an eye out for iodized salt.

The other 70% of iodine comes from food sources. Common food sources include:

  • Marine life
  • Shellfish
  • Fish: Cod, bass, haddock, perch
  • Seaweed kelp
  • Garlic
  • Lima beans, soybeans
  • Spinach
  • Squash, Turnup
  • Dairy
  • Supplement or multivitamin

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)

Again, I recommend you supplement only under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

Institute of Medicine recommends:

  • Non-pregnant adult: 150 μg/day
  • Pregnant women: 220 μg/day
  • Breastfeeding women: 290 μg/day

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