Iodine is a trace element that our bodies need in small amounts for proper functioning. The primary role of iodine is to support the production of thyroid hormones, which are crucial for regulating metabolism, growth, and development. Iodine deficiency can lead to various health problems, including hypothyroidism and goitre.

Functions of Iodine

  • Thyroid hormone production: Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism, growth, and development.
  • Brain development: Adequate iodine intake is critical during pregnancy and early childhood for proper brain development.
  • Immune function: Iodine plays a role in the normal functioning of the immune system.

Good Sources of Iodine

Iodine can be found in various food sources, both plant-based and animal-based. These include:

  • Seafood: Fish, such as cod and tuna, and shellfish, like shrimp and oysters, are excellent sources of iodine.
  • Iodized salt: Most table salt is fortified with iodine, providing an easy way to ensure adequate iodine intake.
  • Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese contain moderate amounts of iodine, as cows consume iodine-rich feed.
  • Eggs: Eggs contain some iodine, primarily in the yolk.
  • Seaweed: Some types of seaweed, such as kelp and nori, are naturally rich in iodine.
  • Bread and cereals: Some bread and cereals are fortified with iodine.

How Much Iodine Do We Need?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily intake of iodine varies depending on age, sex, and life stage. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Infants (0-6 months)*: 110 mcg/day (micrograms)
  • Infants (7-12 months)*: 130 mcg/day
  • Children (1-8 years): 90 mcg/day
  • Children (9-13 years): 120 mcg/day
  • Teens (14-18 years): 150 mcg/day
  • Adults (19 years and older): 150 mcg/day
  • Pregnant women: 220 mcg/day
  • Breastfeeding women: 290 mcg/day

 * The values for infants are adequate intake (AI)

It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine your specific iodine needs.

What are the Signs of Iodine Deficiency?

Iodine deficiency is relatively common, especially in regions where the soil is low in iodine. Some common signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency include:

  • Goitre: Enlargement of the thyroid gland, causing a visible swelling in the neck.
  • Hypothyroidism: Low thyroid hormone production, which can lead to fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, and dry skin.
  • Cognitive impairment: In severe cases, iodine deficiency can lead to cognitive impairments, especially in children.
  • Pregnancy complications: Iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight, preterm birth, and developmental delays in the child.

If you suspect you may be deficient in iodine, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and treatment.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Iodine?

Excessive iodine intake can lead to thyroid dysfunction and other health problems. Some common signs of excessive iodine intake include:

Hyperthyroidism: Overconsumption of iodine can cause hyperthyroidism, a condition characterised by an overactive thyroid gland and increased production of thyroid hormones. Symptoms may include weight loss, increased heart rate, irritability, and anxiety.

  • Hypothyroidism: In some cases, excessive iodine intake can paradoxically lead to hypothyroidism, as the thyroid gland becomes less responsive to iodine.
  • Goitre: Excessive iodine intake can cause an enlargement of the thyroid gland, leading to goitre, similar to what occurs in iodine deficiency.
  • Thyroiditis: Inflammation of the thyroid gland can occur due to excessive iodine intake, leading to pain, discomfort, and potential thyroid dysfunction.

It’s essential to follow the recommended daily intake guidelines and consult with a healthcare professional before taking iodine supplements, as excessive iodine intake can be harmful.