Do you take iodine supplements? Or do you rely on iodised salt for your iodine intake? If you’re undecided, this information may surprise you!

What is iodine?

Iodine is a trace mineral your body requires to maintain proper thyroid function (this gland manufactures thyroxine, which regulates cell metabolism throughout the body). Although the body needs just a small amount of iodine, it’s crucial to overall health. Too little or too much can cause your thyroid to malfunction, with unpleasant consequences. An estimated 2 billion people worldwide remain at risk for iodine deficiency.

How much iodine do you need?

The recommended daily intake of iodine for adults is 150 micrograms. If you’re pregnant, you’ll need 220 micrograms. Breastfeeding mums need 270 to 290 micrograms per day. Whatever your intake, more than 75% of the iodine in your body is stored in your thyroid gland.

What if you’re not getting enough iodine?

Apart from developing a goitre, that unmistakeable swelling of the thyroid gland that affects 200–300 million people worldwide, iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism, symptoms of which include fatigue, weight gain, constipation and a constant feeling of cold. Pregnant women who are low in iodine risk problems for their baby – even mental deficiency, quadriplegia, deaf mutism, shortened stature and hypothyroidism.


Iodine deficiency is said to be the most preventable cause of brain damage or delay in the world.

And if you take too much?

‘The Upper Level limit recommended for iodine is 1,100 micrograms per day for adults and 200–300 micrograms per day for children,’ says physician and Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in Michigan, Dr David Brownstein. Excessive consumption of iodine can also lead to thyroid dysfunction and goitre.

Debunking the myths

Myth 1: Iodised salt provides all the iodine you need.

Because many soils around the world have a low iodine content, the food we grow also contains too little of this trace element. That is why, in the 1920s, the US government ruled that all salt in that country should contain iodine. (In other parts of the world, South Africa and Australia included, you can choose to buy your salt iodised or untreated.)

The truth is that iodised salt is inadequate to supply the body’s need for iodine, says Dr David Brownstein. The author of the book Iodine: Why you need it, why you can’t live without it, Brownstein states, ‘Even though refined salt can prevent goitre in the vast majority of people,’ he says, ‘the minuscule amount of iodine found in it falls far short of the amount necessary for promoting optimal thyroid function, particularly in our toxic environment.’ Iodised salt provides just 30 to 77 micrograms a day, markedly below the recommended amount needed to fulfill all your body needs.

In addition, he adds, research shows that just 10 percent of the iodine in salt is bioavailable (completely absorbed by your body).

Iodised salt has another drawback. We’re constantly being warned about the health perils of salt by the medical profession, so we’re cutting back, and that, says Brownstein, is another reason many people in the US and other Western countries are iodine-deficient.

Myth 2: Taking iodine supplements can cause thyroid disorders

The truth: When thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease and thyroid cancer are diagnosed, blood tests usually reveal insufficient iodine. Therefore, iodine is not in itself the cause of thyroid illnesses. In fact, says Brownstein, ‘After 20 years of practising medicine, I can state that it is impossible to treat thyroid illness if there is an inadequate level of iodine in the body, and this includes autoimmune thyroid disorders.’

Flora Force West Coast Kelp is a complete, naturally occurring, balanced nutritional multi-mineral (including iodine) from the ocean that improves thyroid function and helps your body work properly. However, taking into account the concerns about the quantity and effects of iodine on your body, we urge you to consult your healthcare practitioner before self-medicating. You’ll find more information about West Coast Kelp here.


Consult your health practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
As always, we recommend that you consult your healthcare practitioner before embarking on any course of natural remedies.

Food sources of iodine

Because meat and vegetables produced in iodine-low areas are unreliable sources of the mineral, it’s best to look to the sea for your iodine intake. Seafood, saltwater fish and sea vegetables, especially brown species such as kelp, are the best sources of iodine.

Other sources are eggs, yoghurt, salmon, sardines, shrimps, sweet potatoes, onions, spinach, bananas, spanspek, strawberries, barley and peanuts. Foods that contain goitrogens (substances that can block the thyroid from absorbing iodine), such as cabbage, turnips, peanuts, cassava and sweet potatoes, should be cooked to render the goitrogens inactive, advises US dietician Megan Ware.

The key, the experts say, is your overall diet and eating pattern – therein lies your best chances of preventing iodine-related ailments and achieving good health.

Acknowledgements & Photo credits

Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.


  1. Brownstein, D. Busting the iodine myths. 2014, May. (Guest post on the site
  2. Ware, M. What are the health benefits of iodine? Medical News Today. 2015, Feb.

Photo credits

  1. Image by Chris55