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Essential Minerals 3: Iodine

Iodine deficiency has been labelled by the World Health Organisation as “the world’s most prevalent, yet easily preventable, cause of brain damage”. Recent initiatives have done much to eradicate this damaging deficiency from third world countries through iodizing salt.

Here in the U.K, as many as 70% of us are thought to be iodine deficient. This may be due to that fact that the U.K. does not make it compulsory for its salt manufacturers to subscribe to the ionizing programme that has been so effective in other parts of the world. Despite this, there is no good reason why we cannot easily meet our iodine quota with a healthy, balanced diet.

What it does and why we are deficient

Iodine's main function is to enable the thyroid to produce hormones that control numerous essential functions within the body, including the synthesis of amino acids, regulation of digestive enzymes, and proper skeletal and central nervous system development. Iodine also plays a critical role in brain development and even a small deficiency in pregnant women can have serious consequences for the unborn child. It is thought likely that one of the main reasons we are becoming more iodine deficient is the decline in consumption of milk. There are many good health reasons for people to turn away from drinking milk, but as with any major dietary change, there is a certain amount of ‘swings and roundabouts’ going on here. If you decide to cut milk from your diet, it is important to be aware of any nutritional shortfalls that will have to be made up elsewhere in your diet. The foremost of these shortfalls is probably iodine, 50% of which can be found in a glass of milk.

In her book The Iodine Crisis, Lynne Farrow argues that iodine deficiency is contributing to the increase in complex, chronic illnesses that we are seeing today: “Over the last 40 years, iodine levels have declined over 50 percent. The consequences of this decline are severe - including epidemic increases in illnesses of the breast, thyroid, ovaries, uterus and prostate.....Breast cancer rates have risen since the 1970's as iodine consumption decreased and anti-iodine bromine exposure increased...As far back as 1899, the world's best-selling medical textbook, the Merck Manual, cited iodine as the most used substance for tumours...”. Lynne Farrow goes on to explain that “you can't get enough iodine from iodized salt because you can't be sure if you're actually getting iodine - how much or what kind ...When ingested, only 10% of the iodine in salt is absorbable.”

Our bodies require 0.14mg of iodine per day to keep working properly.

Signs and Symptoms of an Iodine Deficiency

Here are some common symptoms of an iodine deficiency. If you think that you may be affected, you should consult your doctor or registered nutritional therapist to have your levels thoroughly and reliably tested. You should also consider including some of the foods listed below in your diet in order to take control of your own nutritional well-being.

  • Dry mouth

  • Dry, cracked or flaky skin

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Muscle pain

  • Digestive issues

  • A swelling at the front of the neck

  • Sudden weight gain

  • Unexplained fatigue

  • Heavy periods

  • Hypothyroidism

How to meet your iodine quota

Our bodies require 0.14mg of iodine per day to keep working properly. The best natural sources of iodine are sea vegetables and oily fish. Unpasteurized dairy products also contain good levels of iodine.

Some of the top-rated foods are:

Dried Kelp - 1 sheet can contain anywhere between 10% and 2000% of your rda (recommended daily allowance). Please check the packaging before buying and remember that excessive iodine consumption can have its own health complications.

  • Cod - 120g = 100% rda

  • Natural Yoghurt - 1 cup = 50% rda

  • Eggs - 1 large egg = 24% rda

  • Corn - 1 cup = 18% rda

  • Tuna - 85g can = 11% rda

  • Lima beans - 1 cup = 10% rda

Should you supplement?

If you are chronically ill and not getting better, it is certainly worth being tested for iodine deficiency. Numerous conditions have been reversed by supplementing with iodine, including thyroid issues, ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breast conditions, breast lumps, allergies, fatigue, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart palpitations, depression, Type 2 diabetes and more. However it is important to seek the advice of an iodine-literate practitioner who is fully versed in iodine testing and supplementing. In The iodine Crisis, Lynne recommends going to the website, which is updated regularly, to find an appropriate practitioner.


It is all well and good obtaining our daily quota of iodine from food, and perhaps even iodised salt. However, iodine-literate practitioners believe it is important to supplement in the case of iodine deficiency. The increase, since the late 1970's, of bromine-related chemicals in products has resulted in exposure to a man-made additive that is causing iodine depletion in human populations. The good news - if iodine deficiency is at the root cause of your health problems, addressing this deficiency may well go a long way to restoring health and vitality back into your life.

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