Iodine is one of those important nutrients that the body needs. The primary use is to help the thyroid produce thyroid hormones. If you still have a working thyroid, then chances are you need to have some iodine in your body to make these important hormones. There is a lot of confusion out there about whether you need to add iodine, if it's safe for you to take iodized salt or eat foods with high amounts of iodine in them. Let's take a look at the different sides of this question.
Iodine deficiency. One side of the issue is iodine deficiency. This is a serious problem that was the reason iodine was added to table salt in the first place. Now people are watching their sodium intake and aren't eating as much iodized salt, so some people aren't getting enough iodine in their diet. Plus recent studies have shown that when iodized salt was analyzed it didn't have enough iodine added to help someone keep up healthy levels of iodine. Iodine deficiency is rising in developed countries now. Iodine is a rare element found in nature, it's almost never found in the soil, but it is however abundant in the ocean. This is why you will find most seafood and shellfish high in iodine, but other foods people eat low or no iodine content. This is one of the reasons that iodine was added to salt in the beginning. Iodine deficiency can lead to many problems. One of the most common is developing a goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland.
According to Life Extension Magazine article The Silent Epidemic of Iodine Deficiency, " ... iodine deficiency’s profound impact on overall health. ... discover iodine’s vital role in thyroid function and its link to obesity, cognitive impairment, heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and various forms of cancer. " Link
Iodine Excess. On the other side of the issue is people who are getting too MUCH iodine in their bodies. Studies are recognizing that an excess of iodine can trigger autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Graves' disease and Hashimoto's, worsening their attack on the body.
Dr. Teng in a New England Journal study, found that giving iodine supplements to people with enough iodine in their system could lead to hypothyroid autoimmune disease. Also, since iodine helps the thyroid produce thyroid hormones, too much iodine, especially in the circumstances of Graves disease and hyperthyroidism, can add fuel to the fire, helping the body produce too much thyroid hormone and leading to iodine-induced hyperthyroidism. There is also some evidence that iodine can help autoimmune thyroid disease produce more antibodies with which to attack the body.
There is also a set of people who have found that iodine supplementation is helpful for their thyroid condition. If you are going to add iodine supplementation, please make sure you do so under a qualified medical professional who will be monitoring your iodine levels. Watch yourself for signs that your thyroid levels are spiking up too high or falling too low as well. Use common sense if following this path.
Basically, everyone needs some iodine, but not too much. If you are eating adequate levels of iodized salt, seafood or other iodine rich foods, the odds are good that you should NOT supplement iodine. If you have autoimmune disease like Hashimoto's or Graves' disease, use caution in eating foods with added iodine. If your antibodies are high or you are severely hyperthyroid, you may want to cut back on the amount of iodine containing foods you are eating to prevent matters from becoming worse. Your doctor can test the amount of iodine in your system if you suspect you need to consume less or add more to your diet. This is one of the best ways to find out if you should be consuming more iodine foods such as iodized salt.
Confused by all the information that's out there on iodine, especially in salt form? That is understandable. There are still many tests being run on iodine and the body and it seems that there is definitely not a one sized fits all recommendation on this rather controversial element. The consensus in the middle is that everyone needs some to prevent iodine deficiency, but you have to be careful not to have too much. If you have autoimmune disease of the thyroid, then you have to be even more careful. Ask your doctor or other health professional for their opinion, and research, research, research to help you figure out what may be right for you. Good luck in your journey to better thyroid health!
Catch Britney on twitter @BttrflyBritney, or online at www.WarriorButterflies.com or at ButterflyNationProject.org, two great thyroid resource pages
Teng, Weiping M.D., et. al. "Effect of Iodine Intake on Thyroid Diseases in China" New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 354:2783-2793, June 29, 2006, Number 26Abstract
Utiger, Robert D. M.D. "Iodine Nutrition - More Is Better," New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 354:2819-2821, June 29, 2006, Number 26o
Piccone, Nancy. "The Silent Epidemic of Iodine Deficiency" Life Extension Magazine, October 2011 http://www.lef.org/Magazine/2011/10/The-Silent-Epidemic-of-Iodine-Deficiency
Dr Edward Group III DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM, "Iodine and Hyperthyroidism", Global Healing Center website: http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/iodine-and-hyperthyroidism/, February 25,2015