Local Sources of Iodine Can Offset Deficiency

Town News

By Lura Jackson

Do you have fatigue, pain, depression, cognitive decline, weight gain, breast tenderness, or cysts? The cause might be as simple as iodine deficiency, an epidemic that has spread dramatically and quietly over the past four decades in America.

Iodine is commonly associated with the thyroid gland, and perhaps the most familiar malady associated with a lack of it are goiters. Not everyone realizes how much iodine affects the rest of the body. Iodine is considered to be a “critical micronutrient” by nutritionists for the role it plays in regulating the body’s entire hormonal system, which is why a lack of it can make us tired, overweight, or ill in many different ways.

A lack of iodine can be particularly harmful for children.  Dr. Jorge Flechas reported recently that insufficient iodine while young can contribute to mental retardation in addition to cretinism and hyperthyroidism. For both children and adults, not getting enough iodine can even lead to cancer.

There are other factors that interfere with our ability to absorb iodine. Chlorine, fluorine, and bromine all act to block iodine absorption. In many cities, Calais included, chlorine is added to the city water for purification purposes, but using a filter can offset the effect. Other towns add fluoride as a cavity preventative. Both chlorine and bromine can be found in pools, so pool swimmers are at an increased risk. 

Luckily, iodine is relatively easy to incorporate into the diet, especially for those of us in downeast Maine. The best sources of iodine are seaweed, a food source that earlier generations were much more familiar with. Breaking up a small amount of dulse, kelp, or nori (available at local grocers) into a single meal will give you all the iodine you need for the day. Maine Seacoast Vegetables is a company in Hancock that makes convenient shakers filled with granules of kelp and other seaweeds—used in place of salt it is a tasty and easy iodine source. Another local source of iodine is cranberries, four ounces of which contain more than the daily recommended amount. Alternatively, adding a few drops of an iodine solution such as J. Crow’s Lugol’s Solution to your evening beverage will give you great rest and keep your thyroid functioning properly. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that iodized salt is a healthy source of iodine—while it is indeed a source, you would have to consume ½ tsp of iodized salt to attain the daily recommended amount of iodine. ½ tsp of salt is equivalent to 1150 mg, or half the maximum daily safe amount. Most people get significant amounts of salt from other sources during the day, so incorporating more iodized salt into your diet could prove more harmful than helpful. 


While iodine levels are generally declining around the country—contributing to a spike in maladies related to its deficiency—those of us in downeast Maine can find the solution literally lining our shores and our fields.