Thyroid Health: Do I need Iodine?
Q: I’ve heard that iodine is good for my thyroid gland. How do know if I am getting enough?
A: Iodine is one of many minerals that is used by the body. The thyroid gland combines iodine with the amino acid tyrosine to make thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormone plays an important role in growth, development, digestion, heart rate, breathing, body temperature, metabolism and many others. Many people notice something is “off” with their thyroid if they feel too hot or too cold, gain weight easily, feel tired all the time, or have anxiety, heart palpitations or depression. Because it has so many different functions, this hormone can affect many areas of the body.
There are a variety of reasons that someone may have an overactive or under active thyroid gland.
- Deficiency of iodine
- Autoimmune attack on thyroid gland
- The liver’s inability to convert inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to its active form (T3)
- Problems with the pituitary gland
- Thyroid Cancer
- Damage to thyroid from viruses, chemicals, medications, radiation exposure, etc
A good place to begin is a good medical checkup to go over thyroid and other lab work to determine what is needed by an individual. If your doctor suspects an iodine deficiency, he or she may run a test based on a 24-hour urine collection after an iron load is taken. This is very important to do before supplementing with high levels of iodine as too much iodine can actually worsen thyroid issues. It's also important to supplement with selenium and zinc to support thyroid health, as well as to make sure the person has adequate iron levels.
There are many foods that contain iodine, many of them coming from the ocean, like sea weeds, fish or shellfish. It is also found in iodized table salt. However, sea salt does not contain iodine so you will need to seek food sources that contain iodine or use iodized salt. If you enjoy eating seaweed salads, nori rolls, and dulse, be sure to seek out sources of these products that are certified to be free from microbes, environmental contaminants, and radiation exposure from Japan. Maine Coast Sea Vegetables is a company that has a good explanation of how to choose safe products.
If you think you don’t like seaweed be sure to try out some Atlantic Dulse, also known as the “Bacon of the Sea.” It has a salty, slightly smoky flavor and is delicious as a snack or snipped on top of salads, sandwiches or soups. We carry some of this product in the Table Market if you’d like to try it out
Iodine content of foods:
Linus Pauling Institute Iodine Summary: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/iodine
National Institute of Health: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/