Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapist)
Why do we need Iodine?
Iodine is an essential mineral needed for good health. The body needs Iodine to make the Thyroid hormones known as Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3), which are two of the main hormones produced by the thyroid gland that control numerous important functions in the body, including that of the body’s metabolism, helping to control growth and repairing damaged cells. The body also requires thyroid hormones for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy.
Which foods are naturally high in iodine?
In general, foods from the sea contain the most iodine, followed by animal foods, then plant foods. Of all foods, seaweed (like kelp), is the most well-known and reliable source of natural iodine. Egg and dairy products are also good sources. Bananas, natural yoghurt, milk from grass-fed cattle, prunes, lima beans, green peas, and cheese (such as mozzarella and cheddar) are good choices. If you don’t eat fish, salt, meat, or seaweed, your options are to consider HYPERLINK “http://www.vitabase.com/r-yfrc8/supplements/vitamins-minerals/food-supplements/kelp.aspx” t “_blank” supplements, buy foods enriched in iodine, or ensure that the plant foods you consume come from parts of the world where the soil is rich in iodine.
Importance of Iodine during preconception, pregnancy, and if breastfeeding
There is growing concern from recent studies that many women in the UK are iodine deficient and this could put the unborn child at serious risk of learning difficulties as this mineral is very important during the development of the brain. It is therefore essential to ensure that iodine levels are correct not only during preconception but also during pregnancy and also if breastfeeding. Iodine is particularly important during pre-conception and the first 16 weeks of pregnancy to ensure the healthy development of the baby’s brain. Iodine is also important in the development of the skeleton and metabolism. During the first 14-16 weeks of pregnancy, a foetus is entirely dependent on the mother for its supply of thyroid hormone. Severe iodine deficiency can lead to an extreme disability known as cretinism. This does not necessarily mean that iodine levels need to be increased as too much iodine can also cause problems, but just to ensure that the correct foods (or a supplement if deemed necessary) are being incorporated into the diet (always check if you are unsure with your GP, Qualified Nutritional Therapist or Dietician as tests can be arranged to check levels).
How can Iodine affect fertility?
The thyroid gland can be found at the base of the neck. The thyroid gland produces a hormone called Thyroxine, which is an important hormone as it controls your metabolic rate. Hyperthroidism is a condition whereby too much Thyroxine is produced by the thyroid gland and Hypothyroidism is a condition whereby too little Thyroxine is produced by the thyroid gland. Iodine is an important mineral in women, because it is most highly concentrated in the thyroid, breasts and ovaries. Iodine deficiency may lead to menstrual irregularities, infertility, early menopause, and ovarian diseases. It is also important for men, especially for the prostate gland.
Thyroid gland problems may affect fertility in women in a number of ways including a failure to ovulate and irregular menstrual cycles. Hypothyroidism may also cause a hormone called Prolactin to increase. Prolactin is involved in the production of breast milk and this can also prevent ovulation. Those women with Hypothyroidism are sometimes also diagnosed as having polycystic ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which can also lead to fertility problems.
What are some of the contributing factors leading to low iodine levels (Hypothyroidism)?
Inadequate intake of iodine
Deficiencies in nutrient cofactors needed for the production of thyroid hormones and cell receptors e.g. vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, zinc, copper, selenium, iron, and essential fatty acids
Heavy and toxic metals e.g. lead, mercury, dental amalgams & smoking
Stress – emotional, physical, chronic allergies, infections, anxiety, poor diet and lack of sleep
Autoimmune disease & genetic susceptibility
Overtreatment of hyperthyroidism e.g. surgery, drugs & radiotherapy
Disorders of the pituitary or hypothalamus gland
Top tips on how to support Iodine levels in the body
Include a nutrient-dense diet rich in whole, unprocessed, organic foods, especially plant foods e.g. kelp, fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
Eat 2-3 portions of fish such as oily fish and cod per week
Get a good night’s sleep- aim for 8 hours a night minimum
Reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors
Get your Vitamin D levels checked as low levels of this vitamin may be associated with hypothyroidism and thyroid autoimmune conditions.
Haddock in Tomato and Basil Sauce (makes 4 servings)
400g x 1 can tomatoes or ripe fresh tomatoes chopped
1 large onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic
4-5 leaves fresh basil
2 teaspoons paprika
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan and stir-fry the onion and aubergine. After about 4 minutes the vegetables will start to turn golden but won’t be soft yet, so cover with a lid and let the vegetables steam-fry in their own juices for 6 minutes – this helps them to soften without needing to add any extra oil.
Stir in the paprika, garlic and tomatoes and cook for another 8-10 minutes, stirring, until onion and aubergine are tender.
Scatter in the basil leaves then nestle the fish in the sauce, cover the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes until the fish flakes when tested with a knife and the flesh is firm but still moist. Tear over the rest of the basil and serve with a salad and crusty bread.