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Iodine Deficiency: Re-emergence of a Health Crisis

Iodine DeficiencyIodine deficiencies now affect more than a billion people worldwide and the problem may be getting worse.

Iodine is essential for the healthy function of your thyroid gland, located in front of your neck and just below your voice box. Your thyroid uses iodine to create two thyroid hormones that control metabolism and regulate body temperature, pulse, glucose, and cholesterol levels.

The human body cannot make iodine—you must get the iodine your body needs through the foods you eat. Many foods are rich in iodine, including cheese, cow’s milk, eggs, yogurt, saltwater fish and shellfish, seaweed, soy milk, and soy sauce. People who live near oceans naturally consume an iodine-rich diet, whereas people who live away from the water are at risk for developing iodine deficiencies.

Signs and Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency

Iodine deficiency can cause goiter, hypothyroidism, and problems during pregnancy, such as stillbirth, miscarriage, preterm delivery, and congenital abnormalities in babies. Symptoms of iodine deficiency include sluggish pulse, always feeling cold, constipation, unexplained weight gain, dry skin and hair, muscle aches, and fatigue.

Iodine Deficiency: Past and Present

Before the 1920s, iodine deficiencies—and the goiters they caused—were relatively common in certain areas of the United States. People in the “Goiter Belt” of the Great Lakes, Appalachian, and Northwestern regions of the country were at special risk for this condition because the soil in these locations contain very little iodine and the people had limited access to seafood.

The introduction of ionized salt virtually eliminated iodine deficiencies and goiters in this nation. Today, iodized salt is the primary source of iodine for people living in the industrialized world.

A new wave of iodine deficiency is now sweeping the world—quadrupling over the past 40 years—​but for very different reasons than in the beginning of the twentieth century. In an effort to eat healthier, many Americans are eating less salt. Others are switching to sea salt, which is not iodized. Today, only 50 to 60 percent of the U.S. population chooses iodized salt.

The only available treatment for iodine deficiency is to consume more iodine-rich and iodized foods. For adults the recommended daily allowance for iodine is 150 micrograms per day.

If you think you are iodine deficient, speak with Dr. Waller. As a Functional Medicine specialist she can measure your body’s iodine levels and if you are deficient, advise you how to find relief for your symptoms by changing your diet or taking a supplement containing iodine.

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