In the olden days, home first aid kits used to contain a standard little brown bottle of iodine. It was and is used as an antiseptic and a disinfectant on the skin and to sterilize wounds. It’s likewise used for the sterilization of surgical equipment that may come in contact with your body or the food you eat. But did you know that you can also suffer from an iodine deficiency? And that speaks to the necessity of it in our diets.
A plant based diet is going to give you the nutrients you need for great health. But an iodine deficiency which comes from our food, can have some pretty major ramifications when it comes to how you feel. Trace amounts in your diet are necessary for the healthy function of so many aspects of our bodies. Thyroid health, brain development and function, maintenance of successful pregnancies, skin health, healthy growth in children and support of the immune system as your body fights cancer cells, to name just a few.
Iodized table salt solved the problem…
In many, if not most kitchens today, there’s a box of Iodized Table Salt in the back of the cupboard and a shaker of it on the table. But that only started in Michigan back in 1924. Up until then, people living along coastlines, and consuming fish and seaweeds regularly got more than enough of this micronutrient.
Away from the coast was a different story. While iodine is present in soil, it isn’t evenly distributed. So plants in one area may absorb enough to keep people healthy, but in other areas not so much. The result was often an iodine deficiency that was evident by the numbers of people suffering from goiter. Think of photos that you’ve seen of people who have a big bulge in the front of their throat. Other symptoms would include mental deficits and learning disabilities in the population.
Ways that you may develop an iodine deficiency…
Yet like everything, even our salt use is changing. 1 in 3 adults in North America suffer from high blood pressure. And we’ve all either heard from our own doctors or know someone who’s been advised as a result, to cut back on the use of salt. Unfortunately, that’ll impact whether or not you are getting enough iodine in your diet.
Pink Himalayan salt or even sea salt? Are they causing us problems?
As well, folks are moving away from using common iodized table salt. Switching to Pink Himalayan salt or Sea Salt, they might be getting slightly higher levels of other minerals and slightly lower sodium levels. But they aren’t getting the iodine that their bodies need.
And one more time, plastic rears it’s ugly head as a cause of health issues. Many plastic containers contain an element called bromine. This chemical has the ability to inhibit absorption and can support a developing iodine deficiency.
12 CAUSES OF AN IODINE DEFICIENCY
- depletion of iodine in soil
- lack of green veggies in your diet
- failure to use iodized table salt
- exposure to chemicals (like bromine) in plastic containers.
- commercial baked goods which may have bromine added to them as a ‘dough conditioner’
- citrus flavoured soft drinks (like Mountain Dew, Fresca and Gatorade) which have bromine in them.
- some medications (some nasal sprays and inhalers have bromine added)
- inhaling fire retardants on our furniture, beds and carpets
- pesticides containing methyl bromide, used on food like strawberries
- not eating seafood or sea vegetables (like seaweed)
- omitting dairy (note: dairy only has iodine because it’s used to clean the cows and milking equipment. Not intrinsic to dairy.)
- reduction in grain consumption
- increased consumption of salty commercial products and snacks. Those products are prohibited from using an iodized salt as it’s equally important that you don’t get too much iodine.
Thank goodness public health officials got a handle on the problem!
When the connection between iodine deficiency and those dreadful symptoms that I just mentioned, was finally realized, public health officials started looking for a solution. That came in the decision to start iodizing salt for home use. And so, lack of iodine became less of a problem after that.
8 SYMPTOMS OF AN IODINE DEFICIENCY
- swelling in the neck
- unexpected weight gain
- fatigue and weakness
- trouble learning and remembering things
- thinning or loss of hair
- changes in the rate of your heart beat (sometimes felt as a ‘flutter’)
- feeling cold all the time
- dry skin
Now for recommendations on how to avoid an iodine deficiency…
After discussing the numerous potential causes of an iodine deficiency, the next question is, how do you manage your requirements and particularly if you’ve decided to go with a plant based diet. For that, I’ve turned to vegan Registered Dietitian, Jack Norris, for a realistic and up-to-date recommendation.
Keep in mind that while a regular consumption of sea vegetables will provide some iodine, the results can be mixed, depending on where they were sourced. And as most of us aren’t eating at Japanese restaurants every meal, it might be better to rely on iodized table salt or kelp supplements if you’re currently restricted on how much salt you use. Of course, check with your doctor in that event.
So for those of us who are relying on kelp supplements, Jack Norris makes the following recommendation:
A SUITABLE ‘SUPPLEMENTATION’ REGIMEN OF IODINE WOULD INCLUDE:
For an average adult:
- Kelp 75 to 150mcg every 3 or 4 days. (break a tablet in half if needed)
- Iodized Table Salt 1/4 tsp. per day supply’s required iodine.
- Multi-Vitamins will sometimes have an amount of iodine in a daily tablet. Check each brand for the amount.
One Note of Caution:
We do excrete unneeded iodine in our urine, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, too much can apparently be problematic for some folks, in that it can cause diarrhea. Therefore, it’s real important to not exceed the recommended dosage if you’re deciding to use kelp tablets. For example, the Jamieson’s brand of kelp tablets are 650 mcg per tablet which is almost a weeks worth. Since we store iodine in our thyroid glands, I would think that breaking one in half and taking them twice a week would adequately and safely meet your daily requirements. Especially if you are still using a touch of iodized table salt regularly.
As always, whenever I talk about the nutrients we need to be healthy, I’m going to remind you to talk it over with your doctor before you make changes. The best of intentions can bring on the most unexpected consequences sometimes right? So if you have any type of health issues or concerns that could possibly be impacted by making one of the above choices, a bit of discussion with an expert is warranted.
Share your thoughts and let me know what you think. In the meantime, be safe, be kind and enjoy your day wherever you are!
And one more time, I’ll remind you that I’m not a medical doctor. I’ve spent the last 20 years focusing on and learning to ‘grow’ my own health however. And that’s what I’m sharing here. All of it based on my own experiences and also the things that I’ve learned from the real experts! Those are the researchers and doctors who’ve seen the actual patients, worked in the labs and write the medical reports that are sprinkled throughout these posts.
My goal is to motivate and help you find your best way to live a healthier and more peaceful life. I suggest strongly that you talk over any changes in your routines, with your doctor. This would include changes to your exercise routines and any medications you might be taking or other supplements.