Iodine is a useful element that cannot be produced by our body and can be taken with food. It is necessary for the production of thyroid hormone. When the need for iodine is not met at a sufficient level, the level of thyroid hormones drops and a number of health problems occur. Diseases caused by iodine deficiency are among the most common health problems in the world. Insufficient iodine intake, especially during pregnancy and infancy, can cause problems such as brain damage and mental retardation. In adults, iodine deficiency causes goiter, that is, thyroid gland enlargement. Consuming salt enriched with iodine is beneficial for preventing these diseases. In addition, it is recommended to consume enough seafood rich in iodine. Especially for iodine deficiency in pregnant and breastfeeding women is recommended to use iodine supplements.
What is iodine?
Iodine is an essential mineral commonly found in seafood. The body needs iodine, but it cannot produce it itself. The required amount can be taken with food. Unless added (eg iodized salt), very little iodine is present in food. Since iodine deficiency causes serious health problems, it may be necessary to use iodized salts and iodine supplements when necessary. Most of the iodine in the world is found in marine life, especially in the oceans.
What does iodine do?
Iodine is the essential ingredient needed to maintain proper thyroid function. The thyroid gland uses iodine to synthesize thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones aid growth and cell damage repair, control metabolism, and other important body functions. The reason for the decrease in thyroid functions is the low levels of iodine. Iodine should be taken from outside to prevent diseases related to this.
In addition, iodine has a lethal property against other microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria. It can be applied to the skin in the treatment of some fungal skin diseases and diabetic ulcers. It is also used for water purification.
What is the daily iodine requirement?
- 0-5 years: 90 micrograms / day
- 6-12 years: 120 micrograms / day
- In adolescents and adults: 150 micrograms / day
- Pregnant and breastfeeding: 200-300 micrograms/day
Causes of iodine deficiency
Iodine deficiency affects millions of people around the world. It is more common in countries where people do not have adequate access to healthy food. The most important causes of iodine deficiency:
- Living in areas where the soil is poor in iodine
- Having a diet low in iodine
- The inability of the body to process iodine sufficiently
In addition, vegetables with antithyroid compounds such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, turnips, and radishes can also prevent iodine transport in the thyroid gland and may be effective in the formation of insufficiency. These foods should be consumed in a balanced way.
In addition, people at high risk for iodine deficiency:
- Pregnant women
- Those who live in countries whose soil is poor in iodine
- Those who do not use iodized salt
- Vegetarians and vegans
Symptoms of iodine deficiency
- Swelling in the neck
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Facial swelling
- Muscle weakness
- High blood cholesterol levels
- Pain or stiffness in muscles and joints
- Heart rate slowing, resulting in dizziness and fainting
- Hair loss
- Poor memory
- The menstrual period is more severe than normal
Swelling or goiter in the front of the neck is the most common symptom of iodine deficiency. It occurs when the thyroid gland has difficulty producing thyroid hormones due to iodine deficiency. In addition, as iodine contributes to the regeneration of hair and skin cells, hair loss and dry skin may occur in case of deficiency. Since thyroid hormones affect the regulation of the menstrual cycle in women, this period may be heavy or irregular in women with iodine deficiency.
What diseases does iodine deficiency cause?
Goiter and hypothyroidism are the most common diseases associated with iodine deficiency. In addition, people with iodine deficiency are at risk for the following diseases:
- Thyroid cancer
- Thyroid-related autoimmune diseases
- Infertility in women
- Prostate, breast, endometrium, and ovarian cancer
- Heart problems, such as an enlarged heart or heart failure
- Peripheral neuropathy: Refers to diseases in the nerves. Among the main symptoms are tingling and numbness, pins, and needles, excessive sensitivity, color changes in the skin, nails, and hair, wounds and ulcers on the feet, sweating disorders, heart rhythm disorders, nocturnal diarrhea, and incontinence.
- Various mental illnesses and disorders
Iodine deficiency treatment
As with many diseases, it is more important to take preventive measures than treatment. In the last 80 years, worldwide studies have been conducted to eliminate iodine deficiency. This problem is one of the most important goals of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Iodine-enriched salt has been the mainstay of preventing this problem in many countries. In regions where the use of common iodized salt is not possible, iodized oil injections or iodized bread production have been used from time to time. Improving water resources has also been effective in some regions. If the iodine intake is insufficient with nutrition, supplements may be required. Many multivitamin capsules and tablets contain 100-150 mcg of iodine.
Iodine supplements and medications
Supplements containing potassium iodide and potassium iodate are the most easily absorbed form by the body. Use supplements not exceeding 150 mcg daily. Iodine overload can cause thyroid problems. Most people with iodine deficiency can correct their health problems by changing their diets or adding supplements.
People with myxedema (a severe form of hypothyroidism) may need to be treated in a hospital. Once the person is stabilized, the doctor will monitor thyroid function and recommend a diet to ensure adequate consumption of iodine to ensure regular hormone levels.
Iodine deficiency and pregnancy
In areas where iodized salt is not available and iodine deficiency, iodine supplements are recommended by experts for women of reproductive age, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women. All pregnant women should consume approximately 250 mcg of iodine per day.
To reach a total of 250 mcg daily, strategies may vary by country. In some countries, iodized oil supplements containing 400 mcg given once a year may be appropriate, while in others, potassium iodide supplements may be given daily.
Since even a mild deficiency during pregnancy can have an impact on the birth and the developing baby, women planning a pregnancy, pregnant and breastfeeding should supplement their diet with a daily oral supplement containing 150 mcg of iodine in the form of potassium iodide. This is started at least 3 months before the planned pregnancy. There is no need for iodine supplementation in pregnant women receiving treatment for hyperthyroidism or taking LT4 hormone.
What causes iodine deficiency in pregnant women?
Low amounts of thyroid hormone in pregnant women may increase the risk of birth defects.
Problems that iodine deficiency can cause include:
- Early birth
- Congenital anomalies in newborns
- Cretinism disease (in severe cases, a disease manifested by the cessation of mental and physical development as a result of insufficient thyroid hormone secretion)
Iodine deficiency in infants and children
In the developing baby or young child, deficiency has serious implications such as growth and mental retardation. Iodine deficiency is a major problem in developing countries and the number one cause of preventable mental disability in children around the world. When it is mild, it only causes goiter, but it can still delay brain development.
Symptoms of iodine deficiency in infants
- Choking, suffocation
- Language expansion
- Facial swelling
- Muscle weakness
- Excessive sleep
- Neonatal goiter
- Neonatal hypothyroidism
- Neurological disorders
- Increased susceptibility of the thyroid gland to nuclear radiation
Symptoms of iodine deficiency in children and adolescents
- Growth retardation
- Delay in tooth development
- Delay in puberty
- Poor mental development
- Low IQ
- Learning difficulties
Iodine deficiency and goiter
Swelling in the front of the neck is the most important symptom of iodine deficiency. This is called a goiter and occurs when the thyroid gland is enlarged. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It makes thyroid hormones after receiving signals from thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
When TSH blood levels rise, the thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. When the iodine level in your body is low, it cannot produce enough. The thyroid gland starts to work harder to compensate. This causes cells to grow and proliferate, ultimately leading to goiter.
Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of thyroid enlargement and goiter worldwide. Nodules may develop within the goiter. Patients with large goiter may experience choking symptoms, difficulty swallowing and breathing, especially when lying down. Fortunately, most cases can be treated by increasing the intake of iodine. However, if the goiter is left untreated for many years, it can cause permanent thyroid damage.
What to eat for iodine deficiency?
Due to the variety of iodine in the soil, irrigation water, and fertilizers, the amount of iodine in fruits and vegetables may vary.
- Cheese: Cottage cheese is one of the best sources of iodine. One piece of cottage cheese provides 65 mcg, while a piece of cheddar cheese provides about 12 mcg.
- Cow’s milk: 1 glass of milk can meet 59-112% of the daily need.
- Egg: Most of the iodine in the egg is in the yolk. On average, one large egg provides 16% of the daily recommended amount.
- Tuna: Three pieces of tuna provide about 11% of the daily recommended amount.
- Codfish: It is a fish that is low in fat and calorie, but very rich in a wide variety of minerals and nutrients, along with iodine. For example, 85 grams of cod contains about 63-99 mcg or 42-66% of the daily recommended amount of iodine.
- Shrimp: Three pieces of shrimp provide about 23% of the daily value.
- Iodized salt: Using 2 grams of iodized salt per day will meet your daily needs. Be careful to store the salt in dark-colored closed glass containers that are not exposed to light, sun, and air in cool environments without moisture and add it after the meal is cooked.
- Yogurt: One cup of plain yogurt provides about half the daily recommended amount.
- Seaweed (seaweed): Seaweed is one of the best natural sources of iodine. However, the amount it contains can vary significantly depending on the type, the region where it grows, and the preparation.
- Prunes: Prunes are a good source of iodine for vegetarians or vegans. Five prunes provide 13 mcg of iodine or about 9% of the daily needed value.
Taking too much iodine can also cause problems. This is especially true for individuals who already have thyroid problems such as nodules, hyperthyroidism, and autoimmune thyroid disease. Large amounts of iodine intake can impair or worsen thyroid function through medications (eg amiodarone), radiology procedures (iodinated intravenous dye), and excessive consumption of seafood.