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Reasons for Low Iodine in the Body

By Lori Newell

Your body needs iodine so that the thyroid gland can produce the hormones T3, or triiodothyronine, and T4, or thyroxine, which regulate metabolism. A deficiency in iodine can contribute to serious health problems. If you are concerned about your iodine levels, it is important to become familiar with the common causes of low iodine and how you can bring your levels back to normal.

Iodine Information

Adequate levels of iodine must be present in order for your metabolism to function properly. Your metabolism is the process by which food is broken down and used for energy. Teenagers and adults need approximately 150 mcg of iodine a day to prevent a deficiency. One-quarter teaspoon of iodized table salt provides 95 mcg of iodine. A 6-oz. portion of ocean fish provides 650 mcg of iodine. If you suspect a deficiency, your physician can test your urine to check your iodine levels.

Lack of Iodized Salt

Your body does not make iodine so it must be obtained through your diet. A deficiency of iodine can lead to an enlargement of the thyroid called a goiter, hypothyroidism, and mental retardation in infants and children whose mothers were iodine deficient during pregnancy. While deficiencies in the United States are rare, about 40 percent of the world’s population are at risk for iodine deficiency due to a lack of it in the diet, reports the American Thyroid Association.

Lack of Iodine in Soil and Saltwater

In areas such as Africa and Asia where the soil is depleted of iodine, there is no saltwater nearby and table salt is not iodized, iodine deficiencies are common. Currently, there are about 54 countries where iodine deficiency is a problem, according to the World Health Organization. Providing iodized salt to these areas is helping to address this health issue.

Pregnancy Considerations

Without adequate amounts of iodine, women may stop ovulating and have trouble becoming pregnant. Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding need between 220 and 290 mcg each day. During pregnancy, a lack of iodine can lead to high blood pressure, and the baby's growth and development may be stunted, notes MedlinePlus. Supplements can be taken if iodine cannot be obtained through the diet. However, supplements can cause nausea, stomach pain, runny nose, headache, a metallic taste, diarrhea, swelling of the lips and face, severe bleeding and bruising, fever, joint pain, lymph node enlargement and hives. In severe cases, too much iodine can be fatal. For safety, supplements should always be taken under medical supervision.

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