As this blog is being published, Japan is rallying against the threat of nuclear meltdown and the possible dispersion of radioactive particles from the 9.0 earthquake andÂ the subsequent tsunami. Iodine tabletsÂ are beingÂ dispersed among the people in an effort to stop the possible effects of radioactive iodine on the Japanese people.Â Â What exactly is happening here? Iodine has a tremendous affinity for the thyroid gland. In fact, an adequate amount of iodine is essential for a healthy thyroid gland. That is why we buy iodized salt. The absence of iodine leads to thyroid goiter (pathological swelling) and a less effective thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism (under-active) results and its sequelae may include growth retardation, mental Â retardation and much more. In an effort to prevent this from happening, iodine is being distributed to saturate everyone’s thyroid glandÂ with safe iodine so that exposure to radioactive iodine will have no effect. There are a limited number of “binding sites” for the iodine molecules, so if these are already bound with safe iodine, no radioactive destruction of the thyroid gland will occur if radioactive iodine exposure should occur.Â That same scenario could happen wherever the radioactivity may reach. Although this is probably unlikely here in America, I am using the excuse to have a little more salt in my diet today. And I’ll remember to make it iodized salt.
About Richard Edgerly, MD
I am a board-certified (not that it matters), Family Medicine physician who practices in rural Washington State. I am the owner of Assurance Healthcare and Counseling Center in the city of Yakima.
Always appreciating what a little humor does to refresh the soul, I have also written a collection of stories about events that have occurred over the years in my practice, and I hope that they will also make you laugh (see Just a Spoonful of Laughter Helps the Medicine Go Down).