To be completely honest, until very recently I knew very little about iodine and it's connection to our bodies well being. Like me, you probably know that iodine is (or was) used in our salt. But why?
Iodine serves a very important purpose to our bodies: It keeps our thyroid working properly. And once upon a time, widespread iodine deficiency caused massive amounts of goiters. Enlarged thyroids causing numerous adverse symptoms. But once we began using iodine in our salt manufacturing process, the goiter problem all but disappeared!
Our iodine intake in America has dropped by 50%, since the iodine once used in the production of flour and salt has been replaced with the cheaper and more dangerous Bromine. In addition, elements like Floride and Chlorine have been introduced to our drinking water which further block the absorption of iodine. This has led to a resurgence of problems once past.
In Psychology Today, Doctor David Brownstein quotes his book about the necessity and misunderstanding of iodine.
“Iodine is the most misunderstood nutrient. After 12 years of practicing medicine, I can say that it is impossible to achieve your optimal health if you do not have adequate iodine levels. I have yet to see any item that is more important for promoting health than iodine.”
That may sound like an overexaggeration, but let's take a look at all the effects an iodine deficiency can have on a persons bodily health.
- Goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland that can cause nodules, choking, trouble sleeping or breathing
- Weight gain due to lower metabolism
- Reduced energy/fatigue
- Higher risk for hypertension and cardiovascular diseases
- Increased risk for stroke
- Heart arrhythmia or weakening of the heart muscle
- Higher risk for miscarriage, preterm delivery, and stillbirth
- Higher risk for birth defects or children born with developmental disabilities
- Lower intelligence rates, even in cases of mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy
In addition, it's thought that iodine deficiency can lead to a higher risk of stomach cancer, connected to thyroid under activity. All this combined, it's clear that iodine is an essential part of our dietary needs. So if you look over that list and suspect that you might need more iodine in your diet, how can you get it?
There are supplements out there for just about everything, but as always, the most efficient way to absorb any nutrients are naturally through your diet. These are the foods that contain the best source of iodine:
- Cow dairy products (milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese)
- Sea salt and iodized table salt
- Saltwater fish
- Shellfish (clam, muscle, oyster, etc)
- Seaweed (kelp, dulce, nori)
- Soy products (milk, soy sauce)
Anything that gives me an excuse to chow down on clams and oysters is alright by me.
In recent months, I've struggled with thyroid issues that have effected everything from my sleep to my depression to my metabolism. As always, I'll explore every possible avenue, but I'm going to try adding more iodine into my diet via kelp, fish, and soy (trying to cut down on the cow dairy).