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The Impact of Iodine

Good Iodine Food Sources

• Sea vegetables (dulse, kelp, seaweed, etc.) • Strawberries
• Yogurt • Cheese • Eggs
• Iodized table salt • Shellfish
• Soy sauce • Cod • Shrimp
• Tuna • Scallops
• Sardines • Salmon

If you’re like most people, your experience with iodine has been limited to the saltshaker and the rust-colored liquid your doctor uses to disinfect a wound. Yet beyond its acknowledged antibiotic value, iodine is an important mineral necessary for total-body health and proper metabolic function.

Iodine comes from the same family of minerals as magnesium and calcium, and it is used by nearly every tissue in the body as an antioxidant, an antiviral, a cortisol moderator, a sleep agent, an estrogen controller and a bouncer for unruly toxic metals such as mercury, bromine and fluoride. Your adrenal glands, ovaries, breasts, thymus, brain, stomach and pancreas all require lots of iodine, but your thyroid takes the
lion’s share of your daily intake in order to create the hormones that regulate metabolism, generate body heat and keep all your tissues functioning properly. When your thyroid is low on iodine, these hormones decrease, which can lead to fatigue, cold hands and feet, weight gain, dry skin, weak nails, hair loss, muscle aches, depression, constipation, even cancer and miscarriage.

Women have a special problem because estrogen inhibits the absorption of iodine and can put you at risk for
deficiency. And because added dietary iodine has been shown to reduce the size of breast tumors — benign and malignant — and can mitigate the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease, getting enough of this mineral should be on every woman’s to-do list. Your body doesn’t make iodine, however, so it must be ingested. Unfortunately, iodine isn’t prevalent in many foods, and unless you regularly consume sardines or douse your food with iodized table salt, you could be at risk for deficiency. 

According to recent research, iodine deficiency has increased fourfold over the past 40 years, and 74 percent of adults might not get adequate amounts. This is especially concerning to those who eat clean and exercise regularly because iodine is pretty much MIA from most vegetables, meats and fruit, and you lose large amounts when you sweat, especially in hot, humid environments. To throw another wrench into the works, certain minerals block iodine from functioning properly: fluoride from our water system and bromide from pesticides, soft drinks and many commercial baked goods.

It sounds like a losing battle, but you can get sufficient iodine with supplementation and a little creative eating. The Recommended Daily Allowance for iodine (150 micrograms for adult women and men, 220 for pregnant women and 290 for breast-feeding women) seems to be outdated; the only intention for this number when it was created was to prevent goiters, and more research seems to be needed to determine exactly how much we require on a daily basis.

In the meantime, choose a multivitamin with iodine, and ramp up your weekly intake of fish such as cod and salmon, and dairy products such as yogurt and milk. If you’re a sushi fan, rejoice: Seaweed and kelp contain the most iodine of any food on the planet, with just ¼ ounce containing 4,500 micrograms of iodine, about 30 times the RDA. Drink distilled or reverse osmosis water to reduce the amount of fluoride in your body, and avoid processed baked goods and sodas, even diet kinds, to limit your bromide intake. Wash all produce thoroughly to rid it of pesticides and throw an egg yolk into the mix every few days, as well. 

Be conscious of your iodine intake and you could notice a burst of energy, improved results in the gym and a more positive outlook in general.

Are You at Risk?

Answer yes to any of these questions and you may be at risk for low iodine levels.

  •  Do you use less or no salt on your food?
  •  Do you use Kosher or sea salt instead of table salt?
  •  Do you restrict or eliminate dairy products?
  •  Do you exercise regularly? 
  •  Are you vegetarian or vegan?