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    Eat Local, Get a Goiter?

    September 7, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    She is like merchant ships;
    She brings her food from afar.

    Proverbs 31:14


    I‘m still reading through The Mood Cure, and so far I think it’s great. It dovetails nicely with the things I’ve already studied in the past, and it adds a bit to my arsenal the contents of my natural medicine cabinet.

    When I was in my later teens, my thyroid gland began to malfunction. This was a result of having contracted Lyme Disease, though I sometimes wonder if it was a result of the disease, or rather the protracted use of antibiotics to treat the disease.

    It’s a toss-up, but I’m better now, so I can’t complain.


    The point is that Ross covers the thyroid pretty extensively in both The Mood Cure as well as The Diet Cure, and I’m seeing my thyroid–and the advice I’ve been given in regard to it along the way–in a new light.

    I assume that most of you are familiar with the two major thyroid hormones: T3 and T4. One of the main pieces of advice given to me, as a person with a malfunctioning thyroid gland, has been to increase my iodine intake. Thyroid can’t be made without it, I was told.

    Ross confirms that this is true, and explains it in such a way that I can easily wrap my mind around it. Instead of telling me that “thyroid hormones can’t be made without it,” she explains the physical makeup of the thyroid hormones. It turns out the thyroid hormones are named after their structure. The “T” stands for the amino acid tyrosine, and the numbers 3 and 4 stand for the number of iodine molecules. In other words, T4 is one tyrosine and four iodines. (Whether or not there is more to it than that is beyond the scope of this discussion.)

    This, my friends, is why iodine is so important. If you don’t have it, your body cannot make the thyroid hormone, regardless of health.

    So what in the world does this have to do with the eating local movement?

    Well, Julia Ross explains that the Midwest used to be called The Goiter Belt. The reason for this is that the soil there is almost completely deficient of iodine. Folks who moved there in the pioneering days ended up with goiters on their thyroids, and the attendant thyroid malfunction, because all of their food was grown locally, and therefore iodine deficient.

    With our increased use of planes, trains, and automobiles, we find that this is no longer true. By attaining foods from outside of the Midwest, Midwesterners tend to be able to consume enough iodine to maintain normal, healthy thyroid function.

    I like the idea of eating locally in theory. It seems silly to me that my area grows about a third of the entire nation’s food, and yet we find ourselves importing foods from elsewhere. I also like the idea of supporting smaller, local farms.

    However, comma.

    Sometimes, we elevate generally good ideas (especially good ideas that appeal to our new civic religion–the green religion) to the point of Commandment. I have come across folks who honestly believe Thou Shalt Eat Locally is a moral imperative. What goes ignored is that we are condemning folks in the north to near-starvation, and folks in the Midwest to thyroid malfunction.

    We also deny God’s Word–the truth that a virtuous woman is like merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She’s not afraid of importing and exporting because she serves not the environmentalist movement (one of our reigning false religions), but rather the Almighty God, owner of the cattle on a thousand hills.

    As far as the Midwest  is concerned, if you live there and you are eating mostly local, you might want to think about importing some sea vegetables, which are particularly full of iodine. I use granulated kelp on just about everything, and we have boiled kombu in broth. Both of these are easy ways to give the food you are eating an iodine infusion.

    If you grow your own vegetables, you can also compost with kelp or other seaweed, which naturally adds iodine to your soil, which is picked up by your vegetables, which ends up in you.

    I couldn’t decide if this was a health post or a sociological post, so I made it both. At the end of the day, even though I care about thyroid health, I am more concerned at our human tendency to be Pharisaical–to be stricter than God.

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  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts September 10, 2010 at 3:19 pm


    Welcome to homeschooling! I will say a prayer for you as you begin. πŸ™‚


    Interesting that. I didn’t know that about the NW! I have been reading further in The Mood Cure, and she mentions later that too much iodine can cause almost identical symptoms as too little. Seems to me that knowing our own geographic area is important. I don’t think our little dairy uses iodine, but I’m going to ask next time we are there.

    I started wondering today if there is any difference between iodine naturally occuring in plants (like the sea veggies I eat) and isolated iodine added to something processed (like table salt). I wonder if the body processes it differently, if the iodine is exactly the same, etc.

    Of course, I have no idea how I’d find the answer to those questions!

    Still…it’d be interesting.

    By the way, if you need selenium in your diet, you can eat two Brazil nuts per day, and it’ll be your entire daily allowance. In fact, if you are not deficient, I have read that one ought not eat more than one per day because selenium can be toxic. Fascinating stuff, this…

  • Reply Harmony September 8, 2010 at 12:49 am

    It used to be that most of us got plenty of iodine if we used iodinated salt. Now those of us who consume dairy have apparently got it covered because of the iodinated disinfectants used in the industry, which result in a pretty high iodine content in milk. In fact we may be getting too much, from what I’ve read… a lot of us in the Northwest, though, should be concerned about our selenium intake if we’re eating locally. Most of our soils are selenium deficient and that’s not a trace element you’re going to get supplemented in the rest of your diet. Thought-provoking, Brandy, thanks.

  • Reply Nikki September 7, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Hi there, I just wanted to say that I found your blog somehow in my Charlotte Mason quest….and I’m so appreciative of your willingness to share all the amazing info you have gathered about education in general…I love your writing style….and I love that you love our Lord.
    I’m a brand new homeschooling Mama and your little place is a wonderful place for me to rest and refresh. Nice to meet you πŸ™‚
    Grace and peace……..Nikki

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts September 7, 2010 at 9:20 pm


    I really think you would like The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure both. I am actually going to try some of the supplements she suggests on E. (Actually, I got Doc to say she’s going to read them soon!)


    I like the idea of being self-sufficient, too! The supermarket is a prime example of over-importing; I totally agree. And there is inherent value in knowing the soil on your property (in my case, how horrible it is, an how much love it needs) and learning to grow things on it. But I’m realizing that God created us to also be interdependent. It’s not morally wrong to import a tomato and thank the Lord for it.

    Funny that you live in Alaska–that is the state that actually got me thinking! My in-laws live there right now, and my father-in-law’s wife was telling me on a recent visit how envious she was of all the fresh produce we have here…that was when I did some research and realized that in some parts of the US, only what we call “winter” vegetables will grow.

    It’s all about balance. πŸ™‚

    If your mom has thyroid issues, she might really find Ross’s books helpful. In both she has a lot of information on the thyroid. I had thought the information would be duplicated, and a lot of it is, but some of it is different between the two books.

  • Reply Rebekah September 7, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Oh what an interesting post! I do like the idea of being as self-sufficient as possible in regards to food but you made a good point about the importing. I’m sure the ability to import food is a blessing from God that has again been taken too far in that now most people rely completely on foods other then localy grown to sustain themselves. There has to be a balance obviously! As one who lives in Alaska the “eat whole foods” and “eat local” movements don’t work quite so well year round. I agree with your point about the false green religion. As my mom has thyroid issues I’ll let her know about this informative post. Thanks.

  • Reply Kimbrah September 7, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Good post Brandy! I have been wanting to read The Mood Cure for several years now. I guess I should pick up a copy so we can chat about it. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mystie September 7, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    A good post, Brandy. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Ellen September 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Amen and amen. =)

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