Iodine deficiency is increasingly a problem in countries and cultures all around the world. This is particularly true in developing nations, although it is now becoming ever more common in the developed world.
So many of us are now cutting back on our salt intake, for health reasons like high blood pressure, that many of us are simply not getting the Iodine that we need. Unfortunately this is causing an epidemic of Iodine deficiency.
Why does Iodine deficiency matter? Iodine is actually a trace mineral that is essential for the thyroid. Iodine is directly necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. Without it, your thyroid simply can’t function properly.
Your body is capable of storing iodine, but if the supply becomes low for too long you develop an iodine deficiency. Subsequently, a condition named ‘goiter’ can be the result. This is the enlargement of the thyroid gland, resulting from the thyroid working hard to produce thyroid hormone.
Iodine deficiency can effect all of us, but it occurs more commonly among pregnant woman, women over 50 and adolescents. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Even a mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy has been associated with babies born with a lower IQ.
Mothers who are iodine deficient can have babies with mental retardation, hearing and speech impairments and abnormally slow physical development. A severe deficiency may result in a baby with cretinism (a condition of severe mental retardation) and stunted growth.
Here are three major contributors to the emergence of Iodine deficiency in the developed world.
1) Reduced use of table salt
If you have high blood pressure then you probably cut down on your salt. However, even when you think you’re doing the right thing for your health, there are sometimes unintended consequences! If you eat too little salt then your thyroid is not getting the raw materials that it needs to synthesize thyroid hormones.
2) Processed food
Processed food generally has a very high salt content, however this salt is not iodized. As more and more people live on packaged and processed food, they are actually eating more salt but less Iodine. This is a major contributor to thyroid problems.
3) Sea salt
Almost any recipe book you find will tell you that sea salt tastes better than the iodized table salt that you buy in the supermarket. However if you eat only sea salt, you’re probably not getting the Iodine that you need. Although sea salt seems like a healthier choice, it is normally not iodized, so iodized table salt contains a lot more Iodine. You can use sea salt occasionally when you cook, but make sure that its not the only salt that you use.
Good sources of Iodine are dairy products, seafood, all types of seaweed, and plants grown in iodine rich soil. It is particularly important that vegetarians use iodized salt and include seaweed in their diet, or take a seaweed supplement such as kelp or bladderwrack..
The World Heath Organization recommends the following daily amounts:
Age 0-7 years - 90 micrograms
Age 7-12 years - 120 micrograms
Older than 12 years - 150 micrograms
Pregnant and lactating women - 200 micrograms
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