IodineAlthough our body requires only a small amount of iodine, this element is so essential for health that the United States government, back in the 1920ies, has decided to add it to the kitchen salt. The salt iodination process has led to the almost complete disappearance of cretenism in the United States, a form of severe mental retardation.

In the United Kingdom salt is not iodised, but such salt can still be obtained. Apart from iodised salt, a good nutrition sources of this element are fish and seafood, as well as fruits and vegetables if they grown on soil rich in iodine.

The importance of this mineral has long been known, but today, more than 1.6 billion people suffer from its deficiency (mostly in developing countries).

How does it work?

Iodine is unique. Only one of its roles in the body is known – it is necessary to produce thyroxine in the thyroid gland. (Thyroxine is a hormone that regulates the metabolism of all cells in the body.)

PREVENTION: by consuming a sufficient amount of iodine, pregnant women can prevent the development of mental retardation of the fetus.

ADDITIONAL USEFUL EFFECTS: unlike many other minerals, iodine does not seem to help treat a particular disease. But, it is extraordinarily important for the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland, a small organ located on the front of the throat and the upper part of trachea. The amount of iodine in the body is about 40 mg (if the iodine intake is normal), of which 75% is stored in the thyroid gland. This gland controls the overall metabolism and determines how quickly and efficiently the energy sources will be utilized.

This gland also regulates growth and development in childhood, reproductive function, nerve and muscle function, protein and fat degradation, hair growth and nail and oxygen utilization in all body cells. There is some evidence that iodine from inorganic sources can alleviate the pain in fibrocystic breast disease, but if you have this disease you should consult your doctor first.

How much iodine is needed?

The recommended amount of daily iodine intake for adult men and women is 140 μg. The iodized salt spoon contains about 300 μg of iodine, but there are other dietary sources of this mineral.

IF YOU TAKE TOO LITTLE: iodine deficiency is very rare in developed countries, and the first sign of such a disorder is an increase of thyroid gland, or goitre. Although iodine deficiency can lead to decreased levels of thyroid hormone (i.e., hypothyroidism), this disorder is more likely to occur as a result of autoimmune disease.

This is the state in which the body creates antibodies against its own thyroid gland. Symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue, dry skin, increased body fat, hoarseness, slow reflexes, and reduced clearness. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor.

IF YOU TAKE TOO MUCH: the risk of iodine overdose is very small, even if you are taking 10 to 20 times the recommended amount. If you take doses 30 times larger than recommended, you may experience symptoms such as metallic taste in the mouth, wounds in the mouth, swelling of the salivary glands, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, rash and difficult breathing. Paradoxically, however, too much iodine intake can also cause goitre because it can cause thyrotoxicosis. In this condition, characterized by elevated levels of thyroxine, hyperactivity, accelerated reflexes, anxiety and excessive body mass reduction appear.

How to take it?

DOSAGE: it is very likely that you will have enough iodine, especially if you consume fish regularly. Also, iodine is often in many multivitamin and mineral supplements. People who receive substitution therapy for thyroid hormones should consult with their physicians before taking iodine.

USE GUIDELINES: appropriate iodine dietary supplements can be taken at any time of the day, with or without food.

Other sources

This mineral is found in freshwater fish and sea herbs like kelp. Soils in coastal areas are mostly rich in iodine, as well as milk of cows that feed in these areas. Same goes for fruits and vegetables that grow in those areas. Bread and cakes are also good iodine sources.

IMPORTANT: iodine deficiency is rare in developed countries, and this dietary supplements should only be taken by the physician’s advice.