About Iodine & Thyroid Function

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Iodized salt is an excellent source of iodine.
Iodized salt is an excellent source of iodine. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Your thyroid is an endocrine gland located in your neck that secretes hormones. These hormones help your body stay warm, use energy and keep your muscles and organs functioning properly. Without the correct amount of iodine, your thyroid gland may not function properly, causing unpleasant side effects that may also be potentially hazardous to your health.

Iodine Deficiency

Iodine's an essential part of your diet, because the body can't make it on its own. The thyroid gland traps iodine from the blood and incorporates it into stored thyroid hormones for release into circulation as needed. Without sufficient iodine, your thyroid gland can become enlarged, forming a knot on your neck called a goiter. Iodine deficiency was fairly common in certain parts of the United States until iodized salt became widely available in the American diet. Iodine deficiency is still common in other parts of the world that don't have enough iodine available in their diet. In addition to development of a goiter, iodine deficiency can lead to mental retardation and various levels of growth and developmental abnormalities.

How Much Iodine Do You Need?

The Food and Nutrition Board at The Institute of Medicine recommends approximately 150 micrograms of iodine per day for anyone over the age of 14 -- an amount that isn't difficult to achieve. Just 1/4 teaspoon of iodized table salt provides 95 micrograms of iodine. You can easily meet your needed requirement by purchasing and using iodized salt, consuming seafood regularly and planting homegrown vegetables in iodine-rich soil.

Sources of Iodine

The typical American diet generally provides sufficient amounts of iodine for the majority of the population. The most commonly known source of iron is iodized table salt, which most people use daily. Eggs, cheese, seaweed, shellfish, yogurt, cow's milk, soy milk, soy sauce, frozen yogurt and ice cream are also good sources of iodine. Iodine-containing multivitamins are also available.

Can You Have Too Much Iodine?

Taking too much iodine can have adverse consequences. People with thyroid issues are more at risk of side effects from taking in too much of this mineral. Excess iodine can cause the thyroid to function at a lower than normal level, leading to the development of a goiter. In severe cases, excessive amounts of iodine could lead to myxedema coma, the most severe form of hypothyroidism. Myxedema coma is a serious medical emergency that requires hospitalization and intensive treatment. Symptoms of myxedema include unresponsiveness, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, lower than normal body temperature and decreased breathing rate.

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