Over 2 billion people worldwide are estimated to be iodine deficient. Are you one of them? Until recently, a large percentage of the US population was iodine deficient. A campaign to introduce more iodine into our diet (primarily through iodized salt) lowered the rate of deficiency, but many people still aren’t getting enough. Those who are iodine deficient often have health issues that could be improved with a simple adjustment to their diet.
When the body doesn’t have enough iodine, the thyroid can’t product thyroid hormone. Iodine is the building block for thyroid hormone, one of the most important hormones in the human body. Iodine is also essential for brain and nervous system development, reproductive health (especially in women), and metabolic regulation. Some of the symptoms and consequences of iodine deficiency include:
- Mental Sluggishness
- Benign breast lumps (AKA fibrocystic breast condition)
- Miscarriages and still-births
- Mental retardation in babies and children
- Hypothyroid (and possibly hyperthyroid)
- Cold intolerance
- Dark circles under the eyes (one possible reason)
There are a number of reasons we aren’t getting enough iodine in our diets. For one, the iodine content of food is dependent on the iodine content of the soil. Sadly, much of the soil used for agriculture in the U.S. is depleted of iodine and other important minerals. Secondly, iodine used to be more commonly used as a dough-conditioner in commercial bread products, but in the last few decades commercial manufacturers starting using bromide instead. Bromide actually competes with iodine for absorption by the body. Finally, in addition to having iodine deficient diets, many Americans eat foods that inhibit the thyroid from properly processing any iodine that is consumed. These foods are called “goitrogens.”
For example, Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (rapeseed “canola” oil, corn oil, and soybean oil) may suppress thyroid signaling, and consumption of these types of fats have drastically increased over the last several decades. Soy products in general, especially soybean oil, are goitrogenic. There are also many healthy foods that can inhibit proper thyroid function, especially when iodine consumption is already low and when these foods contain less iodine than they used to. Some of these foods include, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peanuts, spinach, and strawberries. For people who are gluten-sensitive, wheat, barley, and rye are also goitrogenic and can actually damage the thyroid.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, try improving your health by avoiding goitrogens and consuming foods that are high in iodine. Some of the best sources of iodine, listed from highest iodine content to lowest, are:
- Sea Vegetables (Kombu, Dulse, Wakame) – try adding to soups, sushi, or eating as a snack.
- Seafood and shellfish (varies by species and location, but cod is usually a good source)
The current USDA recommendation for daily iodine consumption is only 150 mcg per day. It should be noted that people from some of the healthiest cultures in the world often far exceed this amount. The traditional Japanese diet, for example, was extremely high in sea vegetables, resulting in a daily iodine consumption of more than 12,000 mcg (12 mg).
I personally know women who have had great success supplementing their diet with 12.5 mg of iodine daily in reducing the symptoms of fibrocystic breast syndrome. The mammary glands, because of the importance of iodine for the proper development of babies’ brains and nervous system, are iodine concentrating. If the glands don’t get enough iodine they can swell and cause pain. What is modern medicine’s solution for addressing the benign lumps associated with fibrocystic breasts: surgery. Perhaps all that is needed is more iodine! (be sure to talk to a health care professional before making this decision)
Whether male or female, we all depend on getting enough iodine for health. Iodine is necessary for a healthy metabolism (which can help prevent weight gain), helps prevent mental sluggishness, and supports the proper function of the thyroid gland. So don’t leave organic dairy and eggs out of your diet. If you really want to boost your iodine intake, or if you are lactose intolerant, eat plenty of sea vegetables or consider taking supplements that contain iodine.
Originally posted 2013-01-30 23:07:00.