In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University at Surrey are suggesting that those who drink milk alternatives (such as almond, hemp, soy, rice, oat, hazelnut or coconut) instead of cow’s milk (a good source of iodine) may be iodine deficient as a result. (1,2)
According to this study, published in October 2017 in The British Journal of Medicine, on average, the milk alternatives had just 1.7 to 2 percent of the iodine content of cow’s milk. (1)
While iodine deficiencies are becoming less prevalent, women of childbearing years and those on restrictive (healthy) diets are still at risk. (1)
Iodine is important during pregnancy as it is essential for normal fetal brain development. Previous research at the University of Surrey has shown that low iodine status in pregnant mothers is linked to lower IQ and reading scores in their children. (1)
During pregnancy and lactation, there is more iodine in the breast tissue than found in the thyroid, suggesting that iodine is an important nutrient for child development.
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Today, many health-conscious individuals may not be getting their iodine needs met. Avoiding iodized salt, milk, fish and seaweed may be putting them at risk.
Many people have stopped eating fish for fear of mercury exposure, stopped seaweed due to potential radiation accumulation, replaced iodized salt with sea salt or another natural salt, and have replaced cow’s milk with milk alternatives.
In one study, iodine deficiency was noted in 25% of vegetarians and a whopping 80% of vegans. (4)
If you fall into any of these categories, consider getting your iodine levels checked. Most labs do a simple urine test, but this can easily be skewed because of what you may have eaten the night before.
For an accurate iodine test, I suggest a challenge—an at-home urine test for iodine. Urine is collected for 24 hours after taking an iodine supplement. Normally, the body will effortlessly excrete 90 percent of the iodine out through the urine. Excreting less than this can suggest the body is deficient, and iodine supplementation or dietary changes are indicated.
The Iodine Dosage Debate
There is ample evidence that the recommended daily allowance for iodine currently set by the FDA (150mcg/day) is adequate, according to the National Institutes of Health. (2) It should be noted, however, that in the same report, there is ample evidence that higher dosages are generally well-tolerated and have additional health benefits. (2)
Other studies suggest that the FDA’s current iodine guidelines were set to prevent pathologies, and higher dosages may support health in ways the current standards do not. (3)
Seaweed, for example, is a mainstay in many Asian diets and is suggested to support their excellent prostate and breast health.
Many Asian cultures today consume 25 times more iodine than found in western cultures. (3) Other studies suggest that higher dosages of iodine at least 3 mg/day may, in addition to supporting healthy breast and prostate tissue, act as a whole body antioxidant and support healthy nervous system, thyroid, pancreatic, and gastric function. (3)
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Iodine and Detox
It is well-known that increased exposure to estrogens from plastics, a toxic environment, and synthetic Hormone Replacement Therapy can have increased health risks. Optimal iodine levels have been shown to decrease cellular responsiveness to estrogen. Iodine may also balance the concentration of estrogens in the body by building the amount of good estrogen (estriol) and decreasing the less beneficial estrogens (estrone and estradiol). (3)
Studies also found that iodine supplementation may significantly increase in the urinary detoxification of both fluoride and bromide, (6) thus taking a significant toxic load off the thyroid.
In one study, only one day after supplementing with 50 mg of iodine, urinary excretion of bromide increased by nearly 50% and fluoride excretions increased by 78%. (5)
My current recommendation for iodine is to take between 1-3 milligrams per day. Based on the cleansing effect of higher dosages of iodine, I suggest taking a 12 milligram iodine supplement once every 12 days to get 1 milligram a day, and every 4 days to get 3 milligrams a day.