The idea that I may potentially have an iodine deficiency would have never crossed my mind had it not been for stumbling on an article about nutrients that support myelin sheath production. Most people associate iodine with optimising the health of the thyroid, but iodine is a critical nutrient for the production of many other hormones in your body. An iodine deficiency can wreck serious havoc on your health.
Dr. Brownstein, a family practitioner board certified in holistic medicine who has been researching iodine for over two decades, over 95 percent of the patients in his clinic are iodine deficient. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates over 2 billion people may be suffering an iodine deficiency.
In the developed world, iodine deficiency has increased more than fourfold over the past 40 years. Approximately 74% of normal, “healthy” adults may no longer consume enough iodine. (1, 2) Based on my quick online research, I figured there was a possible chance I could be in that group.
The Authoritative Guide to Iodine
- Food sources of iodine are scarce and I do not eat seaweed every day (Note: seaweed is by far the richest source of iodine)
- I don’t consume refined iodised salt (Note: I later learned the unrefined Himalayan Salt I use actually has more iodine naturally than the refined iodised salt!)
- When I checked my multi-vitamin/ multi-mineral supplement I saw I was only getting 75 mcg, which does not even meet the RDA of 150 mcg per day for adult men and women.
***NOTE: Pregnant women need about 50% more iodine than other women and yet only about half of the prenatal vitamins contain iodine (Iodine deficiency is the number one most preventable cause of mental retardation.) Not all standard multi-vitamins contain iodine either. You need to read the label carefully.***
Conditions Helped By Optimising Iodine Intake
As mentioned earlier, most people are aware of the importance of iodine for the health of their thyroid. However, considering that iodine is found in each of the trillion cells in the body, optimizing iodine intake can be helpful for a vast number of different conditions.
Here are just a few conditions that can be improved with optimising intake of iodine:
- ADD/ ADHD
- Breast diseases (note: research links low iodine intake to breast cancer)
- Fibrocystic Breasts
- Headaches / Migraines
- Ovarian disease (including ovarian cysts)
- Irregular periods (including some types of PCOS)
- Thyroid disorders
- Autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis)
- Dry skin
- AND MORE!
Did You Know Iodine is an Essential Detox Nutrient?
There is no doubt that all of us living in the modern world are living in somewhat of a toxic swamp. However, your body has an amazing ability to detoxify itself if you provide it with the right raw materials to do so.
Iodine is one of those key raw materials that help the body detox. Specifically, iodine helps the body release toxic halogens such as bromine and fluoride.
Could You Have an Iodine Deficiency?
When considering whether you may have an iodine deficiency, here are just a few quick things to think about…
Healthy Whole Food Sources of Iodine
Food sources of iodine are rather scarce. The best natural sources of iodine-rich foods include:
BEST SOURCE OF IODINE:
- Sea vegetables (including all seaweed varieties such as kelp, wakame, and kombu) are the absolute best source of iodine by a long shot. A quarter ounce cup of dried seaweed contains several thousand micrograms of iodine, which is FAR MORE than any other food sources.
GOOD SOURCES OF IODINE:
- Organic Potatoes are another good source of iodine. One medium baked potato contains about 60 mcg of iodine.
- Seafood (including shrimp) is also a good source of iodine.
Bad Source of Iodine
- Fortified Iodised Salt is NOT a healthy source of iodine. Refined salt has been stripped of all nutrients and exposed to toxic chemicals that give it its white colour. Iodine is often confused with salt, but the two are actually very distinctly different. In terms of chemistry, salt is classified as a crystal, and is composed of two elements: sodium and chloride. Iodine, on the other hand is a mineral. Many brands of salt are fortified with the essential mineral iodine in order to prevent iodine deficiency. Yet refined (iodised) salt is NOT a healthy food.
3 Things that Reduce Iodine Levels
In addition to consuming iodine-poor diets, many people consume substances that are known to deplete iodine.
Exposure to the following three things may put you at even more of a risk of iodine deficiency:
- Fluoride: Known to be a toxic agent, fluoride has been shown to deplete iodine in the body. In addition to toothpaste, fluoride is often also added to drinking water.
- Bromine: Also a toxic substance, bromine competes with iodine for absorption in the body. The more bromine you consume, the less iodine your body can absorb. Bromine is primarily found in enriched (refined) flour products but also in sodas, certain medications, plastics and a number of other surprising places in your everyday world.
- Pesticides: Methyl bromide is a toxic pesticide that thwarts the body’s ability to utilize iodine. Exposure to pesticides increase the risk of iodine deficiency.
How Much Iodine Do You Need Each Day?
The US recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iodine is only 150 ug/day for adults. These guidelines were first established as sufficient only to prevent goiter. However, the guidelines may be inadequate to optimise health.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set the tolerable upper limit at 1,100 mcg. (3)
It is important to point out that daily doses for optimal health of 3,000-6,000 mcg have been used without side effects in studies of people with iodine deficiency-related health conditions, such as polycystic breast disease (4)
Consider the Iodine Consumption of the Average Japanese Adult
Japanese iodine intake far exceeds that of most other countries, primarily due to substantial seaweed consumption. It is estimated that the average Japanese adult consumes between 1,000 and 3,000 ug/ day (1-3 mg/ day) of iodine. Japanese iodine intake from seaweed is linked to health benefits not seen in cultures with dissimilar diets.
The Japanese have remarkably lower levels of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancers. In addition, there is a significantly lower amount of fibrocystic breast disease in Japanese women who consume the highest amount of iodine.
Knowing how much iodine the Japanese consume daily is beneficial for people who wish to consume equivalent amounts of iodine while avoiding excessive amounts that may adversely affect health.
The Safest Way to Prevent / Treat an Iodine Deficiency
Ok, so that was a lot of information about iodine.
Here are the main things you need to keep in mind to prevent/ treat an iodine deficiency:
- 1. Be aware of the issue. Know that most people eating the modern day diet do not get optimal levels of iodine from food alone.
2. Limit your exposure to bromine and fluoride as both substances will deplete iodine levels.
3. Check to make sure your mutli–vitamin/ multi-mineral has at least 50 to 100 mcg of iodine (preferably from kelp.
4. Eat organic as much as possible (this will limit your exposure to iodine-depleting pesticides.)
5. Eat wild seafood at least 2 to 3 times per week.
6. Eat seaweed everyday OR take 1/4 teaspoon of kelp (seaweed) granules daily. 1/4 teaspoon of kelp granules provide approximately 3 mg of iodine. Kelp granules can be added to green drinks or sprinkled on salads. Note: Kelp granules do not emulsify very well when blended with liquid. I find the easiest thing to do is to just sprinkle them in a little bit of water and gulp it down. You can buy Kelp granules at a natural foods store or online at Amazon.
7. Ditch the refined (iodised) table salt and switch to unrefined Himalayan salt. You can buy unrefined Himalayan salt at a natural foods store or online at Amazon.