What You Need to Know About Iodine

Women are disproportionately affected by thyroid disorders, fibrocystic breast disease, breast pain and ovarian cysts, all of which are symptoms of iodine deficiency. Iodine supports the balanced production of thyroid hormones, as well as the health of breast, and ovarian tissue.

Iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism as well as have implications on fertility. 

What is the most common cause of iodine deficiency?

The most common cause of iodine deficiency is lack of consumption of foods rich in iodine. The body does not make iodine, so it is an essential part of your diet.

“Goiter belt” is a popular term for an inland regions of the United States where goiters (enlargements of the thyroid) were once common due to consumption of foods grown on iodine-depleted soil. Iodine deficiency is a significant public health problem.

How much Iodine does a person need? 

The amount of Iodine you need depends on your age and your lifestyle. Pregnancy and lactation are conditions in which your need for iodine is increased. A reasonable dietary level of iodine is 150 mcg, while the therapeutic dose ranges from 100-1000 mcg daily. 

It is possible for your doctor to check your iodine levels in urine or blood if iodine deficiency is a concern for you. Iodine supports the health of thyroid, breast, ovarian and prostate tissue, to name a few.

Iodine deficiency can present as low thyroid function, as well as ovarian cysts and breast cysts in women. There is a link between iodine deficiency and fibrocystic breast diseases, which sometimes increases a woman’s susceptibility to breast cancer (1). Iodine is naturally present in the epithelial cells that line the ducts and lobules of the breast, and makes them less sensitive to the stimulating effect of estrogen.

What are good sources of iodine in food? 

Iodine is a mineral found in foods including: sea vegetables (kelp, seaweed, sea asparagus), iodized salt, fish, shrimp and egg yolks. Given the right growing conditions, the following vegetables also include iodine: asparagus, jerusalem artichokes, fennel, lima beans, strawberries, spinach, turnip greens and swiss chard.

Japanese women traditionally use kelp in their cooking, which is a rich source of Iodine. This may be one of the reasons that they have roughly one quarter of the breast cancer rates present compared to women in the US.  In animal studies, kelp has been shown to prevent breast tumors (2).

Can you take iodine as a supplement? 

Yes, but it is important to discuss appropriate dosages with your doctor. Supplemental iodine can worsen conditions like hyperactive thyroid and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune attack of the thyroid gland. Side effects of too much iodine are weight loss, insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, acne, headaches, water retention, and metallic taste in the mouth.  Dosages need to be monitored by someone experienced with thyroid disorders. Increasing your consumption of food sources of iodine, like Kelp is the safest option.

  1.  Changes in Dietary Iodine Explains Increasing Incidence of Breast Cancer with Distant Involvement in Young Women
    Jay Rappaport. J Cancer. 2017; 8(2): 174–177.
    Published online 2017 Jan 13. doi: 10.7150/jca.17835
    PMID: 28243321
  2. Kaur, SD.  The complete natural medicine guide to breast cancer.  Toronto:  Robert Rose Inc, 2003, p252.

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