Iodine – Essential for healthy growth

Iodine, Hashimoto’s Disease and Veganism

Iodine is one of several nutrients that is seen in deficiency in vegetarians, especially vegans, due to the lack of animal products, primarily fish and seafood, in the diet.  So why is iodine so important and what are some non-animal food sources of iodine?  Not only that… what the heck is Hashimoto’s Disease?

What is iodine?

Iodine is a mineral found in seafood, dairy products, eggs, and iodised salt and is essential for the production of thyroid hormones.  The thyroid gland is found in the neck and regulates some very important functions in our bodies such as metabolism, energy production, growth and development.  Iodine deficiency is a global problem that is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation in children and is more prevalent in developing and third world countries.   There has, however, been an increase of iodine deficiency in developed countries, such as Australia, especially in pregnant and lactating women where is it essential in the healthy growth and development of foetuses and children.  In fact, 50% of Australian women and children have been shown to be iodine deficient.

Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos Disease

Problems can occur over the long term with insufficient iodine intake causing hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and goitre which is when the thyroid enlarges, trying to produce more and more hormones to keep up with our metabolic needs.  Hashimotos disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system cells attack the thyroid gland causing inflammation and destruction of the thyroid tissue which reduces the thyroids ability to produce thyroid hormones.  It is also a common cause of hypothyroidism.  Without thyroid hormones our metabolism slows down which affects our energy production causing fatigue and poor memory.  Other symptoms can include dry skin, weight gain, constipation, depression and more.

How much Iodine do we need?

The daily iodine requirements vary according to gender, weight, age and other factors such as pregnancy.  So rather than include a large section on how to calculate the needs for each group, let’s look at maximum safe levels.  If you are taking supplements, read the label and check that you don’t exceed more than 2000ug per day for adults and 1000ug per day for children as too much iodine can cause a different set of issues, primarily an overactive thyroid.

Iodine for Vegans

If you prefer getting your nutrients from food sources, then a non-animal source of iodine is Kombu which is a type of kelp.  It is generally bought as sheets so simply break off one quarter of one sheet and add it to your soups, stocks, stews, casseroles and other meals that require slow cooking.  A range of nutrients found in the kelp, including iodine, will seep out in to your meal giving you an extra boost of nutrients.  Remove the kombu before serving and discard.  You can eat the kombu if you wish, but it is best cut into very thin strips after cooking.

If you have any questions or concerns about hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, thyroiditis or thyroid symptoms, then get in touch with us or your GP for further testing.  A simple blood or urine test can determine if you have healthy levels of thyroid hormones in your body.

Written by Lisa Stegena, Nutritionist

Nutrition Force is a Western Australian based company of Nutritionists and Accredited Practising Dietitians that offer weight loss programsprivate dietetic consultationschildren’s nutrition & dietetics,  school nutrition and  Corporate Wellness programs.  If you would like more information on our Perth Dietitians and the other services we offer call us today on (08) 9385 7755.

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We have clients travelling for over three hours to come and see us for a range of dietary and health related conditions.  We also receive referrals from over 150 GP’s and specialists throughout WA for those on health care plans and with more complicated health conditions.

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