Many pregnant and breastfeeding women are on the verge of being iodine deficient, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. During pregnancy and lactation, women need higher amounts of iodine to ensure proper brain development in their young. Sadly, it is estimated that only as few as 15 percent of pregnant and lactating women receive the daily recommended 150 micrograms (mcg) of iodine.
Iodine is necessary to produce thyroid hormone and to maintain healthy thyroid function. Adequate thyroid function plays an important role in the brain development of children and in their cognition. We are fortunate that here in the United States, our diets contain enough iodine to meet the recommended daily allowance. Our table salt is iodized and dairy products, breads, and seafood also contain iodine. However, with the rise in popularity of processed foods and in the use of gourmet sea salts, our diets may now be lacking this essential nutrient.
The American Thyroid Association (ATA) recommends 220-250 mcg of iodine intake for pregnant women and 250-290 mcg for breastfeeding women. To ensure adequate iodine intake, lactating and pregnant mothers should take a daily supplement of at least 150 mcg of iodine and use iodized table salt so that the combined daily intake of iodine is between 290 mcg and 1100 mcg.
Caution should be taken to avoid excessive iodine intake since this can cause thyroid dysfunction in infants. The use of excessive amounts of iodine in pregnant or breastfeeding mothers can increase breastmilk iodine levels and cause hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels). According to the ATA, the upper limits of iodine intake range from 500-1,100 mcg of iodine daily during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The ATA also “advises against the ingestion of iodine and kelp supplements containing in excess of 500 mcg iodine daily for children and adults and during pregnancy and lactation”.
Unfortunately, common environmental contaminants, such as nitrates, thiocyanate and perchlorate, have been shown to reduce our iodine intake by competing for iodine absorption. To reduce exposure to thiocyanate, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke. For families whose drinking water is provided by a private well, the water should be analyzed annually for nitrate levels. Perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel and explosives, is a common environmental contaminate found in water and foods. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently working to regulate perchlorate exposure in our water and foods, but until then, using a reverse osmosis filtration system can help reduce perchlorate and nitrates in your drinking water.
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