Iodine is important for our thyroid (a small gland in the throat) which regulates our metabolism, growth and development. Iodine is one of the most important minerals from pre-pregnancy through to breastfeeding.
- Pre-pregnancy: the thyroid regulates weight and ovulation, which are important when trying to conceive.
- Pregnancy: thyroid hormones are essential for normal brain development and growth in a developing foetus. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy can cause learning difficulties and stunted growth in a baby.
- Breastfeeding: to pass on iodine to a baby (who needs about 90-100 micrograms per day) and continue supporting their brain development and growth.
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How much iodine do I need?
Iodine deficiency in Australia is common. Recommended amounts of iodine per day increase during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Before pregnancy: 150 micrograms per day
- Pregnancy: 220 micrograms per day
- Breastfeeding: 270 micrograms per day
What foods contain iodine?
Iodine isn’t made naturally by the body. The following are the main food sources of iodine:
- Bread (except organic bread)
- Dairy, e.g. milk, yoghurt
- Seafood (but avoid seafood with high levels of mercury)
In Australia, it is a legal requirement for bread manufacturers to use iodised salt to make bread (this doesn’t apply to organic bread).
Iodised salt is sold in supermarkets. An easy way to increase your iodine is to replace your cooking or table salt at home with iodised salt.
Should I take an iodine supplement?
It is difficult to get the required amount of iodine from foods alone. In Australia, it is recommended that all women trying to conceive, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding, take an iodine supplement (150 mcg) daily (National Health and Medical Research Council).
If you have a thyroid condition, speak to your doctor or obstetrician before taking any supplements.
Many prenatal or pregnancy multivitamins contain iodine (e.g. Elevit, Blackmores, Fabfol Plus). Although kelp (seaweed) supplements contain iodine, they may contain traces of mercury so are best to avoid.
I’m not sure why but there aren’t many iodine supplements available on its own for those who don’t need a multivitamin. I’ve only come across the Blackmores I-FOLIC, which contains 150 micrograms iodine and 500 micrograms folic acid. This product can be purchased from Amazon Australia.