Iodine is a trace element, meaning the body only needs it in small quantities, however, the role it plays in our body is huge. It is crucial in maintaining ideal health, however, Iodine deficiency has become a global health issue. In fact, The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 2 billion people may be iodine deficient and up to 50 million may be suffering from serious symptoms due to the deficiency.
Iodine is naturally found in the soil and seawater. Previous generations did not suffer from iodine deficiencies, as a matter of fact it was quite a rare problem until the 20 th century. The leading research has linked both nutritional and environmental factors to this growing epidemic.
Causes of Iodine Deficiency
- Standard American Diet (SAD): Home cooked meals are a thing of the past in the average household. Most depend on prepackaged and ready-to-eat foods, or meals in restaurants. Most pre-packaged foods are high in Bromine. This element blocks iodine absorption leading to deficiency.
- Soil Depletion: Due to industrial farming methods most soils have become depleted of iodine along with other minerals and elements. As a result, the amount of iodine we once acquired from fresh produce has drastically dropped.
- Farm Raised Fish: In this modern era, fish consumption has been on the decline. When people due consume fish, the vast majority is farm raised as opposed to wild-caught fish, due to the reduced prices. Remember, you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, farm-raised fish tend to have much lower levels of iodine than wild- caught.
- Selenium Deficiency: The thyroid gland needs both iodine and selenium to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormone. Selenium is necessary to recycle iodine. When selenium in low the body will have a difficult time utilizing the appropriate thyroid hormones. Rectifying a selenium deficiency is easy and inexpensive. Eat 6-8 Brazil nuts, daily. The daily recommended dose of selenium is 400 mcg. 6-8 Brazil nuts contain 544 mcg.
- Fluoridated / Chlorinated Water: Both of these elements inhibit the absorption of iodine.
- Tobacco: Tobacco smoke contains a compound called Thiocyanate. Thiocyanates will inhibit iodines absorption into cells. Tobacco smoke can also block thyroid hormone function.
The Role of Iodine in Your Body
Iodine plays a major role in the body. Mostly known for being vital to the thyroid gland, iodine also plays a critical role in other organs and glands. 70% - 80% of iodine is found in the thyroid gland in the neck. The rest is found in other parts of the body. For instance, Other tissues besides the thyroid that absorb and use large amounts of iodine include:
- Salivary glands
- Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF)
Iodine deficiency of these tissues can result in dysfunction and clinical symptoms can include:
- Memory Problems / Brain Fog
- Muscle Weakness
- Joint Stiffness
- Elevated Cholesterol
- Thinning Hair
- Cold hands/feet
- Weight gain / Difficulty losing weight
- Dry Skin
- Kidney dysfunction
Benefits of Iodine
Iodine has a vast array of benefits in the body. It can impact bodily functions including metabolism, bone health, immune response, and Central Nervous System development in the fetus and infant. Here are some key benefits:
1. Regulates Metabolism: Iodine assists in thyroid gland function by helping with production of it’s hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). This affects metabolism and the body’s ability to convert nutrients into energy. It also improves your sleep cycle and has a direct impact on cognitive health (brain and memory).
2. Maintains Optimum Energy levels: Iodine has a very large role in breaking down fats and complex carbohydrates to be used as energy in the body.
3. Prevents Enlarged Thyroid Gland: Iodine deficiency can result in a ‘goiter’ or an abnormal enlargement of your thyroid gland.
4. Boosts Immunity: Iodine gets rid of dangerous free radicals and increases the activity of antioxidants. As a result, it strengthens the body’s defense against many diseases including heart disease and certain cancers.
5. Eliminates Heavy Metals: Iodine can remove toxic chemicals and heavy metals like mercury, lead, and fluoride. It also combats H. Pylori which has been associated with ulcers and stomach cancer.
6. Cancer Protection: Iodine has been linked with the reduction of thyroid cancer, and breast cancer. The mechanism of protection is called ‘Apoptosis’. That means iodine induces the self-destruction of mutated, cancerous cells, while protecting healthy cells.
7. Prevents Stillbirths, Impaired Development And Growth In Children: Studies show that iodine deficiency during pregnancy and infancy can interfere with brain development and growth. According to research published at the University of Sydney, Australia and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Sweden, “Brain damage and irreversible mental retardation are the most important disorders induced by iodine deficiency.” Taking a sufficient amount of Iodine during pregnancy has been shown to prevent ‘stillbirths’, and ensures proper speech and hearing abilities.
8. Helps Fibrocystic Disease: Iodine has been shown in clinical studies to drastically reduce breast and ovary fibrosis and cysts.
10 Iodine Rich Foods To Reverse Deficiency
Are you currently eating foods that naturally contain iodine? Since the body can’t store iodine, it’s important to eat Iodine rich foods to prevent a deficiencies,
1. Sea Vegetables
Sea vegetables like Kelp, Arame, Nori, Wakame are Iodine rich. Kelp has the highest amount of iodine than any other sea vegetable or food containing a whopping 2000 mcg per tablespoon of iodine. Kelp is also marketed as Spirulina or Blue-green Algae.
Cranberries are rich in antioxidants and iodine-alike. 4 ounces of fresh cranberries contains approximately 400 mcg of iodine. Make sure to use fresh cranberries. You may cook with them or juice them to get the benefits. You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving...making fresh cranberry sauce is delicious, nutritional and easy.
3. Sea Salt:
Regular table salt can be purchased with iodine added (aka-iodized salt), however, I NEVER recommend anyone use iodized table salt. The reason is this salt is highly processed andstripped of all it’s natural trace minerals, leaving behind only Sodium Chloride (NaCl). Sodium chloride in absence of other trace minerals to balance it is toxic to the body and cause for many health problems. The same is not true of Sea Salt. Natural Sea Salt is loaded with trace minerals, including iodine. This makes Sea Salt a much healthier choice (unless you are on dialysis). Sea Salt should never be white. If it’s white, this means it’s been processed, much like table salt. Sea salt should either be pink or have a grayish hue. Himalayan sea salt contains 250 mcg of iodine per half gram. Celtic Sea Salt (in particular – Selina Gourmet Sea Salt w-seaweed) contains 350 mcg per quarter teaspoon.
Yogurt is an excellent option for increasing iodine in your diet. 1 cup of yogurt provides 154 mcg of iodine. Make sure you are not eating a commercialized brand of yogurt loaded with tons of sugar. I recommend yogurt made from goat’s milk. This is great for everyone including those with dairy sensitivities.
Cod, Shrimp are a few examples of seafoods that serve as an excellent iodine source ranging from 63mcg – 100 mcg per serving (3 oz – 5 oz)
As long as you don’t suffer from diabetes or pre-diabetes, potatoes are a great source of iodine. A medium baked potato will contain approximately 60 mcg of iodine. Since potatoes are a ‘Dirty Dozen’, make sure to purchase organic only.
7. Turkey Breast:
Turkey breast is a great source of protein and also a great source of iodine, too. A mere 3 oz. of turkey breast can provide up to 34 mcg of iodine.
Navy, Pinto and kidney beans have an abundant source of iodine. Navy beans contain 32 mcg per 1⁄2 cup. Pinto and kidney beans contain approximately 21 mcg per 1⁄2 cup.
These succulent delicious berries that are naturally low in sugar (and safe for diabetics) are a good souce of iodine. 1 cup of strawberries contain 13 mcg of iodine. Strawberries, also a ‘Dirty Dozen’, must be organic strawberries.
10. Dried Prunes:
Eating just 5 dried prunes a day can provide 13 mcg of iodine, as well as fiber, vitamins and minerals. It’s important to be aware that dried prunes will raise your blood glucose levels and should be consumed in moderation.
The ‘Humble’ Egg can be considered a powerful superfood and is particularly beneficial to the thyroid gland. Eggs contain nearly all of the nutrients necessary for the thyroid to function properly. 1 egg contains 12 mcg of iodine along with selenium and many other vitamins and minerals.
Recommended Allowance of Iodine
The following is a list of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iodine.
9 – 13 years
14 - 18 years
19+, Pregant or breastfeeding
90 mcg / day
120 mcg / day
150 mcg / day
290 mcg / day
It should be noted that the RDA is the amount necessary to keep you functioning. It is not the same as the Optimal Daily Allowance (ODA), the amount necessary to re-establish or achieve great health. This topic is under great debate as to the levels. Some research doctors have shown that 12.5 mg/day is necessary, while others will still argue this. In my experience, I’ve found that it may be necessary under certain conditions to take high doses for short periods of time, followed by a drastic reduction. This is a topic you will need to discuss with a well-informed health care practitioner.
Here is an average and safe Optimal Daily Allowance (ODA)
4 – 8 years
9 – 13 years
14 - 18 years
19+, Pregant or breastfeeding
200 mcg / day
300 mcg / day
600 mcg / day
900 mcg / day
1100 mcg / day
Iodine Supplements: The two brands of Iodine that I prescribe for my patients are Prolamine Iodine (Standard Process) and J. Crowe’s Lugol’s solution. I have found both these brands to be very effective. My personal preference is the Lugol’s. Both brands are excellent but I like the iodine in liquid form. I place it in 1 ounce of organic, fresh apple juice, along with any other liquid supplements I may be taking.
Iodine and Medications
Iodine supplements, although necessary for most, can interact with certain medications. For this reason, it’s important to make sure you consult with your doctor or natural health care practitioner about taking iodine if you’re on the following medications:
2.ACE Inhibitors (blood pressure)
3.Diuretics (potassium sparing)
5.Amiodarone (arrythmia medication)
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