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Iodine and Seaweeds – Why Iodine is Essential and Why To Get it From Seaweeds

Iodine and seaweeds
Seaweeds offer the highest natural source of iodine.

Learn all about iodine and seaweeds – why iodine is essential, what happens if you don’t have enough, where to get iodine from and why we believe adding seaweed to your diet offers the best natural, bioavailable source of iodine, rather than taking iodine supplement,or eating foods which have been chemically fortified with iodine.

What Is Iodine and Where Does It Naturally Occur

Iodine is an essential elemnt which means that we must get it from our diet as it cannot be synthesised by the human body.

Iodine is a relatively rare element of the earth (ranking 62nd in abundance of all the elements of the earth) and is primarily found in seawater in small quantities and sold rocks (usually near the ocean), as well as in seaweeds. Seaweed is hailed as the most abundant source of iodine because seaweed has the ability to concentrate large amounts of iodine from ocean water.

Why Is Iodine Essential?

thyroid image
The Thyroid gland produces hormones essential for optimal health. (Image from niddk.nih.gov)

Iodine is found in all our cells, concentrated in the glandular system. It is not only neccessary for the produciton of thyroid hormone (thyroxine, which controls the way certain cells work), it’s also respondible for all the other hormones in the body so can impact imune system functioning, the growth of bones, nerves and how proteins and carbohydrates are used in our bodies. Iodine contains potent antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral and anticancer properies. normal growth and for the development of the brain

Iodine is important before birth and in babies and young children. It is essential for the development of the brain and nervous system, the 5 senses, alertness and coordination.

How much Iodine Do I need Daily?

Recommendations for daily intake of iodine varies significantly by country* but we use these guidlines, published by the Australian Ministry of Health, to influence the information we put on our packaging around serving suggestions and at what level we place iodine warnings on packaging. Each person is unique so it’s best to consult a medical professional about your own health situation before embarking on any dietary changes.

What are Good Sources of Iodine and Why is Seaweed So Special?

Iodine and seaweeds are often synonymous in conversations to the point where people think all seaweed offers is iodine! Seaweed is without doubt the best natural source of iodine, especially Kombu, Kelp, Wakame, Nori. Seaweed has a unique ability to absorb concentrated amounts of iodine from the ocean. The concentration of iodine varies by seaweed species ,as well as when it was harvested, how it has been dried. In fact, one serving of a seaweed like Kelp can contain over 600% of recommended daily intake of iodine and one of our seaweed blends may have as little as 10% iodine. Not all seaweeds are equal – each is unique so do investigate the iodine level of each seaweed you may be interested in, specifically if you have thyroid concerns!

Seaweed also contains an amino acid called tyrosine, which is used alongside iodine to make two key hormones that help the thyroid gland do its job properly. Seaweeds and iodone go hand in hand and if you are looking to increase your iodine intake seaweed is a great place to start!

Other sources of iodine include fish, shellfish, some commercially prepared breads made with iodised salt, dairy and eggs.

Iodine and Seaweeds – Eating More Seaweeds!

The easiest way to start is simply replace table salt with kelp salt.  Read our popular blog articles for more ideas:

Top 10 tips for eating seaweed

Why eat seaweed?

What’s the Number 1 Best Seaweed to Eat?

Thyroid Sensitivities – A word of Caution with Seaweeds

An iodine deficiency can develop in people who avoid all dairy products, seafood, processed food, and iodized salt. The Australian Thyroid Foundation claims that more than 50% of children and pregnant or breastfeeding women living in Australia have been shown to be iodine deficient, and are at risk of developing thyroid disease.

The functional state of the thyroid is lowered if iodine levels are low in the body, this deficiency can also induce goiter and cretinism in such individuals. These days, most western countries do not have iodine deficiencies as a health concern in a significant way, and such deficiencies are rare, but severe iodine deficiency can result in mental deficiency, deafness.

Without sufficient iodine to make hormones, you may start to notice symptoms such as fatique, weight gain (or loss), inability to lose weight, dry skin, brittle nailes, hair loss to name a few. This may indicate a condition or disease known as hyperthyroidism – a visit to your doctor and a blood test will be the fist step to take to give some clues as to what is happening in your body. In this condition, the body’s metabolic rate runs too fast and metabolism is rapid compared to the normal rate, this situation in the body may be comparable to an overheated engine in an engine. In this situation, we would suggest you do not eat seaweed until you have consulted a healthcare professional for tailored medical advice.

Conversely, the secretion of too little of the thyroid hormone will lead to the opposite – hypothyroidism – characterized by the sluggish performance of metabolism in the body. The appearance of the symptoms in both of these different but related conditions is very sometimes rapid, and sometimes gradual, the symptoms may be mistaken for the signs signaling long term mild depression. In this instance, it may be recommended that you increase consumption of seaweed to ensure you are able to access a larger amount of bioavailable iodine.

*An Interesting Case Study – Japan, a Country with High iodine intake and low breast cancer and goiter

It’s estimated that mainland Japanese ingest approximately 13.8ug of iodine today which is significantly higher than Australasian suggested RDIs (recommended daily intakes). They receive much of their iodine from the seaweeds which are central to their daily diets and have concentrated, bioavailable levels of iodine. They also happen to have remarkably lower levels of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancers. As Japanese have started to embrace western diets in recent years, their incidence of these diseases has increased significantly.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog article is intended to inspire and inform. It has been gathered after years of working with this amazing seaweed. It is not a replacement for personalised medical advice. Please consult a healthcare practitioner if you require tailored health advice.

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