10 Iodine Deficiency Symptoms to Watch out For

If you’re anything like me, then you probably don’t think too much about how much iodine you’re getting in your diet. Because too much iodine is a bad thing. Right? But really, the conversation should be the other way around.

Iodine deficiency is a creeping problem worldwide. We’ve been lured into believing that we’re getting plenty or even at risk of getting too much iodine, but if you have any of the following iodine deficiency symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about getting tested.

Why is iodine deficiency making a comeback?

Many people today aren’t getting enough iodine for many reasons. It’s partly due to the production and quality of food as well as misperceptions about iodine. Yes, it’s true that iodine was added to salt to address the growing deficiency in the early 1900s. But since then, the food landscape has changed.

Many people are passing up iodized salt for specialty salts, and more people are giving up seafood in favor of a more veg-friendly diet (though it is possible to get enough iodine on a plant-based diet).

Iodine isn’t found in very many foods, and the foods it is found in have to have it in the soil where it grows. That soil itself may be iodine deficient due to the depletion of nutrients and minerals from our land. For these reasons, we are once again entering a period of iodine deficiency.

10 Iodine Deficiency Symptoms to Watch out For

Iodine Deficiency Symptoms

You may be deficient in iodine if you have any of the following signs, symptoms, or problems. Keep in mind that most of the following symptoms are hormone related. Iodine plays a major role in the functioning of the thyroid gland and the production of thyroid hormones, which is a part of your endocrine or hormone secretion system.

1) Fatigue and Weakness

Almost 80 percent of people with impaired thyroid function related to iodine deficiency experience fatigue, weakness, or sluggishness. Iodine plays an important role in the production of energy.

Fatigue can be a super general symptom, so it’s necessary to take note of any other symptoms you could be experiencing in addition to fatigue.

2) Hair Loss

Thyroid hormones support the growth of new hair and hair follicles. If your levels are running low, then you would notice a change in your hair pattern. Perhaps more hair falling out than is being replaced.

One study showed that 30 percent of participants with under-functioning thyroids experienced hair loss.

3) Skin Problems

Dry, flaky skin or even acne can be a sign of impaired thyroid function or iodine deficiency.

Iodine-based thyroid hormones help your skin cells regenerate, which keeps your skin looking soft and supple. In addition to dry, flaky skin, you could be experiencing difficult or persistent acne. Some individuals report improvement in long-term problems with acne after iodine supplementation (myself included).

4) Heart Arrythmia

Iodine deficiency has been linked to a slower than usual heart rate, known as bradycardia. If you struggle with a low heart rate, along with other signs and symptoms, you may need to consider having your iodine levels tested.

5) Impaired Memory

An interesting study on memory found that participants with higher (or more normal) levels of thyroid hormones outperformed those with lower levels of thyroid hormone.

Thyroid hormones, iodine specifically, help maintain proper brain function. It’s an essential nutrient during pregnancy for the developing fetus, and iodine deficiency in pregnant women is a growing problem. This is primarily due to a pregnant woman’s body’s increased demand for iodine without adequate supplementation to meet that demand.

6) Irregular Periods

Women know that periods are hormone based. The cycle starts and stops with certain hormones leading the way. These specific hormones aren’t created in the thyroid, but certain hormones are, like thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). This hormone, among others, has a direct effect on the ovaries and menstrual cycle.

One study showed that almost 70 percent of women with low thyroid hormone levels experienced irregular cycles.

7) Breast Changes

Fibrocystic breast disease puts you at increased risk of breast cancer later in life, and it’s an increasing concern for women of childbearing age. It’s also the most common reason for lumps in a young woman’s breasts. Small cysts develop in the breast due to an increase in estrogen stored in the tissue.

Iodine acts as a transporter of estrogen. When there’s an iodine deficiency, estrogen has a harder time being flushed out of the body.

8) Ovarian Cysts

Cysts on your ovaries are formed in a similar fashion to those in your breast: an imbalance of hormones.

Ovarian cysts are tiny, fluid-filled sacs that occur on your ovaries. You often only learn that you have them when one bursts, and it’s one of the most painful experiences. It’s like menstrual cramps on crack. Undoubtedly, you end up in the ER waiting for a vaginal ultrasound to say you have a cyst, for which there is no specific treatment, unless the cysts become abnormally large and interfere with other body processes.

9) Weight Gain

When you have an under-functioning thyroid gland, your metabolism slows down, which inevitably leads to increased weight. If you’re gaining weight and can’t seem to work it off despite your efforts, then you may need to look into thyroid issues.

10) Swollen Neck

This is a classic sign of hypothyroidism. It’s called a goiter. When iodine deficiency was first noticed in America it was in what was aptly labeled “the goiter belt”: a region along the Appalachians where physicians noticed an uptick in hypothyroidism and goiters.

How much iodine do you need?

The amount of iodine you need to maintain healthy levels varies by age, gender, and life stage.

You’ll get varying reports on how much iodine you actually need to recover from iodine deficiency and maintain a proper level going forward. Amounts range from 10-100+ micrograms to several grams. If you suspect that you’re deficient in iodine, you’ll need to work with your doctor and do your own research to determine what the best approach is for your specific needs.

Image via Thinkstock

76 comments

hELEN h
hELEN h2 months ago

tyfs

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Lorraine A
Lorraine Andersen2 months ago

as a person with thyroid problems I do try and keep my iodine levels up. Thanks for posting.

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Sophie A
Sophie A2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Marija M
Marija M2 months ago

tks

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

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Kathy G
Kathy G2 months ago

Thank you

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Kathy G
Kathy G2 months ago

Thank you

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Amanda McConnell
Amanda McConnell2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda McConnell
Amanda McConnell2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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