Is Taking Iodine Safe?
Iodine has been a hot topic over the last few weeks as radiation becomes a top concern for many around the world. Just today news broke that traces of radioactive iodine were detected in milk right here in the US. While these traces are considered minuscule and experts say not a real concern, this again raises the question of if (and how) we should be protecting ourselves from radioactive iodine. Weeks ago we saw California residents buying out iodine tablets, leaving store shelves empty. But are iodine tablets really the best way to go? Are they completely safe? We checked in with Dr. Susan Blum of Blum Center for Health, to get the lowdown on iodine.
Should we be taking iodine?
Susan Blum, MD, MPH
I would like to talk about iodine. One of the radioactive particles that can be released from nuclear power plants is a radioactive form of iodine that if taken into our body, can go to the thyroid gland and cause thyroid injury and, in some people, cancer at a later date. If you take high doses of iodine, you can saturate your thyroid with iodine and then it won’t take up the radioactive form of iodine if you are exposed. The bad iodine will compete with the good, and it’s possible that this will prevent damage.
In general, iodine is pretty safe because most people are low to begin with, so for some, there is probably no harm in taking the tablets. However, iodine is not good at high doses if you already are hyper- or hypothyroid, especially if you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune type of hypothyroidism. In these cases, and also in some normal thyroid people, the high dose iodine can actually cause your thyroid to become worse. I have seen this happen. For this reason, I think it is important to have the decision be individualized based on your personal health history.
Right now it seems very unlikely that any significant radiation will make its way from Japan to the East Coast. This is the rational answer. While we watch and wait, we should consider other more simple alternatives to iodine tablets.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW?
One great solution is to increase your iodine intake from food. Iodine can be found in many sea vegetables.
Sea Vegetables High in Iodine:
So, how do you prepare these vegetables?
Here’s a simple recipe for dulse from Chef Marti Wolfson.
Dulse and Sesame Seeds
1 cup dulse
1 cup sesame seeds
Toast the dulse until it turns purplish and crispy and let cool. With a mortar and pestal or in a food processor, combine sesame seeds and dulse until coarse mixture. Sprinkle as a condiment in soups, salads, sandwiches and cooked vegetables.
As always, our team at Blum Center for Health is ready to answer your questions. If you would like to personally discuss your concerns, we would suggest a 30 minute brief consult with Elizabeth Greig, our Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner, who, among other things, is very knowledgeable about thyroid function and iodine.
Dr. Susan Blum is the founder of the Blum Center Health, a new kind of health center, where all the tools you need to live a vibrant, happy and healthy life are under one roof. She completed her Internal Medicine training at St-Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, her residency in Preventive Medicine at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and is Board Certified in Preventive Medicine. She received her Masters in Public Health at Columbia University, and her training in Functional Medicine from The Institute for Functional Medicine, in Gig Harbor, Washington.