by Geoff Rand

Our bodies are wonders of engineering, more complex than any robot or computer we could build.  Just like computers, our bodies sometimes send warning messages or set off alarms to let us know something isn’t functioning properly.  The trick is to figure out what is causing the alarm or effect, and that’s not always easy.

One area of concern in which I recently took notice was thyroid function.  If your thyroid isn’t happy, it lets you know by mucking up your energy levels and limiting glucose consumption, leading to fatigue and weight gain.  Now, thyroid malfunction isn’t the only thing that can cause fatigue and weight gain, but it’s simple enough to figure out if you aren’t giving your thyroid what it needs through either medical tests or analysis of your nutrient intake.

A properly functioning thyroid determines how your body uses energy, makes proteins that affect growth and development, helps control glucose consumption, regulates blood lipid levels, and controls body temperature.  To do all this, the thyroid needs to be supplied with sufficient levels of iodine.  It is recommended that average adults consume 150-300 micrograms of iodine daily.  My measuring spoons don’t go down to micrograms, so to put this in better perspective, one teaspoon of iodized salt contains about 400 micrograms of iodine.

Iodine is naturally occurring in saltwater fish, seaweed, shellfish, cheese, cows milk, eggs, frozen yogurt, ice cream, soymilk, soy sauce, yogurt, and some breads.  Unfortunately, many of the foods on this list are not the best choices if you are looking for optimal fuel and nutrition.

In the early 1900s, there was a pronounced iodine deficiency in certain regions of the U.S., mainly those that had limited access to seafood.  In 1924, the Morton’s salt company began adding iodine to their table salt, which made great strides towards combating these iodine deficiencies.

Another source of iodine used to be wheat flour.  Bread used to be made with iodized flour, however, today’s breads are made with flour processed with bromide, which does not have the same beneficial effect on the body as iodine.

Check your labels carefully.  Many brands make iodized and non-iodized versions of their salt.

Check your labels carefully.  Many brands make iodized and non-iodized versions of their salt.

With gluten fears on the rise, less and less people are eating bread anyway.  Another issue is food labels don’t list whether or not their products are made with iodized salt (they’re usually not).  With many diets proposing reduction in salt intake, along with non-iodized sea salt being so popular, iodine deficiencies are back on the rise, with some estimates putting 74% of Americans suffering from iodine deficiency.

Another contributing factor in which active people should take notice is iodine is excreted through sweat, so it is important to replenish iodine after exercise. 

If you feel like your energy levels are off, or you have weight that just isn’t dropping even with a proper diet, take a look at your iodine levels.  It is an easy adjustment to add a little iodized salt to your food or water.  Give it a few weeks and see if it improves things.  You can also have your doctor check your iodine levels with a urine test.

If you were looking to increase your iodine intake solely through eating ice cream, it’s possible, but not recommended.  Two scoops of ice cream contains about 10 micrograms of iodine.  If you can eat 30 scoops of ice cream in a day, you likely have much bigger problems than iodine deficiency.