Iodine: Are You Getting Too Much? Too Little? Or Just Right?

Do you know the secret of iodine? Iodine is not really a secret, but still you may have seen a container of salt and noticed the word "IODIZED" or the words "Contains Iodine". Perhaps you have, and wondered why iodine is added to salt. Well here is a bit of trivia.

Iodine was first added to salt in Michigan in 1924.

The reason for this you ask? GOITER! What is goiter? It's a swelling of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland sits like a butterfly wrapping around your trachea (throat). It's purpose is to produce hormones that control your metabolism. When the thyroid gland swells it can mean the gland is damaged and not producing enough or maybe too much thyroxine a key hormone needed to control metabolism. Goiter can also lead to thyroid cancer.

Incidents of Goiter fell from 30% to 2% in Michigan.

Before the introduction of iodine in standard table salt, about 30% of Michiganders had goiter. This fell to 2% within a year of adding iodine to table salt. Shortly thereafter iodine was added to table salt throughout the United States.

We know that most Americans consume more sodium than is needed for good health and in most cases too much sodium.

Americans consume about 50% more sodium than recommended.

The recommended maximum intake of sodium daily is about 2,300 mg. On average, Americans consumed about 3,400 mg in 2016. So the question remains. If you are a heavy consumer of sodium rich foods such as fast foods and processed convenience foods, are you getting too much Iodine too?

Yet Americans do NOT get too much iodine.

Fortunately, no. You may be taking in too much sodium for the good of your heart, but your thyroid is likely not affected. The reason? Most of the sodium hidden in our food by producers of convenience food does not contain iodine. So this begs the next question. Are you getting enough iodine? And if you are not, should you use iodized salt to make up the difference?

Food manufacturers generally use non-iodized salt.

If you have an iodine deficiency and your diet is heavy with convenience foods, using iodized table salt is probably not your best approach. First, always check with your doctor or healthcare provider to see if you are prone to Goiter or have thyroid hormone deficiency (hypothyroidism) or excess (hyperthyroidism). Second, find other foods to consume that contain iodine. This may be challenging if you live in an area away from the sea shore.

Seafood from oceans and vegetables grown in soil near ocean waters tend to be good sources of iodine.

This also applies to meat from livestock raised in areas close to ocean waters. If you obtain the majority of your food from inland raised livestock and vegetables you may want to consider a multi-vitamin that contains iodine. Only trace amounts are needed so be careful not to over do it. For an adult, the recommended amount is 150 mcg (micrograms). For pregnant women the amount is a bit more at 220 mcg and for breast feeding women the recommendation is 290 mcg daily. Before you take any isolated supplement consider your food sources and the quantity you may be getting from a multi-vitamin. In addition, iodine should be balanced with the mineral selenium. If you over do one then you may cause a deficiency in the other. Both are needed for good thyroid health.

Vegans should consider consuming non-meat seafood such as seaweed or other vegetation grown in sea water or coastal areas.

Other non-livestock foods that have iodine include navy beans, seaweed, and prunes. Remember, as mentioned above, the best sources of iodine containing foods, vegan or not, are those that are raised near coastal waters where iodine is found in sea water.

Remember with iodine too much or too little are both a problem. With iodine it is about getting it just right.

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