The importance of iodine has not gone unrecognised. In 1924, iodised salt was introduced into the United States to correct deficiencies to avoid numerous diseases, with Australia following through with this idea not long after. Iodine was one of the first trace elements to be considered as essential, which means it must be supplied to the body for the body to function optimally.
Around 70-80% of the iodine in our body saturates our thyroid, whilst the rest is in our blood. Iodine is absolutely essential for the production of thyroid hormones, which are required for energy production, oxygen upkeep in cells which maintains our metabolic rate, for normal growth and development of our nervous system and much more. Deficiencies can lead to low immune system, dry skin, fatigue, memory problems, thinning hair and hair loss, constipation, sensitivity to the cold and hormonal problems. In more severe deficiencies it can lead to goitre (enlargement of the thyroid), Hashimotos, polycystic ovary syndrome, and in pregnant women it has been shown to have major effects on the foetus including stillbirth, physical abnormalities at birth, perinatal and/or infant mortality, neurological cretinism, mental problems and dwarfism.
So, it is safe to say that iodine is kind of a big deal.
There are many reasons why we may be iodine deficient: the health of our soil has declined and therefore contains very little iodine, we don’t eat enough iodine rich foods and we are surrounded by halogens that compete with iodine such as fluorine, bromine and chlorine. Iodine is in such high demand in the body that we need to support ourselves with sufficient amounts through diet in order to avoid becoming deficient.
When women are pregnant, they use a lot more iodine than usual to produce thyroid hormones for the growing baby, so it is easy to become deficient during this critical time. During pregnancy, iodine is essential for the energy and metabolism of the mother, as well as foetal brain development and normal growth.
Top Sources of Iodine in Order of Concentration:
- Sea vegetables such as dulse, kelp and wakame. These are some of the greatest sources of iodine (the levels of iodine vary depending on the vegetable). I love dulse sprinkled on salads and mixed in soups and pesto. Kelp noodles are a great pasta or noodle alternative (and don’t taste like seaweed!). Changing Habits has also created Seaweed Salt, which is Himalayan salt mixed with dulse flakes—voila! Naturally iodised salt. This is the salt I ALWAYS use, so I know I’ll be getting real food iodine with every pinch.
- Seafood, such as oysters and wild caught fish. Try having a serving of seafood two to three times a week. Oysters in particular are extremely high in iodine, so if you love these then you are doing your body a wonderful favour.
- Organic, grass fed yogurt. If you eat dairy, your dose of yogurt contains a good amount of iodine. Keep in mind, however, that this may not provide enough iodine on its own, so the above foods are still critical to enjoy.
- Pastured and free range eggs. Like yogurt, you are likely getting a reasonable dose of iodine by incorporating eggs in your diet. However, it is also crucial for you to enjoy sea vegetables and seafood to ensure you are getting sufficient amounts of iodine. Eggs alone are not likely to replenish your stores if you are deficient.
Selenium and iodine work hand in hand, so as you increase your iodine, try and increase your selenium. The easiest way to do this is by consuming 3-4 activated Brazil nuts a day to get all the selenium you need. Every so often, I make a beautiful Brazil nut cheese to ensure I am getting my dose of selenium. Here is a recipe for cashew cheese, where you could simply swap the cashews for Brazil nuts to boost your selenium intake. I also add Brazil nuts to pesto and smoothies or eat them just as they are.
If you walk on the beach daily, eat seaweed and seafood regularly, regulate stress levels well and avoid the things that compete with iodine absorption, then you may not need any more iodine. A urinary iodine test is a great way to find out if you are deficient, however speak with your practitioner to find the different testing methods that will be best for you. I love going through a company called NutriPATH with my clients to determine whether they require any additional iodine. In cases where clients are deficient, I may recommend liquid iodine to be placed on the clients skin daily or when needed, as this tends to be the best and safest way for supplementation to occur.
Have you had any experiences with replenishing your iodine levels? How has it helped you? Or, have you never even considered how important iodine is? Let me know your experiences!