Importance of Iodine During Pregnancy

According to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), approximately one third of pregnant women may be mildly deficient in iodine, an important nutrient necessary to fetal brain development.

While recommendations for increasing iodine intake include iodized salt and supplements, it may be possible to increase your iodine naturally to the recommended level simply by eating iodine-rich, nutritious foods.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “iodine is essential for healthy brain development in the fetus and young child. A woman’s iodine requirements increase substantially during pregnancy to ensure adequate supply to the fetus.” The AAP states that the recommended amount for pregnant women is 220 micrograms per day, and 290 micrograms for breastfeeding women.

In its report, the AAP blames this widespread iodine deficiency on our nation’s increased consumption of processed foods, which comprise much of our salt intake. On top of not providing us this necessary nutrient, processed foods are detrimental to health in general, and have greatly contributed to the rising percentages of many chronic illnesses.

The importance of iodine centers around the functioning of the thyroid. The thyroid needs iodine to synthesize its hormones, and if iodine is deficient, a number of physiological processes are disrupted.

Besides cognitive development, the thyroid is important in hormonal balance, cellular metabolism and immune system function, among many others.

Too much iodine, however, is also a concern. Overdose on iodine (which would be extremely difficult to accomplish from food sources) can lead to nausea, weak pulse, skin reactions and even thyroid cancer. This is why AAP researchers recommend talking to a health professional before deciding to take an iodine supplement.

One strategy that has been widely implemented to tackle our iodine deficiency is iodizing salt. However, this is not the healthiest option. While raw, natural salts are vital to life, and offer essential minerals that the body needs, table salt can actually be detrimental.

To make it, natural salts are heated to about 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, which depletes much of their nutrients. Synthetic nutrients, such as iodide (a form of iodine) are then added back. In synthetic form, these nutrients are more difficult for the body to absorb.

According to the AAP, pregnant and breastfeeding women should talk to their doctors about supplementing with an extra 150 micrograms of iodine per day, to meet daily recommended values. However, many women may be able to get ample amounts of iodine from food.

Pregnant Woman holding hands in a heart shape on her baby bumpBy far, the best natural sources of iodine are sea vegetables, including nori, kombu, dulse and wakame, along with blue-green algaes such as chlorella. These algaes offer about 500 percent of the daily recommended value of iodine per serving. Other food sources of iodine include dairy products, eggs and strawberries.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it would be prudent to talk to your health professional of choice about your iodine intake, to see if you can indeed get what you need from sea vegetables and other iodine-rich foods. Nutrients from whole, natural sources are always best.

-The Alternative Daily


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