Iodine is one of the important essential nutrients, which means that it must be consumed in our diet. It is necessary to the production of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine responsible for proper metabolism. Unfortunately, since today plants often grow on soils which are deficient in iodine and thus they are low in this important mineral we are encouraged to use iodine supplements. It is estimated that our iodine levels have fallen by 50% over the past three decades as a result of the fact that more than 30% of the earths soil became deficient in this mineral.
Apart from soil depletion there are other possible causes of iodine deficiency such as bromine which is a common endocrine disruptor. Bromide can get into our body with pesticides, soft drinks, breads or other baked goods, fluoridated water, plastic containers, medications, etc. Bromide competes with iodine to be used in the thyroid gland. In this way bromide leads to iodine deficiency in thyroid gland and inhibits thyroid hormone production resulting in slower metabolism, fatigue, hair loss, and other undesired symptoms.
Avoid toothpastes with fluoride, as it is toxic and competes with iodine for absorption and utilization, so less dietary iodine is absorbed, and iodine is absolutely essential for proper thyroid function. Unfortunately, our diets are very often deficient not only in iodine, but also zinc, selenium, and manganese needed for adequate thyroid functioning.
A study published in 2011 indicated that iodine-deficiency could be a huge problem also in the UK. According to the study 70 percent of UK girls age 14-15 are iodine deficient suggesting that this problem might be linked to IQ declines. In the United States, however, although the health organizations tend to suggest that Americans consume adequate amounts of this mineral, yet some experts such as Dr. David Brownstein, maintain that almost all his patients are iodine deficient.
A careful analysis of the scientific research dealing with iodine leads to the conclusion that iodine deficiency could be responsible for many underlying conditions such as goiters or the swelling of the thyroid gland, hypothyroidism (thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone) leading to fatigue and difficulty losing weight, ovary and breast cancer, or fibromyalgia, loss of energy, cold intolerance, dry skin, sleepiness, muscle pain, joint pain, constipation, depression, mental impairment, forgetfulness, menstrual disturbances, impaired fertility, inability to concentrate, etc.
Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to possible negative effects of iodine deficiency as adequate levels of this essential mineral are critically important for the proper neural development of the fetus. In addition, iodine deficiency is known as the most common causes of preventable brain damage, mental retardation, and cognitive decline.
It is suggested that iodine intake for adults should be at least 150 mcg per day. Pregnant should increase their daily consumption to 220 mcg and lactating women to 300 mcg. Dr. David Brownstein who is regarded by many as an iodine expert, suggests that the recommended daily allowance for iodine is way too low. As an example he points to the Japanese whose average daily intake of iodine is as high as almost 14,000 mcg per day due to their diet which is rich in sea weeds! It means that the daily iodine intake in Japan is almost 90 times higher than in America and over 100 times higher than in the UK, which fact may contribute to much better health status of Japanese people such low cancer rates in Japan. Some studies already suggest that it could be also the result of considerably higher intake of iodine which has been known of its antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
Well, it looks like we need much more than only 150mcg of iodine a day. The best natural sources of iodine are seaweeds such as spirulina, chlorella, or kelp. Including any of these three algae in the form of tablets or powder as part of your regular diet will ensure you receive an adequate amounts of iodine thus supporting your thyroid health and improving metabolism. Also proper daily intake of vitamin C and magnesium is important as it enhances the effects of iodine. Using sea salt instead of refined salt will help to increase your iodine intake too.
Spirulina was used in Belarus to protect children after the Chernobyl disaster. According to the scientists from the Institute of Radiation Medicine in Minsk, Belarus, small daily doses of spirulina (about 5 grams a day) were able to reduce urine radioactivity levels in children by 50% in only about three weeks time. In addition, spirulina also normalized the amount of immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the blood within 6 weeks, which in turn helps to reduce allergy symptoms.
However, you need to be very careful choosing proper iodine supplement and doses because too much iodine may lead to subclinical hypothyroidism. Normally hypothyroidism takes place as a result of iodine deficiency which causes thyroid to produce too little thyroid hormone and thus leading to fatigue or difficulty losing weight. Ironically, the same may occur as a result of taking too much of iodine.
If you decide to use a synthetic form of iodine it shouldn’t be iodine but iodide (a stable form of iodine) as our thyroid has to convert iodine into iodide and as a result some harmful oxygen radicals will be produced. Iodide supplementation is usually recommended in case of some nuclear disaster and radioactive activity as it protects thyroid by flooding it with iodine to prevent it from absorbing the radioactive form. However, it is much safer to use only natural forms of iodine found in foods such as chlorella, spirulina, or kelp as it will not lead to any harmful side effects in case your iodine intake is too high. Taking too much of potassium iodide, on the other hand, can lead to thyrotoxicosis (overactive thyroid).
Abraham GE, Brownstein D. Evidence that the administration of Vitamin C improves a defective cellular transport mechanism for iodine: A case report. The Original Internist. 2005; 12(3):125-130.
Loseva LP. Sep 1999. Research Institute of Radiation Medicine, Minsk, Belarus. 8th Int’l Congress of Applied Algology, Italy. Belarus.
Loseva L.P. and Dardynskaya I.V. Sep 1993. Research Institute of Radiation Medicine, Minsk, Belarus. 6th Int’l Congress of Applied Algology, Czech Republic. Belarus.
Qishen P., Kolman et al. 1989. In Toxicology Letters 48: 165-169. China.
Linus Pauling Institute: Iodine:
Hollowell JE, et al. Iodine nutrition in the United States. Trends and public health implications: Iodine excretion data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys I and III (1971-74 and 1988-94). J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998; 83:3401-3408.
Plummer H. Results of administering iodine to patients having exophthalmic goiter. JAMA. 1923; 80:1955.
Thompson W. Prolonged treatment of exophthalmic goiter by iodine alone. Arch Int Med. 1930; 45:481-502.
Thompson W. The range of effective iodine dosage in exophthalmic goiter. Arch Int Med. 1930; 45: 261-281.Trousseau, A. Lectures on clinical medicine. Vol. 1. Lecture XIX, Exophthalmic goiter of Graves disease, New Sydenham Society, London. 1868.
Vanderpump M Lazarus J Smyth P Burns R Eggo M Han, T et al. Assessment of the UK iodine status: a national survey. Endocrine Abstracts. Presented at the Society for Endocrinology BES 2011: 11 April 2011-14 April 2011
Garber JR, Cobin RH, Gharib H, Hennessey JV, Klein I, Mechanick JI, et al. Clinical practice guidelines for hypothyroidism in adults: cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. Thyroid. Dec 2012; 22(12):1200-35.
Ladenson PW, Singer PA, Ain KB, Bagchi N, Bigos ST, Levy EG, et al. American Thyroid Association guidelines for detection of thyroid dysfunction. Arch Intern Med. Jun 12 2000; 160 (11):1573-5.
Stuckey BG, Kent GN, Ward LC, Brown SJ, Walsh JP. Postpartum thyroid dysfunction and the long-term risk of hypothyroidism: results from a 12-year follow-up study of women with and without postpartum thyroid dysfunction. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). Sep 2010; 73(3):389-95.
Woeber KA. Iodine and thyroid disease. Med Clin North Am. Jan 1991; 75(1):169-78.