Iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function. The thyroid gland needs iodine to manufacture the hormones – thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) – these hormones are involved in regulating various enzymes and organic processes necessary for life, especially in preconception and during pregnancy. Examples of this include; cell division and the metabolism of every cell in our bodies, growth, development and repair of the body, central nervous system development in a fetus and infant, and even proper ovulation. It is important to work to solve thyroid problem before conception.
If the thyroid doesn’t have enough iodine to do its job due to iodine deficiency, feedback systems in the body cause the thyroid to work harder which may result in a cascade of imbalances in the body.
Iodine for Preconception and Pregnancy Health
It is important to consume adequate amounts of iodine prior to conception to support…
- proper function of the thyroid gland
- normal levels of thyroid hormone
- to avoid hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease of the thyroid)
- ovulation – low levels of thyroid hormone can cause women to stop ovulating leading to infertility
- Metabolism, immune system function, weight management, even mental states (to avoid depression and anxiety)
and in pregnancy to avoid the serious complications for both the mother and the baby of iodine deficiency…
- high blood pressure during pregnancy (for the mother)
- mental retardation for the baby
- cretinism (in extreme cases) – a disorder that involves severely stunted physical and mental growth
The developing brain is most damaged by iodine deficiency. Thyroid hormone is particularly important for myelination (insulating of the nerves) of the central nervous system, which is most active in the perinatal period of fetal development (from conception to about 20 weeks gestation or 140 days into the pregnancy) and early development just after birth until 6 weeks of age. Although truth be told, it can take 10-12 years for general development of the brain to be completed.
Getting Enough Iodine in Your Diet
Recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of iodine for people age 14 and older is 150 mcg/day. Speak with your healthcare provider before supplementing iodine in pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Iodine is a chemical that can not be made by the body, but is easily corrected by resupplying the body with it through diet.
Food Sources of Iodine Include:
- iodized table salt
- sea salt or Himalayan Crystal Salt
- seaweed – Kelp, Dulce, Nori, Arame, Hiziki, Kombu, and Wakame
- salt-water fish – Cod, Sea Bass, Haddock and Perch
- dairy and dairy products (yogurt) – full fat, raw, organic, grass-fed
- navy beans
- whole food multivitamins that contain iodine – Fertile Woman One Daily – wholefood multivitamin
Other foods that may contain iodine (if the soils are not depleted of iodine) are: onions, mushrooms, lettuces, spinach, green peppers, pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, even peanuts and whole wheat.
The health of the thyroid gland is critical to fertility. If you question your thyroid health it is best to speak with your healthcare provider about thorough thyroid testing. While iodine supplementation in special cases may be necessary, a diet composed of foods offering iodine in addition to supplementing with a whole food multivitamin may be sufficient enough to support adequate iodine levels.
We encourage you to talk to your healthcare provider about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements including iodine and what may be best for your overall health.
1. “8 Iodine .” Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc . Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2001
2. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/35.html
3. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/
5. Staying Healthy with Nutrition, rev: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, September 1, 2006, by Elson M. Haas MD and Buck Levin, PhD, RD.