Good health is often about proper balancing.  This is especially true when it comes to thyroid function which can become unbalanced in a variety of different ways.   Seesaws are built to balance weight, and a little weight added in the right place at the right time may help balance the seesaw, but adding too much weight in the same spot can make the seesaw unbalanced.

In a similar way, everyone needs iodine to make thyroid hormones  (iodine is also very important in breast tissue [70% improvement in fibrocystic breast disease](1) and other tissues of the body).  On the other hand, iodine can sometimes cause difficulties in some people.  Iodine deficiency is the single most cause of preventable mental retardation in the world.   In 2008, a big study (NHANES)(2) showed that 8.8% of Americans are deficient in iodine.

Iodine is usually tolerated very, very well and helps many people enjoy feeling well with plenty of energy.  Iodine deficiency often causes low thyroid function, but it can also lead to hyperthyroidism (toxic nodular goiter) in some people. Therefore, preventing iodine deficiency can also prevent some instances of low or high thyroid function.

Iodine is not stored well in the body but we have to have a small amount on a regular basis.  How do you get yours?  Do you use iodized salt?  Many people are cutting back on their salt intake, and many are using sea salt that doesn’t have much iodine.  Many countries have adopted the use of iodized salt as a way to combat iodine deficiency.

Some doctors are concerned about giving iodine because a few studies have shown that the incidence of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis tends to increase in countries that have begun iodizing salt.  This leads some doctors to be concerned that increasing iodine may worsen autoimmune thyroid disease in some patients. A recent study (3) showed that this effect of iodine is eliminated when patients are given adequate amounts of selenium at the same time.

Iodine displaces thyroid toxins such as bromine, fluorine, and chlorine. Iodine is wonderful for nourishing and supporting the thyroid gland. It’s critical for all of us to get adequate amounts of iodine in our diets and taking an iodine supplement is a good way to do it. If we are taking iodine, it’s also prudent to make sure we are getting adequate amounts of selenium as well and taking a supplement with both iodine and selenium is a good way to go.

1. Ghent WR, Eskin BA, Low DA, Iodine replacement in fibrocystic disease of the breast. Canadian Journal of Surgery [1993, 36(5):453-460]
2. Kathleen L. Caldwell, Amir Makhmudov, Elizabeth Ely, Robert L. Jones, and Richard Y. Wang. Thyroid. April 2011, 21(4): 419-427.
3. Xu J et al. Supplemental Selenium Alleviates the Toxic Effects of Excessive Iodine on Thyroid. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2010 Jun 2.