One of the most important and overlooked minerals today is iodine. Iodine is needed in the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. However, iodine is also required for every tissue of the body!
It is called the endocrine mineral because it is important not only for the thyroid gland, but also for the adrenal glands, ovaries, breasts, prostate gland, and the entire hormone system of the body.
What happens if I don’t get enough iodine?
Iodine deficiency is uncommon in the United States and Canada. People who don’t get enough iodine cannot make sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. This can cause many problems. In pregnant women, severe iodine deficiency can permanently harm the fetus by causing stunted growth, mental retardation, and delayed sexual development. Less severe iodine deficiency can cause lower-than-average IQ in infants and children and decrease adults’ ability to work and think clearly. Goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland, is often the first visible sign of iodine deficiency.
What are some effects of iodine on health?
Scientists are studying iodine to understand how it affects health. Here are some examples of what this research has shown.
Fetal and infant development
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need to get enough iodine for their babies to grow and develop properly. Breastfed infants get iodine from breast milk. However, the iodine content of breast milk depends on how much iodine the mother gets.
To make adequate amounts of iodine available for proper fetal and infant development, several national and international groups recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women and infants take iodine supplements. In the United States and Canada, the American Thyroid Association recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women take prenatal vitamin/mineral supplements containing iodine (150 mcg/day). However, only about half the prenatal multivitamins sold in the United States contain iodine.
Cognitive function during childhood
Severe iodine deficiency during childhood has harmful effects on the development of the brain and nervous system. The effects of mild iodine deficiency during childhood are more difficult to measure, but mild iodine deficiency might cause subtle problems with neurological development.
Giving iodine supplements to children with mild iodine deficiency improves their reasoning abilities and overall cognitive function. In children living in iodine-deficient areas, iodine supplements seem to improve both physical and mental development. More study is needed to fully understand the effects of mild iodine deficiency and of iodine supplements on cognitive function.
Fibrocystic breast disease
Although not harmful, fibrocystic breast disease causes lumpy, painful breasts. It mainly affects women of reproductive age but can also occur during menopause. Very high doses of iodine supplements might reduce the pain and other symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease, but more study is necessary to confirm this. Check with your healthcare provider before taking iodine for this condition, especially because iodine can be unsafe at high doses.
Can iodine be harmful?
Iodine supplements might interact with anti-thyroid medications such as methimazole (Tapazole®), used to treat hyperthyroidism. Taking high doses of iodine with anti-thyroid medications could cause your body to produce too little thyroid hormone.
Taking potassium iodide with medicines for high blood pressure known as ACE inhibitors could raise the amount of potassium in your blood to an unsafe level. ACE inhibitors include benazepril (Lotensin®), lisinopril (Prinivil® and Zestril®), and fosinopril (Monopril®).
The amount of potassium in your blood can also get too high if you take potassium iodide with potassium-sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone (Aldactone®) and amiloride (Midamor®).
Tell your doctor, pharmacist, and other health care providers about any dietary supplements and medicines you take. They can tell you if those dietary supplements might interact or interfere with your prescription or over-the-counter medicines or if the medicines might interfere with how your body absorbs, uses, or breaks down nutrients.
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