In the GAPS healing protocol, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends that we get obtain our nourishment from whole foods sources, and in general is very mistrustful of supplementation with isolated vitamins and minerals. Supplements that she does regularly prescribe are fish oil, cod liver oil and iodine, when needed.
Iodine is a non metallic mineral that is essential for the production of the hormone thyroxine that is produced by the thyroid, a butterfly shaped brownish red gland that is located in the lower part of the neck.
Thyroxine is a hormone that regulates metabolism and is intimately involved in many crucial bodily functions. When there is too little iodine available, the thyroid gland swells creating a goiter, in an attempt to produce more thyroxine. This condition is called hypothyroidism and can result in a slowed metabolism with weight gain, psychiatric symptoms of depression and fatigue, cold intolerance, as well as neurological, gastrointestinal, and skin abnormalities. Iodine deficiency in pregnant or nursing mothers can result in thyroid abnormalities in the fetus and growing child, and is the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world.
Some food sources of iodine are dairy products, eggs, seafood and seaweed. In industrialized countries a common source of iodine is iodized salt, a refined salt to which iodine has been added. There are many reasons to avoid iodized salt, including the fact that anti-caking agents are added which contain aluminum and other chemicals. Processed salt also is composed only of sodium and chloride, where as an unrefined grey salt, such a Celtic Sea Salt contains 80 minerals and elements that are healthful for the body.
This is not the only reason to avoid iodized salt. The second most common cause of hypothyroidism is an auto-immune illness called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In this condition the body produces anti-thyroid antibodies, which attack the gland and decrease its capacity to function. In countries where iodine has been added to table salt to correct iodine deficiency, the incidence of auto immune thyroid disorder has risen. Holistic practitioner Chris Kresser has an interesting post on this topic titled: Iodine for hypothyroidism: like gasoline on a fire?
For supplementation of iodine, Dr. Campbell Mc-Bride believes that it is not safe to supplement orally, as it is impossible to determine the appropriate dosage. She suggests instead the use of tincture of iodine, which is readily available as an antiseptic in the drug store. This liquid should be applied to the skin in an area the size of the individual’s hand. In children, one can paint fanciful drawings to make it more fun. After 24 hours, if the iodine is fully absorbed, this indicates that the body is deficient, and that another application of iodine is necessary. This procedure is repeated until the iodine is no longer absorbed, which indicates that the body is no longer in need of supplementation. It is a recommendation which makes a great deal of intuitive sense to me, as do so many of Dr. Campbell McBride’s ideas.
The body is so complex and mysterious, and we understand it so partially, that it is naturally very difficult to determine an appropriate amount of isolated vitamins and minerals in pill form. Yes, our soil is depleted, and our environment is toxic, yet it seems possible to do more harm than good by taking handfuls of supplements. It seems much safer to focus on a diet of nutrient dense foods.
Here is a recipe for seaweed, an excellent natural whole food source of iodine. It is from the wonderful cookbook Vegetables from the Sea: Everyday Cooking with Sea Greens by Jill Gusman. This book will teach you about different kinds of seaweed and how to prepare them.
Learning to prepare seaweed and eating it regularly, is an excellent way to naturally include many wonderful vitamins and minerals in our diets, including iodine.
Hijiki Snow Peas
Makes 4 servings
1/4 cup hijiki
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 pound snow peas
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1. Rinse Hijiki in bowl with cool water for 10 seconds. Drain. Add 2 cups fresh water. Soak for 30 minutes. Lift out the hijiki with your hands, squeeze out the excess water, and chop coarsely.
2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the snow peas and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and hijiki, stirring until the snow peas are bright green and the garlic is fragrant Add the salt, stir and serve.