Iodine is a mineral, and is one of six trace minerals or ‘elements’ you need for optimal health. The other five are Selenium, Copper, Manganese, Chromium and Molybdenum.
As the term implies, the body only needs a ‘trace’, and their quantity is measured in micrograms (mcgs).
How Does Iodine Effect The Body?
Along with the amino acid ‘tyrosine’, iodine provides an important role in the function of the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is found in the neck, just below the voice box or ‘Adams apple’ and produces thyroid hormones – thyroxine and triiodothyronine.
These hormones are essential to life – they control tissue growth and regulate the function of many other systems your body, including your metabolism, the nervous system, bones and protein syntheses.
Iodine Deficiency Symptoms
An iodine deficiency is extremely dangerous and can have devastating consequences to your health.
Symptoms that may indicate an iodine deficiency in the body include:
- Enlarged glands (Goiter)
- Weight gain
Health conditions that can result through a lack of iodine are:
- Decreased fertility rate
- Increased infant mortality
- Mental retardation
Some populations suffer from a lack of iodine in their diet and as a result their thyroid gland can become enlarged. This is a condition known as endemic goiter. Nearly every case of goiter is due to a lack of iodine in the body.
This condition usually only occurs in countries that do not use iodized salt. Most Western and developed countries all have iodized salt.
However, salt, (iodized or not) comes with its own health warnings. We know for a fact that too much salt or sodium in our diet can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, bloating through excessive water retention, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and osteoporosis.
We are all told to cut down on our salt intake to prevent these conditions, but what can we use instead and how do we get our iodine intake?
Kelp – A Natural Salt Alternative
Iodine can be consumed in foods other than iodized salt, particularly sea vegetables, fish and dairy. Unfortunately not everyone can tolerate dairy and/or fish, and know very little about sea vegetables, let alone eat them.
The good news is that kelp is not only a sodium-free alternative to regular salt; just a quarter of a teaspoon provides you with 100% of your recommended daily intake of iodine.
I’ve been using Sea Kelp Granulesinstead of regular table salt for some time now.
It is cheap to buy, gives me all the iodine I need and is free from the negative effects of sodium.
How Much Iodine Do We Need?
The United States Institute of Medicines has set recommended levels of iodine intake as follows:
- Infants up to 12 months – 110 to 130 mcg
- Children up to 8 years – 90 mcg
- Children up to 13 years – 130 mcg
- Adults – 150 mcg
- Pregnant women and lactating mothers – 290 mcg
- The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for adults is 1,100 mcg/day (1.1 mg/day).
However, many Asian cultures such as Japan, consume large quantities of seafood and seaweed and average well above 150 mcg of iodine per day. They experience no ill effects and have significantly longer life spans.
Although your body only needs a ‘trace’ amount of iodine to keep the thyroid functioning well, just a small deficiency could lead to some serious medical conditions.
Kelp is an excellent source of iodine that is readily available and can easily be added to your diet. It also contains a whole host of other nutrients that benefit your body both inside and out. You can buy kelp in ground form or as a supplement.
If you have any questions or comments regarding kelp and iodine, please drop them below.
- Mayo Clinic – Sodium: How to tame your salt habit now