30BaD FADs: Frequently Added Discussions
Are vegans iodine deficient?
How do I get iodine in my vegan diet?
Can iodine be harmful?
A frequently added discussion and concern here at 30BaD is regarding dietary iodine in the diet. Many people want to know if vegans are at risk for being iodine deficient, what the symptoms of deficiency are, do they need to supplement, and what are good sources of iodine on a low fat raw vegan diet.
This blogpost will provide some basic information and answers to these frequently posted discussions. However, the information provided here is not all inclusive regarding iodine.
What is Iodine?
Iodine is a rarely occurring element in the universe and in earth's crust.
The more commonly know forms of iodine occurring in the earth's crust, soil, oceans, and iodine in food and iodized salt is present in several chemical forms including sodium and potassium salts, inorganic iodine, iodate, and iodide, the reduced form of iodine. Iodine rarely occurs as the element and or gas form, but rather as a salt; for this reason, it is referred to as iodide and not iodine. (1)
For ease of understanding in this blogpost, the commonly understood and general term iodine or dietary iodine will be used.
Iodine is a trace element that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. (1)
Iodine is a trace mineral and a nutrient found naturally in the body. Iodine is needed for the normal metabolism of cells. Metabolism is the process of converting food into energy. Humans need iodine for normal thyroid function, and for the production of thyroid hormones. (2)
Iodine may have other physiological functions in the body as well. For example, it appears to play a role in immune response and might have a beneficial effect on mammary dysplasia and fibrocystic breast disease. (1)
Recommended Iodine Intake
Adolescents and adults need about 150 mcg of iodine a day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women may need more and about 220 mcg a day. (2)
Iodine is an essential mineral, meaning the body is not able to make iodine on its own, and iodine must be absorbed via nutrition or emergency medical supplementation under the supervision of medical professionals. (5)
Iodine Plant Sources
Most plant sources grown on iodine rich soils are good sources of dietary iodine. (1) (2)
Depending on the quality of the soil grown in, on average, a serving of vegetables or fruit could have about 10 mcg of iodine, but sometimes this could go as high as 1000 mcg (1 mg) per serving. (1) (4)
Strawberries are a fruit considered to be a rich source of iodine and 1 cup of strawberries has 13 mcg of iodine. A cup of strawberries is only about 46 calories, so many servings can be consumed.
A head of raw romaine lettuce is equal to about 6-7 90 oz servings and may contain between 20 mcg to 60 mcg of iodine. (1) (5) (6)
Other foods thought to be rich in iodine are pineapple, mushrooms, coconut, and some nuts and seeds such as black walnuts, and hazelnuts.
Although not optimum foods, some lentils and white potatoes are considered good sources of iodine. However, because they are high in oxalate acid, there may also be evidence that these foods could possibly interfere with thyroid function and or uptake of iodine in sensitive individuals.
Iodine Deficiency Symptoms
People who do not get enough iodine cannot make sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. This can cause many problems. In pregnant women, severe iodine deficiency can permanently harm the fetus by causing stunted growth, mental retardation, and delayed sexual development. Less severe iodine deficiency can cause lower-than-average IQ in infants and children and decrease adults' ability to work and think clearly. Goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland, is often the first visible sign of iodine deficiency. (3)
Iodine Deficiency or Thyroid Issues?
Historically, some cases thought to be related to iodine deficiency were actually thyroid issues. The diet was sufficient in iodine, rather, the thyroid may have not been uptaking iodine, and or some other goitrogenic foods in the diet called may have interfered with iodine uptake and assimilation.
If in doubt about iodine deficiency, one should see a medical professional and have a physical and bloodwork done to ensure what the exact problem is, and only take iodine supplements under the care of a medical professional. Never try to self diagnose or self medicate.
Health Risks from Excessive Iodine
Getting high levels of iodine can cause some of the same symptoms as iodine deficiency, including goiter. High iodine intakes can also cause thyroid gland inflammation and thyroid cancer. Getting a very large dose of iodine (several grams, for example) can cause burning of the mouth, throat, and stomach, fever, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weak pulse, and coma. (3)
Iodine supplementation can also interefere with medications one might be taking. (3) (12)
When iodine is used directly on the skin, it can cause skin irritation, stains, allergic reactions, and other side effects. Be careful not to bandage or tightly cover areas that have been treated with iodine to avoid iodine burn. (12)
Unless one is living in an at risk region for low soil iodine and or locally grown foods being low in iodine, iodine deficiency in and of itself is very rare. People who suspect they have iodine deficiency should see a medical professional to rule out other health issues such a thyroid issues and make sure their issues are related to a true iodine deficiency, and or if their symptoms are related to a diet high in goitrogenic foods or substances, and or oxalate acid. Because of risks of irritation and reactions, supplementation should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional and only on an as needed or emergency basis.
Raw fruits and leafy lettuce greens are excellent sources of iodine. Avoid goitrogenic raw foods such as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower and brassica vegetables like kale, chard, and spinach
On a low fat diet, the body is better able to absorb all nutrients including iodine.
This blog is for informational purposes only.
Never try to self diagnose or treat a disease or symptom. Many diseases and conditions have similar symptoms. In case of a medical emergency, seek medical care to get a proper diagnosis.
The medical and/or nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health
provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional
medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site.