Are You Getting Enough Iodine for Healthy Thyroid Function?
By Ann Nakajima ND
As a key component in the production of thyroid hormones, iodine is an essential nutrient for human health. When there is not enough iodine in the body, the hormonal command center in the brain pushes the thyroid to work harder, resulting in an enlarged thyroid, known as a goiter. Other symptoms of thyroid disease include fatigue and a slower metabolism. The addition of iodine to table salt in the last century was an important means to preventing goiter on a global basis, especially in landlocked areas far from the world’s main source of iodine: the ocean and the sea life (such as seaweed) that resides within it.
However, there has been a recent increase in lowered iodine levels in North America. The Canadian Health Measures survey (2009 to 2011) showed that nearly 30% of Canadians have a mild to moderate iodine deficiency. This increase may be a result of a health conscious trend towards decreasing salt intake or an increased use of non-iodized salt, such as sea salt. Another factor may be the chemical bromine, an endocrine disruptor that competes with iodine for receptors in the body. Found in pesticides, flame retardants (used on furniture and clothing), medications, and foods (pop, sports beverages, and baked goods), bromine can displace iodine from the body.
The thyroid is not the only organ that utilizes iodine for proper functioning. Iodine helps to protect tissue from cellular damage in the breast and prostate gland. Iodine supplementation has been shown to help with fibrocystic breast disease. The higher intake of the mineral in Japan through diet, could be one reason why breast cancer rates are lower there compared to North America. Iodine is also important for the development of the nervous system in the baby during pregnancy.
We have an easy and effective means to test iodine levels available at the Root of Health. Since over 90% of iodine ingested through food is excreted in urine, iodine levels in urine reflect the amount of iodine consumed and present in the body.
The urine iodine test also assesses for bromine, cadmium, and selenium levels. Like iodine, selenium is important for thyroid hormone production, whereas excess bromine and cadmium levels can impair thyroid and reproductive health. Since high iodine levels may be associated with autoimmune thyroid conditions, consider checking your iodine levels with your naturopath before beginning iodine supplementation.