Iodine is an essential element needed for a healthy production of the thyroid hormone and we don’t make this element in our bodies, we need to get it from our diet. Iodine fortified salt is widely available in many countries but in some countries iodine fortified foods can be hard to find and results in iodine deficiencies. Iodine deficiency for an extended period causes your thyroid to be overworked and swell which leads to goiters and hypothyroidism. This can also lead to disastrous results for infants of mothers who had iodine deficiency during pregnancy.
Low Iodine Before Pregnancy
When a woman is trying to get pregnant and has low levels of iodine in her system she will have a hard time getting pregnant or may not be able to at all. This is because your body needs to make enough thyroid hormone for both her and a baby. Without that hormone, her body will not allow pregnancy. If a woman does manage to get pregnant with an iron deficiency, there is a higher chance she could have a miscarriage. All women of child bearing age should consider finding a food source or supplement to increase their iodine intake, especially if they are planning on getting pregnant.
Low Iodine During Pregnancy and Lactation
Iodine has been proven to be a vital nutrient for the development of the fetus’ brain and cognitive functions. Low thyroid hormone due to iodine deficiency in pregnant women can lead to low birth weight and premature delivery. During the first 12 weeks of a fetus’ development, the mother is the only source of thyroid hormone the baby has. If she doesn’t provide enough of this hormone due to the lack in her own body, it could stunt the development of the baby’s brain which could lead to learning disorders and lower IQ levels in the child’s future.
The World Health Organization has noticed the danger of these deficiencies around the world and has taken initiatives to help alleviate this problem. Their recommendations vary according to countries based on the amount of households that have access to iodized table salt, since this is the single best source of iodine. They are making efforts to increase political involvement in the development of plans to increase the availability of iodized salt throughout the world. They want countries to adopt and enforce an effective system where their salt industry is not only producing salt with correct levels of iodine but cost effective and widely available throughout communities and if this is impossible, to import this type of salt. If this is still a difficult route, to make iodine supplements available to pregnant and lactating women by whatever means.
Iodine Sources and Daily Recommendations
Iodine is a recommended element for all, not just pregnant or lactating women. For adults, male and female the daily recommendations for iodine intake is 150 mcg (micrograms). That number increases to 250 mcg for pregnant women and continues at this level throughout their breastfeeding years. Again, this is because they need to make enough for their body and the body of their child, who they are nurturing.
Iodized salt is by far the best way to get your daily iodine. It delivers about 600mcg of iodine per teaspoon. Of course, many people are trying to limit their salt intake for health issues and that’s understandable. Are there food sources of iodine besides iodized salt? Certainly. The best sources of iodine in your diet would come from dairy and fish. The best sources are non organic cow’s milk, yogurt, and white fish. For some reason, organic milk contains almost half the iodine of conventional milk. 200 ml of conventional cow’s milk can give you up to 80mcg, while organic milk will only give you about 50 mcg in 200 ml. You can also get smaller amounts of iodine from eggs, cheese, shellfish and some meat. If you are a vegetarian, getting enough iodine may pose a serious challenge. Seaweed is a wonderful source of iodine but can be dangerous because of other minerals that could be dangerous to babies in contaminated waters so make sure you buy seaweed harvested in non toxic waters.
If you can’t find a good source of iodine, this is where iodine supplements come in. Many prenatal vitamins now contain iodine and will give you around 150mcg of iodine. This still isn’t enough for pregnant or lactating women, so they will need to make up the other 100mcg through their diet.
High Iodine in Pregnancy
On the flip side, having too much iodine in your system will also throw off your thyroid hormone production and can cause hypothyroidism or goiters which you can pass on to your baby and cause him/her to deal with thyroid issues for the rest of their lives. For this reason, you shouldn’t overdo your iodine intake but have a balanced diet. Too much of a good thing is never good. Your iodine levels should stay below 600mcg per day for safety. Studies show that anything over that can result symptoms of hypothyroidism including nausea, fatigue, depression, and dry skin. It can be hard to get too much iodine from your diet alone but it is possible if you eat way too much seaweed, shellfish, or dairy. Usually a high level of iodine in the body comes from medication or over-supplementation.
How to Ensure Your Babies Health
Doctors, pediatricians, health officials and whole governments are taking notice of the dangers of iodine deficiencies and you should, too. Without healthy levels during and even before your pregnancy, your baby can have a stunted brain development leading to learning problems and many frustrations for him/her in the future. Severe lack of iodine may result in pregnancy complications and miscarriages. This information should not be taken lightly. The best way to make sure that you are giving your baby the nutrition it needs is by checking your prenatal vitamins deliver a good dose of iodine and eating a balanced diet rich in iodine including plenty of dairy and seafood. If you have any concerns about your iodine levels, talk to your doctor.
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