Iodine is a mineral and essential nutrient that the body needs to make thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones control and regulate the body’s metabolism and other important functions. Iodine is also crucial for fetal and infant development. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need enough iodine in order for their babies to grow and develop properly.
Iodine plays a pivotal role in promoting thyroid health. Thyroid hormones are crucial for controlling metabolism and heart health to provide your body with energy and stamina. And to make those hormones, you thyroid takes up iodine in small amounts. Without it, your thyroid can’t produce these important hormones.
An imbalance in these hormones can lead to either hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, an overactive one. Both conditions can cause the thyroid to become enlarged. A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland, and a sign of too little or too much iodine in the body. Iodine can prevent goiters and manage an overactive thyroid gland.
The close connection between the thyroid gland and iodine means that radioactive iodine can be a possible treatment for thyroid cancer. The American Cancer Society says radioactive iodine treatments can significantly improve the chances of survival for people with thyroid cancer.
Pregnant women need a higher intake of iodine to promote the healthy development of the fetus. Neurodevelopment during pregnancy requires pregnant adults to intake more than two-thirds more iodine than a non-pregnant adult. Iodine is crucial in the brainstem development of the fetus during pregnancy through until they’ve reached 6 months of age.
Researchers also believe that the important role played by iodine during pregnancy extends to healthy brain function during childhood. Research suggests cognitive function during this period depends on iodine, and proper amounts may also reduce the risk of intellectual disability.
Iodine can also help treat fibrocystic breast disease, a noncancerous condition common in women that can cause painful breast lumps.
Another little-known benefit of iodine is its ability to treat infections and help heal scrapes and cuts to the skin. That’s why you might find iodine in a topical product to help treat and prevent infections. Iodine kills bacteria in and around mild skin abrasions.
Most people obtain plenty of iodine through their diet, and supplements aren’t often necessary. In fact, too much iodine intake can lead to health issues.
Iodine: Fact Sheet for Consumers — 2019
Radioactive Iodine (Radioiodine) Therapy for Thyroid Cancer — 2019