Even a mild, symptom-free case of thyroid deficiency in a pregnant woman can affect her child’s IQ scores years late, results of a study suggest. Children aged 7 to 9 who had mothers with untreated hypothyroidism in pregnancy had IQ scores about 7 points lower than youngsters of women without such a deficiency. – The New England Journal of Medicine
When many of us contemplate ways to achieve optimal health, there is a general consensus that we need to eat healthy, exercise and stay away from harmful habits – smoking, drinking to excess, etc. One area that doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves is appropriate supplementation; more specifically, ensuring that our bodies consume an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals.
While we may have learned about iodine in Chemistry class, little to nothing is taught about the element’s function as it relates to the human body. Turns out, iodine is essential to our body’s health on a number of levels. In fact, there are few minerals that have a bigger impact on our overall well-being.
The opening abstract that preceded the introduction of this article is from a 1999 study by the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers discovered that pregnant women with untreated hypothyroidism – a condition where the body lacks insufficient thyroid hormone – negatively impacted children’s cognitive development. Most unfortunately, the children involved in this study also scored lower on tests of attention, language and visual-motor performance.
One of the root causes of hypothyroidism is iodine deficiency. This is because the thyroid gland requires the mineral in order to regulate the metabolism and development of the skeleton and brain, in addition to a few other purposes. Dr. Jorge Flechas – one of the world’s most prominent experts on hypothyroidism – cites insufficient iodine as a cause or contributing factor to a number of different developmental problems. Among these are:
– Goiter: abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland.
– Mental retardation: below-average levels of intellectual function.
– Cretinism: severe impairments in physical and mental development due to untreated congenital hypothyroidism.
– Cancer: including breast, stomach, thyroid, ovary and prostate.
Dr. David Brownstein, also a world-renowned physician and author of the book Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, states that iodine is one of the most misunderstood and unvalued nutrients. He then cites a variety of different diseases and conditions that proper iodine supplementation can alleviate or prevent, including:
– Breast, Thyroid, Ovarian and Uterine Cancer
– Fibrocystic Breasts
– Graves’ Disease
– Hashimoto’s Disease
– Malfunctioning immune system
It goes without saying that iodine deficiency is a precursor to a number of different health problems. Fortunately, the iodization of common table salt has drastically reduced the numbers of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) in developed countries. Health professionals are still concerned, as studies show the average American’s iodine intake dropping nearly 50% over a 20-year span.
Now that we understand iodine’s importance, let’s examine some of the more common symptoms of iodine deficiency. We’ll also provide some common foods sources of iodine.
Here are 7 symptoms of iodine deficiency:
1. Increased fatigue
Increased fatigue directly relates to inactivity of the thyroid. This can manifest into a noticeable drop in energy levels – a very common symptom of individuals with an iodine deficiency.
2. Weight gain
When iodine is insufficient, our bodies’ metabolic functions experience a drop-off – this slows the body’s ability to convert food into energy. As a result, fat is more likely to be stored in our cells.
3. Increased sensitivity to cold
Increasing sensitivity to cold generally implicates a slow metabolism. As our metabolic rate decreases, blood flow does as well. Less blood flow to our organs – including our skin – can result in excessive feelings of coldness.
4. Dry skin
20% of all iodine is stored in our skin, specifically in the sweat glands. An absence of iodine in the sweat glands results in a decreased ability to perspire. Combining this effect with decreased iodine supplementation, our skin doesn’t receive enough moisture.
Deficient iodine levels slow normal functioning of the digestive tract. It also inhibits the ability of stomach muscles to properly contract – a function necessary to move waste through the intestine.
6. Depressed mood
Areas of the world that suffer with disproportionate cases of hypothyroidism cite depression as one of the commonly-reported symptoms. The symptom of depression is believed to be the result of the myriad of adverse effects an inactive thyroid has on hormonal stability and cognitive function.
7. Thin or brittle hair and nails
Underproduction of thyroid hormones effectively disrupts the supply of important nutrients to the hair and nails. Without sufficient nutrients, the normal growth and development of hair and nails is stunted. This can potentially lead to thinning and brittleness of hair and nails.
Fortunately, many healthy and widely-available food sources contain iodine. While iodized table salt may be the most convenient, here are some others: seaweed, bread, navy beans, baked potatoes, strawberries and cranberries.
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Multi-vitamins and other supplements are also available that will deliver the recommended daily amounts of iodine.