Many years ago, we were caught in a time when information was too hard to find. But now? Information is EVERYWHERE. It became almost too available, and we tend to easily believe what we see or hear. This becomes alarming when the topic is our HEALTH — where we need to be the most critical. Many camps have contradicting beliefs when it comes to headlines like disease prevention, symptoms, supplements and the like. This makes it very hard for us to make a wise decision! Therefore, we must educate ourselves and find a credible health practitioner to work with.
Did you know that one of the supplements being widely debated by experts is iodine — a mineral that can be good, but also dangerous when taken too much. So, I am here to help you get on this topic and prevent any adverse effects on your health. Instead, we will focus on ways to maximize the benefits of iodine! Furthermore, we will anchor this article in taking iodine as thyroid support for menopausal women. Let’s get started! ?
Why Are Women Prone to Thyroid Problems?
Menopause affects many organs in our body — including our thyroid. We are more prone to thyroid gland problems than men because of our hormones. So, our body needs iodine for thyroid support, most especially at this phase of our life. Now, you might be wondering what a thyroid gland is and where it is located. Let me give you a quick background about thyroid!
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base and center of your neck. In men, the “landmark” for the thyroid gland is their Adam’s apple. It is part of your endocrine system — a system made up of glands that produce and store hormones.
The thyroid gland’s primary function is to regulate metabolism for energy. It may be a small part of your body, but it has an enormous job in keeping your body processes balanced! Aside from metabolism, it also helps with:
- Growth and development
- Brain functioning
- Reproductive health
- Stress management
- Healthy hair, skin and nails
- Normal breathing, heart rate and body temperature
- Proper central nervous system functioning
- Healthy body weight
- Regular menstrual cycles
- Normal cholesterol levels
Now, why is iodine essential for thyroid support?
Generally, we all need trace amounts of iodine for our hormones to function properly. And for someone who’s about to embark on the menopause transition, you need to seal-guarantee that your iodine intake is adequate. Why? ?
In menopause, estrogen and progesterone have great control over our thyroid function. Both of them work as opposites in keeping our thyroid hormones balanced. During perimenopause, progesterone declines faster — leaving estrogen more dominant. This imbalance in the “progesterone-estrogen ratio” is a condition called “estrogen dominance”.
Now, why should we care about that?
Dr. Izabella Wentz, a Clinical Pharmacist and expert in thyroid health, said that in the case of estrogen dominance, estrogen suppresses our thyroid hormones. As a result, our body’s need for thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) increases — and that is not a good thing! TSH is a “backward marker” of our body’s overall thyroid hormone status. High TSH = underactive thyroid. This is how estrogen dominance causes hypothyroidism.
Many other factors can also trigger thyroid problems — chronic stress, nutritional issues (specifically iodine deficiency), autoimmune diseases, inflammation and more. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can happen at any menopausal stage, therefore, we must always be on guard!
To keep our thyroid health optimized, we need to have the right amount of iodine. In the words of Dr. Wentz, she says:
“Iodine is what pharmacists call a “Goldilocks” nutrient, meaning that, while low levels are necessary for thyroid health, higher levels can have a negative effect.”
Why is Iodine Essential for Midlife Health?
Now, you already understood that we need iodine for thyroid support in menopause. But there’s more! Besides optimizing our thyroid health, iodine also provides many other benefits such as:
• Reduces the risk of goiter: When iodine deficiency results in hypothyroidism, our body tries to compensate by making more “thyroid-stimulating hormones” (TSH) — hormones produced by the pituitary gland. Now, too much TSH can overactivate the thyroid gland, making the gland enlarged — resulting in goiter.
• Less needed insulin for women with type II diabetes (who need more insulin): According to Dr. Jorge Flechas, who specializes in Iodine Therapy for Hypothyroidism, diabetics with insulin resistance need less insulin if they have enough iodine intake. Dr. Flechas said that the positive effect of iodine on insulin levels may be due to iodine’s ability to optimize every hormone receptor in the body!
• Promotes skin health: Dr. Craig Kraffert, a Board-Certified Dermatologist, said that iodine aids in healing skin infections. Iodine also prevents rough skin from developing and prevents premature aging. Music to my ears! ?
• Strengthens the immune system
• Detoxifies the body
• Improves cognitive function and brain development
• Optimizes overall hormonal balance in the body
Watch this video from Dr. Eric berg as he discusses significant facts about iodine! ?
Who Else are At Risk of Iodine Deficiency?
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 30% of the world’s population (more than 2 billion people) has insufficient iodine intake. Also, iodine deficiency is recognized as the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world. Imagine that? ?
The most common symptoms of iodine deficiency include:
- Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
- Chronic fatigue
- Unusual weight gain
- Feeling cold (even if the weather is warm)
- Weak and slow heartbeat
- Thick puffy skin or puffiness of the face
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Difficulty concentrating, brain fog, slowed mental processes and poor memory (which can eventually lead to mental retardation)
- Growth and developmental abnormalities
As mentioned above, iodine is vital for everyone, but particular groups of people need it more importantly. We already talked about menopausal women… Now, let’s talk about other groups who must ensure enough iodine intake!
• Pregnant and breastfeeding women: Severe iodine deficiency can harm the fetus of pregnant women. It can also cause stunted growth, intellectual disability and delayed sexual development. Less severe iodine deficiency can cause lower-than-average IQ in infants.
• People who are vegans: Seafood, eggs and fish are among the best sources of iodine. So, people who follow a vegan diet and don’t eat much of these foods (or don’t eat them at all) are prone as well to iodine deficiency. If you are vegan, don’t worry because further down, we will talk about the best sources for you to get enough iodine. Stay with me… I got you!
• People (who mostly eat local foods) living in regions with iodine-deficient soils: Studies show that these people are also at risk of iodine deficiency because their soils produce crops that have low iodine levels. Among the regions with the most iodine-poor soil are mountainous areas like the Himalayas, the Alps, the Andes regions, as well as river valleys in South Asia and Southeast Asia.
• People exposed to environmental toxins: Nowadays, our environment is loaded with a bunch of toxins. They are literally everywhere — air pollution, pesticides, chemical-loaded home products, cosmetics, plastic containers and more! These environmental toxins that surround us are also called “endocrine-disrupting chemicals” (EDCs). EDCs are artificial chemicals that interfere with the proper functioning of our hormones! According to Dr. Shirisha Avadhanula, an Endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic: “EDCs are linked to a higher risk of cancer, diabetes, heart problems, metabolic conditions and reproductive health issues.” Be a mindful consumer!
Hey… I know the discussions above were a little heavy, but remember, knowledge is power. Learning the fundamental importance of iodine will help you understand why it’s truly essential for you! In the following discussions, we will also emphasize how crucial it is to take iodine in the right amount. So, loosen up, because we’re about to move forward with ways to prevent iodine deficiency! ?
How Much Iodine Should I Take?
Several factors must be considered to identify the dosage that works best for an individual:
- The form of iodine taken
- Iodine-depleting toxins present in the body
- Pre-existing medical conditions
Now, you might be wondering: “What are the different forms of iodine? Which one should I avoid, and which one should I go for?”
Dr. Alan Christianson, a Naturopathic Physician, believes that iodine is essentially non-toxic. But it can trigger thyroid problems with too much, too little or too variable doses. He said that the toxicity of iodine primarily depends on its form.
Man-made organic forms of iodine are highly toxic, while the inorganic non-radioactive forms are safe. According to Dr. Christianson, natural forms of iodine include:
- Potassium iodide
- Iodine in Lugol’s solution
- Iodine in various foods
As you can see, dosage recommendations for iodine can vary from low to very high dosages. So, to know the dosage that’s best for you, work closely with a physician who takes your individual needs into account.
How Can I Prevent Iodine Deficiency?
Since our body cannot produce iodine on its own, we can have iodine through our diet. Of course, nothing beats going for natural sources. You should be able to get all the iodine you need by eating a varied and balanced diet!
According to the National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements, here are all-natural food sources for your iodine needs:
- Dried Nori
For vegans, you can get a fair amount of iodine from watercress, lima beans, navy beans, zucchini or kale. You can also make your healthy go-to wraps using nori!
Dr. Christianson said that you can have over 3 moderate servings of iodine-rich sea veggies (like nori, wakame, arame and others) weekly. Using iodized sea salt is perfectly fine too! For your soup, stews or salads, you can also add some crumbled seaweed!
Now, let’s talk about supplements…
Remember the part above where we talked about environmental toxins? Well, these toxins are called “halides”. What on earth are they? ?
We are talking about fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine and astatine — the fearless five! They belong to the same group in the periodic table, which means they can resemble each other’s chemical structures, including iodine’s structure. Studies show that halides, specifically fluorine, bromine and chlorine, can attach to the cell receptors intended for iodine. Therefore, they can block and take the place of iodine in our body. Pretty competitive, huh? ?
These toxins are commonly used as antibacterial agents for pools and hot tubs, pesticides, insecticides, and anti-caking agents. They can also be found in table salt, toothpaste, water supply and in some medications (particularly for asthma).
Fortunately, iodine supplements can replenish iodine while helping the body get rid of these toxins! Iodine is available in dietary supplements that come in the form of potassium iodide or sodium iodide. Many multivitamin-mineral supplements contain iodine as well. But if you prefer a supplement sourced from whole food ingredients, go for iodine supplements sold as “kelp” or “sea iodine”!
If you are on thyroid medications, Dr. Christianson suggests avoiding iodine-rich sea veggies and taking any supplement that contains iodine.
Moreover, iodine is best taken with selenium!
Dr. Deanna Minich, an internationally recognized expert in Nutrition and Functional Medicine, said that our thyroid also contains one of the highest concentrations of selenium in our body. This is likely due to several “selenoproteins” involved in our thyroid health. Selenoproteins are enzymes involved in the metabolism of our thyroid hormones, DNA synthesis, immune function and protection against oxidative damage!
Some studies found that supplementing with selenium can help and might even reverse thyroid problems. Therefore, for a healthy functioning thyroid, you must have sufficient levels of both iodine and selenium! Dr. Deanna also adds that there must be a balance between the two minerals.
According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended daily intake of selenium for adult women is 55 ug/day. Remember, consult your doctor first about your ideal dosage before taking a supplement.
Lastly, you can take a test!
There are several ways to examine your body’s iodine status. One of the most common ways to check is through a 24-hour urine sample. Working with a health care practitioner who is familiar with iodine metabolism is ideal for this.
But if you are down for a little experiment, you can also do a simple test at home, dear! This method is recommended by Dr. Christiane Northrup, a Board-Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology Physician. Dr. Northrup says that all you need is a bottle of Iosol Iodine — a unique form of iodine widely available in many supplement stores.
Once you have it, simply put several drops on your wrist. Rub them with the applicator until you have a patch that measures about two inches by two inches. This must be done in the morning. After applying, monitor the patch every 30 minutes until the iodine is absorbed into your skin. If your iodine level is adequate, you’ll still have some iodine visible on your skin by nighttime! So, the iodine should stay on your skin for at least 10 hours. In contrast, if you absorb the iodine in less than 10 hours, you’re more likely deficient in iodine.
The test is pretty easy, right? That’s definitely something I would try soon, just to make sure my “butterfly” system’s all good! ?
There you have it! I hope you were able to learn insights that you can bring with you and embrace daily. I am sure you will discover a lot more information about iodine from various sources with different points of view. Be wise. Remember, we need to be the keeper of our own temple — our body. We are all unique biochemically. We all respond differently to everything. You are the steward and defender of your health! ?
• Iodine Toxicity: What Will Happen If I Take Too Much Iodine?
Taking too much iodine can also cause problems. In fact, large amounts of iodine through medications can cause or worsen thyroid problems. Getting high levels of iodine can also cause burning of the mouth, throat and stomach; fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and weak pulse. Therefore, it pays to know the dosage that will work perfectly for your body by consulting a doctor.
• Iodized Salt: Go or No-Go?
Not all salts are created equal. And just because it is iodized doesn’t mean it’s healthier to consume! Processed table salt is missing over 80 minerals. On the other hand, Suzy Cohen (Functional Medicine Practitioner and Pharmacist) said that healthy sea salts like Himalayan or Celtic salts are never adulterated. They retain beneficial minerals like copper, iodine, potassium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, iron and many more!
• How to Differentiate Thyroid Problem and Adrenal Problem
Most people have this question whether they have adrenal dysfunction or thyroid dysfunction. According to Dr. Anshul Gupta, a Board-Certified Family Medicine Physician with advanced certification in Functional Medicine, there are subtle differences that can help differentiate the two. But a more accurate way to know is through a 4-point salivary adrenal test. This test checks cortisol levels 4 times daily with the guidance of a trained practitioner.
• The Iodine Controversy: Different Claims from Different Camps
If you are in the mood for some intellectual investigation about the controversies about iodine, here’s a video from Dr. Alan Christianson. He explains where all the ideas came from, what their core claims are, and he will also talk through pieces of evidence from all camps involved!
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The Secret Ingredient to Jumpstart Thyroid Health | Christiane Northrup, M.D. (drnorthrup.com)
How Environmental Toxins Can Impact Your Health – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic
Urinary Iodine Concentrations in Cancer Patients – PubMed (nih.gov)
Halide Toxicity (Bromine and Fluorine) | Dr. Lauren Deville, Naturopathic Doctor – Tucson, AZ (drlaurendeville.com)
The Health Benefits of Selenium and Its Relationship with Iodine | Deanna Minich
Selenium and the thyroid – PubMed (nih.gov)
Selenium supplementation could restore euthyroidism in subclinical hypothyroid patients with autoimmune thyroiditis – PubMed (nih.gov)
The Role of Iodine and Selenium in Autoimmune Thyroiditis – PubMed (nih.gov)
Selenium – Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)
The Iodine & Hashimoto’s Question | Amy Myers MD
Iodine and Your Thyroid – Women’s Health Network (womenshealthnetwork.com)