Iodine in adults

These hormones are very important for the development of brain and organs during pregnancy and childhood. But also in adults they play a vital role and are involved in a variety of body functions. An iodine deficiency not only leads to thyroid diseases like goitre, but also can cause symptoms like low concentration, sleepiness, irritability, or bad mood which can have a massive effect on your daily life.

As your body can’t produce iodine by itself the major source of this nutrition is your dietary intake. But in many regions of the world the environment and therefore most of food nowadays lack iodine. This means that it is often not possible to get enough iodine from your nutrition. Then measures such as supplementary iodine tablets like Iodomarin® can be taken to ensure the intake of enough iodine and to prevent iodine deficiency and its consequences as early as possible.

1. All about iodine in adults

Iodine is a mineral nutrient that is necessary for normal thyroid gland functions and the production of thyroid hormones. These hormones have distinct functions in the body during different growth phases. During pregnancy and childhood they are very important for the development of organs and the brain and for a proper growth. In adults the functions change as the organ development and growth is completed. But thyroid hormones still play a vital role and are involved in a variety of body functions. In adults they 

  • Activate the nervous system leading to higher levels of attention and quicker reflexes
  • Increase the heart rate and the strength of heart muscle contractions
  • Lower the resistance of the peripheral blood vessel
  • Increase the basic metabolic rate
  • Increase the body temperature

You can get more information about iodine and its important functions in your body in the chapter “Iodine deficiency”.


As you can see thyroid hormones have effects on virtually every cell in your body. Therefore a lack of these hormones can affect nearly every organ or tissue of the body.

Tissue/organ

Deficiency

Central nervous system (CNS)

Slowed intellectual functions

Skin/hair

Pale, dry, puffy skin

Dry, brittle hair

Brittle nails

Cardiovascular

Decreased blood volume and cardiac performance

Gut

Modest weight gain

Decreased bowel activity (constipation)

Metabolic

Low resting metabolic rate

Decreased appetite

Weight gain

Cold intolerance

Reduced body temperature

Taken together you can see the importance of iodine in daily life: For the production of thyroid hormones iodine is needed, the nutrient is also essential for a normal cognitive and neurological function as well as normal energy yielding metabolism.

In addition iodine deficiency in adulthood can lead to goitre with mechanical complications and/or thyroid insufficiency. If the iodine deficiency exists over a long period of time there is also a possibility of hyperfunction of the thyroid gland, also known as hyperthyroidism, leading to excessive thyroid hormones production.

2. Why supplementation can be advisable: The difficulty of getting enough iodine

The body can’t produce iodine by itself and therefore the major source of iodine is the dietary intake. The UNICEF, ICCIDD and WHO recommend a daily intake of 150 μg for adults.

But the amount of iodine in food depends on its source as well as the soil in which vegetables or fruits are growing. If you are living in regions that are deficient in iodine the risk for getting an iodine deficiency is much higher than in regions rich in iodine. Furthermore no matter how much iodine you get with your diet 90% is excreted by the kidneys.

The WHO estimates that still about 1.9 billion people worldwide are at risk of iodine deficiency. And iodine deficiency is not only present in 3rd world countries but mild iodine deficiency can be found also in developed countries like Hungary, Russia or United Kingdom.

Because of the excretion of iodine the median iodine concentration in spot urine is a biomarker of the iodine status of the general population and the thresholds for median urinary iodine sufficiency/deficiency have been identified for populations.

Surveys of urinary iodine concentrations are most frequently carried out in school-aged children, because they are convenient to sample and easy to reach through school based surveys. Nevertheless they can be assumed to have iodine intakes characteristic of general populations. Having this in mind it can make you aware of the risk of iodine deficiency that Europe has had the highest percentage of iodine-deficient school-age children compared with other WHO regions during the past decade. Despite its wealth and its high standards of health care as well as calls to monitor and eliminate iodine deficiency. In 2015, only 66 % of the school-age children in the whole WHO European region had adequate iodine intake.

Therefore various national supplementation programs have been started which for example recommend the use of iodised salt at home. But recent studies in school kids indicate that the existing prevention programs show only moderate efficiency and the search for effective methods of the iodine deficiency prevention among the youth becomes a promising task of the modern public healthcare.

In adults there are special groups of people getting not enough iodine for different reasons. For example people with hypertension often have to restrict their daily salt intake. Those with an allergy to specific foods like cow’s milk or fish may have problems sourcing recommended daily amounts of iodine because they have to avoid such foods. The same also applies to people who refrain from eating some or all animal foods like meat, fish milk, and eggs. Vegetarians, vegans and people who have to keep to special diets have a greater iodine deficiency risk and must be very careful to ensure that they get enough iodine. And the risk of developing iodine deficiency is very high for those living in parts of the world with a low iodine status where vegetables, plants and livestock/farm animals only contain small amounts of iodine.

3. Prophylaxis of an iodine deficiency

The advice given by public health authorities to counteract iodine deficiency sounds easy:

 

  • Consume milk and dairy products daily.
  • Eat saltwater fish once or twice a week.
  • Only use iodised salt in the household.
  • Give preference to foods including iodised salt.

But getting enough iodine just by following these advices could be very hard, especially if you live in regions where the risk of developing an iodine deficiency is very high. Because of a low iodine status in the soil in these regions also the fruits and plants growing in this soil contain less amounts of iodine. The same counts for animals eating these plants.

An easy and effective method of acquiring an adequate amount of iodine and prevent iodine deficiency in this case could be supplementation of iodine. One possibility is a daily intake of tablet like Iodomarin®.

Recommended iodide intake according to the package leaflet of Iodomarin®

  • Adults: 100 – 200 μg Iodomarin® once daily

Many people are afraid of the risk of excessive iodine intake and its consequences. The above recommended iodine quantities are to be administered additionally in order to prevent iodine deficiency.

These recommended doses may supplement the daily iodine requirement for you and may serve as an easy and convenient way to prevent iodine deficiency and it consequences.

4. When to see the doctor

Your personal iodine deficiency risk is determined by your daily dietary habits and the iodine level in the food you eat. As mentioned above, in theory you can ensure a sufficient supply of iodine with a healthy and balanced diet. In practice however, the situation is not always so easy, meaning that in case of lack of iodine rich diet there is always a chance of iodine deficiency. And, as with many other diseases, early diagnosis of iodine deficiency is very important in order to start an appropriate therapy as early as possible.

There are some symptoms that can be caused by iodine deficiency and likewise by other diseases. Contact your doctor if you develop symptoms like:

  • Tiredness
  • Problems with concentration
  • Decrease in work productivity
  • Apathy
  • Reduced mental functions
  • Lack of physical energy

These symptoms may appear in an already developed stage of iodine deficiency therefore prophylaxis should be taken into consideration if you feel your daily diet may not ensure a sufficient iodine intake. This is especially for women with the wish to become pregnant.

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