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Iodine, also called iodide, is a type of mineral found naturally in the earth’s soils and ocean waters. Many saltwater and plant-based foods contain iodine, and this mineral is most commonly found in iodized salt.

It is important to get enough iodine in the diet. It regulates hormones, fetal development and more.

If your iodine levels are low, your doctor may recommend supplements. You should not take supplements without first consulting your doctor.

Read on to learn more about the uses and side effects of iodine, plus recommended daily amounts by age.

Iodine is considered an essential mineral for our body . It is especially important during pregnancy, and exposure in the womb can even help prevent certain health conditions later in life.

Below is a list of some of the most important uses and how they benefit the body.

Supporting thyroid health

Iodine plays a vital role in thyroid health. Your thyroid gland, located at the front base of your neck, helps regulate hormone production. These hormones control your metabolism, heart health, and more.

Your thyroid takes a small amount of iodine to make thyroid hormones. Without iodine, thyroid hormone production may decrease. A “low” or poorly functioning thyroid gland can lead to a condition called hypothyroidism.

Given that iodine is common in Western diets, thyroid health is typically not affected by low iodine levels in the United States.

You can get enough iodine from your diet by eating dairy products, enriched foods, and saltwater fish. Iodine is also found naturally in phytonutrients grown in iodine-rich soil. You can also season your food with iodized salt to obtain minerals.

While iodine improves overall thyroid health, too much iodine can have a negative effect on the thyroid gland. Therefore, you should not take iodine supplements without your doctor’s advice.

Reducing the risk for some goiters

A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. Your thyroid can grow as a result of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid gland.

Noncancerous thyroid nodules (cysts) can also cause an enlarged thyroid gland.

Sometimes goiter develops as a direct response to iodine deficiency . This is worldwide the most common cause of goitre, but the United States and iodine care then from the rich food in other countries who have access to is not a common cause.

Iodine-induced goiter can be reversed by adding iodine-rich foods or supplements to the diet.

Managing the overactive thyroid gland

Your doctor may recommend a special type of iodine called radioactive iodine to treat the overactive thyroid gland. This medicine, also called radioiodine, is taken by mouth. It is used to destroy extra thyroid cells to help reduce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.

The risk with radioactive iodine is that it can destroy too many thyroid cells. This can decrease the amount of hormone production, leading to hypothyroidism. For this reason, radioactive iodine is generally only recommended after anti-thyroid medications have failed.

Radioactive iodine is not the same as iodine supplements. You should never take iodine supplements for hyperthyroidism.

Treatment of thyroid cancer

Radioiodine may also be a possible treatment option for thyroid cancer. It works pretty much the same as treating hyperthyroidism.

When you take radioactive iodine by mouth, the drug destroys thyroid cells, including those with cancer. It can be used as a treatment following thyroid surgery to make sure all cancerous cells are removed from the body.

According to the American Cancer Society, radioactive iodine therapy significantly increases the chances of survival for people with thyroid cancer.

Neurodevelopment during pregnancy

You need more iodine during pregnancy. This is because iodine intake during pregnancy is linked to brain development in fetuses. One review found that babies with iodine deficiency during pregnancy were more likely to grow up with lower IQs and other intellectual delays.

The recommended daily intake is 220 mcg of iodine during pregnancy. By comparison, the recommended amount for non-pregnant adults is 150 mcg per day.

If you are pregnant, ask your doctor about iodine supplements, especially if your prenatal vitamin lacks iodine (most do not). Iodine supplements may also be necessary if you have a mineral deficiency.

Also, if you are breastfeeding, you will need to continue to monitor your iodine intake. Recommended daily amount of iodine during breastfeeding is 290 mcg. This is because the iodine you get from diet and supplements is transferred to your breastfeeding baby through breast milk. This is an important period of brain development, so babies need 110 mcg per day until they are 6 months old.

Improving cognitive function

The same neurological benefits of iodine in pregnancy can extend to healthy brain function in childhood. This is also a reduced risk for mental disabilities.

Your child will likely get all the iodine they need from their diet, but if you have any questions about iodine intake, talk to the pediatrician.

Improving birth weight

As with brain development, iodine during pregnancy is associated with a healthy birth weight. One percent of pregnant women with a Goiter found that 400mg of iodine taken daily for six to eight weeks helped correct goiter due to iodine deficiency. In contrast, there was an overall improvement in birth weight in newborns.

While iodine intake can affect a baby’s birth weight and overall development, it is important to note that the above study focuses on women in developing areas who are already iron deficient.

Unless your doctor determines your iodine deficiency, taking supplements will likely not affect your baby’s birth weight. In fact, taking iodine unnecessarily can cause health problems.

It can help treat fibrocystic breast disease

It’s possible that iodine supplements or medications can help treat fibrocystic breast disease. This non-cancerous condition is most common in women of reproductive age and can cause painful breast lumps.

While there are some words that iodine can help with fibrocystic breast cysts, you should not attempt self-treatment. Take iodine only if your doctor specifically recommends it for this condition. Otherwise, you may be at risk of side effects from iodine toxicity.

To disinfect the water

Iodine is just one method of water disinfection. This can be particularly helpful if you don’t have access to drinking water due to effects from travel or natural disaster.

Percent iodine tincture two liquids, may be added to increase water with five drops per liter of clean water. If the water is cloudy, add ten drops per liter.

Iodine tablets can also be used, but instructions may vary by manufacturer.

Despite the role that iodine can play in disinfecting drinking water, there is also some concern that it may increase total iodine intake in humans and have adverse health effects. Total iodine intake, 2 mg per day.

Protection against nuclear fallout

In nuclear emergencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the use of potassium iodide (KI) to protect the thyroid gland from radiation injuries. These are available in tablet and liquid formulas.

Although not completely foolproof, the sooner KI is taken, the better the thyroid is considered to be protected in such an emergency.

There are serious risks associated with KI, including gastrointestinal discomfort, inflammation, and allergic reaction. You are also at high risk for thyroid disease. If you already have thyroid disease, your risk of complications is higher.

Treating infections

Iodine can be used topically in liquid form to help treat and prevent infections. It works by killing bacteria in and around light cuts and scrapes.

Topical iodine should not be used in newborn babies. It should also not be used for deep cuts, animal bites or burns.

Follow the directions on the packaging for dosage information and do not use for more than 10 days unless directed by your doctor.

How Much Iota Do You Need

Side Effects of Iodine

Possible side effects of too much iodine include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fire
  • Burning sensation in the throat and mouth
  • Abdominal pain
  • In more severe cases, iodine toxicity may cause coma.

If you have thyroid disease, you should not take iodine unless recommended by your doctor.

Young children and the elderly are more prone to iodine side effects.

Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency

Iodine deficiency can only be diagnosed with urine tests.

Symptoms of low iodine levels are primarily detected through thyroid symptoms such as:

  • A visible goiter
  • A painful or sensitive to touch thyroid gland
  • Difficulty breathing, especially when lying down
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Tiredness
  • Extreme cold feeling despite normal temperatures
  • Hair loss
  • Depression
  • Blackout
  • Unintentional weight gain

Who Should Take Iodine?

If your levels are low, your doctor may recommend iodine supplements. The only way to know for sure is to check your level with a urine test. After this point, your doctor may recommend a supplement.

Iodine is available in stronger formulas by prescription. However, these are only used for serious health conditions. For example, if you have been exposed to radiation or have an overactive thyroid gland, your doctor may recommend prescription strong iodine.

If you suspect you need an iodine supplement, consult your doctor to find out if you are a candidate.

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