Are You Getting Enough Iodine?
by Steven Horne, RH(AHG)
Our theme this month is thyroid problems and since the thyroid needs iodine to function properly, we’re going to start with a discussion of this vital nutrient. Iodine is primarily found in foods from the ocean and is vary rare in land-based foods.
For this reason, iodine deficiency was very common at one time in land-locked parts of the United States. Since the thyroid gland, which uses iodine to make its hormones, has the capacity to grow more tissue when necessary, this caused a problem called goiter. The thyroid enlarged in an attempt to make up for the lack of iodine in the system.
Today, few people have goiters, but this doesn’t mean that everyone is getting enough iodine. There are two reasons why many people are deficient in iodine. First, iodine is a rare element on Planet Earth. Among the elements, it is 62nd in abundance in the earth.
There is a second reason why iodine deficiency is common. There are many chemicals we are exposed to in modern society that rob the body of iodine. These include halogens (such as chlorine, fluoride, and bromide), mercury, aspirin and other salycilates and unfermented soy products. As a result, what little iodine we do get is often “kicked out” of the body.
Chlorine, of course is used to purify water. Unlike iodine, which helps emulsify fat and keep it water soluble, chlorine makes fats gummy so they more readily adhere to surfaces. This may be one reason why the rise in cardiovascular disease paralleled the chlorination of water supplies world-wide.
Bromides are even worse than chlorine and are finding their way into our environment in ever increasing quantities. This is shown by the fact that the amount of bromide found in breast milk has increased ten-fold during the last decade. Bromides have no therapeutic or nutritional value, but they do adversely affect the accumulation of iodine in the thyroid and the skin.
Unfortunately, the use of bromides is increasing. Many hot tubs and swimming pools are switching to bromide for water purification. In the 1960s, bakers stopped using iodine as a dough conditioner and started using bromides instead. So, instead of contributing to iodine intake, breads made from brominated flour now help rob iodine from the body.
Fluorides are also added to drinking water in many parts of the country and are used in toothpastes and dental treatments. Fluorides can also be found in certain medications, including popular anti-depressant drugs. Fluoride not only displaces iodine, it also suppresses testosterone production in men.
Although sea foods are a good source of iodine, unfortunately, many of them now contain high levels of mercury due to environmental pollution. This means they won’t be good sources of iodine because mercury is also an iodine robber. Amalgam fillings are another major source of mercury exposure.
Excessive consumption of soy products has been known to depress thyroid function, so be careful not to overuse soy products in your diet. Use a variety of legumes (beans, peas and lentils) instead of just soy products.
How Much Iodine Do We Need?
With all these iodine robbers at work, we have to make certain we are getting enough iodine to counteract them. In fact, our increased exposure to these iodine robbers may be part of the obesity problems we are facing as a nation. Iodine is needed to make thyroxin, the thyroid hormone that triggers fat to burn in the body.
Like many of the other US RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowances), the amount of iodine recommended is just enough to prevent severe, overt symptoms of iodine deficiency, such as goiters, stunted physical growth or mental retardation. It isn’t necessarily enough to create optimal health and there is always the question as to whether iodine from a chemical source is as good as iodine found organically in food.
The primary use for iodine is in the production of the thyroid hormones. One in ten adult American women has a diagnosed thyroid problem and some endocrinologists have suggested that as many as one in four women have some form of undiagnosed thyroid dysfunction.
In his book, Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, Dr. David Brownstein, M.D. states that iodine deficiency may be involved in more than just low thyroid (hypothyroid function). It may also be involved in autoimmune thyroid disorders including Graves’ and Hashimoto’s disease. Iodine supplementation may be an inexpensive answer to solving many people’s thyroid issues.
Increasing iodine can be helpful in many other conditions besides low thyroid. Dr. Brownstein claims it can be very helpful in preventing and treating breast cancer. Iodine can also be helpful in fibromyalgia and fibrocystic breast disease. In men, it can be helpful in preventing and treating prostate problems. It even helps the immune system because it is a natural antimicrobial agent. Finally, iodine can help to detoxify the body from chlorine, bromides, fluoride and even mercury.
How Do I Get More Iodine?
Iodine is abundant in sea vegetables (or seaweeds), so one of the best ways to get more iodine is to eat more kelp, dulse, Irish moss, bladderwrack and other sea vegetables. Dulse is available in liquid form, extracted in glycerine. This is a pleasant-tasting way to increase iodine intake, and a good way to increase the iodine intake of children.
Recently, I was feeling a little tired and determined that my thyroid was a little low. I’ve been taking a “shot” of Liquid Dulse every morning (just squeezing a large dose into my mouth) and noticed an immediate increase in my energy.
Black walnut is one of the few land-based plants that contains a significant amount of iodine. It also seems to have balancing effect on the thyroid and I’ve found that Concentrated Black Walnut often works on thyroid problems when Thyroid Support or TS II with Hops fail. It seems to not only supply iodine, it balances thyroid function. It also aids the immune system and helps with conditions like fibromyalgia.
Using natural sea salt is another way to increase iodine intake. Many people think that salt isn’t good for you, but this is only a problem with commercial salt, which is full of additives and fillers. Natural salt is healthy and a good source of iodine. NSP sells a pink salt which is mined from Redmond, Utah (also known as Real Salt). I love this product and have used it for years. It is completely different than commercial table salt and is actually good for you. Dr. Brownstein has also published a book on the benefits of this type of natural salt, called Salt: Your Way To Health.
Getting sufficient iodine is only the first step to having a healthy thyroid, so, in other issues of Nature’s Field this month we’ll discuss common thyroid disorders and natural ways to resolve them. Watch for our issue next week when we’ll look at some thyroid enhancing herbs most NSP people may not be familiar with.