The recent earthquake in Japan dealt a shock to the entire world. As the events of this tragedy continue to unfold, I’m immensely saddened by the scenes of loss and moved by the heroism of the nuclear plant workers who press on despite grave risks to their personal health. My heart and prayers are with the Japanese people at this time of unimaginable crisis.
If you’ve been following the news, you’ve probably heard about iodine tablets and potassium iodide as a means of mitigating the effects of radiation. Even as far away as the U.S., some are concerned about potential radiation and wondering if they should take iodine tablets, or at least stock up on them.
And you might be surprised to find out that there is a link between iodine and your bone health. So I’d like to clear the air on this topic by giving you the facts about iodine, your thyroid, and how it relates to your bones.
Should You Take Iodine Tablets?
Potassium iodide is a synthetic drug with potentially serious side effects. Its purpose is to saturate the thyroid with a safe form of non-radioactive iodine in order to prevent the uptake of radioactive iodine. Unless you’re at immediate risk of exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation, taking potassium iodide is unnecessary and potentially risky.
Dr. Chris Urbina, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, stated that “Potassium iodide may have side effects. Using potassium iodide when it is unnecessary could cause intestinal upset (vomiting, nausea and diarrhea), rashes, allergic reactions, soreness of teeth and gums, and inflammation of the salivary glands.”1
Iodine Does Have a Role in the Bone Health Continuum
Iodine (the mineral, not the synthetic drug) plays an important role in thyroid health because it is an essential component of thyroid hormones. That is why it is instrumental in ensuring that your thyroid gland can function properly.
Excessive iodine intake may lead to both hyperthyroidism (an over-active thyroid) and hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid), while a rather severe iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism.
As I write in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, hyperthyroidism has been implicated in excessive bone loss, leading to osteoporosis.2
Keep in mind that thyroid hormone supplementation does not represent an increased risk of developing osteoporosis as long as normal TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels are maintained.
So if you have a thyroid condition or take thyroid medications, check your thyroid hormone levels regularly to insure that you are not above normal levels that could lead to bone loss.
Do Iodine Deficiencies Still Exist?
Most people think that iodine deficiencies were eliminated with the introduction of iodized salt in the U.S., and for a while that was largely true. But events have conspired to bring back the threat of insufficient iodine intake:
- Fluoride and iodine are both halogens, which means they are part of a family of chemical elements that compete with each other for space in your cells. So the fluoride that’s ubiquitous in our water supplies means that less iodine is able to get into your system.3 In the Missing Link, which is a part of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, I give you all the details about fluoride in drinking water and how it harms your bones.
- Many food manufacturers have started to use bromine instead of iodine in baked goods. And bromine is another halogen. So a high bromine intake, reduces iodine levels.
- Some salt manufacturers have stopped adding iodine to their products. (If you follow the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, you know that it’s best to use sea salt, which contains naturally-occurring iodine along with other important trace minerals).
The bottom line is that it’s important to get the right amount of iodine; neither too much nor too little.
So How Much Do You Need?
The recommended daily intake of iodine is shown below:4
- 150 micrograms (mcg) per day for adults
- 90-120 mcg per day for children
- 200 mcg per day for pregnant women
But don’t worry; you don’t have to take iodine supplements to reach the recommended daily dose. It’s extremely easy to get all the iodine you need from ordinary, everyday foods, many of which you are probably eating often anyways. And there’s no need for exotic, often hard to find foods like sea kelp or other sea vegetables.
Which Foods Contain Iodine?
Seafood is an excellent source of iodine, particularly clams, lobster, sardines, cod, sea bass, haddock, and perch.
Almost all packaged/prepared foods contain table salt that’s supplemented with iodine, unless the label specifically says that it contains sea salt.
Other foods that are good sources of iodine include:5
- Feta or Mozzarella cheese
If you have the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, you know that fish, eggs, and cheese are acidifying foods, so you can combine them in the right proportion with alkalizing foods. Potatoes, on the other hand, are alkalizing but only if eaten with the peel, because the minerals with an alkaline ash residue are mostly present in the peel. The rest of the foods in the above list are alkalizing. How’s that for a delicious variety of iodine-rich foods!
What about the Iodine in My Algae-based Calcium?
Some of you have asked whether you’re getting too much iodine in AlgaeCal or other algae-based calcium supplements. According to AlgaeCal’s manufacturer and patent-holder, each capsule of their supplement contains only 4.4 mcg of iodine, and the product itself is made from algae, not from a sea vegetable such as kelp or seaweed. This is important if you take thyroid supplements and have been told not to consume kelp.
As a comparison, a standard serving of seafood contains about 60-70 mcg, one medium potato with the peel contains 60 mcg, an egg contains 26 mcg, and many vegetables contain 30-40 mcg of iodine in a one cup serving.
And for a bone-healthy helping of natural iodine, here’s one of my favorite comfort food recipes:
Vivian’s Baked Potatoes with Fresh Mushroom Sauce
4 medium baking potatoes, unpeeled and thoroughly brushed
Olive oil, as needed
2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 onion, diced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, diced
Extra-light olive oil or your favorite bone-healthy cooking oil, as needed
1 teaspoon rosemary, dried
Sea salt (or regular table salt if you wish to temporarily boost your iodine levels), black pepper, and parsley to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 ̊ F.
2. Pinch potatoes at least six times with a fork.
3. Brush olive oil on potatoes and place directly on oven rack. Place foil or a pan at the bottom of the oven to catch any liquid.
4. Bake for one hour or until done (crispy on the outside).
1. Heat a little oil (just enough to cover skillet) and sauté́ onions for one minute.
2. Add mushrooms and slightly increase heat. Add garlic, spices, and salt.
3. Continue cooking until onions are brown and mushrooms are well-done. Keep warm. When potatoes are ready, spoon sauce over halved potatoes and serve hot. Eat with the peel.
Enjoy in good health!