Are you getting enough Iodine?

Are you getting enough iodine?

When you hear the word iodine, you may think of the tablets used to disinfect water on camping trips or the yellow liquid used for disinfecting cuts and grazes when we were younger. Or you may just remember it from the periodic table in chemistry class.

Iodine is one of the most important life-sustaining elements. For more than 100 years, it has been known as the element that is necessary for thyroid hormone production. However, it is so much more than that.

Iodine is found in each and every one of the trillions of cells in the body, and responsible for the production of all the other hormones in the body.

It is a powerful antibiotic, and has potent antibacterial, antiviral properties.

It has strong anti-inflammatory effects by neutralising free radicals and is necessary for proper immune system function. Working together with other minerals like Selenium, it has many therapeutic benefits for a range of modern illnesses and diseases.

It is estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that more than half of the world’s population live in an area of iodine deficiency, and that this has risen 400% in the last few decades due to soil depletion and an increase in environmental contaminants that have replaced it.

Our body does not make iodine, so we need to access it from the foods we eat. But if the nutrients are not in the soil to begin with, it cannot be in the food we eat, and this can lead to common deficiencies.

Iodine deficiency in New Zealand

Soil in coastal areas are naturally iodine-rich, as are the dairy products produced by the cows that graze there. Fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables that are grown in coastal areas are also rich in iodine.

Despite being a coastal nation, New Zealand soils are low in iodine, and this is reflected in our locally grown produce.

This can be due to intensive farming, lack of crop rotation and the use of fertilisers. Coupled with changes to our diet, the reduced use of iodised salt in the household, the prevalence of processed foods, many New Zealanders are now lacking important nutrients such as iodine that are key to good health.

The WHO’s research has suggested deficiencies in both Australia and New Zealand are re-emerging, when they were previously thought to be iodine sufficient.

This research suggests that we may be consuming less than 60% of what is recommended. While we all need iodine, it is especially important for women who are trying to fall pregnant, are currently pregnant or who are breastfeeding, as the body demands more during this time due to increased thyroid hormone production, and the requirements of the developing baby.

Research suggests that we may be consuming less than 60% of what is recommended.

Properly evaluating and treating iodine deficiency will help people support thyroid health and immune system function, increase their energy levels, and help improve general health and wellbeing. This can be achieved by some simple changes to their diet or daily supplementation in consultation with their health practitioner. It can be as little as a couple of drops of potassium iodide in a glass of water each day to get you feeling better, and help you avoid some of the common but serious health problems we are seeing today in New Zealand and around the world.

The best results are seen with a holistic approach, and increasing the intake of important vitamins, minerals and electrolytes through a wholefood diet.

The hungry thyroid

The thyroid is often referred to as a ‘hungry’ part of the body, in reference to its high nutritional demands.

This butterfly-shaped endocrine gland surrounds the windpipe and is important for metabolism, regulating digestion and your heart rate. It facilitates energy production and mental agility. The thyroid also helps with fat burning too, by determining how quickly and efficiently kilojoules are burned up, and it assists in the breakdown of proteins. Thyroid function also assists the suppleness and strength of our hair, skin and nails.

Iodine is an essential ingredient in all thyroid hormones, including T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). It is important to maintain sufficient amounts of iodine, and they are required to be synthesised in adequate amounts. In a low thyroid state, known as hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. The metabolic state is therefore reduced which can lead to weight gain.

When the thyroid gland is releasing excess amounts of thyroid hormone, it is known as hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive or elevated metabolic state which can result in fatigue, irregular heartbeat, unexplained weight loss and brain fog.

When you have an adequate intake of iodine, your body contains 20-50g, and 75% of that amount is stored in the thyroid. However large amounts are also stored in other parts of the body, including the salivary glands, the breasts, ovaries, and the brain. In the brain it concentrates in the substantia nigra, the part of the brain that is associated with Parkinson’s disease.

One of the first signs of deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland.

The lack of iodine causes the gland to expand in an attempt to extract as much iodine in the bloodstream as possible. If your iodine intake is low, this will be reflected in low levels of thyroid hormone. You may then experience fatigue, dry skin, constipation, systemic inflammation, a hoarse voice, delayed reflexes and some cognitive impairment.

It is best to consult your doctor or health professional should you identify any of these symptoms. Anybody taking thyroid medication should always discuss their condition with a health professional before taking supplementary iodine.

The role of selenium

Selenium, another important mineral and antioxidant, plays a significant role in regulating thyroid function and iodine metabolism. The thyroid contains more selenium by weight than any other organ in the body.

Selenium is a required component for the production of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which protects the body from damage with antioxidant capabilities.

Without this enzyme, the thyroid gland is susceptible to damage from oxidants, there would be no activation of thyroid hormone without selenium.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women require more iodine.

The need for iodine before pregnancy

The consequences of iodine deficiency are most serious for women who are trying to fall pregnant, who are currently pregnant or are breastfeeding.

Thyroid hormones balance the function and development of the body’s major organs and influence the progress of the developing baby.

Research has shown that a lack of iodine can cause fetal and neonatal mental disabilities and growth problems, along with speech and hearing issues. Cognitive function and neurological development can be impaired when iodine levels are low.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women also require more iodine due to increased thyroid hormone production.

It is recommended that women take iodine supplements from the point of planned pregnancy and through the full duration of pregnancy as well as breastfeeding. Avoid kelp or seaweed supplements as they may be contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury. Multi-vitamin, multi-mineral and pre-natal supplements may or may not contain enough iodine, so it’s best to check.

Women with pre-existing thyroid conditions should always check with their health professional before taking a supplement.

How do I know if I’m deficient?

Under most states of iodine sufficiency, approximately 90% of dietary iodine eventually is excreted in the urine, with exception being the lactating female due to iodine excretion in the breast milk. Because of this, urine is the best biological fluid to use for assessment of deficiency.

If you are concerned there may be deficiency, you could undertake an iodine-loading test, otherwise known as a urinary iodine concentration (UIC) where you take a prescribed dose of iodine, then collect 24 hours of urine to undergo analysis with a health professional.

The principle of this test is that if you’re iodine sufficient, most of the dose will be excreted, and if there is a deficiency present, it will be instead be absorbed by the body.

Can I get enough iodine from salt?

Iodised table salt was implemented in many regions and countries around the world when iodine deficiency was recognised. In New Zealand in the 1920’s, the government allowed manufacturers to voluntarily add iodine to table salt. This was mainly to safeguard against thyroid enlargement (goitre) and the severe mental retardation of cretinism, although the incidence of these conditions was very rare in New Zealand.

Unrefined, unprocessed sea salt is a better option than table salt.

In recent decades we have seen people consume less salt due to health concerns, while some avoid salt entirely. Salt used in processed foods is often non-iodised to save on costs, so is not a source of iodine despite the sodium content.

In recent times we are seeing a prevalence of sea salt, or kosher salt, promoted as a healthier alternative. However, sea salt is a poor source of iodine, and we should look for unrefined, unprocessed sea salt, with some products now enriched with New Zealand sea kelp. The iodine in salt is not very bioavailable in our bodies, it is better absorbed through liquid and food sources. 

Other sources of dietary iodine

It can be difficult to identify sources and the quantity of iodine in most foods. However, it is naturally present in seawater, so therefore seafood is a good source, especially seaweed, shellfish and saltwater fish. It’s also naturally present in soil, and found in eggs and dairy, including yoghurt, cow’s milk, ice cream and cheese.

If you don’t have access to shellfish or other seafood, or if the soil is deficient due to intensive farming, you’ll need to access it from other sources.  

Iodine levels in milk can vary according to the soils in which the animals have grazed and factors such as the groundwater used in irrigation, fertilisers used and the feed for the livestock. Interestingly, organic milk is estimated to contain roughly 30-40% less iodine than conventional milk, owing to alternative processing methods.

It is difficult for most people to obtain adequate iodine by eating foods that are natural sources of iodine.

That said, in 2009, Iodine fortification of bread became mandatory with the exception of organic bread, non-yeast-leavened bread and bread mixes. When salt was iodised in the 20th century, this significantly improved the iodine levels within the New Zealand population, but recently deficiencies have again become apparent, hence the need for the fortification of foods.

Iodine dosage guidelines

There is no single dose of iodine that is effective for everyone. The best approach is working with a health professional that is knowledgeable about iodine.

If you eat seafood and other iodine-rich foods, use iodised salt, take a multi-vitamin or mineral supplement, you may be able to obtain adequate levels.

Recommended daily allowances range from 100-250mcg a day, with the exception of pregnant or breastfeeding women, who may require more than 300mcg per day due to increased hormone production in early pregnancy, increased urinary iodine excretion, and the transfer of iodine to the fetus or the nursing infant when feeding.

Some leading iodine experts suggest significantly larger daily doses, even up to 12mg. In Japan, the average daily intake is 12-13 milligrams due to increased consumption of seaweed and other seafood.

Just 2 drops a day = 255mcg of Potassium Iodide

Summary

Iodine is one the most basic elements of all life on earth, it is present in the ocean, marine life and in every one of the trillions of cells in our body. The role it plays in our everyday wellbeing cannot be overstated. As our bodies can’t produce iodine, there are simple steps we can take to make sure we can rebalance and replenish our mineral levels, and avoid deficiencies.

  • Iodine Liquid Mineral

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References:
Brownstein, MD. D. Iodine. Why You Need It And Why You Can’t Live Without It. 2014
Reader’s Digest. The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals & Herbs. 2000
Schauss, Alexander G. Minerals, Trace Elements, & Human Health. Life Sciences Press. 1995
Kohrle J. The Trace Element Selenium and The Thyroid Gland. Biochimie. 1999
Smallridge RC, Ladenson PW. Hypothyroidism In Pregnancy: Consequences To Neonatal Health. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001
Iodine. Ministry of Health Manatū Hauora Website.
Editors: de Benoist, Bruno. Andersson, Maria. Iodine status Worldwide. WHO Global Database on Iodine Deficiency. World Health Organisation, Geneva. 2004
Ministry of Health Manatū & Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including Recommended Dietary Intakes. 2006, updated 2017.

Remineralise: Put back what’s missing

Woman drinking water with Skybright Concentrated Mineral Drops added.

Remineralise – and put back what’s missing from our food.

Over the past few months, many of us have taken the chance to evaluate our lifestyle and our health and wellbeing, especially with regard to strengthening our immune system and enhancing our ability to fight off infections during the winter months.

Getting enough sleep, exercising often and eating a balanced, whole-food diet are all important factors in nurturing our health, for both mind and body. But often we’re lacking important minerals, that are not present in either the foods we eat, or in the water we drink. 

This is due to intensive farming techniques, which strip these minerals from the soil in which our food grows. If the minerals are not in the soils in the first place, they will not be present in the plants and therefore in the food we eat. Many of us drink filtered or bottled water, which removes the essential minerals and trace elements we need, as well as unwanted pathogens and toxins that make it safe for drinking.

These practices can lead to mineral deficiencies, which then lead to common complaints such as fatigue, irregular heartbeat, depression, and sleep issues. This also ultimately compromises our immune system, and makes us vulnerable to infections and illnesses.

Skybright Remineralise: we need to put back the minerals and vitamins that are missing from our food.
Remineralise: we need to put back the minerals and vitamins that are missing from our food.

The importance of minerals.

In today’s modern, fast-paced society, supplying our bodies with the minerals they require is difficult. The lives we lead often put increasing demands on our stores of the nutrients. The harder we push ourselves, the more we need. In times of stress, our body uses more vitamin B, vitamin C and magnesium and zinc in particular.

Minerals such as such as magnesium, potassium, iodine and selenium are the catalysts for all the vitamins and other nutrients your body uses for developing and maintaining good health.

Every second of every day the human body relies on these minerals and other trace elements to conduct and generate billions of tiny electrical impulses. Without these impulses, not a single muscle, including your heart, or your brain would be able to function.

Think of your body like a circuit board. Ionic minerals conduct electricity throughout the body, bringing energy where it needs to go in order for each cell and system to work. Without these minerals, your heart couldn’t beat, your muscles couldn’t contract, your brain couldn’t function and your body couldn’t absorb nutrients.

The human body cannot produce minerals like calcium and magnesium as they cannot be made by living organisms. We have to obtain them from the food we eat, or the water we drink. Obtaining them from water is optimal, as it helps with the bioavailability of these minerals, enabling them to be more effectively absorbed into our system. 

“Soil is the basis of all human life and our only hope for a healthy world… all of life will be healthy or unhealthy according to the fertility of the soil”

Dr. Alexis Carrel, (1873-1944) winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1912

New Zealand soils and mineral deficiencies.

As a country, New Zealand is still very young, and it has young soils. Where once they were rich in nutrients, our agriculture and farming over the years has stripped the topsoil of important trace minerals and elements. 

With the use of common fertilisers, there has been an increase in the growth rate of foods and an increase in yields, but we’ve also seen a steady decline in the nutritional value of the foods we eat over the past decades. This has lead to well-known deficiencies in our soils, including selenium, iodine, zinc, chromium and boron. 

Up to 91% of New Zealanders are said to be deficient in iodine, an essential trace element that supports energy production and plays an important role in supporting immune function. The biggest groups at risk are pregnant mothers and people with autoimmune issues. You can get iodine from seaweed or miso soup or by simply adding sea salt to your drinking water or sprinkling it onto your food. 

Selenium levels are also low in New Zealand soils. It’s estimated that many of us are only getting as little as 10-20% of the daily amount we require. Selenium is an antioxidant and also supports immune system function, as well as reproductive health, mood, thyroid function and cardiovascular health. Often supplementation is required but you can get it from eating beef, fish or a few brazil nuts.

Zinc is an important trace mineral, especially in New Zealand due to soil depletions. It’s a a powerful antioxidant, and great for skin, eye and hair health. Seafood is a rich source of zinc, as well as red meat. Studies suggest that supplementing with zinc may have the potential to improve immunity in the elderly, and in healthy individuals with marginal zinc deficiencies, supplementation can enhance the immune response, and may reduce the length of the common cold.

Producers are paid on the weight of their produce rather than how mineral rich the vegetables and fruit are. The processing of foods, such as peeling, extracting, heat-treating and early picking for storage and transportation across the country can further diminish the nutrient value in the foods we eat.

Until we are able to put trace minerals back into the soil through regenerative agriculture and sustainable farming, we must look to other methods to obtain the full spectrum of minerals and trace elements that we need for optimal human health.

In our efforts to drink ‘pure water’ this filtration eliminates the harmful substances, but also removes the important trace elements and minerals we need every day.

The water we drink.

Water can and should be a significant source of trace minerals and elements that can maintain our health and wellbeing. 

With concerns about the quality of public water supply in some areas of New Zealand, we often resort to drinking bottled water or filtered water, (reverse osmosis, distilled) which can eliminate virtually every mineral the body requires to maintain good health. In our efforts to drink ‘pure water’ this filtration eliminates the harmful substances, but also removes the important trace elements and minerals we need every day. Reverse osmosis water filters can also harbour harmful bacteria if not adequately maintained.

We need to remineralise.

Eating a plant-rich diet, while essential for good health, isn’t enough on it’s own to provide you with all the minerals and nutrients you need, as modern farming has stripped the soils of its mineral content. This has lead to significant deficiencies across the population which are increasing with our modern lifestyles, added to the prevalence of processed and convenience foods, and an ageing population.

Eat organic and seasonal where you can, eat leafy greens with every meal or at least daily. Grow your own if you have the space at home or shop at local farmers markets to ensure freshness as well as supporting the local producers and economy. 

We are all aware of the need to reduce, reuse and recycle, but with regard to nutrition, we need to rebalance, replenish and remineralise. Minerals and trace elements are vital to our everyday health and wellbeing. We need them to strengthen our immune system, stave off infections and feel more energised.

Adding minerals like sea salt or liquid mineral drops which contain more than 70 minerals and trace elements to your drinking water may be the best place to start to feel good and get back into balance. These little changes are easy to implement into your daily routine and can make a big difference to your health.

  • Zinc Liquid Mineral

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  • Magnesium Liquid Mineral

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  • Performance Electrolytes

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  • Concentrated Mineral Drops

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Sources:
Schauss, Alexander G. Minerals, Trace Elements, & Human Health. Life Sciences Press. 1995
Heinerman, Dr. John. The Uses of Trace Minerals and Elements Found in Concentrace®. 2001
Lauritzen, Rhonda. Minerals and Immune Function. MRI, 2020
Lauritzen, Rhonda. Trace Mineral Deficiency – 9 Facts You Need to Know. MRI, 2020