A trace element, iodine is essential to thyroid hormone synthesis in the human body. A lack of iodine can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. It can also affect the health of your baby if you are pregnant. If you think that you may have signs of an iodine deficiency, it is important to speak to your physician.
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An iodine deficiency that lingers often results in the development of a goiter. Classic symptoms of a goiter are swelling around the thyroid gland, resulting in a visible lump in the throat. As the goiter continues to grow, it may cause difficulty swallowing. It may also damage the thyroid gland, hindering its ability to produce thyroid hormone. When your body does not produce enough thyroid hormone, you may develop a condition known as hypothyroidism.
An iodine deficiency that continues to go untreated may result in hypothyroidism with or without a goiter present. The signs of hypothyroidism related to iodine deficiencies may be subtle at first. According to the University of Michigan Health System, fatigue, depression, weight gain, mental impairment, decreased concentration, constipation, dry skin and intolerance to cold are all early symptoms of iodine deficient hypothyroidism. Severe signs of hypothyroid illness include puffy eyes, decreased heart rate and coma.
Abnormal pregnancies, which include miscarriage and stillbirth, can result from iodine deficiency. Also, pregnant mothers with an iodine deficiency are more likely to give birth to babies with lower birth weights than women with normal iodine levels. Pregnancies affected by iodine deficiency are a worldwide problem. According to Tulane University, the most frequent cause of preventable learning disabilities, physical retardation and the most serious of mental retardation – cretinism -- is an iodine deficiency.
Iodized salt, seafood, cow’s milk, turkey breast, baked potatoes, navy beans and seaweed are all iodine-rich foods. For some people, consuming iodine-rich foods may not be enough. If your physician suspects that you have an iodine deficiency, he may suggest taking an iodine supplement. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, iodine is available in over-the-counter multivitamins. Over-the-counter multimineral supplements are also available and contain 100 percent of the daily value of iodine, which is 150 micrograms. Consult with your doctor before taking any supplements.