How to Integrate Iodine into Your Diet for a Happy, Healthy Thyroid

We're all somewhat aware of the importance of incorporating iodine-rich foods in our diet; it helps ensure we have a properly functioning thyroid - right?

Absolutely.

But are you aware of the repercussions that come along with inadequate iodine intake and the adverse effects that raw cruciferous vegetables pose??

These unfavorable outcomes are even more of a threat to those with dietary restrictions such as vegetarianism and veganism, as well as infants, children, and women who are pregnant.

Iodine is only obtained through the diet, mainly from animal-sourced products such as fish and dairy. Placing a restriction on these iodine sources ensures insufficient iodine intake and becomes more detrimental when a key component of the individual's diet consists of raw cruciferous vegetables.

Iodine is also an essential component for proper growth and development of fetuses, infants, and children - which is why increased iodine consumption is required for pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding. Without proper intake, overall growth and brain development can be significantly hindered amongst each of the younger populations.

How does my thyroid work?

So let's start with the basics.

The thyroid gland is a small organ weighing in at only 25 grams, but don't let its small size fool you. This modest little organ packs a mean punch.

The anterior pituitary gland releases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which acts upon the thyroid. The binding of TSH allows the thyroid to produce and release its hormones into the bloodstream to carry out various metabolic activities throughout the body.

These hormones are formally known as triiodothyronine (T3) and tetraiodothyronine (T4) - T3 is the metabolically active form of the two and T4 is essentially its reservoir. Once these hormones are released from the thyroid, T3 begins acting upon the various cells within the body, however, in order for T4 to have any metabolic effect, it must first convert to T3. The location of this conversion takes place mostly in the liver but can also occur in the GI tract and skeletal muscles. The enzyme responsible for conversion is deiodinase, which removes an iodine molecule from T4’s structure making it metabolically active.

Once released and converted, T3 helps regulate energy metabolism, thermogenesis, growth, and development.

The thyroid hormones are also known as permissive hormones, meaning they enhance the secretion and actions of other hormones.

Some of their permissive and regulatory effects direct bone development, fatty acid oxidation, gluconeogenesis, and cholesterol uptake - they even participate in reproductive activities.

Pay attention to iodine rich foods.

So why is it so important to include iodine rich foods in your diet?

Well, first, as mentioned previously, you can only obtain iodine through your diet.

Second, as indicated by their names, iodine plays a critical role in the formation of these hormones. It's one of the two ingredients required for thyroid hormone synthesis.

iodine-rich-sliced-bananas-on-a-plate

After ingestion and before absorption, mechanisms within the GI tract convert iodine into bioavailable iodide (I-) for the body to use as the framework for the thyroid hormones.

The process of converting I- into thyroid hormones begins with the anterior pituitary gland releasing thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH then binds to the thyroid epithelial cells. Upon binding, the I- transporter becomes active, bringing the I- into the follicle which is the location T3 and T4 creation.

To really bring the message home, iodine is so critical for the precise formation of these hormones because it makes up more than half of their composition. 58% of T3's weight is iodine while the iodine composition of T4 is a whopping 65%.

Now that we're all taking this a little bit more seriously let's go through some of the natural, edible sources of iodine.

The foods that have the highest, natural concentration of iodine are saltwater fish, shellfish, seaweed, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.

As you can imagine, this poses an issue for certain dietary restrictions.

Fear not, veggie-centric foodies, due to the natural iodine content in certain coastal soils, iodine can find its way into a handful of fruits and vegetables. These alternatives include lima beans, navy beans, green beans, strawberries, bananas, cranberries, and prunes.

However, the latter doesn't add up to provide a significant source of the daily recommended value (DV) - which is 150 micrograms for teens and adults and 220 micrograms for women who are pregnant.

To make matters more difficult, certain vegetables can interfere with the body's ability to absorb iodine.

Raw cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts contain anions called goitrogens - which are termed for their knack of causing goiters. These goitrogens interfere with iodine uptake which results in lowered thyroid hormone production, a higher level of circulating TSH, and subsequently the formation of a goiter.

The issues that ensue go way beyond goiter formation; hypothyroidism can result - which can lead to obesity, joint problems, infertility, and cardiovascular disease.

Symptoms become more insidious for infants and children due to the role that thyroid hormones play in their growth and brain development.

Low iodine intake and bioavailability is the number one most preventable causation of mental retardation amongst infants and children - so it's imperative for pregnant mothers, mothers who are breastfeeding, and children to have adequate iodine intake.

So what am I supposed to do?

iodine-rich-soft-boiled-eggs-for-your-thyroid

There are ways to inactivate these formidable compounds.

Cooking down foods that have high levels of goitrogens destroys the enzymes that make them bioactive. The goitrogenic potential of a plant or food source depends on the active amount of goitrogen, so no enzymes = no threats.

The best way to go about eating your cruciferous veggies is to blanch and store them in the freezer, if you're using them in smoothies, or simply cook them down.

If you are still worried about the quality of your iodine intake, eating foods that are rich in minerals such as zinc, copper, iron, and selenium all help with the absorption of iodine.

There are also supplements fortified with iodine; however, it is always best to consult your physician before adding supplements to your diet.

An excess of iodine can tip the scale and cause an overproduction of thyroid hormones which can lead to hyperthyroidism, which is a whole beast of its own.

Here at Acufunkture, our functional medicinal approach aims to target the root cause of any issues that arise, and we believe that there can be multiple factors and causations that manifest each diagnosis.

Our practitioners assess every possible factor such as genetics, environment, diet, and lifestyle to evaluate and treat each disease, such as hypothyroidism, effectively.

We will often request extra tests that involve additional hormones and immune markers to get a complete overview of your health. Our intricate analysis model ensures you will get an accurate assessment of your case and a customized treatment plan tailored specifically to your biological needs.

We believe that in order to treat any imbalances, it's imperative to take an integrative approach to sustain healthy energy levels and overall well-being, while simultaneously avoiding common side effects that come along with traditional western medical procedures.

If you are unsure whether you need our assistance with any thyroid related issues, take our quiz or schedule an appointment to see if our Functional Thyroid Support Program is right for you.



Posted in Autoimmune , Functional Medicine , Thyroid , Weight Loss
Kathleen Funk

Kathleen Funk, founder at Acufunkture, is a fourth generation healer and an industry leader in acupuncture for women's health. She received her BA at Baylor University where she studied Philosophy and Medicine and went on to receive her Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine from the American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine.

>