The Importance of Iodine

Let’s talk about our need for and the importance of iodine.

Last week we talked about the importance of cruciferous vegetables in a ketogenic diet.  I briefly touched on the controversy of whether-or-not those vegetables can cause hypothyroid symptoms as a result of competition of iodine uptake with sulfur containing phytonutrients in the thyroid gland.

If you would like to see that article, please read “The Importance of Cruciferous Vegetables in a Ketogenic Diet”.

I thought we’d go a little deeper into that topic.  I have said plenty of times that eating raw cruciferous vegetables can cause goiter.  But…when I looked into the literature, I couldn’t find ANY studies that found that to be true.  I DID find plenty of papers that found cruciferous vegetables to be necessary for thyroid health.

So, let’s get into it…

Iodine

Iodine is a trace mineral, meaning that we only need small amounts to be healthy. There is a lot of debate now about what the upper limit of iodine should be. I’m going to be on the more conservative side of advising supplementation since there is a small window between the minimum effective dose and the dose that will cause toxic side effects.

However…there is much more iodine deficiency than toxicity (I bet most healthcare practitioners have never even seen a case of toxicity), and trace amounts are necessary. Some doctors, who test their patients, find that 90 to 95% of their patient population are iodine deficient. We can probably extrapolate that to much of the general population.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DEFICIENCY:

The first signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency are mostly those of hypothyroidism, since this is the gland were iodine is the most concentrated. Iodine is necessary for the making of thyroid hormones.

-Swelling of the neck (goiter) on one or both sides of the Adam’s Apple

-Slowed metabolism which causes:

  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Dry, brittle hair and nails
  • Always feeling cold or having overly cold hands/feet
  • Heart palpitations or changes in heart rate
  • Brain fog, having trouble with memory
  • Heavy/irregular periods
  • Constipation
  • Depression/Anxiety/ADD
  • Lowered immune system function. Tendency to have more than average number of colds/flu.
  • Fibrocystic breast tissue
  • Fibromyalgia

-A recent number of studies have looked at links to autism. There are indications that there may be some link, but more studies need to be done.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF TOXICITY/OVERDOSE:

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism:

  • Excessive weight loss
  • Overheating
  • Tachycardia (racing heartbeat)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea/vomiting

TISSUES/ORGANS THAT UTILIZE IODINE:

-All Glandular Tissue:

  • Thyroid gland
  • Breast
  • Salivary Glands
  • Pancreas
  • Ovaries
  • Uterus
  • Prostate

-Brain

-Cerebral Spinal Fluid

-Skin

-Stomach

-Muscle

AT RISK GROUPS:

It is estimated that the general US population has had a 50% decrease in iodine levels over the last 30 years. So, we’re all at risk, but why?

On the Periodic Table Elements, iodine is a halogen. The other halogens that we are all familiar with, are fluorine, chlorine, and bromine. These last 3 halogens are EVERYWHERE in our environment, and they are absorbed into our tissues and organs just like iodine.

Unfortunately, they don’t have the same benefits. Iodine competes with the other halogens for tissue binding sites.

So, the first step in giving our bodies access to enough iodine is to simply decrease our exposure to the other halogens. Let’s take a look at where we find those…

SOURCES OF BROMINE:

  • Non-organic flour. Bromine is used as a conditioner or softener. You can assume it’s in all commercially made baked goods.
  • Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO). Found in citrus sodas: Mountain Dew, Gatorade, and other citrus flavors.
  • Pesticides—eat organic when you can.
  • Swimming pools. Used as an alternative to chlorine.

SOURCES OF CHLORINE:

  • Household water. Use a carbon block filter for drinking water.
  • Cleaning products
  • Pools and hot tubs

SOURCES OF FLUORINE:

  • Toothpaste
  • Municipal water
  • Teflon coated pans
  • Pharmaceuticals:  Some SSRI anti-depressants, Prevacid, levofloxacin (antibiotic), some statins for cholesterol, Flonase nasal spray, and more.
  • Wine/grapes/grape juice that are non-organic can be treated with fluoride-based pesticide.

FOOD SOURCES OF IODINE:

  • Sea vegetables especially seaweed and spirulina
  • Raw milk and all of its by products
  • Eggs
  • Cranberries
  • Strawberries
  • Wild caught Cod

FDA UPPER LIMIT RECOMMENDATIONS:

It’s important to note that the Japanese culture eats much more iodine than most of the rest of the world. Average seaweed consumption in Japan is 4-7 grams per day. This translates to a daily iodine intake of 1,000 to 3,000 mcg of iodine.

Here’s the RDA comparison:

Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 mos Not possible to establish* Not possible to establish*
7–12 months Not possible to establish* Not possible to establish*
1–3 years 200 mcg 200 mcg
4–8 years 300 mcg 300 mcg
9–13 years 600 mcg 600 mcg
14–18 years 900 mcg 900 mcg 900 mcg 900 mcg
19+ years 1,100 mcg 1,100 mcg 1,100 mcg 1,100 mcg

Notice that the dosage is measured in micrograms, not milligrams. The dosage is VERY small.

SUPPLEMENTATION:

Supplementation should begin with eliminating the other halogens from the diet, as much as you are able: filter your water, eat organic when you can, choose healthy cleaning supplies, etc.

Some naturopathic doctors will give their patients high dose iodine to detox the tissues from other halogens. This works because the iodine competes with the other halogens. If you give a high dose of iodine, it will out-compete the others. But this should only be done under the advice of a doctor who knows what he/she is doing and is monitoring the patient.

The thyroid uses the form of iodine that is called iodide, but other tissues, namely breast tissue, has been shown to use the molecular form, iodine.

A supplement should contain both of these forms. For example, the back of a label will say, “so many mcg of potassium iodide and so many mcg of molecular iodine.” Many supplements only come as potassium iodide, which has still been shown to have positive clinical effects on fibrocystic breast tissue.  That form can be taken if that’s what you can get.

DOSAGE FORMS:

  • Lugol’s solution: a highly concentrated solution of potassium iodide and iodine. With a 5% Lugol’s solution, 2 drops in a glass of water is 5mg of iodine and 7.5mg iodide, which would be the equivalent of what the Japanese diet contains.
  • Iodoral tablets: the tablet form of Lugol’s solution.
  • Iosol tincture: a tincture of iodine and ammonium iodide. 1830mg per drop. Use one drop in a glass of water.
  • Tablet forms of iodine: usually potassium iodide but may also have a mixed form with iodine.

WHO SHOULD NOT TAKE IODINE:

No surprise, there is plenty of controversy here too. Some doctors will say that those with thyroid disease, especially Hashimoto’s and Grave’s, should not be on iodine.

Others will say that a patient will need more iodine while on thyroid medication, because of an increased amount of hormone.

I’ve read accounts from people who have been able to reduce their need for thyroid medication by changing their diet and supplementing with iodine.

I think the take home message here is that, in this case, you definitely need a naturopath or physician who will help to monitor blood levels of thyroid hormone.

As always, do your own research and act under the supervision of your doctor.

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