Iodine deficiency is a global health concern. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 2 billion people may be iodine deficient with about 50 million of them suffering from deficiency disorders which can range from low energy, cognitive decline, thyroid and adrenal dysfunction to cardiovascular disease, fibrocystic breast disease and a variety of cancers, especially breast and stomach cancer. Research has linked Iodine deficiency with ADHD and Autism with rates rising dramatically over the last two decades. According to research in the USA Iodine levels have dropped by more than half since the 1970’s. Under production of the hormone thyroxine causes weakened neural connections in the brain/nervous system. Iodine is therefore especially necessary for pregnant women and the development of their babies.
From about the 1920’s onwards many people were suffering the effects of iodine deficiency, sometimes developing a visible swelling at the front of the neck called a Goiter in adults and preventable mental retardation in children due to low levels of iodine in the soil and diet. Governments recognised the problem and decided to add iodine to table salt as a way of increasing iodine levels in the diet. Most salts do not contain enough iodine to rectify the problem and processed foods don’t have to contain iodised salt therefore coupled with the reduction in salt intake over the last 20 years we now have millions suffering deficiency disorders.
Iodine and the amino acid tyrosine make up thyroid hormones that control metabolism, body temperature, heart rate and glucose and fat levels in the blood. Selenium, Zinc and iron are also co-factors for enzymes that contribute to healthy tissue in the body.
Too much thyroid hormone results in hyperthyroidism – a high metabolic rate, rapid heart beat and often palpitations, feeling warmer than normal and excessive sweating. In extreme cases it can lead to muscle weakness and weight loss. Too little thyroid hormone results in hypothyroidism – with the opposite symptoms, slow heart rate, feeling cold, constipation, weight gain, dry skin and hair, muscle aches and weakness, depression and fatigue. Energy levels are affected via the thyroid adrenal axis and so adrenal support is often needed as well as thyroid support.
It is often confusing that Iodine deficiency can lead to both low thyroid function and hyperthyroidism but fortunately all iodine deficiency disorders and related health issues can be prevented and treated with adequate intake of Iodine. Anyone who has been diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism or Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease or Graves disease should work with their doctor to assess and correct their Iodine levels.
These actions, generally promoted as being healthy, can also reduce your available Iodine –
- decreasing your salt intake
- using salt that has little or no Iodine
- being on a vegetarian or vegan diet puts you in an at risk group because plants contain lower iodine than animal and dairy products. It is hard to get even the minimum daily 150 mcg without eating seafood, eggs or dairy but eating small amounts of seaweed would easily correct this imbalance.
- sweating profusely while exercising means iodine can be lost in substantial amounts and that also applies to those that work in hot, humid environments.
How much Iodine do we need? Read More