Are You at Risk For Iodine Deficiency?

Confused about what Iodine is?

Exercise Regularly?

On A Low or Restricted Salt Diet

Vegetarian or Vegan?

Avoid or Restrict Dairy?

Avoid or Restrict Seafood?

Drink Contaminated Water?

Live at High Altitudes?

Living on a Standard American Diet?

 

When the topic of Iodine comes up, most people don’t even think twice about it. But ask your grandparents who may have not had iodine fortified salts back in the day and they will tell you stories about huge neck masses called goiters and other diseases like Cretinism and mental retardation.

Iodine is easy to obtain in our modern lives, but this wasn’t always the case. Most table salt nowadays is fortified with iodine, and many disinfectants like Betadine contain iodine. Most people’s experience with iodine is limited to the Morton’s salt (see below) and Betadine. Beyond its acknowledged antibiotic value, iodine is an important mineral for total-body health and proper metabolic function. Iodine is more important than you could have ever imagined. An adequate supply of iodine in the diet is essential as a raw material for the manufacture of thyroid hormones in the thyroid gland. A good analogy is adequate levels of iron are needed for red blood cells to carry oxygen. Since the body does not manufacture iodine, it is an essential nutrient. Whether you are an avid fitness enthusiast or hard core athlete, you are losing more iodine than you ever thought.

Iodine the Mineral

Iodine is a mineral (atomic number 53 on the periodic table), the same as magnesium and calcium. It was first discovered by a French Chemist in the early 1800’s. In chemistry class, you might see iodine as a purple and black metal. Iodine is used in the thyroid, thymus, brain, fat, intestines, pancreas, testes, ovaries and adrenal glands just to name a few. Just about every cell on the body has a thyroid hormone receptor. When you are low in iodine, your thyroid struggles to produced adequate amounts of thyroid hormone. This is because iodine is required to make thyroid hormones. The healthy human body contains 15–20 mg of iodine, of which about 70–80% is present in the thyroid gland.

Iodine the Deficiency

Iodine Deficiency Disorders are one of the biggest worldwide modern public health problems. Their effect is hidden and can profoundly affect the quality of human life. When iodine requirements are not met, the thyroid may no longer be able to synthesize sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. The resulting low-level of thyroid hormones in the blood is the principal factor responsible for the series of functional and developmental abnormalities, including goiter and cretanism. Iodine deficiency is a significant cause of mental and developmental problems in children, including implications on reproductive functions and lowering of IQ levels in school-aged children. The consequence of iodine deficiency during pregnancy is impaired synthesis of thyroid hormones by the mother and the fetus. An insufficient supply of thyroid hormones to the developing brain may result in mental retardation. Brain damage and irreversible mental retardation are the most important disorders induced by iodine deficiency. A proper diet and daily consumption of salt fortified with iodine is a proven effective strategy for prevention of iodine deficiency related diseases.

Humans with low iodine intake often develop problems like hypothyroidism. Low thyroid hormones cause the classic symptoms of fatigue, cold extremities, brittle nails, hair loss, and depression. Did you now that low thyroid hormone levels can also lead to serious heart disease, miscarriage, cancer or dementia? In some individuals this can be a serious ordeal. Iodine is needed in the body to synthesize many hormones needed for protein synthesis. These hormones also promote nitrogen retention, glycogenolysis, intestinal absorption of glucose and galactose, as well as lipolysis, and the uptake of glucose by fat cells (adipocytes).

Congenital Iodine Deficiency syndrome. A photo taken by French naturalist Eugene Trutat