The health benefits of dietary iodine are not so much ‘benefits’ as they are essential requirements for optimal health. Without sufficient dietary iodine many of our body’s systems and functions (particularly the thyroid) will operate below par, and a prolonged deficiency will cause disease.
Here’s a List of Reasons Why Iodine Is Essential for Health.
- Proper thyroid function – metabolism and cognitive health
- Strong and focused immune system
- Assists with the removal of heavy metals (by chelation) such as lead, mercury and cadmium
- Prevents fluorine, bromine and chlorine from attaching to binding sites within the body, such as the thyroid
- Low iodine levels are associated with various forms of cancer
- Iodine is essential for proper liver, kidney and lymph function
- Iodine helps in breaking down and absorbing complex carbohydrates and fats
- Prevents (and can cure) goiter, and helps to prevent hypothyroidism
- Iodine is important for healthy hair, skin and teeth
- Iodine is especially important during pregnancy for the prevention of stillbirths and various neurocognitive birth defects
There are many more reasons why iodine is essential for health, the above is just a summary of some of the more important ones.
Health Risks from Excessive Iodine Intake
- Can be dangerous for people with kidney disorders or tuberculosis
- Too much iodine can lead to thyroiditis and even thyroid cancer
- Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
- Weak pulse
- Continuous intake above 1.1 mg per day can cause thyroid dysfunction and autoimmune thyroid disease
- Sudden excess iodine intake after long-term deficiency can cause thyrotoxicosis
- Just my personal opinion; but since iodine is such an effective antibacterial agent (often used to sterilise wounds), I would be concerned that it may have a detrimental effect on beneficial gut bacteria.
Again, there are many more risks from excessive iodine consumption (particularly from supplementation, but also potentially from the over consumption of certain seaweeds such as kelp) and I’ve only listed a few of the more serious ones above.
Why I’m Concerned About Supplemental Iodine
Apart from B12 (and possibly omega-3 and ‘vitamin’ D) I’ve tried to move away from all forms of supplementation and I try to meet all of my nutritional requirements from a whole food plant-based diet. I used to be a big fan of supplements but after many years of experience and research I’ve come to the conclusion that the majority offer little or no benefit, and many of them can be extremely harmful.
I believe that iodine is potentially one of the most harmful supplements for several reasons. First of all, there’s a huge number of websites promoting iodine supplementation for the treatment of all kinds of diseases and illnesses, and even recommending it just to boost energy or improve cognition. A common feature of these websites is that they often promote the intake of high doses of iodine (and/or iodide) from 5 mg up to 100 mg in some cases! Another issue I have with these types of pro-iodine supplementation websites is that they tend to give the impression that iodine supplementation is completely safe (a huge red flag!). Also, they generally fail to show any high-quality scientific studies proving any benefits from supplementation. Finally, they often fail to mention the essential dietary cofactors that help with iodine absorption and thyroid hormone production, such as selenium.
This concerns me a great deal, because regular intake over 1.1 mg per day is certainly not safe, and prolonged high doses of iodine can cause serious injuries and disease. I’ve learned this not just from my own research but also from my own experience, since I suppressed my own thyroid (TSH over one hundred) after supplementing with iodine (this after reading the hundreds of glowing reports about its health benefits!). Something which has taken me a long time to bring back under control since ceasing the supplementation several years ago. I’m writing this post to try to prevent other people from suffering the same fate.
Dietary iodine in the correct amount is essential for good health and recovery from chronic disease, but I’m suggesting that supplementary iodine (except in rare cases such as pregnancy and under medical supervision) is potentially very dangerous and is unnecessary. If you have symptoms of iodine deficiency get an assessment/examination from your healthcare provider and ask for a blood test or multiple sample urine test to help confirm the deficiency. Your healthcare provider can then recommend a safe dose to correct the deficiency and also monitor your progress.
In some countries iodised salt is a common condiment, in some countries seafood forms a large part of the diet, and in some countries iodine is still plentiful in the soil (particularly in coastal regions). Elsewhere, whether we eat a standard UK (SUK) diet or standard American (SAD) diet (or a whole food plant-based diet), we need to make a conscious effort to eat some iodine-containing foods such as; potatoes, dark leafy greens, or small amounts of dulse (my favourite). Of course, if you’re not whole food plant-based (or vegan) you can obtain some iodine from seafoods (although this is potentially radioactive iodine) and from dairy sources (though I would recommend against it).
In summary; I will never supplement with iodine again, and based on my experience and a great deal of research, I would strongly suggest that no one should supplement with iodine except under medical supervision. If you do decide to go ahead and follow the advice from a website that advocates excessive iodine supplementation, make sure you check your iodine level with your healthcare provider before you start, and try to monitor it regularly while you are supplementing. Please, just be careful with iodine and/or iodide supplementation, it’s not something to experiment with on your own – it needs careful assessment and monitoring (particularly of thyroid function).
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