Iodine deficiency used to be a major problem for the United States, especially the Great Lakes area. It has remained an issue for many less developed countries, but was pretty much eradicated in the U.S. when we began to add iodine to salt in the 1920s. Goiters became a thing of the past, something most kids and many adults today don’t even know about. The other problems associated with iodine deficiency went with it.
But this old foe has resurfaced once again even in first world countries. We have been slashing our salt consumption due to health concerns and iodine with it. There are plenty of good reasons to cut back on sodium intake. We do get much more than we need in our modern diet rich in processed foods and the salt we take has slowly morphed into something we did not expect it to become when iodine first appeared in our salt.
Salt was a good medium to provide more iodine. It doesn’t spoil and was used everywhere by everyone to season and preserve food. The salt of the 1920s was natural sea salt collected from the ocean or mineral deposits. It already contained a small amount of iodine, so it made sense to add a little more. Now salt is more highly processed, filtered, bleached, and tainted with synthetic chemicals. Salt has become much more toxic than it once was. Real salt isn’t a uniform white. We also began adding much more salt to processed foods. Our overabundant use of this once fairly rare and precious mineral is contributing to hypertension and heart problems. It’s no wonder we are cutting back, as well we should.
But we should be making sure we get enough iodine as we do so, turning back to whole-foods. The table salt we’re using may not have been enough to keep us stocked anyway. A look at iodized table salt shows that most don’t provide the daily dose we need to keep from being deficient.
What symptoms should we expect from iodine deficiency? Goiter, of course, which is the swelling of the thyroid gland in the throat. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can occur when we don’t get the iodine we need, though hypothyroidism is more common with deficiency. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid can’t produce the hormones it needs to and hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid is overly active. Breast cysts, depression, infertility, chronic fatigue, low body temperature, weight gain, heart disease, and a weakened immune system are all common with iodine deficiency.
Too much iodine can also cause problems as it also decreases thyroid function to some degree when you overdo it, but overdose is rare, especially when you get iodine from food sources. Too little has many more side effects and health concerns, especially for children and pregnant women when a lack of iodine can lead to birth defects and mental handicaps. Natural foods are almost always the best way to get the iodine you may be missing as they are safer than synthetic vitamins.
Sea vegetables, natural sea salt like the pink Himalayan salt, garlic, turnip greens, spinach, sesame seeds, strawberries, navy beans, cranberries, and potatoes are good sources for iodine. Choose organic whenever possible to avoid the toxic pesticides that can further interfere with the thyroid. Many fish and seafoods also contain a good deal of iodine for those who are not vegan amongst our readers, but seaweed is really the best sources you’ll find in the ocean. Natural vitamins with organic minerals are an option to help supplement your intake, like Vitamin Mineral Rush and Liquid Light.
As you get enough iodine you will reap some powerful benefits. Iodine balances the metabolism, increases energy, boosts heart health, aids in weight management and healthy weight loss, improves reproductive health, bolsters immune function, and helps with healthy hair, nails, and teeth. Iodine also acts as an antioxidant and detoxifying agent while playing a role in the removal of malfunctioning cells through apoptosis.
Caution: You should not be taking large amounts of iodine at once or over time as this can be dangerous. Over 800 micrograms a day can begin to slow down thyroid function if deficiency is not occurring. The U.S. sets the upper limit at 1,100 micrograms for adults, but you should remain below this. The average adult needs only 150 to 200 micrograms per day and it is best if you get this from diet and food sources if possible. Consult a physician if you suspect your thyroid is not functioning properly and before you add a supplement or alter your diet or lifestyle.
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