The importance of Iodine

Written by Cyndi O'Meara

Cyndi is about educating. Her greatest love is to teach, both in the public arena and within the large corporate food companies, to enable everyone to make better choices so they too can enjoy greater health throughout their lives. Considered one of the world's foremost experts in Nutrition, Cyndi brings over 40 years experience, research and knowledge.

June 24, 2024

The Significance of Iodine

The critical role of iodine has been well acknowledged. In 1924, the United States introduced iodised salt to address deficiencies and prevent various diseases, with Australia soon adopting the practice. Iodine was among the first trace elements recognized as essential, meaning it must be provided to the body to ensure optimal functioning.

Approximately 70-80% of the body’s iodine is concentrated in the thyroid gland, with the remainder found in the blood. Iodine is indispensable for the production of thyroid hormones, which are vital for energy production, cellular oxygen maintenance, metabolic rate regulation, and the normal development of the nervous system. Deficiencies can result in a compromised immune system, dry skin, fatigue, memory issues, hair thinning and loss, constipation, cold sensitivity, and hormonal imbalances. Severe deficiencies can lead to conditions such as goitre (thyroid enlargement), Hashimoto’s disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, and, in pregnant women, severe consequences for the fetus, including stillbirth, birth defects, perinatal and infant mortality, neurological cretinism, mental disorders, and dwarfism.

Thus, the importance of iodine cannot be overstated.

Iodine Deficiency

Several factors contribute to iodine deficiency: the degradation of soil quality resulting in low iodine content, inadequate consumption of iodine-rich foods, and the presence of halogens like fluorine, bromine, and chlorine that compete with iodine. The body’s high demand for iodine necessitates adequate dietary intake to prevent deficiency.

Pregnant women have an increased iodine requirement to produce thyroid hormones for the developing fetus, making it easy to become deficient during this crucial period. Iodine is essential for maternal energy and metabolism, as well as fetal brain development and normal growth.

Top Sources of Iodine by Concentration

Sea Vegetables: Varieties such as dulse, kelp, and wakame are some of the richest sources of iodine, although iodine levels vary. Dulse can be sprinkled on salads and added to soups and pesto. Kelp noodles offer a seaweed-free taste alternative to pasta. Changing Habits’ Seaweed Salt, a mix of Himalayan salt and dulse flakes, provides a natural source of iodised salt.

Seafood: Oysters and wild-caught fish are excellent sources. Aim to include seafood in your diet two to three times a week. Oysters are particularly high in iodine.

Organic, Grass-Fed Yogurt: For those who consume dairy, yogurt provides a good amount of iodine. However, it may not be sufficient on its own, so incorporating other iodine-rich foods is important.

Pastured and Free-Range Eggs: Eggs also offer a reasonable iodine dose. Nevertheless, they should be complemented with sea vegetables and seafood to ensure adequate iodine intake.

Selenium: Selenium and iodine work synergistically. To increase your selenium intake, consume 3-4 Brazil nuts daily. Brazil nut cheese is a delicious way to boost selenium levels. Brazil nuts can also be added to pesto, smoothies, or enjoyed plain.

Managing Iodine Levels

Regular beach walks, consumption of seaweed and seafood, effective stress management, and avoiding iodine absorption inhibitors may reduce the need for additional iodine supplementation. A urinary iodine test can determine deficiency levels; consult with your practitioner to explore testing options. NutriPATH is a recommended provider for iodine testing. For deficient individuals, liquid iodine applied to the skin daily or as needed is often the safest and most effective supplementation method.

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