Iodine is one of the most important nutrients called ‘essential nutrients’ because your body cannot produce it. It has to be gotten from foods and is usually used up in the thyroid gland, a butterfly-like organ usually located in the lower front of the neck. Iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormones which play major roles in how the body uses energy and for normal function of the muscles, brain, liver and kidney.
How much do you need?
Adults needs 150mcg per day but pregnant and lactating women need between 220-290mcg because of their physiological state. Iodine requirement is a bit lower for children 0-13 years (90-120mcg).
Why is Iodine so important?
Iodine deficiency is the world’s single and greatest cause of mental retardation and this is more damaging in pregnant women and growing children. Low level of iodine in the body can lead to low thyroid hormones, a condition known as ‘Hypothyroidism’. Health problems resulting from this condition include;
– Abortion and Still births in Pregnant women
– Goiter: Swelling of the thyroid gland leading to swollen neck area
– Cretinism: this is usually the severe form of iodine deficiency and it is characterized by permanent brain damage, deaf mutism, spasticity, and short stature.
– Low IQ and mental disabilities in children: Even mild deficiency of Iodine can cause a significant loss of learning ability – about 13.5 intelligence quotient points at population level according to World Health Organization.
Although Iodine deficiency is now very rare due to iodization of salt, it is very important that pregnant women get enough iodine by checking their prenatal vitamin to ensure it contain up to 150mcg of Iodine to prevent deficiency.
How is Iodine deficiency treated?
The best management for iodine deficiency is a diet rich in iodine which include iodized salt,cheese, cow milk, eggs, frozen yogurt, ice cream, salt water fish, shrimp, cod, tuna, shellfish and soymilk and soy sauce. Multivitamins containing iodine can also be taken. This helps to prevent the iodine deficiency or the complications of the condition. In the case of large goiter, the person may need surgical treatment called thyroidectomy, which is the partial or total removal of the thyroid gland.
Are there side effects when taken in excess?
Excess intake of iodine can present mild symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting or severe symptoms such as turning blue (cyanosis), weak pulse and coma.
It is important to get adequate iodine through a healthy diet to prevent deficiency, supplements should be taken especially by pregnant women and vegans.