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Iodine's Major Function in the Body

Iodine is a trace element found in oceans, the soil and within your body. One major function of the iodine in your body is to convert the food you eat into energy you can use to carry out daily functions. Iodine is also crucial for normal thyroid function. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to produce the right amount of thyroid hormones.

About 70 to 80 percent of the iodine in your body is contained within the thyroid gland in your neck. The rest is spread throughout your body. If your body is too low in iodine, you may develop low thyroid hormone levels, or hypothyroidism. This could cause symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, sluggishness, skin dryness and temperature sensitivity. However, infants and children with an iodine deficiency may also experience more serious health issues, such as stunted mental and physical development. If you’re pregnant and have an iodine deficiency, your baby is at higher risk of severe mental impairment, speech and hearing defects, early death and being stillborn.

Many foods in the United States are grown in areas that are sufficient in iodine, so iodine deficiency is rare in Americans. However, you may be at higher risk of a deficiency if you live at a high altitude with soil that is depleted of iodine or if you live in a country where your salt isn’t fortified with iodine. Women, especially pregnant women, are at an increased risk of developing iodine deficiency. You are also at risk of an iodine deficiency if your diet excludes fish, seaweed and iodized salt.

Adults should consume 150 micrograms of iodine per day, though your doctor may recommend that you take more if you are pregnant or producing breast milk. Alternately, he could recommend that you take less if you are sensitive to adverse effects of too much iodine. Some conditions that could cause iodine sensitivity include cystic fibrosis in children and autoimmune thyroid disease.

The best way to ensure that you get the right amount of iodine and other important nutrients in your diet is to focus on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s daily recommendations for nutrition. One-fourth teaspoon of iodized salt contains about 95 micrograms of iodine and a 6-ounce serving of ocean fish offers about 650 micrograms, according to MedlinePlus. You will also get some iodine in your diet if you consume plants that were grown in iodine-rich soil.

Taking in about 2,000 micrograms of iodine per day could be toxic, especially if you have tuberculosis or kidney disease. A high iodine dose may also block your body’s ability to produce thyroid hormones and could cause hypothyroidism. You would also be at risk of other thyroid conditions, such as thyroid cancers and dangerously high levels of thyroid hormones in your bloodstream.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.