We've been learning since our childhood that vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, water and fats are essential for the benefit of our body. Apart from these, minerals have also been figured out to be an important constituent of our regular diet. Although these are required in small quantities, they play a large role in the mental and physical development of a person. One such important mineral is iodine.
Iodine is termed as a trace mineral and is required in sufficient quantities for the synthesis of thyroid hormones, such as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Out of the 25-30 mg of iodine content in the body, more than half of it is present in the thyroid gland, which is situated below the voice box in the frontal part of the neck. The remaining amount is distributed in the stomach lining, mammary glands, blood and salivary glands.
Until the twentieth century, iodine deficiency was quite commonly observed in developed countries like United States and Canada. However, with increased use of iodized salt the problem has disappeared almost completely, and nowadays, iodine deficiency cases are found scarcely. Yet there are many countries where iodized salt is not used and therefore iodine deficiency remains a serious problem over there. Iodine deficiency leads to several symptoms in children as well as adults.
Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency
Iodine is a vital mineral and is therefore required in sufficient quantities for the physical as well as mental development of the body. Some of deficiency symptoms of iodine are discussed below.
Goiter is characterized by swelling of the thyroid gland. In goiter, due to the lack of sufficient iodine, the thyroid gland enlarges in an attempt to cope up with the production of sufficient thyroid hormone. In patients suffering from goiter, nodules are developed, and in worsened cases, breathing and swallowing problems along with choking are also observed.
Mental retardation is the most common iodine deficiency symptom in children. Young children, who do not receive adequate iodine through their diet, fall prey to mental retardation, and sometimes also face physical problems such as overall weakness in the body. Newborn children suffer from mental retardation, when women do not consume sufficient iodine through their diet during pregnancy.
The most common of all iodine deficiency symptoms in children as well as adults is hypothyroidism. Now, you may ask, what is hypothyroidism? Well, hypothyroidism is the result of severe iodine deficiency in the body. This condition is characterized by a 'below normal' production of thyroid hormone in the body. Hypothyroidism is mostly found in underdeveloped countries, where people are deprived of iodine intake through their diet for a long time.
Hypothyroidism, in turn, leads to many other symptoms such as,
- Muscle cramps
- Swelling of the legs
- Excessive sleepiness
- Dry skin and hair
- Rise in the cholesterol levels
- Reduced concentration
- Excessive sleepiness
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Intolerance towards cold
- Aches and pain in the body
- Cramps in muscles
- Mild weight gain
- Enlarged tongue
- Puffed up hands and face
- Slow speech
Rich Sources of Iodine
Iodized salt is the most popular source of iodine. However, consuming iodized salt is not the only remedy to cope with the iodine requirements of our body. There are several other foods that not only provide other essential nutrients, but also serve as rich sources of iodine. Some of these are:
- Mozzarella Cheese
Although medical advancements have made it possible to cure all the symptoms of iodine deficiency, in the underdeveloped countries, it is not possible for everyone to opt for these treatments. So the only way to keep iodine deficiency symptoms at bay is to have a regular dietary intake of iodine, as there is some truth to the saying, prevention is better than cure!!!