Written by Slawomir Gromadzki, MPH
WHAT IS IODINE?
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, regulating heartbeat and controlling body temperature. In hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), therefore, body temperature tends to decrease because of a deficiency in thyroid hormone.
The thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland. When the level of thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) are too low, the pituitary gland produces TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) which stimulates thyroid to make more hormones.
RECOMMENDED DAILY INTAKE
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.
However, 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.
The BBC released a report in April 2011 demonstrated that iodine deficiency has become rampant in the UK. 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.
KEY CAUSES OF DEFICIENCY
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 soil often 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 (compound that includes bromine) 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. Drink only distilled or at least properly filtered water and take chlorella on a daily basis to remove fluoride from your body and brain. In addition, chlorella is also one of the best natural sources of iodine and chlorophyll.
ZINC, SELENIUM & MANGANESE DEFICIENCY & THYROID FUNCTION
Unfortunately, our diets are very often deficient not only in iodine, but also zinc, selenium, and manganese needed for adequate thyroid functioning.
POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF IODINE DEFICIENCY
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 goitres 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, 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.
NATURAL SOURCES OF IODINE
Well, since average daily intake of iodine of much healthier Japanese is as high as 14,000 mcg, it looks like we need much more than the recommended 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.
A research by Howell (1998) which involved British athletes found that the addition of kelp to their diet, significantly boosted their energy and endurance levels and also improved competitive performance.
Using Celtic salt or sea salt instead of refined salt will help to increase your iodine intake too.
SYNTHETIC IODINE SUPPLEMENTS
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.
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. For this reason it is also important to avoid overdosing synthetic iodine.
It is safer and better 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 can lead to thyrotoxicosis (overactive thyroid). Hyperthyroidism is mostly an autoimmune problem but sometimes an excess iodine, a key ingredient in T4 and T3, can trigger the condition. However, it shouldn’t be a frequent cause as usually people are very deficient in iodine due to soil depletion and lack of this mineral in the food. In addition, T3 and T4 are partially composed of iodine. Therefore, a deficiency of iodine leads to decreased production of T3 and T4, enlarges the thyroid tissue and will cause the disease known as simple goitre. Goitre can be associated with both hypothyroidism as well as hyperthyroidism.
Many people with overactive thyroid ask if it is a good idea to take kelp or other natural sources of iodine as they think taking iodine supplements may worsen their condition. Well, it is possible, although in most cases iodine supplementation (especially in the natural form such as kelp, chlorella or spirulina) doesn’t cause problems in people with hyperthyroidism, all the more since deficiency of iodine is very common today due to soil depletion. Therefore, even those who suffer from overactive thyroid may be deficient in iodine which makes the problem even worse. However, in this case I wouldn’t take more than one tablet of kelp a day or 5 tablets of chlorella or spirulina (both are lower in iodine than kelp) as overdosing iodine can exacerbate the autoimmune response in people with Graves’ Disease.
VITAMIN C & MAGNESIUM TO IMPROVE IODINE EFFICIENCY
Also proper daily intake of vitamin C and magnesium is important as it enhances the effects of iodine.
Dr. David Brownstein promotes the use of magnesium chloride as synergistic to treatment with iodine. magnesium chloride is so beneficial for improving iodine levels not only because it carries magnesium but also because chloride competes with bromide (bromide competes for the same receptors that are used in the thyroid gland to capture iodine) and increases the renal clearance of bromide. It has been reported that without chloride some patients require up to two years of iodine therapy to effectively reduce bromide levels. Therefore, magnesium supplementation will likely ensure optimal results with iodine.
Avoiding Iodine Deficiency
By Dr Michael Greger
Why does this 15-year-old look so unhappy? Maybe it’s because of the iodine deficiency in her diet that gave her this goiter. Everyone needs iodine, but this is especially important for people who want to eat well, since many healthy plant foods like flax, soy, and broccoli have what are called goitrogenic compounds, which can interfere with thyroid function in people with marginal iodine intake. So does that mean we shouldn’t eat broccoli? Of course not. We just need to get enough iodine in our diets. It’s actually really simple to do. Rather than using natural sea salt, use iodized salt, and you’ll probably get all the iodine you need. But if, for good reason, we don’t add salt to our food, we just need to get our iodine somewhere. Cow milk drinkers get it because iodine-containing disinfectants are used to disinfect the milk tanks, and so the iodine sort of leaches into the milk. The best source is sea vegetables, or you can get it in a multi-vitamin.
But I do encourage people to develop a taste for seaweed. It’s a wonderful food—dark green leafies of the sea. It may even prevent cancer. Seaweed inhibits human cancer cell growth, and this new study suggests it may even have a therapeutic potential for people battling liver cancer. Sea vegetables have lots of B vitamins and minerals—particularly the trace minerals, like iodine. The problem with seaweed is that we can actually get too much iodine. The recommended daily intake is 160 micrograms a day, but the World Health Organization places the safe upper limit at 1,000 micrograms a day. So that’s not a huge amount of wiggle room. And it’s less for kids—300 micrograms or so may be too much for a five-year-old. This much laver or nori—a 2 ounce bag—has enough iodine to last an adult a week. This much dulse; a month. This much wakame; two months. And one little bag of kelp; five years. A quarter gram a day of kelp is too much. And it would be hard to spread that little amount of kelp over five years, so I recommend going with one of these other sources.
Do not, however, eat hiziki. The reason sea vegetables are so wonderful is that they are packed with trace minerals; they just soak them up right out of the seawater. Hiziki, though, may also absorb bad minerals like arsenic. One seaweed species in particular, hiziki, sucks up so much arsenic that governments around the world are now warning consumers not to eat it. From the US EPA, to the British government, to New Zealand, to Canada—even the Chinese government. Here’s what it looks like. Note the two different spellings. No longer should anyone eat this—at least not on a regular basis. Lots of other wonderful types of seaweed out there without this problem, so we can get the anti-cancer benefits without the arsenic.
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