Iodine for Hormonal Health
Iodine is a trace element and an important nutrient necessary for thyroid health, metabolism and brain development. The function of iodine is to help the body synthesize thyroid hormones. But our bodies cannot produce it, so it must be consumed through the diet. In the early 1900s, iodine was added to table salt to combat hypothyroidism cause by a lack of the nutrient. Today, we know that table salt isn’t for everyone as it can raise blood pressure and put the heart under stress.
Natural iodine can be mainly found in foods like seafoods such as shrimp, tuna or lobster, which can be a concern due to mercury content. Other foods that contain natural iodine include cheese, eggs or beef but this is minimal as it depends on how iodine rich the soil was where the animals grazed, and these sources are not helpful for vegans. Luckily, the natural iodine found in kelp is highly bioavailable and can help keep iodine levels up, leading to better thyroid health.
The Problem with Iodine Deficiency
The thyroid is a gland that is responsible for the production of hormones known as T3 and T4, which help the body convert calories and oxygen into energy. Iodine is the element the thyroid converts into these necessary hormones, but when iodine is low, the thyroid gland works harder as it attempts to absorb it, and may become enlarged in the process. This is known as hypothyroidism, and can cause fatigue, weight gain and hair loss, among other things.
Deficiency of iodine in normally healthy adults can also lead to health problems. Weight gain is one symptom of deficiency as the body will not be able to produce the necessary T3 and T4 hormones for a healthy metabolism. This means more calories can be stored as fat instead of used for fuel. Weakness and fatigue are also symptoms of low iodine, since the same hormones are required for energy. Low thyroid hormone is also linked to hair loss and dry skin, as these hormones are needed for skin cell and hair follicle regeneration.
Iodine Deficiency Risk
Certain groups of people are more at risk for iodine deficiencies than the general population. These include pregnant women and those who do not use iodized salt, and older women also have a greater risk of low thyroid, especially if other family members also have low thyroid. People who live in areas that have low iodine content in the soil are also at risk as well as those who are exposed to fluorine, chlorine or bromide; sources of these chemicals are chlorinated swimming pools and drinking fluoridated water.
Vegans and vegetarians are sub-groups that may be prone to iodine deficiency, since most natural nutritional sources are found in animal-based products. Lastly, people who consume foods that contain high amounts goitrogens can be iodine deficient. Goitrogens are substances that interfere with the absorption of iodine. The foods included in this group are cassava, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and soy. Since vegans and vegetarians may consume higher amounts of these foods, they could be at a higher risk when combined with the lack of iodine rich foods.
Health Benefits of Iodine Supplementation
Iodine supplements can help one avoid deficiencies and the health problems that accompany them. Choosing iodine from kelp ensures that you are using a natural source of iodine, and liquid iodine has the highest absorption rate. Added potassium promotes even better bioavailability, so it is more easily used by your body.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient for many body functions, and deficiencies can lead to a number of health problems including thyroid autoimmunity and disfunction. Supplementing iodine with vitamin D can help those who have a difficult time with the absorption of iodine, especially due to health problems. And with that, here are some of the primary benefits of supplementing your diet with liquid iodine.
Healthy Thyroid Function – The thyroid cells use iodine to make T3 and T4 hormones for metabolism, heart rate and increase protein synthesis. If you fall into a higher risk category, supplementing with liquid iodine can ensure your thyroid and metabolism remain healthy. If you have hypothyroidism or symptoms of it, then natural iodine supplementation is an easy way to bring your thyroid hormone levels back into healthy balance.
Strong Metabolism – Insufficient amounts of iodine in the diet can cause sluggishness and food to be stored as fat, leading to weight gain. Since thyroid hormones are responsible for how well your body is able to digest and use nutrients from food, adding iodine to your diet can increase your metabolism.
Increased Energy – Since the thyroid hormones are used for energy, low iodine in the diet can cause fatigue and weakness. Many older women who suffer from low thyroid have shared symptoms of constant fatigue along with weight gain as the body diverts food into storage instead of converting it to energy. Each of these problems can be helped by increasing natural iodine into the diet.
Increased Concentration – Iodine is necessary for healthy brain function and cognitive skills, and there is evidence that iodine supplementation can improve brain health. In some areas of Australia and New Zealand, researchers found that changes in farming practices have lowered iodine in the food chain, resulting in children with iodine deficiency and lowered cognitive function. Fortunately, iodine supplementation increases scores in cognitive tests in children in about 24 weeks. (1)
Protection from Environmental Toxins – The thyroid uses iodine to convert into the hormones T3 and T4, used in a variety of bodily functions including metabolism. Fluorine, chlorine and bromide are all halogen chemicals found in our everyday environment from drinking water, swimming pools and hair dyes. All are similar in structure to iodine, and so are easily absorbed into the thyroid as well as other tissues that normally use iodine; a process called halogen displacement. When a sufficient amount of iodine is ingested, displacement is less likely to happen. Supplementing with a natural iodine source, like kelp, can help ensure the body absorbs iodine, as it should. This is especially true if the supplement is liquid iodine, as it can bypass the digestive process and be directly absorbed where it is needed.
Iodine maintains thyroid health and helps regulate hormones. It also plays a role in the regulation of body temperature, heart rate and metabolism, but enough must be ingested to also supply the developing fetus. Iodine is one of the most important nutrients for the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system during pregnancy. Because of this, the American Thyroid Association (ATA) recommends pregnant women intake from 220 to 250 mcg per day, and those who breastfeed to consume 250 to 290 mcg per day.
Iodine is an important nutrient in any diet, especially if you fall into one of the higher risk categories. Even if you are not in a high-risk category, we are all exposed to environmental toxins that can interfere with normal thyroid function, especially if you drink water with fluoride or swim in a chlorinated pool.
Luckily, supplementation can counteract this, especially liquid iodine sourced from kelp. The average person should consume 150 mcg per day of iodine from a natural source, such as kelp, for best absorption and bioavailability. There is no need to take more than this amount, unless you are pregnant, as it could result in negative effects. If you have any concerns, check with your doctor to learn your specific needs.
1 Norton, A. (2009, October 30). Treating mild iodine deficiency boosts brain power. Retrieved September 28, 2019, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iodine-deficiency-idUSTRE59T4FO20091030.