“The healthy functioning of the thyroid is essential to maintaining metabolism and preventing the accumulation of body fat,” writes Burton Goldberg in Alternative Medicine. An underactive thyroid gland slows your metabolism; you thus burn dramatically fewer calories and feel sluggish. In addition, in Asian Health Secrets, Letha Hadady explains that an underactive thyroid gland promotes excess weight and cellulite by causing water retention.
After-effects observed following thyroid removal surgery helped prove the connection between the thyroid gland and metabolism to the medical community. For example, according to Gayle Reichler’s book Active Wellness, thyroid removal caused one patient to gain weight daily and feel that her “system had slowed down considerably.” Unless your thyroid has been completely removed or damaged, your symptoms will not be quite so severe; however, even moderate hypothyroidism can make you gain weight and body fat.
Iodine makes up less than a hundred thousandth of a percent of your body weight, but your thyroid cannot function without this trace mineral. If you have too little iodine in your diet, hypothyroidism and weight gain will occur. “I believe that an insufficient intake of organic iodine in today’s modern diet has led to a serious and chronic form of low-grade hypothyroidism,” writes Donald R. Yance, Jr. in Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer. Increasing your iodine level will allow your thyroid function and metabolic rate to return to normal.
You can add iodine to your diet by taking supplements, but beware: Excessive thyroid function resulting from excess iodine is just as detrimental to the human body as hypothyroidism. You should have normal, moderate amounts of iodine in your body. In Food and Healing, Anne Marie Colbin provides a caution: “Considering that we are already ingesting large qualities of this mineral because of its presence in fertilizers and table salt, the situation (your iodine level) definitely bears watching.”
Because of this danger, Earl Mindell recommends kelp, which naturally contains iodine, as an alternative to iodine supplements in pill form. “Kelp has a normalizing effect on the thyroid gland. In other words, thin people with thyroid trouble can gain weight by using kelp, and obese people can lose weight with it,” Mindell writes in his Vitamin Bible for the Twenty-First Century. Whichever form of iodine supplementation you choose, however, you must also be sure to get enough vitamin A in your diet. According to Goldberg, without sufficient vitamin A, your thyroid gland cannot produce thyroxin, a hormone that helps the thyroid absorb iodine.
If you believe that you have a thyroid problem, then by all means, go to a doctor or other medical professional. On the other hand, if you just haven’t been exercising enough or following a healthy diet, don’t put blind faith into iodine supplements as an easy and effortless way to lose weight. “Iodine itself will not help with weight loss if there is normal thyroid function,” writes Dr. Elson M. Haas in Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Unless you do indeed have abnormal thyroid function, there is no substitute for exercise and a healthy diet.
The experts speak on iodine and the thyroid:
This amazing seaweed contains more vitamins (especially Bs) and valuable minerals than any other food! Because of its natural iodine content, kelp has a normalizing effect on the thyroid gland. In other words, thin people with thyroid trouble can gain weight by using kelp, and obese people can lose weight with it. In fact, one of the most widespread fads for many years has been the kelp, lecithin, vinegar, and B6 diet. Kelp has also been used by homeopathic physicians in the treatment of obesity, poor digestion, flatulence, obstinate constipation, and to protect against effects of radiation. It is reported to be very beneficial to brain tissue, the membrane surrounding the brain, the sensory nerves, and the spinal cord. Vitamin Bible for the 21st Century by Earl Mindell, page 185
Goiter is usually associated with hypothyroidism, which is decreased thyroid function that leads to slower metabolism, fatigue, weight gain, sluggishness, dry hair, thick skin, poor mental functioning, decreased resistance to infection, a feeling of coldness, and a decrease in sexual energy. More advanced hypothyroidism may worsen these symptoms as well as create a hyperactive, manic state and hypertension, which is paradoxical because this may occur with an overactive thyroid as well. Iodine by itself usually will not cure goiter and hypothyroidism but often will slow their progression. Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M Haas MD, page 196
Needed only in trace amounts, iodine helps to metabolize excess fat and is important for physical and mental development. It is also needed for a healthy thyroid gland and for the prevention of goiter. Iodine deficiency in children may result in mental retardation. Excessive iodine intake (sometimes as little as 750 micro-grams daily) may inhibit the secretion of thyroid hormone and can produce a metallic taste and sores in the mouth, swollen salivary glands, diarrhea, and vomiting. Prescription For Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A Balch CNC and James F Balch MD, page 29
The thyroid gland depends on iodine, which is found in food, to manufacture thyroid hormone. It doesn’t take much. The iodine in your body makes up less than 0.00001 percent of your body weight. But your thyroid can’t do its job without even this tiny amount of this trace mineral. New Foods For Healing by Selene Yeager, page 529