AS INDICATED in last week's article, breast cancer can be prevented. Iodine is another key nutritional agent that can be used to protect your breast. Iodine is a trace element in the human diet that is essential for life. Most readers will immediately associate iodine with the thyroid gland, but there is much more to iodine than the thyroid.
It is true that iodine is essential for the thyroid gland to function. But other than the thyroid, the highest concentration of iodine is found in women's breasts. In fact 70 per cent of the body's iodine is distributed to other tissues, particularly the breasts, eyes, stomach, the cervix, ovaries, prostate, salivary and sweat glands.
The thyroid is the body's main storage organ for iodine and, when levels of iodine are low, the thyroid competes with other storage sites and they all become depleted. Thus, a deficit increases the risk for a variety of conditions, including breast diseases like cancer and fibrocystic disease.
Iodine - an anti-cancer nutrient
The life cycle of normal cells involves growth, division and death. New cells then replace the dead cells and this normal cycle is repeated. Apoptosis is the medical term for the programmed death of our cells and ensures their normal lifespan. Abnormal cancer cells, however, do not undergo this process, and their uncontrolled growth eventually damage and destroys the body.
Dr David Brownstein, MD, in his book Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can't Live Without It, explained that iodine is an anticancer nutrient that promotes apoptosis when taken in doses much larger than the recommended dietary allowance. His research indicates that chronic iodine deficiency or the body's failure to properly use iodine promotes cancers of hormone-sensitive organs such as the breasts, ovaries, uterus and prostate.
Iodine and the breast
As previously mentioned, women's breasts are major sites for iodine storage and the element is essential for the maintenance of healthy structure and function of breast tissue. Adequate iodine levels is key to breast health. Iodine deficiency is associated with a higher incidence of breast cancer and experimental iodine deficiency in rats results in breast abnormalities similar to human fibrocystic disease of the breast. Researchers believe that an increased iodine intake will help prevent breast cancer and help treat pre-existent breast cancer.
Exposure to toxic chemicals hinders the uptake of iodine in the body as they block the body's ability to absorb this important mineral. These toxins include a group of elements known as halides. The halides are bromide, fluoride, chloride and iodide, the latter being the only one with therapeutic benefits in the body.
Over 30 years ago, bromine replaced iodine as an ingredient in bread dough. Bromine is a known breast carcinogen and this one shift by the food industry created an epidemic of bromide toxicity and associated iodine deficiency. Bromine is also used in crop fumigation, pest control, in some carbonated drinks, and several prescription medications.
Exposure to chlorine, as well as fluoride found in toothpaste, some water supplies and many drugs, further compound iodine deficiency. Adequate iodine in the tissues prevents the uptake of these halides and helps eliminate them from the body. Women are particularly at risk from halogens exposure as well as to toxic radioactive iodine.
According to Michael Friedman in his book The Fundamentals of Naturopathic Endocrinology, the accumulation of radioactive iodine in breast tissue may be a significant factor in causing both breast cancer and other types of breast lumps. Radioactive iodine from the nuclear fallout disaster at Fukushima, Japan, now threatens everyone as this poison quickly spread worldwide to permeate and injure anyone it contacts, especially those that are iodine deficient. If obese, a woman's need for iodine increases and her fatty tissues will take up more radioactive iodine.
Iodine and other disorders
Optimal levels of iodine are so important to all aspects of health and well-being that physicians of yesteryear routinely used iodine in medical practice. Dr Albert S. Gyorgi, the discoverer of vitamin C stated, "When I was a medical student, iodine was the universal medicine". Despite it being added to table salt, iodine deficiency is widespread. In the US, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found low levels in more than 50 per cent of the population.
Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) is common in iodine deficiency and creates many problems, including: brittle nails, cold hands and feet, dry skin, elevated cholesterol, fatigue, hair loss, inability to concentrate, infertility in men and women, hormone imbalance, menstrual irregularities, muscle cramps, weakness, poor memory and concentration, depression, puffy eyes and ankles and weight gain. There is a strong association between obesity and iodine deficiency.
Iodine is also essential for growth and development in childhood, and according to the World Health Organization, a deficiency in pregnant women is the main cause of preventable mental retardation and brain damage in children.
The body does not make iodine and it may be difficult to get enough from modern food. Fortunately, the ocean is an abundant source and sea vegetables (sea weed) are high in iodine. Kelp, dulce, nori and Irish moss are examples of edible seaweeds and along with iodised salt, seafood and iodine supplements are the best known sources of iodine.
In 2001, the Japanese Journal for Cancer Research reported that seaweed, known for its high iodine content, reduced the risk for breast cancer in Japanese women who ate it.
But if the body is laden with toxins, it absorbs iodine from food poorly, and iodine supplements are required. The body will then gradually expel the toxins from its tissues, especially the thyroid, breast and other storage sites. This detoxifying effect strengthens the immune system and helps optimise hormone balance.
Specialists in iodine therapy often use high doses of the element to treat various disorders, including breast, ovarian and prostate diseases (including cancer), thyroid disorders, recurrent vaginal infections, infertility, sebaceous cysts and migraine headaches. It is useful to know that the Japanese ingest nearly 14mg of iodine daily (mostly from seaweed), that is almost 100 times greater than the US RDA.
Using the proper dose of iodine is critical, as taking too much can also create problems.
You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at email@example.com or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. His new book 'An Ounce of Prevention, Especially for Women' is available locally and on the Internet.