The modern professionals of today and tomorrow are applying their minds and preparing their intellects for greater challenges than ever before. As the demands placed on the mind grow, many will seek out nootropics and brain-healthy supplements for increasing mental acuity and stamina.
One of the most important ingredients is one you have probably heard of before but you might not think of it as a nootropic. It is the element iodine. Iodine plays an important role in keeping the brain and body healthy by its direct benefits with the thyroid glands, which so many vital processes depend.
The Importance of Iodine and Thyroid Health
Iodine is found in a variety of food sources and is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream from the gut. Eventually, iodine arrives at the thyroid where the only cells that can absorb iodine reside. These cells require iodine to begin production of thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
These thyroid hormones regulate metabolism and keep the brain and organs in proper conditions. A healthy thyroid balances body weight, improves energy assimilation from foods, and regulates a steady temperature.1
Iodine as a Nootropic
Iodine is an important part of a brain-healthy diet for several important reasons listed below.
A powerful mind is only as strong as its energy sources. The energy provided to the brain and body comes from food sources. The nutrients in these foods must be metabolized before it is ready to put forth a physical and cognitive effort.
Additionally, iodine is a key regulator and may help to reverse the effects of a slow metabolism since it can help your body make more T3 and T4 hormones. Iodine can also help manage weight, provide hormonal balance, and reduce mental fatigue.2
Iodine’s pervasive effects benefit the body down to the synthesis of gene products called gene expression. DNA is a specific set of instructions for the creation of a gene product, typically a protein or some other molecule.
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Gene Expression is important for the production of hormones, neurotransmitters, and enzymes that affect a wide variety of processes, many of them important to improved cognitive function. Iodine works to support the processes involved in gene expression on a molecular level.3
Iodine helps rid the body from damage and attrition caused by heavy metals and other toxins. Lead, mercury, aluminum, bromide, fluoride, and other toxins are released from the body with the help of iodine.4
This is more important today than ever before as there are so many toxins and heavy metals in the air, water, and foods we consume. Additionally, studies have found iodine protects the eyes from the effects of harmful radiation and oxidative stress.5
The chemical communicators in the brain require iodine for proper synthesis. Because nootropics use can significantly increase brain activity, iodine is essential to ensure that neurotransmitter production can match these high demands. Iodine plays an important role in the production of dopamine and other brain chemicals that improve the mood, support focus, and provide motivation for tedious tasks.6
Iodine is a powerful antioxidant that works to protect the brain from the effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a key culprit in conditions that prevent proper delivery of oxygen to brain cells, which need a great deal of oxygen to survive and function properly. A brain provided with iodine will manage far better in the aging processes and the risk of age-related conditions increase.7
Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency
Iodine is not made internally and therefore without a conscious effort to include high-iodine food in the diet, it is easy to enter an iodine deficiency. Iodine deficiency affects more than 2 billion people on the planet making it a considerably widespread condition with some very simple solutions.8
In the following sections, we will take a closer look at how the body reacts to diminished supplies of iodine and what the best course of action would be to correct it. Finally, we will take a look at some of the effects of excess iodine in the diet, which can be equally harmful.
Swelling in the Neck
The thyroid is a gland located in the throat and is shaped similar to a butterfly. The primary task is to produce important regulatory hormones that accomplish a variety of tasks including temperature regulation and energy assimilation. The thyroid takes its cue from thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which is produced and released by the pituitary gland.
When the thyroid detects TSH, it begins producing its own hormones in response. But without sufficient iodine, the thyroid can’t produce hormones which leads to more TSH in the blood.
Higher amounts of TSH begins to stress out the thyroid, which will begin to become enlarged as it grows more cells to increase production. As the cells multiply, the thyroid can get bigger and lead to goiter, condition characterized by an enlarged thyroid gland.
The good news is that this condition can be addressed with iodine supplementation. Although damage to the thyroid may be more difficult to treat if the deficiency goes on for an extended period of time.
Unexpected Weight Gain
Unexpected weight gain is another symptom of a malfunctioning thyroid. If the thyroid is not meeting production requirements for special hormones, metabolism is one of the first functions to falter.
The metabolic rate is the rate the body burns calories collected from food. A metabolism at full capacity is burning many calories to produce more energy for efforts. When the metabolism is functioning at half-pace, fewer calories are burned and more are getting stored away as body fat.
Proper intake of iodine allows thyroid hormones to be produced as they are needed and at full capacity.
By reducing the capacity of the metabolism, a lack of iodine to support thyroid function can turn down the power needed to support physical and mental output. When more calories are being stored as fat, less are being applied to energy production and this can mean feeling exhausted throughout the day.
Unhealthy Skin and Hair loss
Thyroid hormones play an important role in maintaining the health of the largest organ in the human body, the skin. Skin cells, sweat pores, and hair follicles are all essential to keeping the skin in good conditions. The individual processes depend on the thyroid for regulation. If the thyroid begins to suffer, the skin can become dry and hair follicles can die out, leading to premature balding in men and women.
Feeling Colder Than Usual
Since the thyroid plays a big role in keeping the temperatures at a happy medium, when they falter it can cause some issues in keeping warm. As mentioned, thyroid hormones help to keep the body’s essential furnace, the metabolism, in proper order. With the metabolism down the body is colder and less active.
Thyroid hormones are also important to stimulate the use of brown fat cells, which are specifically used to keep the body warm. If the body is not getting the iodine to synthesize these hormones, brown fat cells just sit and build up.9
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Iodine is essential to the growth and development of the fetus and breastfeeding baby. Because the mother’s body will unselfishly pass all iodine stores directly to the infant as they are needed, mothers are more susceptible to iodine deficiency than anyone else.
It is very important for breastfeeding and expecting mothers to get enough iodine for themselves and for their children. Iodine deficiency has been linked to developmental issues in unborn children and increases the risk of stillbirth. Furthermore, mothers with insufficient iodine have a greater chance of contracting goiter and suffering from intense fatigue.10
For this reason, it is especially important for expecting mothers and those planning parenthood to speak to their doctor or nutritionist about iodine supplementation.
Sources of Iodine
If you think you might have an iodine deficiency, the following food options are excellent sources of iodine:
- Seaweed (Nori)
- Iodized salt
Risks and Precautions
Iodine intake is an important part of good health. Nevertheless, there is a reason to believe that too much iodine can be a bad thing. Make sure you discuss your plans for supplementation with a licensed nutritionist before changing your diet. This is especially important for those with medical conditions as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Currently there is a global iodine deficiency that causes various types of mental damage. The body does not make iodine so it is vital for you to include foods rich in iodine in your diet. Iodine is an essential nutrient responsible for various biological processes. Be sure to get your daily dose of iodine to keep your mind and body running efficiently.
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