Iodine: Importance during pregnancy and food sources

Iodine: Importance during pregnancy and food sources

There are many reasons why pregnant women are always advised to follow a balanced and nutritious diet. The right combination of macronutrients and micronutrients allow expecting mothers as well as their unborn babies to stay healthy. Plus, every nutrient plays an important role in helping the foetus grow, develop vital organs and get ready for birth. And iodine is one of the essential micronutrients that is not only required when you are pregnant, but also for the rest of your life.

So, let us understand why is iodine super important

  • Iodine is an important component of thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine). Thyroid hormones regulate a child’s growth and development up to the attainment of adulthood.
  • Thyroid hormone levels in a pregnant woman affect the foetal growth. Hence, it is vital to consume iodine-rich foods during pregnancy
  • It is important not only for the structural development of the brain, but also for enabling key functions such as intellectual and motor abilities. Iodine consumption is directly related to the development of your child's intelligence quotient.
  • Iodine is critical for the development of your child's nervous system while he or she is still in your womb.

Consequences of iodine deficiency

Iodine deficiency can lead to a number of developmental and functional abnormalities, which together constitute a spectrum of disorders, referred to as Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDDs). It is one of the most common micronutrient deficiencies observed globally and is rampant in India. The deficiency of iodine is preventable though.

The most important thing you should know about iodine deficiency is that it can cause improper and stunted growth in your child. This deficiency can also harm your child's brain, leading to problems like cretinism, mental retardation, and several structural and functional abnormalities.

Iodine deficiency is also associated with improper functioning of the thyroid gland, which can lead to swelling and enlargement of the gland. This can eventually result in a condition called goitre. Goitre, if left untreated, can also result in death.

Iodine during pregnancy

The thyroid gland is an important organ in the body and is very active during pregnancy to support the growing needs of the baby. Hence, pregnant women should maintain adequate levels of iodine through iodine-rich food sources. When the dietary requirements of iodine are not met as per the requirement of the body, the synthesis of thyroid hormones is impaired. The RDA for iodine during pregnancy is 250 mcg /day, as per ICMR, 2010.

In the first trimester of pregnancy, the thyroid hormone gets transported from the mother to the child across the placental barrier. This is a time when you, as a mother, need to replenish your iodine reserves, so that they are sufficient for your developing child.

Women who don’t consume milk or other dairy products and those who don’t include iodized salt in their diet are at a greater risk of iodine deficiency. Smoking is also a risk factor for iodine deficiency.

Iodine during lactation

It is also important to consume iodine during lactation. Breast milk is a good source of iodine and breast-fed infants depend on it for nutrition. During lactation, the human breast has a tendency to accumulate iodine reserves in milk. As a mother, you should ensure that your own iodine intake is adequate enough to support your child. The RDA for iodine during lactation is also 250 mcg /day as per ICMR, 2010.

Iodine-rich foods to have during pregnancy

  • Salt - Considering the fact that iodine deficiency is a public health problem, most countries across the world, including India, have initiated programs for the fortification of common salt or table salt with iodine. This is a reliable method to encourage and ensure adequate dietary intake of iodine. Salt used in processed foods, including processed meats, may not contain iodine in the desired quantities.
  • Dairy products - Milk and other milk products like yoghurt are good iodine-rich food sources.
  • Eggs - Iodine is found in the egg yolk.
  • Codfish or rohu - This is a good source of minerals and nutrients, including iodine.
  • Shrimp - It is a protein-rich source that is also rich in iodine, vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorus.
  • Tuna or ahi- It is a rich source of iodine, potassium, iron, and B vitamins. It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Prunes - Dried plums are called prunes. They are iodine-rich foods and vegan too.
  • Lima beans - They are iodine-rich sources that are vegan and also provide fibre, magnesium, and folate.
  • Other vegan iodine-rich sources are medium white potato with skin, bananas, corn, green beans, strawberries, enriched white bread and chocolate ice-cream.
  • Multivitamin tablets contain up to approximately 150 µg of iodine.

Recommendations for iodine intake

Under usual circumstances, an individual requires no more than a single teaspoon of iodine. However, it needs to be taken at regular intervals because iodine cannot be stored for long in the body.

You should also know that the recommended daily intake of iodine is 150 micrograms (µg) for pregnant or breastfeeding women. So, talk to your doctor today to know more about iodine requirements during pregnancy and how you can maintain adequate levels for you and your baby.