Pros and Cons of Taking Iodine Supplements

By Sandi Busch

Iodine supplements are associated with more benefits than risks, but don’t take them lightly. You need iodine for one primary job -- making thyroid hormones. If you take too much iodine, it can create health problems by disrupting thyroid hormones levels, even if your thyroid was already working properly. For this reason, it’s important to consult your health care provider before taking supplements.

Supplements Can Prevent Deficiency

Iodine supplements help prevent or treat an iodine deficiency, as long as they're taken under medical supervision. Since iodine is essential for producing thyroid hormones, and they regulate growth and development, an iodine deficiency causes several health problems. Lack of iodine during pregnancy affects the baby’s brain development and may cause intellectual disability. Iodine is also vital during childhood for ongoing neurological development and throughout adulthood when a deficiency may impair mental function.

Iodine and Your Thyroid

Iodine supplements are only good for your thyroid gland if you don’t get enough iodine through your diet. When iodine intake is too low to meet the daily requirement, the thyroid can't make hormones, and hypothyroidism develops.

Without enough iodine, the thyroid gland enlarges as it struggles to supply a sufficient amount of hormones. This enlargement, called goiter, may be prevented with supplements.

On the flip side, taking large doses of supplements when you don't need extra iodine may disrupt an otherwise healthy thyroid gland by interrupting hormone production. This leads to hypothyroidism and other thyroid diseases or cancer.

Potential Side Effects

If you have any type of thyroid disease, don’t take supplements unless they’re recommended by your physician.

Iodine is not a known allergen, but supplements can cause allergiclike reactions in people who are hypersensitive to iodine.

While iodine is safe for most people, it might cause a headache, diarrhea and a metallic taste, reports MedlinePlus. If you’re hypersensitive to iodine, you may experience more severe side effects, such as swelling of the lips and face, bruising, fever, joint pain or difficulty breathing.

In supplemental form, iodine may interact with prescription medications. Consult your physician before using supplements if you take lithium, amiodarone, potassium-sparing diuretics or medications used to treat high blood pressure or a thyroid disease.

Recommended Intake

To avoid potential side effects, your total iodine consumption should not exceed the maximum safe intake of 1,100 micrograms daily, reports the Office of Dietary Supplements.

The Institute of Medicine established a recommended dietary allowance for adults of 150 micrograms daily. During pregnancy the required amount increases to 220 micrograms daily, and if you’re breast-feeding, you need 290 micrograms.

Iodized salt was developed to prevent deficiencies because most foods aren't great sources. Seafood, seaweeds and dairy products are the best sources, but the amount they contain depends on the levels of iodine in the seawater, soil or even the feed given to dairy animals.

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