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Iodine Supplement Information & Facts

Iodine is a chemical element which the body needs for its proper functioning but cannot make on its own. The body's supply must come from the diet. Generally, very little iodine is present in food, unless it is added during processing. This has become a common practice in the manufacture of salt. Iodine is found in the ocean, in seaweed and in salt water fishes.

The thyroid gland requires iodine for the manufacture of essential hormones like thyroxine (also known as T4) and triiodothyronine (also known as T3).

If the body is deficient in iodine, then the thyroid gland has to work harder to produce the hormones required. This causes an enlargement of the thyroid gland resulting in a swollen neck. This condition is known as goiter.

Iodine deficiency can lead to other serious consequences. In women it can stop the process of ovulation leading to infertility. It can cause an autoimmune disease of the thyroid and may increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer. Research indicates that iodine deficiency may also play a role in other cancers such as ovarian, breast, endometrial and prostate cancers.

Of the two hormones produced, thyroxine or T4 plays an important role in regulating physical development and the metabolic processes. Triiodothyronine or T3 is more potent and regulates overall growth and development rate. The tissues and glands also require iodine for their proper functioning. These include the salivary glands, mammary glands, prostate glands, gonads and ovaries. Iodine also plays an important role in supporting the immune system. It also helps the body to flush out many toxins and heavy metals like lead and mercury.

Your physician may recommend the addition of an iodine supplement to your diet if your iodine levels are low. Your physician will guide you as to the required dosage you need. There are many different types of iodine supplements available. The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements suggests that, potassium iodide is most easily absorbed by the body. Natural iodine supplements are also available, usually containing seaweed extracts. Some iodine supplements contain other ingredients like vitamins and minerals. However, not all multivitamin supplements contain iodine. In the United States, only about half of the available prenatal vitamin supplements, contain iodine. Salt that has been fortified with iodine can also supply you with your daily iodine requirements. If you consume one teaspoon of iodized salt daily, then you may not require iodine supplements.

Iodine Supplement And Health

If you have low levels of blood iodine, your doctor may prescribe you iodine supplements. This may not be necessary if you eat enough of iodized salt. The American Thyroid Association recommends taking one teaspoon of iodized salt which contains 400 mcg of iodine every day. However, this may not be possible in the case of those suffering from hypertension because salt increases blood pressure. In such cases, iodine supplements are the only alternative.

You obtain many health benefits from iodine supplements. The main benefit lies in the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Adequate levels of iodine are a must for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. In cases of iodine deficiency, the thyroid has to work much harder to produce the hormones T4 and T3. This can lead to conditions like goiter and hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a condition caused by low thyroid hormone levels leading to substantial weight gain, dry skin and chronic fatigue.

Weight gain caused by hypothyroidism can be a cause for concern as it puts a strain on other organs in the body. The heart must work a lot harder to pump blood and comes under increasing strain. Weight gain can cause fat deposits on the liver, known as a fatty liver. This in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes with all its attendant complications. It is essential for people with hypothyroidism to keep a strict check on their weight or to undertake a weight loss program if required, to prevent further complications from taking place.

Infants should never be given iodine supplements without first consulting a pediatrician. The National Institute of Medicine recommends that infants between 0 to 6 months of age should receive 110 mcg of iodine daily. Breast milk usually contains enough iodine to supply a baby with its daily iodine requirement. Mothers who do not breastfeed or those with low output of breast milk should consult their doctor about an appropriate feed for their child.

Between the ages of 7 to 12 months the daily requirement of iodine rises to 130 mcg each day. Lack of adequate iodine in their diet may affect the child's mental and physical growth. Between the ages of 1 to 8 years, the daily intake of iodine should be 90 mcg. This should be consumed in the form of iodized salt and supplements should only be given in such cases on the recommendation of a doctor.

As a child approaches puberty, the daily iodine requirement rises to 120 mcg daily. Adolescents and adults require 150 mcg daily.
Studies have linked iodine deficiency to thyroid cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.

Iodine promotes healthy skin, hair, nails and teeth. Iodine deficiency has been linked to skin problems like puffiness, dry skin and acne and even hair loss. Other symptoms of iodine deficiency are fatigue and aching muscles. Iodine has also been used to treat fibrocystic breast changes. It may even cause sluggish thought processes and in severe cases may lead to depression. The low hormonal levels caused by iodine deficiency can affect the body's metabolism and cause constipation.
Iodine douches may be used by women to reduce vaginal inflammation, and itching and discharge that occur in vaginitis. It is also used as a tincture to treat burns and wounds.

Graves disease is another thyroid related disorder. It is caused by an abnormal autoimmune response that causes the thyroid to produce too much hormones, a condition known as hyperthyroidism. It is most common in women over 20 years of age but may affect men as well. Patients with graves should not take iodine supplements. Instead antithyroid medications and radioactive iodine are required and in some cases even surgery.

For Women

During pregnancy, it is essential for expectant mothers to increase their iodine intake every day. This is because she needs iodine for herself as well as for the health of the developing baby. Pregnant women should consume 220 mcg. of iodine daily. Breastfeeding mothers require even higher levels of iodine as the element is passed from the mother to the nursing infant via the breast milk. Lactating mothers require as much as 300 mcg. of iodine every day.

Iodine deficiency in pregnant women can lead to severe consequences for the developing baby. It increases the risk of cretinism, a severe birth defect in newborn babies that is characterized by mental retardation and growth abnormalities. To safeguard against this, it is necessary to monitor iodine levels in pregnant women and in newborn infants as well. Women with iodine deficiency are at a greater risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cyst which may lead to ovarian cancer.

Side Effects

Taking high doses of iodine supplements can cause complications like hyperthyroidism. This is caused by too much thyroid hormone being produced. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include sudden weight loss, tremors, irritability, sweating, clammy skin, fatigue and frequent bowel movements and may require prompt medical attention. In women, high levels of iodine may result in changes in their menstrual cycle.

Very high doses of iodine are toxic. Excessive iodine intake can cause serious harm and may result in thyroid diseases. Iodine supplements may have adverse interactions with other categories of drugs such as ACE inhibitors, diuretics and certain thyroid medications. Other drugs which can have an adverse effect with iodine supplements are lithium and ARB (Angiostenin Receptor Blockers) drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure.

Iodine supplements should be used only on the recommendation of a physician. The tolerable daily upper limit of iodine intake is 1100 mcg. for adults over the age of 18, and 900 mcg. for children between the ages of 14 and 18. Some foods contain compounds known as goitrogens which block the utilization of iodine. These foods can, over the long term, promote the development of goiter if consumed in large amounts. Some of these foods are kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach, turnips, cabbage, pears and peaches. If you have an under active thyroid, consult your physician on any dietary changes you need to make with regard to these foods.

As a rule it is necessary to consult your physician before taking any form of iodine supplements especially if you are on any kind of prescription medications. This is more so in the case of pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Submitted on April 18, 2012