Iodine is one of the most important minerals for healthy cellular and metabolic function. Once a standby of physicians, iodine was used to treat a variety of ailments and was considered a “universal medicine.” Most physicians today view iodine from a narrow perspective, believing the thyroid gland to be the sole beneficiary of iodine in the body. However, researchers have found that all cells in the body have a receptor for iodine. While the thyroid is the only gland that stores iodine, many other body systems require large quantities of this important mineral.
Americans consume an average of 240 micrograms of iodine per day. By comparison, the Japanese consume more than 12,000 micrograms per day and enjoy greater longevity, lower infant mortality, and far less incidence of breast cancer. The Japanese eat a variety of marine plants which are high in this vital nutrient, while iodized table salt is now the chief source of iodine in the American diet. Unfortunately, the iodine in table salt is poorly absorbed by the intestines. Also, iodine must contend with the toxic competitors chloride, bromide, and fluoride, which lower iodine levels in the body by blocking iodine receptors.
Iodine has been shown to strengthen the immune system, protect against the growth of harmful bacteria, and lower the incidence of fibrocystic breast disease and breast cancer. Supplemental iodine is available in different forms, each of which affects specific tissues in the body. The potassium and sodium iodide forms are best absorbed by the thyroid gland, while breast tissue uses iodine most efficiently in the form of molecular iodine. Look for supplements that provide all three forms. Benefits of increased iodine consumption include higher energy, better mental stability, improved skin complexion, and greater bowel regularity, to name a few.
When we consider all the microbes our bodies encounter on a daily basis, both good and bad, it should make us appreciate the very complex job of our immune system. This system is tasked with identifying and protecting the body from harmful microscopic invaders. Contrary to popular opinion, it is neither possible nor advisable to make our external environment “germ-free.” Instead, we should focus on making the internal environment of our body as strong and healthy as we can. Following are some natural immune system boosters.
Two important vitamins for the immune system are vitamin C and vitamin D. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that aids in fighting many types of viral and bacterial infections. Vitamin D has been called a “miracle nutrient for the immune system” due to its role in the production of hundreds of antimicrobial peptides. Additionally, the mineral zinc is crucial for the normal development and function of immune system cells.
Three herbal options for immune system support are elderberry, echinacea, and astragalus. Echinacea is an excellent infection fighter and a powerful natural antibiotic. It is an effective blood purifier and a good cleanser for the lymphatic system. Astragalus has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to increase natural defense mechanisms. Recent scientific studies have confirmed the immune-enhancing properties of this plant. Elderberry also has a long history of use in treating illness. It enhances immune system function, fights inflammation, lowers fever, and soothes the respiratory tract.
Finally, let’s look at some unconventional immune-system boosters: probiotics, bone broth, and coconut oil. A good quality probiotic helps modulate the immune system and relieve excess inflammation in the gut, where the majority of immune cells reside. Old-fashioned bone broth is rich in minerals that support the immune system; it also reduces inflammation and helps heal the digestive tract. Coconut oil is a source of lauric acid, which the body converts to monolaurin, a natural antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral compound.