Hypothyroidism and Iodine

Why iodine is essential for thyroid health
Hypothyroidism and Iodine

Iodine is a mineral vital to the human body. Not only is it necessary to make thyroid hormones, but the liver requires it to convert thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3). In addition to playing a chief role in thyroid health, iodine also helps control heart rate, supports brain health, boosts metabolism, promotes detoxification in the body, and supports bone development. 


What are the Signs of Iodine Deficiency?


Some of the signs of being low in iodine include:

  • Goiter
  • Thyroid nodules
  • Depression
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor concentration



As you can see by this list, many of the symptoms of iodine deficiency parallel hypothyroidism symptoms, and this is for good reason considering how large of an impact iodine plays in thyroid health. 


What is the Thyroid Gland?


The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck. It is responsible for producing thyroid hormones that is distributed to every tissue in the body. Its primary function is to control metabolism which includes controlling energy levels, regulating heart and breathing rates, and regulating growth. 


When the thyroid doesn’t produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormones, then hypothyroidism can occur.


Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t make enough of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). If you suspect that you may have hypothyroidism, it’s important that you receive the proper testing. Complete thyroid testing should always include checking TSH, T4, T3, and TPO levels. An at-home thyroid test is the easiest way to check your thyroid and is an effective and quick way to receive the thyroid care that you need. 


How Does Iodine Deficiency Affect the Thyroid Gland?


As previously mentioned, the thyroid produces hormones called triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Both of these hormones contain iodine. Most forms of iodine are reduced to iodide in the body. Iodide itself is what is known to control thyroid function.  It decreases the response of the thyroid to thyrotropin (TSH). Historically, iodine levels in the body were determined by assessing whether the patient had a goiter. Most recently however, iodine levels can be determined by urine tests.


The thyroid gland takes iodine from food sources and converts it into the thyroid hormones which are then distributed through the blood supply to other organs inside the body. The thyroid cells are the only cells inside the body that can absorb iodine. Without the proper amount of iodine, the thyroid will be unable to generate enough hormone. And given that every cell depends upon thyroid hormones to regulate its metabolism, an iodine deficiency can have a trickle down effect on your body.


Why Are We Deficient in Iodine?


The first reason that many are deficient in iodine is due to the large amounts of toxins that we consume daily. Bromide, chlorine, and fluoride are found in our water supplies, baked goods, and dental products and over time can block our iodine uptake. They essentially block the iodine that we may be ingesting.


The second reason that so many are seeing iodine deficiencies is due to the standard American diet. By indulging in high carb meals, packaged food, and hitting the drive-through on a daily basis, we are not leaving any room in our diets for healthy foods that have high levels of iodine.  In contrast to a traditional Japanese diet full of nutrient-dense foods that are full of fresh unprocessed ingredients. A study based on the assessment of Japanese iodine intake reflects that they receive 1-3mg. of iodine each day because of their consumption of fresh seafood and seaweed. 


How Do I Increase My Iodine Levels?


Because iodine is not created in the body, it is crucial that we receive adequate amounts through diet. Removing processed and unhealthy foods and replacing them with iodine-rich food is the first step in increasing iodine levels. Fortunately for the U.S., iodine deficiency has been virtually eliminated by the introduction of iodized salt. Where iodized salt is not available, you can naturally obtain iodine from these foods:


Sea vegetables such as seaweed, nori, and kelp – Make it a sushi date night! Here are 15 easy sushi recipes that you can make at home.  

Organic Yogurt

Cranberries- We automatically consider cranberry sauce to be a  Thanksgiving food, but this sugar-free cranberry sauce recipe is high in iodine and can be eaten on fresh toast at breakfast or mixed with other fruits for a fruit salad any time of the year.

Eggs

Wild caught seafood – Cod and tuna are especially good choices if you are wanting to increase iodine intake. Just be sure to ensure that it’s wild-caught.

Himalayan mineral salt


Some of the foods mentioned above, such as eggs, could potentially cause unpleasant symptoms in people with thyroid disorders due to frequently undiagnosed food sensitivities. 


Consult with a nutritionist that is familiar with thyroid disorders to create a custom plan for your health.


In addition to the food sources above, there are also specific thyroid and iodine supplements that may help. You should speak with your thyroid doctor before adding a daily supplement.


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