Creating a family is a treasured experience for a couple. When a couple plans for a child, they are often eager to get pregnant quickly, however the ultimate goal should be for a healthy mother. Conceiving and sustaining a strong robust pregnancy begins with a healthy reproductive system. This post discusses iodine and its role in maintaining reproductive health.
Infertility rates are on the rise in the US; a disturbing trend in recent years. According to the Environmental Working Group (
Iodine and the thyroid
Iodine is a crucial supplement that we need for good health. Each cell in our body has iodine receptors; iodine is detected in every organ and tissue in the body. Iodine is especially necessary for healthy breasts and ovaries.
Iodine is mostly associated with thyroid function, but its role goes much deeper than that. The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland inside the front of the lower neck. The thyroid helps to regulate your metabolism. Iodine is needed by the thyroid to produce the thyroid hormones T4 and T3. Low levels of these thyroid hormones have been linked to an increase in estrogen, also known as estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is directly linked to iodine deficiency. Imbalanced levels of estrogen can lead to irregular menstrual cycles and lack of ovulation. These conditions can make getting pregnant difficult if not impossible.
Iodine deficiency and infertility
Estrogen is one of the main sex hormones in a woman’s body. Estrogen actually exists in three different forms: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) and estriol (E3). E1 and E2 are dominant in women of childbearing ages; E3 is the least prevalent of the three. Estrogen dominance occurs when there are significantly higher levels of E1 and E2 in relation to E3. This imbalance can cause women to develop ovarian cysts, which can lead to infertility. Iodine maintains a delicate estrogen balance by converting excess amounts of E1 and E2 into E3.
Estrogen dominance also causes PCOS, known as polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS is a condition that plagues about 5 to 10 percent of the female population, and is a leading cause of infertility. The majority of these afflicted women have ovarian cysts.
Supplying your body with sufficient iodine also helps to protect you from breast and ovarian cancer. As I mentioned before, iodine increases E3 which prevents ovarian cysts. Some ovarian cysts over time can turn into malignant cancer tumors. Iodine also prevents breast cysts from forming. Breast cysts, like ovarian cysts, can also turn malignant. Henry Lemon, M.D., a women’s cancer specialist, conducted a study on 150 close relatives of breast cancer patients. Researchers found that the majority of these relatives had lower E3 levels and elevated E1 and E2 levels than women with no family history of breast cancer. His research also revealed that E3 improves your white blood cells’ ability to devour viruses, bacteria and cancer cells.
E3 levels are highest during pregnancy, rising by as much as 1,000 times or more.
E3 is the reason why women who have given birth significantly lower their risk of breast cancer compared to those who have never had a child.
How can I get more iodine?
The RDA for iodine is 150mcg, which is the bare minimum to prevent goiter (swelling of the thyroid). Iodine is needed in the mg (milligrams) amount by the breasts and the ovaries alone. Iodized salt is a poor source of iodine because it contains lows levels of non bio-available iodine.
Natural food sources of iodine include raw dairy, organic sea kelp and seaweed, eggs, seafood and fish eggs, all of which nourish the thyroid. Foods that impair thyroid function and iodine absorption are non-fermented soy (tofu, edamame, etc), flour and brominated vegetable oil (an ingredient in Gatorade and Mountain Dew). Fermenting soy significantly reduces the thyroid inhibiting compounds or goitrogens. All flour contains bromide unless it specifically states that it is unbromated; in the 1980s bakers started using potassium bromate to condition dough instead of iodine. Bromide and iodine are both halogens and they compete for the same receptors within your body. Bromide will kick out any iodine present in your body and vice versa. Many countries, including the UK and Canada, have banned the use of potassium bromate.
If you are thinking about conceiving, limit or eliminate these food sources. If you are severely deficient, you will likely have to supplement until you build up healthy iodine levels. Even if you are slightly deficient, it can several months up to a year to replenish healthy iodine stores.
Before taking any iodine supplements, you should test your current levels. The iodine loading test is a popular test that you can order online. If you decide to take an iodine supplement, be sure to take one that contains a combination of iodine and iodide, such as Iodoral. An ideal daily level of iodine is 3 to 12.5mg per day. For more detailed information, please visit Dr. Brownstein’s site at www.drbrownstein.com.
Iodine for Healthy Brains
Iodine feeds your child’s developing brain. Thyroid hormones are transferred from the mother to the fetus; impaired thyroid function can be passed on to the baby via iodine deficiency or goiter. Iodine deficiency can potentially damage fetal development in the first half of pregnancy and cause mental retardation in the child. It can lower IQ by as much as 15 points in the mother and child, as well as causing impaired movement, speech and/or hearing. A traditional diet increases saturated fat intake and saturated fat increases the need for iodine.
Iodine reduces stillbirths and miscarriages
As previously mentioned, iodine aids fertility and overall brain health. Iodine also helps pregnant women significantly reduce the risks of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and birth defects.
Iodine is a useful substance that will greatly benefit you, especially if you are considering conceiving. Iodine will aid in your reproductive health, while encouraging healthy brain development for your child. Part II of this series will explore iodine’s role in male fertility and libido, ADD and autism.
Article by Taheerah Barney