Are You Iodine Deficient?

Iodine painted on my arm.

Iodine.  That word may bring up memories of a stinging brownish antiseptic used by your parents or grandparents.  Or perhaps you think of a Nebraska resident, Mr. Morton, who added iodine to his salt and earned himself a Nobel prize. The more scientific among you may recognize it as an element on the periodic table, one of the halogen group which includes fluoride, chloride, and bromide.  What we don’t tend to think of is iodine deficiency, and what the signs and symptoms of it are.

Iodine is an essential mineral of our diets.  It’s largest impact in our bodies lies in the thyroid, a butterfly shaped gland on the front of your neck.  Iodine is one of the components of thyroid hormone, which is the substance which drives your metabolism.  The second largest concentration of iodine in your body lies in breast tissue(you too, men).  Iodine is also a necessary part of apoptosis, which is the how your body rids itself of potential cancer cells. Think about that one for a minute. Every cell in your body needs iodine to function at its peak.  Every single one.  Perhaps this mineral should be looked at a bit more.

We get iodine from foods grown in iodine-rich soils.  If the soil has iodine, the food has iodine.  Simple enough.  Ok, here’s the kicker– most of the US and much of the foreign crop-bearing soils have little or no iodine in them.  The midwest is known as the goiter belt, because the soil here is so poor in iodine. [A goiter is caused by iodine deficiency or full-blown thyroid disease, it is a swelling of the thyroid.]  Morton recognized this and added iodine to his salt as a community service.

So, if it’s in salt, what’s the problem?  There are two issues.  First, more and more of us are choosing sea salt, for flavor and because it contains many minerals (just not much iodine).  Processed foods contain a great deal of salt, but that is typically the cheaper, non-iodized version.  Second, it you are consuming iodized salt, you may not be able to get enough from what you are consuming, either due to ingestion rates or lack of the ability to unbind an inorganic mineral.  I do not recommend simply adding more salt!

First, we should test iodine levels.  You can see an example above of an Iodine Patch test we do at the office.  That in conjunction with history and perhaps other testing is a good way to indicate a need for more iodine in the diet.  Look to the sea.  Kelp, ocean fish and shellfish are good sources of iodine (and why iodine deficiency is unknown in countries which consume these as a part of their daily diet).  We do not recommend self-dosing iodine supplements!  There can be side effects if done incorrectly.

If you have questions about iodine, or would like to do the patch test, please contact the office.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Kate

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