When talking about veganism we often hear about the risks of deficiency of protein, calcium and iron. What about iodine? It’s a micronutrient that we don’t hear often about. We should be aware of this element (not only on vegan diet) as it’s an essential part of our diet and our body does not make iodine.
Why iodine is so important?
Iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and its active form triiodothyronine (T3). A proper concentration of these hormones in the blood is important as they can affect, amongst others the proper development and functioning of ; the brain and nervous system, pituitary gland, muscles, heart and kidneys. Thyroid hormones also regulate the growth and maturation of body cells. In addition, they are involved in cellular respiration and energy production processes. They are necessary to maintain a healthy body temperature. Thyroid hormones also affect the basal metabolic rate ( the energy consumption of the human body at rest to maintain body function). In the case of hyperthyroidism, the metabolism is higher, and in the case of hypothyroidism, its level is lowered. You also need to be aware that that too much iodine in our diet might be dangerous, getting high levels of iodine can cause some of the same symptoms as iodine deficiency, including goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland). High iodine intakes can also cause thyroid gland inflammation and thyroid cancer.
Iodine and losing weight
Sometimes when people are struggling with losing weight on low calorie diet they are asked to check their level of thyroid hormones. Adding more iodine to your diet may help reverse the effects of a slow metabolism, as it can help your body make more thyroid hormones. Low iodine levels may slow your metabolism and encourage food to be stored as fat, rather than be burned as energy. This may lead to weight gain. You can take iodine supplements (just don’t overdose, as mentioned before too high levels of iodine might be harmful) as well to help with weight loss over a period of a few weeks, but if you are concerned about your weight, try to increase iodine in your diet. With a properly working thyroid, many people experience weight loss naturally just by increasing their iodine intake. Your body needs iodine to help maintain normal organ functions.
Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder that can cause hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. With this disease, your immune system attacks your thyroid. The thyroid becomes damaged and can't make enough thyroid hormones. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It primarily affects middle-aged women but can also occur in men and women of any age and in children. First, I'll start with the fact that there are many myths about Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism. In fact, many of them are not scientifically proven (e.g. that you need to eliminate gluten from your diet or that you need to introduce bone broth and coconut fat, opinions that vegan diet might cause thyroid problems). A vegan diet can be beneficial for Hashimoto disease, it just needs to be well balanced with an attention to right level of iodine , zinc, iron, vitamin D, omega 3 and selenium. How much iodine do I need?
The body's need for iodine depends on the age and physiological state of the person. Babies up to 6 months old need 40 micrograms of iodine per day. Babies between 7 and 12 months old - 50 micrograms. The body of children between 1 and 3 years of age already requires 70 micrograms of iodine. Children 4-6 years old need 90 micrograms, children 7-9 years old - 120 micrograms, children 10-15 years old - 150 micrograms. Young people from 16 years of age and adults need 160 micrograms of iodine. The need for iodine increases in pregnant women (180 micrograms) and nursing mothers (200 micrograms). Where I can get iodine from vegan food ?
The main product containing iodine is iodized salt. One teaspoon should contain about 150 μg of iodine. Salting should take place at the end of cooking, as iodine evaporates with steam during cooking. It is worth keeping the salt in a closed container, because iodine tends to evaporate.
Seaweed and iodized water are other major sources of iodine Its content in these products is as follows Powdered wakame - 32 μg/g Whole wakame – 32-115 μg/g Kelp capsules - 1356 μg/g Whole kelp 746-1513 μg/g Whole kombu – 1350 μg/g
Nori 16–43 μg/g Nori is the type of seaweed that is commonly used in sushi rolls, it has a much lower content of iodine. Iodized water – 150 μg/l
Do I need to take iodine supplements?
Pregnant and lactating women (here the need for iodine increases, because it is needed for the development of the child's brain). If you don't take salt or your diet does not contain seaweed, you probably need iodine supplementation. It is worth remembering that the salt contained in food products (e.g. bread) is not iodized. You should also check for thyroid problems or Hashimoto's disease. If so, iodine supplementation can be harmful and can only be done under the guidance of an experienced physician or dietitian.
In areas of iodine deficiency, regardless of diet, the deficiency of this component equally affects the entire population. The amount of iodine in food varies depending on how much is in the soil the plant is grown in. Hence low level of iodine is a problem which can effect both vegans and meat eaters. If you suspect that you might have iodine deficiency just contact your doctor to check it’s level, it’s a simple urine or blood test.