Iodine – Beyond the Salt Shaker: Heads Up To Vegetarians In The Goiter Belt

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Do you live in the goiter belt? Are you vegetarian? Have you switched to sea salt or do you avoid salting your food for health reasons? Iodine intake might be more relevant than you think. Here, we’ll explore the real benefits of taking iodine supplements and when it might be a good idea for you.

What Is Iodine?

Iodine is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in the production of thyroid hormones. Your body can’t make iodine, so you have to get it from your diet. Foods rich in iodine include seafood, dairy products, and iodized salt. Your thyroid gland uses iodine to produce thyroid hormones that control various bodily functions, including metabolism, temperature, and even heart rate. Children need iodine for normal brain development.

For those who don’t get enough iodine through food alone, iodine supplements offer an alternative way to meet this important nutritional need.

What Are the Benefits of Iodine?

  • Fetal and Neonatal Development: Adequate iodine during pregnancy is critical for the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system, decreases the risk of stillbirth and infant mortality, and prevents cretinism, which is characterized by stunted physical and intellectual growth. [*]
  • Thyroid Function: Iodine is crucial for the production of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism, affecting energy levels and body temperature. Not enough iodine can cause hypothyroidism with symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and feeling cold. [*]
  • Cognitive Development and Function: Necessary for the development of the brain and nervous system, especially during pregnancy and early childhood, iodine is linked to better cognitive outcomes in children. Its deficiency may result in learning difficulties and reduced mental function. [*]
  • Preventing Iodine Deficiency Disorders: Iodine supplementation can prevent conditions like goiter—an enlarged thyroid gland—and other disorders associated with inadequate iodine, including various developmental abnormalities. [*]
  • Breast Health: It may influence breast tissue health and help manage symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease, leading to less painful and lumpy breasts. [*], and in reducing the risk for breast cancer. [PMC5327366]
  • Immune System Support: Iodine plays a role in the body’s defense mechanisms, boosts antioxidant activity, and supports detoxification, all of which are vital for a well-functioning immune system. [PMC7865438]

Who Might Need an Iodine Supplement?

  • Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women: During pregnancy and breastfeeding, women need more iodine to support fetal and newborn brain development. Adequate iodine levels are essential to prevent developmental issues and congenital hypothyroidism in babies.
  • People Living In Iodine-Deficient Areas: Those who live in areas with iodine-depleted soil may not get enough iodine from local food and may not use iodized salt. Supplementation can prevent iodine deficiency disorders such as goiter and hypothyroidism.
  • Vegetarians and Vegans: Since plant-based diets can lack sufficient iodine, especially if foods like seaweed are not regularly consumed, vegetarians and vegans could need a supplemental source of this nutrient.
  • Individuals with Certain Health Conditions: Conditions that affect the thyroid, gastrointestinal tract, or overall nutrition absorption might necessitate iodine supplements to ensure adequate levels for thyroid hormone production and metabolic balance.

How Do Thyroid Disorders Affect Iodine Needs?

Thyroid conditions can greatly influence the body’s needs for iodine since this mineral is a key component of thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism.

  • Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is a common cause of hypothyroidism because without enough iodine, the thyroid cannot make enough of these hormones. In such cases, increasing iodine intake, either through diet or supplements, can help manage hypothyroidism. However, if the hypothyroidism is not due to iodine deficiency, extra iodine may not help and could potentially worsen the condition.
  • Hyperthyroidism: In contrast, hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone. In cases of hyperthyroidism, excess iodine can worsen the condition, as the thyroid may use the additional iodine to produce even more thyroid hormone.
  • Autoimmune Thyroid Disease: Conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (leading to hypothyroidism) or Graves’ disease (leading to hyperthyroidism) can affect how the body uses iodine. People with these conditions must be cautious with iodine intake, as it can trigger or worsen symptoms.

Because thyroid conditions can change how the body uses iodine, it’s crucial for people with these conditions to have their iodine status and thyroid function monitored by healthcare professionals. Adjustments to iodine intake should be made based on medical advice to avoid worsening any thyroid-related issues.

How Much Iodine Do We Need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iodine for adults is 150 micrograms per day. The RDA is defined as the amount considered sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98%) healthy adults. However, intake can vary widely based on dietary habits and the use or avoidance of iodized salt. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for iodine for adults is set at 1,100 micrograms per day. This is the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects in the general population. Intakes above this level could increase the risk of hyperthyroidism and other iodine-related health issues.

Food Sources of Iodine

Food SourceAmount of Iodine per Serving
Seaweed (1 gram)66 – 235 mcg
Cod (3 ounces)99 mcg
Iodized Salt (1/4 tsp)71 mcg
Tuna (3 ounces)17 mcg
Shrimp (3 ounces)35 mcg
Dairy Milk (1 cup)56 mcg
Eggs (1 large)24 mcg
Turkey Breast (3 ounces)34 mcg
Yogurt (1 cup)75 mcg
Cheese (1 ounce)12 mcg
Please note that the numbers are approximate and can vary depending on a variety of factors.

Are Iodine Supplements Safe?

Iodine is safe for most people when taken in appropriate amounts, either through diet or supplements. It’s a naturally occurring element that our bodies need for essential functions like thyroid hormone production. When you stick to recommended daily doses, iodine has a low risk of side effects. However, excessive iodine supplementation can cause hyperthyroidism.

Medication Interactions with Iodine

  • Antithyroid medications: Antithyroid medications, such as methimazole (Tapazole), are used to treat hyperthyroidism. Taking high doses of iodine with antithyroid medications can have an additive effect and could cause hypothyroidism.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors: Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, such as benazepril (Lotensin), lisinopril (Prinivil and Zestril), and fosinopril (Monopril), are used primarily to treat high blood pressure. Taking potassium iodide with ACE inhibitors can increase the risk of hyperkalemia (elevated blood levels of potassium).
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics: Taking potassium iodide with potassium-sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone (Aldactone) and amiloride (Midamor), can increase the risk of hyperkalemia.

Supplement Interactions with Iodine

  • Selenium: Taking selenium with iodine may improve thyroid function, but excessive amounts of both can be harmful.
  • Calcium: High doses of calcium may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iodine, potentially reducing its effectiveness.
  • Iron: Iron and iodine both contribute to thyroid health but taken together may interfere with each other’s absorption.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium can potentially affect the efficacy of iodine in regulating thyroid hormones.
  • Zinc: While both are crucial for thyroid function, zinc may inhibit the body’s ability to absorb iodine when taken together.
  • Copper: Copper may interact with iodine, affecting thyroid hormone levels, though more research is needed.
  • Vitamin C: High doses of Vitamin C may increase the excretion of iodine from the body, reducing its availability.
  • Folic Acid: Folic acid and iodine both play a role in pregnancy and development, but excessive amounts of one may affect the metabolism of the other.
  • B Vitamins: Some B vitamins like B12 are important for thyroid function but may interact with iodine absorption if taken together.

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Iodine (Potassium Iodide) by Pure Encapsulations70533

  • Supports healthy thyroid function*
  • Supports formation of thyroid hormones*
  • Made with hypoallergenic, vegan ingredients

Iodine is designed to provide natural support for the thyroid gland and helps to maintain healthy cellular metabolism. Iodine is absorbed by the thyroid gland and supports the formation of thyroid hormones.*

*Iodine is absorbed by the thyroid gland and supports the formation of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones have the ability to cross cell membranes, thereby supporting all cells of the body. In the cell, they promote metabolic function by enhancing mitochondrial activity and enzyme synthesis, especially in tissues and organs such as muscle and the liver.

Pure Encapsulations Iodine provides natural support for the thyroid gland, helping to maintain healthy cellular metabolism.

Take 1–2 capsules daily, in divided doses, with meals.

Serving Size: 1 vegetarian capsule

Amount Per Serving
Iodine … 225mcg (as potassium iodide)


Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

To Sum It Up

Iodine plays a critical role in maintaining healthy thyroid function and is essential for cognitive development, especially in pregnancy and infancy. While iodine is available in various foods, certain populations, such as vegetarians and those who avoid iodized table salt, can easily fall short of their daily needs. This risk is greater for those living in northern regions of the US known as the ‘goiter belt,’ where the soil and, consequently, the food supply is naturally low in iodine. Supplementing with iodine can be a vital strategy to ensure adequate intake, supporting overall health, and preventing the negative outcomes associated with deficiency.


This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.


About the Author

Stephanie Figon, MS, RDN, LD

Creator of Supplement Sciences and NutriScape.NET. As a dietitian since 1992, Steph has had experiences in consulting, 15 years in clinical, and has operated a private practice nutrition counseling office for since 2011. Log in to comment and save this article on your board or send your comments to reviews@supplement-sciences.com

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