Present in salt and some foods, iodine is an important mineral in the body. Amanda Tumwebaze, a freelance nutritionist, says all people irrespective of their age need iodine but pregnant and lactating mothers have higher iodine needs due to iodine’s function the baby’s development.
“Iodine has anti-carcinogenic properties and helps flush out harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury and other toxins. The mineral has certain antibacterial properties and can fight against Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria in the stomach that can lead to stomach ulcers gastric cancer,” she says.
Paul Lutaakome, a nutritionist at Jinja Referral Hospital, says iodine influences functioning of thyroid glands by aiding the production of hormones, which are directly responsible for controlling the body’s base metabolic rate.
“Metabolic rate affects the effectiveness of organs such as the heart and kidneys,” he says.
Lutaakome adds that the health benefits of iodine include the formation of healthy and shiny skin, teeth, and hair. It is an important element for hair care and lack of this mineral can result in hair loss.
Iodine deficiency in the body can lead to goitre, a swelling of the neck front. It also leads to enlargement of the thyroid due to the overstimulation of the thyroid glands by hormones.
Tumwebaze says pregnant women are at a higher risk of iodine deficiency because they need to consume enough to meet their own daily needs, as well as the needs of their growing foetus. This demand for iodine continues throughout lactation, as babies receive iodine through breast milk.
“Extreme cases of iodine deficiencies impair the functioning of the immune system and can even lead to miscarriages, still births, premature and congenital defects in babies,” she says.
People following dairy-free diets (vegans), infants, and children are also at a greater risk of iodine deficiency. Some people may unintentionally develop a deficiency if they dramatically reduce salt intake for health reasons such as high blood pressure or heart disease.
Tumwebaze says: “It is important to remember that eating high levels of iodine can cause some of the same symptoms as iodine deficiency, including goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland). ”Getting a very large intake of iodine can cause burning of the mouth, throat and stomach. It also causes fever, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, weak pulse, and sometimes, coma.
Foods to eat
Paul Lutaakome, a nutritionist at Jinja Referral Hospital, says if you have an iodine deficiency, there are a variety of food recommendations high in iodine.
One cup of yoghurt for instance contains about 50 per cent of your daily iodine intake requirements yet one boiled egg contains 10 per cent of your daily requirement.
Other sources include, milk, iodised salt, fish, bananas, white bread, pineapples, straw and cranberries.
“If you want to minimize your intake of iodine, it is recommendable that you take less soda and other carbonated drinks and consume more organic foods,” he remarks.