Having fertility issues? You may be lacking this mineral

A study conducted during the COVID-19 period revealed that iodine deficiency may cause fertility problems.

Pregnant woman, illustrative (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Pregnant woman, illustrative
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

Infertility affects many women and men, and many researchers are trying to understand why global fertility is in perpetual decline, and more and more women need fertility treatments. 

A study published in Human Reproduction examined unexplained infertility, which was defined as a year of trying to get pregnant without success, by giving an iodine supplement only to women who failed to conceive after a year of trying.

Findings showed that fertility levels of women with low amounts of iodine in their urine were 46% lower than women with normal levels. Also, women with a low amount of iodine in their bodies took longer to get pregnant.

When researchers examined a group of women who received an iodine supplement and a group of women who didn’t, it was found that 87.5% of the women who received an iodine supplement were able to conceive after 12 months. 

In comparison, only 72% of women who didn’t receive a supplement conceived after 12 months. These data indicate that iodine deficiency may contribute to success in fertility.

Baby in hospital birth yawn 311 (credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)Baby in hospital birth yawn 311 (credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

What is iodine?

Iodine is a component found in water, but in Israel, most tap water is from desalination plants; this process causes a significant decrease in the iodine content in the tap water. 

Also, due to kosher restrictions, there is a lack of iodine in their food and over 80% of Israelis apparently have an iodine deficiency. Due to this, over the years we have seen that more and more women are finding it difficult to get pregnant, specifically in Western countries.

Professor Ido Shult, director of the Maternal and Fetal Medicine Unit at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa remarks that Israel is on the Mediterranean yet due to the lack of iodized table salt, kosher restrictions and desalinated drinking water surveys conducted among women of childbearing age and children in Israel show that their iodine levels are low. He added that a significant lack of iodine can cause severe brain damage called cretinism and if women’s iodine levels are moderate, there may be negative effects on fetal brain development in many areas. 

Research has shown that during pregnancy from the first trimester until birth, normal iodine levels are crucial for the supply of thyroid hormones, which are essential for normal fetal brain development. 

So, the Israeli Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommend iodine supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding using drops or taking multivitamins.

Iodine is of great importance to the entire population, as it helps people maintain normal body weight, gives the body the energy it needs and has an effect on mood. 

Iodine deficiency may damage the effectiveness of the immune system and in some cases allow the development of different types of cancer.

So even for men and women without fertility problems, it’s important to check iodine levels and consult a doctor about taking an iodine supplement.

Can proper nutrition provide enough iodine?

Iodine is present in dairy products and eggs, but the amount in these products depends greatly on the amount of iodine in the diet of the cows/chickens. 

Since most of the population suffers from iodine deficiency, it seems as if the animals will also have low iodine levels, and eating their by-products won’t give you enough iodine.

Iodine is mainly found in the sea, so iodine can be introduced into the body through foods that originate from the sea, such as fish. Since iodine is found in seawater, it's best to eat fish from the sea rather than fresh-water fish.

Yet don’t eat too much fish because they also contain heavy metals and many toxins. Eat between 2-3 servings of fish per week.

For vegans, the amount of iodine in a plant is very dependent on the amount of iodine in the soil where they grow. Due to the current low level of iodine in all sectors today in Israel, it seems that the iodine amount in Israeli soil is low and insufficient. 

Yet sea algae has iodine and is healthy. Add it to salads, smoothies and various dishes. But be careful with seaweed produced and packaged in unsupervised international factories as it contains a large amount of arsenic, a toxic and dangerous metal. Buy fresh or dried seaweed grown in Israel that is under supervision.