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Iodine - An essential nutrient for a healthy pregnancy

Kavita Devgan

Kavita Devgan
06 March 2020

This article is authored by Kavita Devgan. Kavita is an acclaimed nutritionist with 20 plus years of experience as a weight loss and holistic health consultant.

Sources of Iodine

Malnutrition can be very deceptive. Not many understand that being malnourished during a pregnancy is not just about not getting enough macronutrients such as protein and calories in the diet, but it can also mean chronic micronutrient deficiencies. Due to lack of information and the fact that the symptoms are not that clear, micronutrient deficiencies often stay undetected for long (unlike calorie and protein deficiencies) and thus cause huge damage.

Iodine, in fact, is one such micronutrient mineral that a lot many of us tend to be deficient in, and according to WHO, lack of iodine (along with vitamin A and iron) represents a major threat to the health and development of populations the world over, particularly children and pregnant women in low-income countries.

Together, all of us need to be particularly careful in India as there is very little iodine in the soil here, and also because our diets are majorly grain- and plant based - so while they are high in macronutrients like carbohydrates, fats and proteins, they are very low in micronutrients. In fact those who are vegetarian and vegan (who don’t consume dairy) need to be particularly careful, especially women, as their needs tend to be higher.

Iodine for Healthy Pregnancy

Why do we need iodine?

Iodine is necessary to make thyroid hormones that regulate growth, development and metabolism. Its deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid is under active—and the body can’t make enough of the thyroid hormones to keep the body running efficiently.

Often along with low thyroid hormone levels, anaemia too may develop which corrects itself when your hypothyroidism is treated. Anaemia is a problem for both men and women in India, but it is particularly high for women, who have a greater need for iron.

Iodine deficiency could also thin your hair, dry your skin, and make you feel cold, tired, constipated, and depressed. Plus, you might gain weight more easily. Excessive hair loss is in fact a very apparent yet often missed out symptom of iodine deficiency. Iodine also regulates the texture of hair – deficiency shows up in dry and brittle strands.

Pregnant and lactating women (as babies get iodine through breast milk) are at a high risk of iodine deficiency because they need to consume enough to meet their own daily needs, as well as the needs of their growing baby. Not consuming enough iodine during pregnancy and lactation can affect both the mother and baby as iodine protects the developing foetus from brain damage (iodine deficiencies can reduce IQ by an average of 13 IQ points) and its deficiency may lead to stunted physical growth, irreversible brain damage, including mental retardation, for the child. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy has also been associated with ADHD in children. Plus, mothers who are severely iodine deficient could also be at risk for miscarriage and stillbirth. Young children too need to prevent from being affected by IDD (Iodine Deficiency Disorders) for better cognitive development for better school performance, and increased energy (by reducing anaemia).

Symptoms - at a glance

  • Swelling in the front of the neck (called goitre)
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Hair fall
  • Dry flaky skin
  • Feeling colder than usual
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Trouble remembering and learning
  • Heavy and irregular menstrual bleeding
Iodine rich foods

How to get enough iodine?

Although the total requirement of iodine for an adult (about 150 mcg) is not much, it is necessary for iodine to be included in our daily diet as our body does not make iodine nor does it have any storage organ for the mineral. Food sources of iodine are spinach, shrimp, tuna, seaweeds (such as kelp), egg, yoghurt, prunes, non-milled and unpolished rice and grains, and garlic, but it is difficult to get enough just from the food sources. Luckily though, the deficiency is easy to prevent by adding just a dash of iodised salt to our food can help meet the requirement. So, don’t take any chances with that. Always use iodised salt in your meals to fulfill iodine requirements. Consult your doctor to ensure that you are consuming the right amount of salt through your diet to avoid any further health complications.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

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Diet, exercise and sunlight: Three factors women shouldn’t ignore for good bone health

Dr. Dharini Krishnan

Dr. Dharini Krishnan
11 January 2021

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

Barring a significant injury or fracture, we rarely tend to think about bone health. Yet, for women, particularly those who are middle-aged or older, this is a vital concern because of the risk of osteoporosis.

In 2013, it was estimated that there were 50 million Indians who were osteoporotic or having low bone mass. Some studies have found that the prevalence of osteoporosis could be as high as 42.5% in women over the age of 50.

Osteoporosis and health complications

Eat Breakfast

Osteoporosis comes from the Latin for “porous bone”, and is a condition where bone tissue loses its density, and becomes weaker and more fragile. Such bones are easily susceptible to breaks, resulting in pain, disability and loss of functionality in everyday life.

Bones, which form the primary supporting framework of the body, grow from birth till our early twenties, which is the period of peak bone mass. Bone is an active tissue that undergoes regular replacement in conditions of health.

In osteoporosis, however, bone formation is outpaced by bone loss, leading to porosity or thinness of bone tissue and brittle bones. Such bones could easily be fractured even in the absence of significant trauma. Such fractures tend to reduce mobility and lead to increased hospitalization and dependence on others.

Why osteoporosis affects women more

Women are particular at risk for osteoporosis because they have lesser bone mass to start with. The geometry and structure of bone have also been increasingly recognized as important risk factors for fracture.

The risk of osteoporosis significantly rises during menopause because of the hormonal changes women undergo at the time. This is because estrogen plays a significant role in maintaining bone health, and the secretion of this hormone falls drastically during menopause.

The importance of protein and calcium in the diet

Skin Care

For some time now, awareness of the importance of calcium for bone health has been growing. Hence, women are advised to consume sufficient amounts of dairy, green leafy vegetables, soya products and nuts.

What many don’t realise is that sufficient levels of protein are just as important for strong bones. After all, protein makes up roughly 50% of bone volume and about one-third of its mass. Daily intake of protein is also necessary to provide the raw materials for bone formation. Unfortunately, research shows that the levels of dietary protein consumed by Indians are actually reducing.

For non-vegetarians chicken, fish and eggs are good sources of protein. For vegetarians, pulses are one of the primary sources of protein, along with dairy products. Daily intake of protein in at least two major meals of the day, particularly in healthy forms such as sambhar or dal is, therefore, vital.

The role of exercise and sunlight

Eat Breakfast

Bone health also requires good muscle health. This makes it necessary to undertake moderate exercise as often as possible. A 45-minute walk six days a week as well as resistance training using the body weight, such as surya namaskaras, can go a long way to building muscles. Importantly, the body also requires Vitamin D to mobilize calcium for bone health. Hence, exposure to peak sunlight between 11am and 3 pm at least twice a week is also vital for bone health.

Osteoporosis can be a serious health problem that disrupts life and limits mobility, particularly for women. However, a healthy diet, rich in calcium and protein, together with exercise, can go a long way in maintaining bone health.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

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