Should You Take Iodine Supplements?
An increasing number of people are wondering whether they should be taking iodine supplements. Iodine is a trace element, which is a main component of the thyroid hormone thyroxine, and it is very important for maintaining healthy thyroid function.
Thyroxine is the thyroid component which controls and regulates the metabolic rate, which is the rate at which the body burns calories. Iodine deficiency can slow the metabolic rate, leading to weight gain.
Iodine is also a component in tissues connecting muscles and bones, and is important in forming the nervous system of a fetus. A deficiency of iodine in the expectant mother can lead to the baby developing a condition known as cretinism, which is characterized by severe learning disability.
A deficiency in iodine can lead to the thyroid producing insufficient amounts of the thyroid hormones. This can cause goiters (enlarged thyroid glands) and could eventually lead to brain damage. Iodine deficiency in children can cause stunted growth due to malfunctioning of the metabolic rate. Symptoms of iodine deficiency include weight gain, dry skin, chronic fatigue, feelings of sluggishness, goiter, hypothyroidism and a reduced immune system function.
Good sources of iodine include shellfish, kelp, cereals and grains. Adults need around 0.14 mg of iodine per day; it is very rare to become deficient in iodine, as a healthy balanced diet will supply all of our iodine requirements. However, sometimes other factors can have an impact on the body’s ability to absorb and use iodine.
Sometimes an iodine supplement may be required in the event of a deficiency. These can either contain iodine rich foods such as kelp or seaweed or pure iodine in tablet form. However, iodine supplements must be taken with caution as too much iodine can have a harmful effect. Overdosing on iodine can cause vomiting, seizures and delirium, and can lead to damage of the brain and intestines which could be permanent. An excess of iodine can also cause goiters, and at high doses it is actually toxic.
If you feel you may be deficient in iodine you must first see your doctor. He will carry out a urinalysis to determine your level of thyroid function and should be able to determine whether you really are deficient or whether your body is unable to absorb and use iodine. He may decide to prescribe thyroid hormones rather than iodine supplements as the effects of these are easier to monitor.
Never be tempted to take iodine supplements to try to lose weight, and take supplements only under close supervision of a nutritionist or other health professional. Always make sure you purchase your iodine supplements from a reputable source, especially if they contain seaweed, as pollutants in the water they are harvested from could have a harmful effect.