Iodine is a trace element that the body needs for the production of thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland combines iodine with tyrosine, an amino acid, to manufacture the thyroid hormones. These hormones are needed for maintaining normal and healthy metabolism in all cells in the body. Consequently, a lack of iodine in one’s dietary intake could result in numerous thyroid-related health conditions and symptoms.
Iodine may also have some other important roles in the body unrelated to the thyroid — for example, it also seems to play a role in modulating estrogen’s effect on breast tissue — although more research is needed in these areas.
Symptoms of iodine deficiency
Sufficient iodine intake is needed for proper thyroid function and good thyroid health. And iodine deficiency is particularly harmful in pregnant ladies and newborn babies.
Some serious symptoms of iodine deficiency include:
• Impaired physical development; growth retardation
• Impaired mental development; intellectual disability
• Elevated risk of miscarriage
• Neonatal hypothyroidism
• Neonatal hyperthyrotropinemia
• Higher risk of infant mortality
Where iodine deficiency is present, hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid) and/or goiter (thyroid gland enlargement) could also result. Low iodine levels in the blood causes thyroid gland cells to expand, eventually leading to the swelling of the entire gland under the neck.
Hypothyroidism is typically characterized by fatigue and lethargy, reduced tolerance to cold, constipation, weight gain, hair loss, dry skin, hoarseness and even depression. A person suffering from some or all of these symptoms could well be deficient in iodine to some degree.
Food sources of iodine
Seafoods contain high amounts of iodine. This includes seaweeds such as kelp.
Vegetables, meats and eggs also contain some iodine, although at lower amounts.
Some foods contain compounds known as goitrogens which actually block the body’s usage of iodine. Such foods include cabbage, mustard, turnips, peanuts, soybeans, millet, pine nuts, cassava root, broccoli and kale. However, as these foods are nutritious in their own ways, they probably should not be totally avoided. The good thing is that cooking usually deactivates the problematic compounds in these foods.
Beware of taking too much iodine
It should be noted that excessive consumption of iodine can backfire and adversely affect thyroid health — it can actually inhibit the synthesis of thyroid hormone. Excessive iodine intake can also cause acne eruptions. Michael Murray, ND, suggested capping daily intake at 500 mcg daily — this includes consumption via both foods and supplements.
Serious deficiency in iodine is now relatively rare in developed countries like the US because of the addition of iodine to table salt (iodized salt). However, research had suggested that the US population showed a trend of significantly dropping iodine intake from 1988 to 1994. A continuation of that trend could result in an increase of iodine deficiency conditions.
As such, if signs of iodine deficiency are present, including milder ones that characterize hypothyroidism such as tiredness, sluggishness, constipation, weight gain, dry skin, depression and constipation, it could be prudent to consult a nutritionist or suitably qualified health practitioner to get one’s iodine profile assessed.
Sources for this article include:
Murray, Michael T., ND. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements: The Essential Guide for Improving Your Health Naturally. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1996. Print.
Murray, Michael, ND. The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines: Vitamins, Minerals, Nutritional Supplements, Herbs, And Other Natural Products. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2002. Print.
Gaby, Alan R., MD. The Natural Pharmacy: Complete A-Z Reference to Natural Treatments for Common Health Conditions. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2006. Print.
Murray, Michael, ND., Pizzorno, Joseph, ND., and Pizzorno, Lara, MA, LMT. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2005. Print.
About the author:
Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth.
His main health websites Insights on Health and All 4 Natural Health focus on being healthy naturally, while his other health websites cover topics such as cancer, depression, holistic depression help, as well as omega 3 fatty acids. He also owns self improvement and inspirational websites like Inspiration 4 Living, allinspiration.com, Life Changing Quotes, and 101 Inspirational Ideas. Through his network of sites at The Journey of Life, he hopes to help improve people’s lives.