Are you getting enough iodine in your diet? Iodine is a vitally important nutrient that is detected in every organ and tissue and many if not most are deficient in this nutrient. Along with being essential for healthy thyroid function and efficient metabolism, there is increasing evidence that low iodine is related to numerous diseases, including cancer. Iodine deficiency has risen 400% in the last four decades. The World Health Organisation estimates that 72% of the global population and 96% of the US population are iodine deficient. This is the result of soils lacking iodine and iodine being displaced in our bodies by environmental contaminants like chlorine and fluorine.
Why is iodine important? – What happens if there is not enough in the diet?
- It’s important for a healthy thyroid function because iodine enables that gland to synthesise thyroid hormones, notably T3 and T4 (see picture on right). These hormones, whose imbalance create hypothyroidism (underactive metabolism often associated with obesity) or hyperthyroidism (overactive metabolism often resulting in an emaciated state), require sufficient iodine in order to be synthesised in adequate amounts.
- It prevents 59 diseases associated with a dysfunctional thyroid, as this gland and the hormones it produces regulate body temperature; heart rate and, by extension, respiratory rate; glucose consumption; energy production and also strongly influence mental and immune function.
- Iodine is a powerful antibiotic which destroys viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.
- For Cancer prevention – Iodine is an important factor in cell apoptosis – the programmed death of unhealthy cells which results in a reduced risk of sick cells turning malignant.
- To prevent stunted growth and mental retardation in children – In very severe iodine deficiency, stunted growth and mental retardation can occur in children. A number of studies have reported adverse effects on hearing capacity, motor and cognitive function in children associated with moderate and severe iodine deficiency.
- To keep all your tissues healthy – Other tissues also absorb and use large amounts of iodine, including: Breasts, Salivary glands, pancreas, cerebral spinal fluid, skin, stomach, brain, thymus gland and muscles. Iodine deficiency, or insufficiency, in any of these tissues will lead to dysfunction of that tissue. Hence the following symptoms could provide clues that you’re not getting enough iodine in your diet. For example, iodine deficiency in:
- Salivary glands = inability to produce saliva, producing dry mouth
- Skin = dry skin, and lack of sweating. Three to four weeks of iodine supplementation will typically reverse this symptom, allowing your body to sweat normally again
- Brain = reduced alertness and lowered IQ
- Muscles = nodules, scar tissue, pain, fibrosis, fibromyalgia
Is iodine deficiency an issue in New Zealand?
Recent evidence from a number of studies has indicated that the iodine status of New Zealanders is now declining to the point where intervention is again required to ensure that iodine deficiency disorders do not once again widely affect the New Zealand population (New Zealand Ministry of Health).
Could we get enough iodine from the food we eat?
It’s difficult and we properly don’t! Dietary sources of iodine include seafood (fish, shellfish and seaweed), commercially prepared bread, iodised salt, milk and eggs. A background paper by the NZ Ministry of Health in 2003 recommends choosing iodised salt when using salt, but do not recommend increasing overall salt intake. The iodine content of, vegetables, fruits and grains generally reflect the iodine level of the soil in which they were grown. The iodine content of New Zealand soils is low and as a consequence locally produced foods are also low in iodine.
The New Zealand government tried to overcome the iodine deficiency epidemic by adding iodine to salt and bread. But we shouldn’t eat too much of both of these.
What can interfere with my iodine?
There is more to the lack of iodine than just not ingesting enough. Some elements displace iodine in the body. They are fluorine, chlorine and bromine. Therefore, the iodine we ingest can be displaced by these other, more aggressive elements — which are easily ingested on a daily basis.
For example fluorine can be found in your tap drinking water. Fluorine is also found in pharmaceutical drugs like Cipro, Lipitor, Prozac, Paxil and Effexor. Fluorine is an ingredient in the sweetener Splenda. Chlorine is also found in our drinking water and in drugs such as Zoloft and Wellbutrin. Bromine has replaced iodine as the anti-caking agent used in baked goods in America and in other countries.
How can I test if I’m deficient in iodine?
An easy test is to put a little bit of liquid iodine onto your skin (e.g. inside of lower arm or underneath your feet) and watch how long it takes to be absorbed. If this patch disappears before 24 hours have passed, it indicates that your body is low in iodine and therefore has absorbed the iodine too fast.
How much iodine should I take?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iodine is 150 mcg per day for disease prevention. So that’s probably a good place to start, to make sure you’re getting at least that in your daily diet via food sources (preferably) or supplementation.
The US Food and Drug Administration now recommend a daily iodine intake of 150-290 micrograms depending on age, gender and life cycle while some leading iodine experts suggest 12-18 milligrams daily – 45 times higher. In Japan the average daily intake is 13.8 milligrams and, pre-Fukushima, the Japanese had significantly lower incidence of breast and prostate cancer as well as overall superior health and longevity compared to the US. Up to 100mg (100,000 mcg) daily were safely used in a major recent iodine study.
Safe dosage becomes a non-issue when taking iodine trans-dermally (absorbed through the skin) as the body will stop absorbing essential minerals taken in this way when sufficiency levels have been reached. Salud Company based in Nelson, New Zealand, makes a great iodine roll-on. Click here for their excellent iodine roll-on called Thyr Rad Gard.
I can also recommend Clinicians iodine drops for safe iodine supplementation.
Minerals such as magnesium, potassium and iodine are designated essential for very good reasons. Mineral deficiencies and imbalances cause at least as wide an array of health problems as lack of vitamins and enzymes and these deficiencies are relatively easy and most worthwhile to remedy.