Importance of iodine, natural food sources of iodine, symptoms of iodine deficiency, treatment of iodine deficiency
WHY IODINE IS IMPORTANT FOR HEALTH
Iodine is an extremely underrated and under reported nutrient that is vital for all aspects of health. Insufficiency of iodine can result in many minor as well as serious ailments. This element is required by the endocrine system that makes various hormones, all of which are essential for growth, development and metabolism. The thyroid gland in particular requires iodine to function optimally – and the thyroid hormones are required by the body at a cellular level.
How prevalent is iodine deficiency anyway? You will be surprised to learn that as much as 40 percent of the global population is at risk of iodine deficiency. And this is despite the fact that large parts of world now consume iodized salt that helps limit iodine deficiency diseases. One of the major reasons for this is that the iodine in the salt is not completely available to the body.
How iodine deficiency impacts the human body
Iodine is crucial for health and wellness. A lack of sufficient iodine is associated with disorders like
Thinning or dry hair
Reduced cognitive skills
Decreased mental alertness
Greater risk of still birth in pregnancy
These are only the initial symptoms that should serve as a warning. However, sustained iodine deficiency can lead to many serious ailments that compromise health.
Iodine deficiency diseases
Many diseases are associated with iodine deficiency directly or indirectly. A person who does not get enough iodine can develop diseases like
Goiter – the thyroid gland needs enough iodine to make the thyroid hormones. If enough iodine is unavailable, the gland will have to work harder and this can cause the gland to enlarge, resulting in goiter.
Hypothyroidism – long term iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism, impacting all-round health.
Cancer – breast, ovarian, endometrial, prostate and thyroid cancers are associated with iodine deficiency. Additionally, various cancer cells, when injected with iodine, actually die and are replaced by healthy cells, many studies have shown testifying further to the importance of iodine.
Fibrocystic disease – many women experience breast lumps that do not disappear during the monthly cycles. This usually occurs when there is not enough iodine to remove the excess cells that grow due to hormonal cycles and these keep on multiplying over the months, resulting in fibrocystic disease.
Reproductive ailments – while iron deficiency can cause reduced infertility, it can also have a direct effect on the pregnancy or fetus if pregnancy occurs. It can result in miscarriage, premature delivery or still birth. Or it can cause mental retardation, growth or development disorders in the baby.
Any or all of these have a long term health impact both physically and emotionally so it makes sense to watch out for iodine deficiency and factor it in.
Why is iodine deficiency so prevalent now?
While iodized salt has gone a long way to reduce the risk of iodine deficiency, there are many other factors that come in play that result in reduced iodine levels in the body. One of the major problems is that the recommended daily dose of iodine has been capped at 150 micrograms.
Many doctors, however, feel that this is too low and a person should have between 5 and 15 milligrams of iodine a day.
A large percentage of the population has restricted salt intake, whether due to high blood pressure or other health problems. If people simply add refined table salt that does not contain iodine to their food before eating, it is not going to help cover the deficiency.
Over time, soil may not contain sufficient iodine and so the plant foods, too, become deficient in iodine.
There are other elements in the diet that prevent the absorption of iodine in the body, even if it is present in dietary sources. These include chemicals like chlorine, chlorinated compounds, bromine, mercury and fluorides which are present in large quantities in various bakery foods, pickles, chips, dips, water, sports drinks and other foods. Some drugs, too, prevent the absorption of iodine and these include aspirin and steroids.
In fact, there is anecdotal evidence that shows that even a slight iodine intake increase can actually have myriad benefits including having a protective effect against cancer, improving immunity, reducing depression and increasing energy levels.
Getting enough iodine in your diet
Iodine is usually plentiful in sea foods. Twice or thrice a week it is important to eat seafood or fish.
Eat breads and other baked goods that contain iodized salt.
Sea vegetables like kelp, kombu, arame, hiziki and wakame are good sources of iodine.
Foods that contain seaweed extract are also rich in iodine.
Below is the salt that was recommended to me from my doctor for iodine deficiency. I use it instead of any type of iodized salt from the grocery store.