Iodine is an element that occurs naturally in the soil landmass as well as ocean waters on earth. Moreover, it is a vital trace mineral that is required by the human body, for performing various central roles including synthesis of thyroid hormones and preservation of brain functions.
Usually present within the system in the form of iodide ions, this key nutrient cannot be secreted intrinsically in the cells, tissues and hence needs to be provided through the diet. While numerous vegetables, dry fruits, dairy and seafood sources contain ample amounts of iodine, the maximum level of this mineral is found in commercially sold iodised table salt. Raw salt extracted from the sea was, in fact, enriched with iodine since the 1900s, unlike other organic variants like black salt, rock salt, as iodine deficiencies were widely observed in people in the United States at the time.
Since iodine plays a major role in thyroid hormone synthesis and functioning, nearly 70 to 80 per cent of the mineral is present in the thyroid gland situated in the neck. The remaining 20 to 30 per cent of iodine is generally stored in other bodily tissues, namely blood, ovaries, muscles.
Iodine is involved in several critical functions in the human body, such as:
Maintaining normal synthesis and operation of thyroid hormone, by catalyzing the conversion of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) into triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), thus uplifting immunity, heart wellness and metabolism
Preventing the incidence of hypothyroidism, i.e. an underactive thyroid gland
Ensuring optimal neural development in the growing fetus in pregnancy
Lowering the risk of goitre, which results in enlargement of the thyroid gland
Promoting memory, concentration, intelligence, rational thinking and myriad other brain operations
Averting the occurrence of thyroid cancers and other autoimmune conditions like Graves’ disease
Healing skin infections and wounds, when applied topically, as prescription iodine-based creams
The daily requirement of iodine for a normal, healthy person 14 years of age and older, to maintain crucial thyroid functions, is 150 micrograms for both men and women. However, since iodine guarantees proper fetal brain growth in the gestational period, pregnant women need a higher quantity of 220 micrograms and breastfeeding women must consume even greater amounts of up to 290 micrograms of iodine every day.
A plethora of foods is very rich in iodine, obtained from both plant and animal sources. These comprise:
Iodised salt, a manufactured seasoning wherein regular sea salt is fortified with iodine
Dairy produce including milk, yoghurt, cheese
Eggs and seafood
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
Seaweed like kombu kelp, nori and wakame
Fruits consisting of dried plums, also known as prunes, bananas
The main deficiency disorder arising from low intake of iodine on a routine basis is hypothyroidism. When iodine supplied form diet is only in minute volumes, as low as 10 to 20 micrograms per day, the thyroid stimulating hormone cannot perform its bodily tasks. This is characterised by a significant swelling in the thyroid gland, in the neck, referred to as goitre.
Hypothyroidism also results in severe exhaustion, fatigue and body weakness. Moreover, as the thyroid hormone is essential for immune operations, energy metabolism and facilitating digestion, all these mechanisms are disrupted due to an iodine deficiency and eventual situation of hypothyroidism. It, hence, gives rise to constipation, frequent cough and cold, poor memory, body weight fluctuations and decreased nervous system functioning.
The highest level of daily iodine intake must not exceed 1100 micrograms for adults, as per medical experts. Nevertheless, instances of iodine overdose invariably damage thyroid functions and lead to similar symptoms of iodine deficiency, such as goitre, a decline in the body’s defence abilities and low stamina.
Sometimes, iodine is consumed in huge amounts for a prolonged period of time, which causes excess accumulation of the mineral in the body. This results in serious inflammatory conditions of thyroiditis and even thyroid papillary cancer.
In rare occasions, iodine poisoning happens in the system, which gives rise to painful, burning sensations in the mouth, throat, stomach, abdominal complications of diarrhoea, vomiting and grave complications including a weakened pulse and coma. It is hence always recommended to seek professional medical advise from a doctor before taking iodine supplements and limit consuming surplus iodine through diet as well.