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Why does our body need iodine?

Are you pregnant or breastfeeding? At this time optimum iodine intake is particularly important, as you require more due to your particular situation. Only a small number of foods contain a relatively high amount of iodine, e.g. sea fish such as pollock or cod. Under certain circumstances you must take iodine tablets so that you and your child receive enough iodine. It is best to speak to your doctor about it.

Iodine - an essential trace element

Why does our body need iodine?

We need the trace element iodine to regulate our metabolism as a whole, because iodine is a component of the thyroid hormone. Furthermore, iodine is involved in the regulation of growth, bone formation and brain development in unborn babies. Too little iodine during pregnancy and breastfeeding can therefore lead to goitre, for example, or trouble breathing and swallowing for both the mother and child. A lack of iodine can also lead to poor mental performance, as well as to difficulties in learning and concentration.

What effect does maternal iodine deficiency have?

The mother’s blood provides the unborn baby with a lot of what it needs to develop through the placenta. Only a small amount of maternal thyroid hormone can cross the womb’s natural “barrier”. For this reason the baby must produce the hormone independently from the 12th week of pregnancy in order to develop healthily. For this the baby needs iodine from its mother’s blood. Pregnant women must therefore provide enough iodine for two. If the mother absorbs enough iodine, she can transfer iodine to her child and they will develop no iodine deficiency. The same applies during breastfeeding. The infant then obtains vital iodine from its mother’s milk. The iodine content of breast milk depends on the mother’s iodine intake. Bottle-fed babies secure their iodine intake from ready-made follow-on formula. Iodine - an essential trace element

How much iodine do pregnant women need?

Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers require a much higher amount of iodine. The German Nutrition Society recommends increasing daily intake of 200 µg (micrograms) by 15 percent to 230 µg (micrograms) for pregnant women and by 30 percent to 260 µg (micrograms) for breastfeeding mothers. To meet this requirement, it is sometimes necessary to take iodine tablets in addition to a high-iodine diet. Your doctor can tell you if you should take iodine supplements. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment recommends the following to prevent iodine deficiency during pregnancy and breastfeeding:

  • only use iodized table and cooking salt at home
  • Preference should be given to foods made using iodized table salt, especially bread and meat goods
  • consume sea fish and milk regularly
  • take daily iodine supplements of 100 (-150) µg (e.g. tablets) if you have previously had iodine deficiency anaemia

Iodine - an essential trace element

Why do so few foods contain iodine?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) definition, Germany is one of the iodine deficient areas. This is due to the low iodine content of the soil – iodine was flushed out of the soil into the sea during the Ice Age. Since the soil contains so little iodine, plants grown in it also contain a very small amount of iodine. Only sea fish and other marine creatures contain a lot of iodine. Milk and dairy products can also be relatively rich in iodine if the dairy cow has been fed with iodine-enriched feed. Intake in Germany has improved considerably, however, through the iodizing of table salt.

No raw fish

Admittedly pregnant women should eat more sea fish to obtain enough iodine and useful fatty acids – but not raw, e.g. sushi. As is the case with raw milk and dairy products, raw meat and unheated meat products, raw fish can carry germs.