Iodine in the Diet
- Wednesday, 01 April 2009
In my last blog I talked about low thyroid function. Now let’s talk about the importance of the element iodine in our diet.
Before iodized salt was introduced into the North American diet in the 1920s, a lack of this mineral caused goiter, enlargement of the thyroid. In children, iodine deficiency can cause mental retardation. The International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders is working hard all over the world to help educate people on iodine issues.
The ancient Greeks and others used iodine-rich seaweed to combat goiters, but it wasn’t until 1821 that the nutritionist Jean Baptiste Boussingault discovered that iodine-rich salts could treat goiter. Now, with people wary of too much salt in their diets, there is the danger that folks in North America aren’t getting enough iodine.
What Does Iodine Do?
Iodine has three main functions:
- It is used by the thyroid to make thyroid hormones, which control metabolism and body temperature.
- It supports other biochemical reactions in our body.
- As potassium iodide, it can help reduce bronchial congestion and help our immune systems.
Get Your Iodine
Iodine must be taken into our bodies—we don’t manufacture it. We can get it through foods, including seaweed, seafood, or vegetables grown in soil with naturally occurring iodine. The “goiter belt” once included the Great Lakes region and the midwest where there was iodine-deficient soil.
You can also supplement your diet with potassium iodide or iodized salt.
Another more controversial way is to actually paint a small patch of antiseptic tincture of iodine, obtained in any pharmacy, on your leg. Iodine present as the diatomic molecule will absorb into your body where about 90% of it will turn into the iodide ion and be used. The reddish patch will disappear overnight if you are deficient. There are lots of websites describing this last process. I’ll leave it to you to search them out.
Lastly, scientists have decided that about 150 micrograms (mcg) of iodine are required per day. However, you can intake too much, so if you are a kelp lover or consume excess iodized salt, be careful.