Saturday, 2 February 2008

Iodine Overview

Many areas of the world have a historical prevalence for thyroid issues due to iodine deficiency. One of those areas is the Great Lakes region which is rather heavily populated.

Often people in these regions are misled to believe that their vegetables are a source of iodine when in fact, because the land is iodine deficient, so are the plants grown in that area.

Iodine is often an ingredient in medications and is often used to sterilize milking equipment in dairy operations. Therefore care must still be taken because if a person (children in particular) is ingestion large amounts of dairy and/or cough/cold medicines, there is a risk of too much iodine if supplementation is pursued.

This bit of knowledge extends to people who are on a homemade bread diet, gluten free diet or dairy free diet as they may not be achieving the iodine levels required for proper thyroid function. I urge them to talk to a medical professional about iodine supplementation (even more so for those who are on a dairy free, low salt diet).

Those who may be on a homemade bread (of any kind), grain low, paleo diet or grain free diet as they are not receiving the same supplementation as general society (who eat store bought bread that is artificially supplemented with iodine). This issue is often overlooked by medical professionals and review often needs to be initiated by the patient/spokesperson for the person(s) at issue.

Dr. James Howenstine has written an article that suggests even people on 'regular' store-bought bread are now running the risk of being low in iodine, since some breads may include bromine instead of iodine. He states that bromine not only replaces iodine in the bread but inhibits iodine uptake by the thyroid gland (iodine that comes from other foods).

Iodine deficiency can contribute to Grave's Disease, adrenal fatigue, Raynaud's, goitre, cretinism (rare if salt is supplemented with iodine and used regularly in the diet), fatigue, weakness, depression or weight gain. Even signs as simple as physical and/or mental fatigue can be an indicator of iodine deficiency. Lead toxicity is another issue that is affected to iodine deficiency. It is iodine that aids the body in the purging of lead. Insufficient iodine and lead levels have a better possibility of building up. It has also been strongly associated with breast cancer.

As always, my interest in failure to grow makes this an extremely interesting realm of information and anyone dealing with ftt (failure to thrive) should address the possibilities with their health care provider.

I have noted subtle differences that seems to emerge slowly in our family dynamic with addition/removal of high iodine foods. Whether it's the iodine levels or something else is debateable. However, we seem to fare better with these foods and I have found myself, several times over the past few years realizing that if I overlook the addition of these foods within our diet, we just don't do as well... whatever the reason.


Sea vegetables, like seaweed (dulse is one kind) can help prevent a myriad of issues that develop due to iodine deficiency. Likewise, this type of food, because of it's high levels of iodine must be carefully monitored by people on thyroid medications.

Though it is commonly believed that iodine added to salt is sufficient, there are many medical professionals who debate this issue hotly and insist that supplemented salt is not anywhere near sufficient for the thyroid gland to work as effectively as it should.

It is often said that Asian diets are higher in iodine. However, this type of blanket statement is debatable. Generally speaking, I would consider it a 'rumour' and not base my dietary intake on how closely a person follows an 'Asian Diet'.

A high fish diet is also not an indicator of iodine levels since one would need the knowledge of where the fish came from, on which to base this supposition.

One suggestion to increase iodine levels would be to add it (in the form of dried dulse or kelp) to two of your basic recipes (spaghetti sauce or taco meat) that are enjoyed twice a week. Sea vegetables are often salty and may subsequently require a reduction of salt in these recipes.

Sardines are another source and could be used instead of salt or sea vegetables in such dishes. If bones are intact, mash it all up and it will add a good bit of calcium to your recipe also. Oily fish will have the added benefit of essential fatty acids. It is said that because sardines have such a short lifespan, they do not have the same issues regarding mercury. Anchovies would be another suggestion.

Recipes to add these ingredients would be pizza (to replace the salt in the dough or tomato sauce), spaghetti sauce, taco meat, rice casseroles, etc.

As always, be certain that you are not allergic to either seafood or iodine (said to be unrelated in some source articles though I'd imagine there are times when this claim would be debatable). Though some allergies are not common, it is always wise to be aware and take care. Consult your personal medical professional re: sensitivities to these foods.

Here is a link to more info. that I collected and posted at Neurotalk a couple of years ago:



Anonymous said...

allergic to iodine. Ok I'm sure you know this, but more and more people are allergic to iodine, than beeing deficient in it. Iodine, itself can be found in most table salt and about all processed foods, green leafys can fish, even milk is loaded with it. In the case of hormones you have this information completely backwards. Iodine can make you stop producing the hormones you need. I highly suggest you read the mayo clinic findings on Iodine. The numerous clinical studies done by nearly all university hospitals before blaming diseases on iodine deficient. If anything we are consuming iodine i too great amounts.

Kim Spezowka said...

I find it interesting that you posted a comment anonymously without references.

I do not refute that some people are allergic.

That said, I do not have anything "backwards". I post my references and the medical history in iodine deficient zones speaks for itself.

I have no issue with people posting opposing views. I don't think it needs to be done in a confrontational way. I don't post anything without a fair bit of research happening first (usually including my own personal experiments).

In future. Please do comment but in an informative manner, not a confrontational one.

Deb said...

Hi Kim...really enjoyed your article! I came across it trying to find out the iodine content in anchovies (dried anchovies to be precise). Can you direct me to where I might find this info? You did mention that anchovies provide a good source, but I want to find out how much I can get from a serving. I'm trying to increase my iodine intake through my diet.

Thank you for all the info you have provided. And I do appreciate that you listed your sources!


Deb said...
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Deb said...
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Kim Spezowka said...

I just want to note that Deb posted one comment... not 3. Somehow they were duplicated.

For sardine iodine content, refer to this great article:

Kim Spezowka said...

Deb said...

Thanks so much Kim! Those sites help a lot. And thanks for deleting those duplicate posts. When I was posting, it appeared that my comment had not gone through, so I kept trying. Then I saw that each one actually had made it...embarrassing.

Kim Spezowka said...

You're very welcome Deb.

Comments have to be authorized by me before posting. That's why they don't show up immediately.