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When you reach into your pantry, you may notice that your salt says that it’s iodized. In fact, you may not have realized it, but salt’s been iodized in the United States since 1924.

But do you know exactly why this has been done? And do you know what role it plays in your thyroid? What even is the thyroid gland?

Below, we’ll talk in detail about the thyroid, in particular, about thyroid disease and the role iodine plays.

The Role of Iodine in Thyroid Disease | Naturopathic Dr

What Is Your Thyroid?

Your thyroid is a small gland located in your neck and throat area. It has a butterfly shape, and its parts are the isthmus (the middle section) and the lobes (the “butterfly wings”).

This tiny little gland actually has a massive job in your body! In general, it takes tyrosine, iodine, and some other vitamins and minerals and makes it into two main thyroid hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).

These hormones play vital parts of your body’s metabolism. So as you can imagine, if your T3 and T4 levels are off, it can really make you feel, unlike your usual self.

The thyroid gland is controlled by your pituitary gland, which is also another tiny gland in your body. 

It’s about the size of a peanut, and you can find it in your brain just behind the bridge of your nose. The pituitary gland works to produce stimulating thyroid hormone (TSH); as you can guess, if your T3 and T4 levels drop too low, then your pituitary gland pumps out more TSH.

When your thyroid detects higher TSH, it’ll then produce more T3 and T4 in response. As a result, when your pituitary gland sees a better balance of those hormones, then it backs off with TSH production.

Also, your pituitary gland is controlled by your hypothalamus, another gland in your brain. This gland produces thyroid releasing hormone (TRH), which signals the pituitary gland to produce TSH.

As you can see, it’s a vast chain of reactions that keep your hormones in balance. All of the above responses are part of what’s known as a negative feedback loop.

The Role of Iodine in Thyroid Disease | Naturopathic Dr

What Is Iodine?

In the previous section about the thyroid, we mentioned that it uses iodine to make T3 and T4. But what is iodine exactly? After all, all you know is it’s contained in the table salt we use to cook our meals.

First of all, iodine is an element you can find on the periodic table; it has an atomic number of 53 and a symbol of I. It’s classified as a stable halogen and is the heaviest one.

Although it’s essential for our bodies (as is evident in the thyroid’s need for it to convert to T3 and T4), we can’t produce it ourselves. So we must get enough iodine through our food.

Foods that are rich in iodine include meat, seafood, eggs, and some types of bread. You can also get iodine from table salt and multivitamins.

What Is Thyroid Disease?

Thyroid disease is any condition that affects your thyroid gland’s ability to make T3 and T4. Two of the main types of thyroid disease are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is where your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough T3 and T4. A common side effect of this is goiter, which is noticeable swelling in your neck.

The leading cause of hypothyroidism is a lack of iodine in the diet. Some people may also have this condition because of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid produces too much T3 and T4. As you can guess, this can result from ingesting too much iodine. However, most of the cases of hyperthyroidism are from Graves’s disease, which is also an autoimmune disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Disease?

When you have an iodine deficiency, this usually leads to thyroid disease. Some symptoms of this deficiency are:

  • Goiter: As we said above, your neck may become enlarged. As a result, you may have problems breathing and swallowing. You may also choke more, mainly when you’re lying down.
  • Hypothyroidism: Again, iodine deficiency is the leading cause of hypothyroidism.
  • Problems with viable pregnancies: In addition to having miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature babies, mothers with iodine deficiency may also have issues with intellectual disabilities and growth in their children.

Some symptoms are particular to each kind of thyroid disease. We’ll discuss each one in more detail below.

Hypothyroidism

If you have hypothyroidism, symptoms tend to be pretty mild. If you’re lucky, you may have no symptoms at all. Some of the common ones you might experience are:

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Always feeling cold
  • Poor memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Hoarse voice
  • Poor hearing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin, hair, eyes

Hyperthyroidism

Unlike hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism can present severe symptoms, or in some cases, none at all.

Here are some of the common ones you’ll see:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased bowel movements
  • Increased anxiety
  • Excessive sweating
  • Intolerance of heat
  • Tremors
  • Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats
  • Weight loss

As you can see, most of the symptoms are on the opposite spectrum of those for hypothyroidism.

What Can You Do to Address Thyroid Disease?

The primary way to address and alleviate the symptoms of thyroid disease is to focus on your iodine levels. In addition to helping you adjust your diet, your doctor may also prescribe you medications. This is especially true if your thyroid disease is due to autoimmune issues.

Try Naturopathic Medicine for Your Thyroid Issues

When mainstream medicine doesn’t work so well for your thyroid disease, or you want to try something more natural, then you might want to look into naturopathic medicine. This is a practice that combines modern medicine with the powers of nature.

Through naturopathic medicine, you can reverse the effects of iodine deficiency by using minimally invasive methods. For instance, the doctor can work with you to create a diet plan that ensures you get the right amount of iodine. As a result, you can alleviate the symptoms of your thyroid issues with the least risk of harmful side effects.

Does naturopathic medicine sound like the right solution for you? Then book an appointment with us today.

About The Author:

Dr. Karen Threlkel

Dr. Karen Threlkel

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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