As a dietitian, people always ask me if I’m on some kind of diet. I generally explain how I believe in a well-balanced approach and that most people do not need to follow a special diet, unless it is for a specific health condition.
Right now, I am on a special diet: a low iodine diet. As a thyroid cancer survivor, I occasionally have to follow a low iodine diet in preparation for special medical tests. This is my third time following this diet, and I still find it very difficult.
Why do I tell you this? First, to provide reassurance for anyone out there on any special diet, but specifically a low iodine diet. Even as a dietitian, following a strict diet pattern makes everything challenging. I understand how hard it is to try and find something when going out to eat. Planning a menu and even just getting through a day without being hungry feels like a monumental accomplishment.
Second, to provide a resource for those following a low iodine diet in connection with thyroid cancer treatment. This is a challenging diet to deal with, especially if you are also preparing food for others in your home. thyca.org is an excellent website and has some great information and recipes. However, there is not a lot of other information out there. I will be posting some of my favorite low iodine recipes and include low iodine adjustments to many of my recipes on this site.
Lastly, to provide clarification to some misinformation about iodine for a general diet. Iodine deficiency is rare in the United States, but some suggest that it has been increasing in recent years.
Iodine is an essential trace mineral that is used in the production of thyroid hormones – hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. If iodine intake is deficient, the body cannot make these hormones, leading to poor cognition, stunted growth in children, lethargy, and goiter. Severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to cretinism, a syndrome of mental retardation and other physical limitations.
Iodine intake is rarely deficient in most developed nations, due to iodized salt which contains more than the RDA of iodine in one teaspoon. Iodine is also naturally found in products from the sea: fish, shellfish, seaweed, and sea salt. Iodine can be found in plant and animal foods; the level will depend on the iodine content of the soil the plants were grown in or of the diet the animal consumed. Iodophors also contribute to our iodine intake; these are iodine containing products used in the production of food, such as disinfectants used in dairy processing and dough conditioners for breads.
A low or high iodine diet should only be followed under the direction of a physician. As I mentioned above, iodine deficiency can have serious side effects. If you are concerned about your iodine levels, discuss your concerns with your physician.
Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!