Learn about the health benefits of this essential mineral
Iodine is an important trace mineral, an essential nutrient the body needs in very small amounts for optimum health.
Without iodine, the thyroid gland cannot make thyroid hormones which can slow down metabolism and affect your entire body.
Iodine deficiency is on the rise worldwide due to the decline in soil quality and poor dietary habits.
Learn why iodine is important, the iodine deficiency symptoms to look out for and how to increase your iodine levels naturally.
Why Iodine is important
Iodine is a vital component of thyroid hormones that helps regulate the metabolic rate of all cells in the body. To efficiently make thyroid hormones, the thyroid gland (a butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck) takes up small amounts of iodine from food. A deficiency in iodine can lead to a decrease in thyroid hormone production. Equally, too much iodine can also have a negative effect on the thyroid; this is why you shouldn’t supplement with iodine unless under the guidance of a practitioner.
Iodine is also important for foetal and infant development, brain health and cognition, especially in early childhood. During pregnancy a woman’s intake of iodine increases due to the growing baby’s requirements. Iodine is needed for brain and bone formation and insufficient iodine levels could lead to intellectual delays and growth problems.
Symptoms of iodine deficiency
Prolonged thyroid hormone production can lead to a condition called hypothyroidism, more commonly known as an underactive thyroid.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Unexpected weight gain
- Low mood and depression
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Brain fog and memory impairment
- Swelling in the neck (due to an enlarged thyroid gland)
How to test for iodine deficiency
There are a few ways you can test for iodine deficiency, including a urine test (simple and fast to do), a blood test (more accurate), an iodine patch test (to see how quickly iodine is absorbed through the skin) and an iodine loading test (to measure how much iodine is excreted via urine in 24 hours). Speak to your natural health therapist about the most suitable test for you.
Iodine is naturally found in soil and ocean waters so many plant-based and saltwater foods contain iodine.
Foods that contain iodine include:
- Sea vegetables (edible seaweed, nori, dulsi, algae, spirulina, chlorella)
- Ocean fish such as cod and sardines
- Shellfish especially scallops and shrimp
- Eggs (opt for organic)
- Dried prunes and plums
- Iodised salt (tablet salt that is fortified with iodine) – consuming table salt is not recommended as it is heavily processed and contains harmful additives. Instead opt for sea salt or Himalayan salt which contains a small amount of iodine.
How to increase iodine levels
The recommended daily intake of iodine is 150mcg for adults and 220mcg during pregnancy.
Factors that may affect iodine absorption include:
- Poor gut function. If the gut is compromised in any way, then you will not absorb nutrients efficiently and mineral deficiency can occur.
- Consumption of goitrogenic foods such as soya, millet and raw brassica vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) may interfere with iodine uptake in the body. Cooking brassica vegetables can reduce their goitrogenic properties.
- Selenium deficiency. Selenium is another important mineral for thyroid function and it also helps protect the thyroid from free radical damage. Selenium deficiency can exacerbate the effects of iodine deficiency.
- Low levels of zinc, iron, copper, tyrosine (an amino acid), magnesium and B vitamins can also make iodine deficiency worse.
Ways to improve iodine levels
- Eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet with plenty of organic vegetables and fruits to ensure you get an adequate amount of the key nutrients to support thyroid health.
- Increase your intake of iodine-rich foods (as indicated above).
- Avoid high sugar and inflammatory foods that compromise gut function including refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, pastries, pizza, pies), gluten, processed foods, pasteurised dairy and unhealthy fats. These foods are harmful for your gastrointestinal system and can unbalance your beneficial gut bacteria.
- Supplement with probiotics to replenish and repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. Learn more about how to improve gut health.
- Consult with a natural therapist if you’re concerned about your iodine levels as they will be able to advise you accordingly.
Support thyroid health
Iodine is an essential mineral needed for healthy thyroid function and metabolism, for growth and development, and brain health in babies and infants. Depleted soils and poor dietary habits are contributing factors for iodine deficiency. If you think you may be suffering with an underactive thyroid, speak to your natural therapist as you may be iodine deficient. Find a practitioner near you.