What is Potassium Iodide?
French chemist Bernard Courtois discovered potassium iodide in 1811, and its historical medicinal use dates
back as far as 1820. Iodine has 37 isotopes, all of which experience radioactive decay with the exception of
iodine 127. Iodine 127 is the only stable and nonradioactive iodine isotope, and potassium iodide (KI) is an
ion salt compound of that element. Iodine deficiency affects approximately two billion people worldwide, and
it is the number one cause of preventable intellectual disabilities. Iodine deficiencies can also cause:
- Thyroid problems, painful thyroid gland, or visible goiter
- Dry skin
- Memory problems and brain fog
- Mental impairment in children*
- Cold intolerance or cold hands and feet
- Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties while lying down
- Hair loss
The populations most at risk for iodine deficiency include pregnant women, breastfeeding women, breastfed and
weaning babies, vegans, and individuals following weight-loss diets that include pre-packaged branded foods.
*Maternal iodine deficiencies transfer to the fetus, which can cause reduced cognitive function. The severity
corresponds to the degree of iodine deficiency.
What is Iodized Salt?
The richest iodine food sources are fish and seaweed. However, due to the prevalence of iodine deficiency,
salt producers often iodize salt with potassium iodide or sodium iodide. Potassium iodide has an edge on
sodium iodide, as it sustains blood iodine levels for longer. However, heat and humidity cause table salt to
lose its iodine content rapidly.
Iodine Supplement Benefits
Potassium iodide consists of 76.45% iodine and 23.55% potassium by mass. Potassium plays an important role in
human metabolism and is essential for proper muscle function, certain neurological mechanisms, and as an
electrolyte. As an essential nutrient, humans need a continual dietary supply of iodine to maintain good
health (see table below for the Recommended Dietary Allowance based on age). In the event of radiation
exposure, potassium iodide can dramatically reduce thyroid uptake of radiation. It may also inhibit the
accumulation of lead following exposure.
Iodine and Thyroid Health
Iodine plays a critical role in synthesizing the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
The numerical designations T4 and T3 reflect the number of iodine atoms contained in each hormone. If iodine
levels are deficient, the pituitary gland increases the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Elevated TSH levels cause thyroid tissues to grow in an attempt to obtain more iodine. Over time, increased
thyroid tissue can develop into a goiter. Thyroid hormones regulate multiple physiologic processes, such as
adequate growth and development, metabolism, and reproductive functions. It also aids in the conversion of
food to energy and the maintenance of body temperature.
Benefits of Iodine on Skin
One of potassium iodide’s oldest documented uses is to manage certain skin conditions. As far back as 1900,
the medical community has used potassium iodide to manage fungal skin infections. Recent studies have
confirmed potassium iodide’s antifungal properties. Potassium iodide may help soothe skin swelling and
redness as well.
Potassium Iodide and Respiratory Health
Potassium iodide is an expectorant, as it helps individuals cough up phlegm by loosening mucus. As a syrup,
it irritates the respiratory mucous membranes to encourage expectoration. Potassium iodide may help
individuals with long-term lung problems aggravated by mucus.
Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowance of Iodine Based on Age.
|Infants (7-12 months)
|Children, 1-3 years
|Children, 4-8 years
|Children, 9-13 years
|Teens, 14-18 years
Iodine Side Effects
Iodine is an essential nutrient, but some individuals may experience mild side effects when taken at higher
doses. These include nausea, itching skin, and vomiting. Individuals with thyroid problems or diseases
shouldn’t take potassium iodide supplements without a doctor’s supervision. Individuals with certain
autoimmune skin diseases shouldn’t take potassium iodide, as they may have an iodine sensitivity. Excessive
doses of potassium iodide (more than 1000x the RDA) can cause acne, upset stomach, loss of appetite, rashes,
and a metallic taste in the mouth. Consult with a physician before starting any new supplements.
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