Iodine is an element that is essential for the production of the thyroid hormone, but the body doesn’t make it, and so iodine must be obtained through diet. Sufficient thyroid hormone is not produced without enough iodine. Iodine deficiency can lead to enlargement of the thyroid (goiter), hypothyroidism, and mental retardation in infants and children whose mothers were iodine deficient during pregnancy.
Iodine deficiency is caused by not having enough iodine in the diet. The availability of iodine in foods differs in various regions around the world and is also impacted by the levels of iodine in soil. Individuals in some countries can maintain adequate iodine in their diets by using iodized table salt where available. Foods high in iodine can prevent iodine deficiency.
All of the symptoms of iodine deficiency are related to its effect on the thyroid, resulting in enlarged thyroid (goiter) or hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of goiter:
Sensation of choking, especially when lying down
Difficulty swallowing and breathing
Symptoms of hypothyroidism:
Iodine deficiency is typically diagnosed across populations and not specifically in individuals. However, since iodine is released from the body through the urine, it can be determined individually for adopted children by measuring the amounts of iodine in the urine.
Maternal iodine deficiency can be associated with miscarriages, stillbirths, pre-term delivery, and congenital abnormalities in the baby. Children born of mothers with iodine deficiency can have mental retardation, delayed growth, hearing problems, and speech delays. Congenital hypothyroidism due to iodine deficiency is the most common preventable cause for mental retardation in the world. Even mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy can be associated with low intelligence in children.
When iodine deficiency is seen in an entire population, it can be managed by addressing that population’s diet. Iodized salt, iodized oil, and iodized water supplies have all been effective at preventing iodine deficiencies.
The amount of iodine found in most food is typically quite small and varies depending on environmental factors such as the soil concentration of iodine and the use of fertilizers. Some of the richest food sources of iodine are often processed foods that contain iodized salt, and breads that contain iodate dough conditioners.
Sea vegetables are an excellent source of iodine. Yogurt, cow’s milk, cod liver oil, eggs, mozzarella cheese, and strawberries are good sources of iodine. There is iodine in fish and shellfish, but amounts are extremely variable and difficult to predict.
Common Sources of Dietary Iodine:
Iodized table salt
Seaweed (including kelp, dulce, nori)