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Iodine - The Often-Overlooked Mineral

Iodine is an incredibly important essential trace mineral, which is sadly often overlooked when it comes to health. Being an essential trace mineral, means the body cannot produce iodine itself and thus needs to obtain it from the diet.

Adequate supply of iodine is vital for our thyroid hormones which regulate our metabolism, body temperature, healthy growth, reproduction, blood cell production, and nerve and muscle function. Put simply, iodine deficiency compromises the thyroid, which in turn compromises numerous vital functions in our body! We cannot function optimally without adequate iodine.

According to The Australian Thyroid Foundation, at least 50% of Australians, children, and pregnant & breastfeeding women especially, are iodine deficient, and at risk of developing thyroid disease. This is due to several factors, particularly including; poor dietary habits, nutrient-poor Australian soil, and chlorine/fluoride in our water supply, competing with the uptake of iodine. Low thyroid hormone levels (caused by low iodine levels) can affect your general health, fertility, and ability for a woman to carry a pregnancy to full term. Equally, too much iodine can also have a negative effect on the thyroid, which is why you always need to consult with your practitioner before taking an iodine supplement.

Why is Iodine So Important in Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the fetus is entirely dependent upon maternal iodine. Iodine is vital for fetal development, playing a significant role in normal central nervous system formation and maturation. Maternal iodine deficiency during pregnancy is the most common worldwide cause of preventable fetal intellectual impairment and can be associated with losses of up to 10-15 IQ points. Apart from causing thyroid disease, low iodine levels have been shown to reduce your chances of pregnancy by 50% every month. In addition, low iodine levels in pregnancy are now the most common cause of mental retardation in the world. It is therefore very important to increase your iodine levels as quickly as possible if they are discovered to be low. So, ladies, please don’t underestimate the importance of iodine during preconception, pregnancy and breastfeeding! This is something that should always be discussed with your practitioner.

Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency

Symptoms of prolonged iodine deficiency and related thyroid disorders include:

· Fatigue, lethargy, and muscle weakness

· Unexpected weight gain

· Low mood and depression

· Increased sensitivity to cold

· Hair loss

· Dry skin

· Brain fog, poor concentration and memory impairment

· Swelling in the neck (due to an enlarged thyroid gland/goitre)

· Thick puffy skin or puffiness of the face

· Constipation

· Weak, slow heart beat

Measuring Iodine Levels

Due to the high incidence of iodine deficiency in Australia, and the potential consequences which flow from deficiency, we very commonly test our patients’ iodine in clinic, especially our fertility patients. Iodine levels are measured in the urine – either via a single sample or a 24-hour collection.

Natural Sources of Iodine

The recommended daily intake of iodine is 150mcg for adults and 220mcg during pregnancy.

Iodine is generally readily available through a normal or vegetarian diet via vegetables grown in iodine rich soils (mainly in coastal regions) and products from animals that eat these plants. Iodine must be obtained regularly from the diet as it is not conserved for long term use. Furthermore, buying organic wherever possible, will help to increase the iodine content. Top food sources of iodine include;

· Seafood – fish especially whiting, mackerel, sardines, cod, mussels.

· Vegetables – all but particularly beetroot, celery, fennel, spinach, lettuce, artichoke, and mushrooms.

· Fruits – all but particularly grapes, pineapple, and oranges.

· Eggs – a great source!

· Seaweed – dulse flakes and kelp are great to sprinkle on meals, or snack on nori sheets.

· Adding iodised sea salt to your diet is also a fantastic way of increasing your iodine levels.

Any potential supplementation should be recommended and supervised by a qualified practitioner.

Support and Prioritise Your Thyroid Health

Iodine is an essential mineral needed for healthy thyroid function and metabolism, for growth and development, and brain/nervous system health in utero and beyond. If you think you may be suffering with an unhappy thyroid (iodine could be the cause!), please get in touch with us today. Our highly qualified Naturopaths/Nutritionists support individuals with thyroid disease/iodine deficiency in the Darling Health clinic on a weekly basis. Naturopathic treatment can make an enormous difference, we are here to help.

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