Iodine: A vital nutrient for hormone balance
Hormones are our body’s master regulator. We are beginning to understand the important role that hormone balance plays for optimizing health and vitality. Iodine is a mineral that is crucial for the body to be able to achieve hormone balance. Iodine is found in every cell in our bodies and is especially concentrated in our endocrine glands. Iodine deficiencies can contribute to conditions such as polycystic ovarian disease, fibrocystic breast disease, prostate disorders, thyroid conditions, autoimmune diseases, abnormal blood sugars and diabetes.
Iodine is best known for its role in proper thyroid hormone production. Signs of a poor functioning thyroid include puffiness, edema, dry skin, cold extremities, thick tongue, constipation, loss of hair, weight gain, fatigue and slow reflexes. Those with iodine deficiencies have an increased incidence of autoimmune thyroid conditions like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Some people who take thyroid medication can continue to feel ill, even when their thyroid hormone blood levels appear normal. Identifying iodine deficiency and supplementing to appropriate levels will often improve symptoms of hypothyroidism (low thyroid). Many people report clearer thinking, better sleep and improved energy after taking iodine supplements.
Iodine affects more than just the thyroid. It has also been studied as an important nutrient for those with blood sugar problems dysregulation. Research is showing iodine to be a promising therapy for those with diabetes and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Recent research revealed a dramatic improvement of hemoglobin A1c and blood glucose levels for those who were deficient and received iodine supplementation. The women in the study also had a reduction in ovarian cysts and a regulation of periods.
Iodine is found naturally in seafood and seaweed. It was once thought that the addition of iodized salt to the food supply would be adequate. However, this does not appear to be enough iodine for optimal hormone function. In addition, exposure to other chemicals in our environment such as chloride, bromide, and fluoride block iodine in the body. In fact, when first taking iodine supplements, the body can go through a detoxification reaction with symptoms such as nausea or headaches as these chemicals are released.
Fortunately, there is a way to test your Iodine levels. The Iodine loading test is done by giving a large loading dose of iodine and then testing how much iodine is excreted into the urine. A body deficient in iodine will quickly absorb the iodine into the tissues and less will be passed into the urine. The target therapeutic goal is to have 90% of the iodine pass into the urine indicating that the tissues have enough iodine to perform optimally.
When supplementing iodine it is best to use a supplement that contains both iodide and iodine. These two different forms of iodine accumulate in the tissues differently. We prefer a brand called Iodoral™, a potent high quality iodine supplement that is generally well tolerated. A typical dose of Iodoral™ to maintain healthy iodine levels is around 12.5mg. This is close to the 14mg of iodine that the Japanese consume when eating a traditional diet rich in seafood and sea vegetables.
As Naturopathic physicians we treat many patients with hormone imbalances. We are fortunate to be able to use a wide variety of evidenced based testing as part of a comprehensive evaluation of hormone related conditions. Iodine testing and replacement is an easy and simple therapy to help the body achieve hormone balance. However, it is possible to get too much iodine. Before starting iodine replacement we recommend consulting with a physician knowledgeable in the use of iodine testing and prescribing iodine therapy.