Everything You Need to Know About Iodine
Iodine is naturally present or added to foods. It is an available dietary supplement. Soil contains varying amounts of iodine that affect the content of crops.
What is Iodine?
Iodine is a trace element that is an essential component of thyroid hormones. Many biochemical reactions are regulated by thyroid hormones. They include:
- Critical metabolic activity determinants
- Enzymatic activity
- Protein synthesis
- Proper central nervous and skeletal development in infants and fetuses.
Iodine is suspected to have other physiological functions also. It may have beneficial effects on fibrocystic breast disease and mammary dysplasia. Iodine seems to have a role in immune response.
Page Contents - Quick Links
- Everything You Need to Know About Iodine
- What is Iodine?
- How Much Iodine Do You Need?
- RDAs for Iodine
- Top 7 Foods that Provide the Most Iodine
- How Do You Know if You Are Getting Enough Iodine?
- Potential Effects if You Don’t Get Enough Iodine
- What Happens if You Consume too Much Iodine?
- What Are the Sicknesses That Iodine Prevents?
- Simple Tips to Getting Enough Iodine Every Day
Iodized salt and iodine in food are present in chemical forms that include:
It rarely occurs as an element, but as a salt. For that reason, rather than being referred to as iodine, it is often called an iodide. The thyroid gland concentrates iodide, that enters the circulation, in appropriate amounts for thyroid hormone synthesis. Much of the remaining iodide is excreted during urination.
Sources of iodine include:
- Grain products
- Dairy products
Grain products and dairy products, especially milk, are major American diet contributors. Iodine is present in infant formulas and human breast milk as well. Iodine content in the soil affects the amount contained in vegetables, fruits, meat, and other animal products.
How Much Iodine Do You Need?
The amount of iodine needed is age related. Average recommended dietary allowances are listed below. The amounts are listed in micrograms. The International Council of Iodine Deficiency, United Nation’s Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organization recommend a slightly higher intake for pregnant and nursing women.
RDAs for Iodine
- Birth to six months: 110 mcg daily
- Seven to 12 months: 130 mcg daily
- Ages one to eight years: 90 mcg daily
- Nine to 13 years of age: 120 mcg daily
- Ages 14 to 18: 150 mcg daily
- Adults: 150 mcg daily
- Pregnant women: 220 mcg daily
- Breastfeeding women: 290 mcg daily
There are some groups of people who may have difficulty getting the recommended daily allowance. They include those who:
- Do not use iodized salt
- Are pregnant
- Live in a region of iodine-deficient soil and eat most foods produced locally
- Get marginal iodine amounts and consume foods containing goitrogen.
Top 7 Foods that Provide the Most Iodine
Eating iodine-rich food ensures the thyroid can manage development, growth, detoxification, and metabolism. There are many iodine-rich foods that are easy to incorporate into the diet. These are considered to be the top seven.
The ocean is home to the biggest storehouse of iodine foods. Kelp, with its 2000 mcg per tablespoon, has more iodine than any food on earth. One serving has more than four times the minimum daily requirement.
Another great iodine source is antioxidant rich cranberries. There are approximately 400 mcg of iodine in four ounces of cranberries.
Himalayan Crystal Salt
This salt, known as gray salt, is a good iodine source. It is a viable salt alternative for people trying to avoid conventional salt but worry about getting the required iodine amount. Himalayan crystal salt contains 250 mcg of iodine in a serving.
It is known for its high protein and calcium content. Yogurt is also a wonderful option for people who want to increase iodine in their diet. One cup of yogurt has 154 mcg of iodine. It is a healthy food often enjoyed as a light snack or at breakfast.
Various seafood varieties such as oysters, shrimp, cod, and lobster are good iodine sources. Lobster is an option usually reserved for a special occasion, but a serving of lobster can give the body the boost it needs. There are 100 mcg of iodine in a serving of lobster.
Salt and iodine are often confused. They are quite distinct. Many salt brands are fortified with iodine. A moderate amount of iodized salt can be enjoyed as a part of a healthy lifestyle and diet. One serving has 77 mcg of iodine.
Baked potatoes are a better source of iodine than mashed potatoes. Most of the dietary staples are in the skin. Baked potatoes are a wonderful source of iodine. One medium potato has 60 mcg of iodine.
How Do You Know if You Are Getting Enough Iodine?
In January 2008, an issue of Environmental Science and Technology published a study that indicated iodized salt does not likely contain the amount of iodine needed. Even if it did, nearly all salt used in prepared foods is not iodized. The information means using iodized salt does not guarantee that iodine requirements are being met.
The classic iodine deficiency sign is an enlarged goiter or thyroid gland. The absence of goiter is not, however, a guarantee that you get enough iodine. There are two methods to determine iodine deficiency. They are:
- Iodine Patch Test – This test is the least accurate. It entails painting a patch two inches square with two percent iodine tincture on the forearm. Ideally, the patch does not fade during the first 24 hours. Fading or disappearing in less than 24 hours indicates an iodine deficiency. Fading or disappearing in less than 12 hours is an indication of severe iodine deficiency.
- Iodine Loading Test – This test involves taking a 50 mg iodine tablet and measuring the amount of iodine excreted in the urine over a 24-hour period. The smaller the amount of iodine excreted, the more deficient the person is.
Potential Effects if You Don’t Get Enough Iodine
Iodine is not produced in the body; that is why making it part of your diet is essential. If the body does not have enough iodine, it cannot make sufficient thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency may lead to goiter which is a thyroid enlargement.
Iodine deficiency consequences are well known among scientists. Iodine deficiency is associated with:
- Some cancers
- Cognitive decline
- Cardiovascular disease
- Low energy
- Weight gain
Widespread use of iodized salt in the U. S. means a deficiency is rare. However, millions are affected worldwide with that deficiency that causes preventable brain damage. A severe deficiency may cause:
- Cretinism, which is a form of physical and mental retardation
- Increased infant mortality
- Increased perinatal death
- Decreased fertility rate
Pregnant women with severe iodine deficiency can result in:
- Permanent damage to the fetus
- Stunted growth
- Delayed sexual development
Less severe deficiencies can cause a below average IQ in infants and children and decreased an ability to think clearly and work in adults.
What Happens if You Consume too Much Iodine?
The thyroid gland regulates the iodine level in the body. Individuals tolerate a wide range of iodine intake. Iodine ingested over a short time can cause:
- Burning of the stomach, throat, and mouth
- Weak pulse
- Gastrointestinal illnesses such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
Taking high iodine doses over a long period can change the way the thyroid works. Too much iodine can cause a thyroid storm that leads to:
- A very high fever
- A racing heart
Chronic intake above the upper tolerable intake affects the thyroid in the following ways.
- Hypothyroidism (deficient thyroid hormone)
- Hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone)
- Thyroiditis (thyroid gland inflammation)
What Are the Sicknesses That Iodine Prevents?
Iodine is a rare trace element found to be effective in treating goiter. Principally known for the jobs of thyroid function and proper metabolism, iodine is necessary for healthy immune systems. It has other therapeutic benefits that include:
Virtually all cells in the body depend on iodine. Iodine is essential to the development and growth of children. Pregnant women with an adequate intake of iodine reduce the risk of preventable brain damage and mental retardation.
Iodine is required by the thyroid to produce hormones and regulate body metabolism. It prevents:
- Weight gain
- Puffy eyes
- Poor memory
- Muscle weakness and cramps
- Menstrual irregularities
- Inability to concentrate
- Elevated cholesterol
- Dry skin
- Cold feet and hands
- Brittle nails
David Brownstein, M.D. has conducted research and has clinical experience that maintains iodine is a nutrient that promotes apoptosis. Apoptosis is a process that keeps cells in check during their life cycle. Abnormal cancer cells do not undergo the process. Doses that exceed the recommended daily amount help to offset cancers of hormone-sensitive glands and tissues such as the:
Simple Tips to Getting Enough Iodine Every Day
Iodine is found in brewer’s yeast, seafood, vegetables, eggs, and dairy products. Good sources of iodine are:
- Baked potato with skins
- Baked turkey breast
- Boiled eggs
- Cooked navy beans
- Fish sticks
- Iodized salt
- Tuna, canned in oil
These suggestions ensure the required daily amount of iodine is consumed.
- Eat nutritious foods from all five food groups
- Dietitians recommend two or three seafood meals per week to benefit from fish oils containing iodine.
- Eat whole grain and high-fiber bread
- Supplements may be necessary for an inadequate dietary intake of iodine. Multivitamin capsules contain an iodine supply.
Add table salt to meals. Unless a person is on a low-sodium diet, adding iodized table salt to meals is an effective means of adding iodine to the diet. Just over a half teaspoon is all that is required. Use iodized salt in the food you cook or bake, and put iodized salt in the shaker on the table. When you reach for salt, you are adding iodine to your diet.
This article should not take the place of medical advice. You are encouraged to talk with health care providers about an interest in iodine, questions about it, the use of supplements in your diet, and what is best for overall health.
The article is intended for informational purposes. The author is not medically-trained. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before using any strategy suggested here. The information is meant to support, not replace, the existing relationship between individuals and their caregivers.
The information is not meant to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease. The design of the article is educational and not intended as a prescription. It is advised to consult a healthcare provider for any particular health concern.
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