What do you need to know about iodine deficiency? Find out more about this condition here.
In this article:
- What Is Iodine?
- Where Does Iodine Come From Exactly?
- Why Does Iodine Matter?
- What Does the Thyroid Do?
- What Are the Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency?
- How Much Iodine Do People Need?
- How Do You Test for Iodine Deficiency?
- What Iodine Deficiency Treatment Works Best?
Understanding Iodine Deficiency Disease
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UNICEF reports 86% of the world population suffers from iodine deficiency. It is sometimes seen in the U.S. and other developed countries in individuals with low functioning thyroids.
What exactly is iodine deficiency? First, you have to know more about the organs and chemicals involved in this condition.
What Is Iodine?
Iodine is a chemical element in the halogen category, and it’s essential for human life.
Anyone who has taken a biology or chemistry class knows iodine by its dark purple-black color. On the other hand, over-the-counter iodine for first-aid is orange.
French chemist Bernard Courtois gets the credit for discovering this element in the early 1800s. He was attempting to help his father, a manufacturer of saltpeter for use in gunpowder when he stumbled across it.
Later, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac gave iodine its name.
Where Does Iodine Come from Exactly?
Iodine is a trace element in the earth’s crust. Most of the ground consists of 32 different components, but trace elements like iodine make up a small portion.
Among these trace elements, iodine is the 61st in abundance.
Why Does Iodine Matter?
The human body needs iodine to make thyroid hormones. The problem is the body can’t make it on its own, it must come from an external source like food or a dietary supplement.
Most Americans get iodine from table salt. That’s because manufacturers add it into the salt. There are also foods that are naturally high in iodine such as:
- Dairy products
- Lima beans
Iodine is also found in good supplemental health products that support the thyroid.
Not getting the element from food is one of the most common iodine deficiency causes. Iodine is an essential nutrient and not getting enough of it can cause an iodine deficiency goiter or enlarged thyroid gland.
What Does the Thyroid Do?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits behind Adam’s apple in your neck. Its job is to produce hormones that affect things like:
- Heart function
- Development in children
- Sexual function
- Body temperature
Moreover, the thyroid produces three hormones that contain iodine. In turn, thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism can come from not getting enough iodine.
What Are the Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency?
The most obvious of the sign of iodine deficiency is the development of a goiter. Without iodine, the thyroid grows larger, which is a side effect of trying to keep producing the hormones.
Globally, iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
Signs of hypothyroidism include:
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Gaining weight
- Puffy face
- Weak muscles
- High blood cholesterol
- Painful joints
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Difficulty remembering things
These are not iodine deficiency symptoms, but they do show a thyroid condition that can come from low iodine.
Problem pregnancies are also on the list for signs of iodine deficiency. Women with iodine deficiency disease may be prone to miscarriages, stillbirths, and preterm babies.
Since iodine is an essential part of development, babies can also have abnormalities or defects at birth when mom doesn’t get enough.
How Much Iodine Do People Need?
The amount of iodine a body needs depends on many things. For instance, pregnant women need more iodine than most people.
An expectant mom needs as much as 220 micrograms (mcg) of iodine each day. Meanwhile, someone who is breastfeeding will need 290mcg.
The recommended daily allowances based on age are:
- Babies age newborn to six months need 110mcg
- Babies age seven to 12 months need 130mcg
- Children from one to eight years need 90mcg
- Children from nine to 13 years need 120mcg
- Anyone over the age of 14 needs 150mcg
These numbers are for people who are healthy and have no thyroid problems or iodine deficiency symptoms.
The most common cause of iodine deficiency is not getting the element from food.
On the other hand, there is also such thing as too much iodine. Low iodine can lead to hypothyroidism, but too much can mean hyperthyroidism or the overproduction of thyroid hormone.
In adults, 1,100mcg can cause health problems.
How Do You Test for Iodine Deficiency?
The clinical iodine deficiency test involves taking blood samples. There are less effective home tests like the iodine patch, though.
By painting a 3×3 square of orange iodine on the arm, people can see how well their body absorbs it. If the orange patch fades, it might show an iodine deficiency, but it’s hardly conclusive.
The idea is if the skin absorbs the iodine, it needs the essential element.
What Iodine Deficiency Treatment Works Best?
The best iodine deficiency treatment is prevention. Follow the recommended daily requirements for iodine intake.
Don’t forget to download, save, or share this handy infographic for reference:
It takes just a few lifestyle changes to manage the symptoms of thyroid problems from iodine deficiency. For some, all they will need to do is eat foods that provide natural iodine and take supplements that support the thyroid.
Try this iodine-rich bread for a healthier thyroid. Enjoy!
Are you or someone you love showing symptoms of iodine deficiency? Share your experience with this condition in the comments section!
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