Iodine: A Vital Nutrient
By: Nadine Miles BS, MS, PA-C
Iodine is a vital element that is required by the body to produce thyroid hormones. It is not produced by the body and therefore must be consumed through diet in order to maintain appropriate levels in the body. The WHO (World Health Organization) evaluated 92% of the world’s population from 1993-2003, and found that a staggering 1.9 billion people are iodine deficient which included 285 million school aged children. While the United States was found to be among the lowest prevalence – around 10%, the study serves to underscore the magnitude of this public-health issue.
Iodine serves to make thyroid hormones, which help regulate body temperature, regulate and repair damaged cells, and maintain the function of brain, heart, skeletal muscles and other organs in the body. The most common symptom of iodine deficiency is goiter formation, that is to say, enlargement of the thyroid gland. However, it has been noted in our clinical practice, that many people that present with iodine deficiency do not have goiters at all. Other symptoms include hypothyroidism or pregnancy related problems such as miscarriage, stillbirth, or congenital abnormalities. Furthermore, pregnant mothers who are iodine deficient can give birth to children with low intelligence.
To reverse the deficiency, simply consuming foods that contain iodine is a good start. These include, dairy, soy, eggs, seaweed, saltwater fish, and shellfish. Additionally, consuming iodized salt and taking a multivitamin that contains iodine can be employed as a solution. Pregnant and nursing women should ensure that their prenatal vitamin contains iodine, as iodine deficiencies are most severe in this population as well as their babies.
It is important to monitor your levels once intervention has started because overloading with iodine can also cause problems, particularly if you already have thyroid dysfunction, nodules, or autoimmune thyroiditis. Certain medications like Amiodarone, IV contrast dyes, and overeating sea vegetables such as dulce or kelp can worsen symptoms of hypothyroid, and potentially cause hyperthyroid.
If you or someone you know suspect they have an iodine deficiency, or symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, call and schedule an appointment for a comprehensive thyroid evaluation and iodine screening. Symptom relief can be as simple as replenishing this vital nutrient.