Women and Iodine Deficiency

Almost one-third of the world’s population lives in areas of iodine deficiency. In areas where the daily iodine intake is low, goiter is endemic, and when the daily intake falls below a certain amount (less than 25 micrograms) congenital hypothyroidism is seen. The prevalence of goiter in areas of severe iodine deficiency can be as high as 80%. Populations at risk tend to be remote and live in mountainous areas.  In iodine-replete areas, most persons with thyroid disorders have autoimmune disease, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis to thyrotoxicosis caused by Graves’ disease. Cross-sectional studies in Europe, the USA and Japan have determined the prevalence of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism and the frequency and distribution of thyroid autoantibodies in different, mainly Caucasian, and affecting women more than men.

The Estrogen Connection

It is well known that estrogen has significant effects on iodine economy through many mechanisms. Men and Women with high amounts of estrogen may have an issue with iodine problems because high amounts of estrogen inhibit the absorption of iodine and can put you at risk for deficiency. Iodine is only present in some foods. This is one of the reasons governments all around the world have stepped in and fortified salts with iodine. Many people think that salt naturally contains iodine. In fact, it does, but when salt is dehydrated, the iodine is basically evaporated into the atmosphere when the salt dries. Bottom line, estrogen is very important and you have to have the correct balance.

Pregnancy and Iodine

Pregnant women require increased amounts of iodine, in fact nearly double the normal recommended amount. A “pregnancy goiter” can result from a woman taking inadequate amounts of iodine. This also poses a risk to the fetus as sub optimal thyroid production can affect mental development. Today, iodine deficiency is claimed to be the world’s single most significant preventable cause of brain damage and mental retardation. The detrimental effect of iodine deficiency on the mental and physical development of children as well as on the productivity of adults has been recognized.

Supplemental dietary iodine has been shown to reduce the size of breast tumors — benign and malignant — and can mitigate the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease, getting enough of this mineral should be on every woman’s to-do list. Your body doesn’t make iodine, however, so it must be ingested. Unfortunately, iodine isn’t prevalent in many foods, and unless you regularly consume sardines or douse your food with iodized table salt, you could be at risk for deficiency. Also, don’t forget about dulse flakes, seaweed, and other low altitude vegetables.