Each and every one of our cells requires iodine to function optimally, and insufficient dietary iodine leads to all manner of health complaints. The World Health Organisation (WHO) established the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for iodine at 150µg in 1924. However, this allowance has not been reassessed or readjusted since, and unfortunately it does not reflect modern findings. In his book, Iodine - Why You Need It. Why You Can’t Live Without It, David Brownstein, MD suggests that not only are we not consuming enough iodine daily, but that the toxic halides we consume and absorb from our environment inhibit iodine uptake by body tissues. According to Brownstein, around 96 percent of the population test poorly for iodine sufficiency; we therefore have a problem of epidemic portions.

In 2017, we know a lot more about this mineral and how the body uses it. Our soil and our animal products (eggs, dairy, meat) lack iodine (unless the farmer specifically adds this mineral to his land or to animal feed.) We are now exposed to halides, environmental toxins (chlorine, fluoride, bromide) and other goitrogens such as the Brassica vegetables that interfere with the binding of iodine in the body (when eaten raw). While there has been mandatory iodine fortification of bread in Australia since 2009, many people avoid grains to minimise digestive, immune, and excess-weight issues. Iodised salt is available to us, but this is primarily a refined, devitalised product which is not good for our general health, so we have therefore reduced or eliminated it, or replaced it with rock or sea salt - which are low in iodine. In short, we are trying to operate on an unrealistic iodine budget. Not only does this mean that a great majority of us feel generally sluggish, but we may also put ourselves at risk of acquiring hormone-sensitive cancers (thyroid, breast, ovarian, endometrial, and prostate).

Supplementation to the rescue!

Unless we eat a diet plentiful in fresh seafood (farmed salmon excluded), and make sure we slightly steam our Brassica veggies before eating them, then supplementing with iodine is the only practical option. This mineral is not only important for correct thyroid functioning, and helping to protect us from certain types of cancer, but it is also used to correct a whole plethora of seemingly unrelated health conditions, like fibromyalgia, migraines, and sex-hormone imbalance. Iodine is particularly helpful for women’s health in the following areas: breast health, natural fertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), irregular and heavy periods, vaginal infections, and low sex drive.

It’s important to work with a knowledgeable and experienced heath practitioner to firstly establish an iodine insufficiency through the gold-standard testing procedure (an iodine-loading test). If you’re not careful or if you’re inexperienced in the use of supplemental iodine, you could exacerbate a current health condition, or induce a detoxification reaction (headaches, fatigue, muscle aches), or experience distress in your body (sweating, feeling nervous, heart palpitations).

Lisa Fitzgibbon is a qualified, experienced and registered naturopath and medical herbalist who runs her own practice, OOMPH, in Grey Lynn, Auckland, NZ. Contact: