Iodine, typically found in seafood, is an essential mineral used by the thyroid gland. It works by helping the body to produce thyroid hormones, repair cell damage, control and manage growth, and promote a healthy metabolism. But do you know you might also have an iodine deficiency?
Sadly, a vast number of people are at risk of developing a deficiency in this vital mineral. Statistics show that about one-third of the earth’s population may be at risk! Deficiencies can lead to symptoms that range from mildly uncomfortable to dangerously severe.
For those who experience less severe symptoms, it can be hard to tell when you are experiencing such a deficiency. As a result, you should ensure you’re aware of warning signs that could reveal your risk. Here are 12 early signs of iodine deficiency most people ignore.
1. Hair Loss
Are you struggling to feel optimistic about your balding scalp? You might be suffering from iodine deficiency. Iodine is a substance that the thyroid gland takes from food and turns into hormones called thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These hormones are responsible for many things, including the health of your hair – and any subsequent hair loss.
A study showed that 30% of its participants suffered from hair loss as a side effect of iodine deficiency. This is because the thyroid hormones created by iodine are responsible for:
- Regenerating hair follicles upon their death or loss
- Controlling the growth of hair follicles
- The positive health of your hair
- The development of hair from the root
As a result, a lack of iodine causes:
- Thinning across scalp and eyebrow
- Reduced hair growth
- Increased hair fallout
Therefore, if you find yourself struggling with hair loss, consider that this may be a symptom of iodine deficiency.
2. Increased Feelings Of Cold
You may think that feeling cold isn’t a sure sign of an iodine deficiency, but it is. Studies reveal that over 80% of people suffering from low levels of thyroid hormones are often more sensitive to cold temperatures than the norm.
This is because:
- Thyroid hormones are responsible for controlling one’s metabolism speed.
- Low thyroid hormones often result in slower metabolism rates, which results in less body heat produced.
- Thyroid hormones help promote the creation and activity of brown fat.
- Brown fat is a type of fat that is primarily meant for generating heat.
- Low thyroid hormone levels may prevent brown fat from generating heat.
So if you find yourself struggling with cold temperatures often, you might be struggling with iodine deficiency.
3. Irregular Or Heavy Menstruation
Positive thinking can already be hard at the best of times – and it only gets more problematic with uncooperative menstrual cycles. If this is you, know that this may be a sign of iodine deficiency. The reasons for this are:
- Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating the female sexual organs and their associated hormones.
- Research shows us that a vast majority of patients with low thyroid levels would suffer irregular menstrual cycles, compared to only a minority of healthy patients.
- Low thyroid hormone levels can disrupt hormone signals crucial for the regulation of a menstrual cycle.
- A different study showed that inversely, patients with low thyroid levels often had more frequent menstrual cycles with heavy bleeding.
Fortunately, this issue can be resolved simply with the consumption of iodine in appropriate amounts.
4. Weakness and Fatigue
Are you constantly feeling tired and weak? Do you feel as if you do not have enough energy even to maintain any sense of positive thinking? Iodine deficiency may be the cause of it.
Multiple studies indicated that fatigue and exhaustion are some of the most common symptoms of low thyroid levels, with nearly 80% of the study’s participants showcasing it as part of their iodine deficiency. This is because thyroid hormones are:
- Associated with metabolism rates, which is the conversion of calories into usable energy
- Is required to make energy
- Responsible for other necessary bodily functions to keep it running smoothly
So when you have an iodine deficiency – and by extension, low thyroid hormone levels – this results in the following symptoms:
- The body unable to produce as much energy as it should
- A subsequent plummet in energy levels
- Feelings of weakness
This sort of exhaustion and fatigue should be reversible with increased consumption of iodine. This is because the thyroid gland will once again have enough iodine to function properly, and thus can do its job as intended – and in turn, give you energy once more.
5. Neck Swelling
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located in the front of your neck. When you suffer from iodine deficiency, you may find that the front of your neck will swell up in response. According to research, this is because:
- The thyroid is meant to produce thyroid hormones in response to the presence of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood
- your body needs iodine for the production of thyroid hormones
- A lack of iodine in the body means that the thyroid is incapable of making thyroid hormones in response to TSH
- The thyroid will overwork in an attempt to create the appropriate amount of thyroid hormones, as dictated by TSH levels in your blood
When overworked, the cells in the thyroid will grow and multiply, causing swelling
If left untreated, the thyroid gland may grow too big, resulting in what’s called a goiter. Thankfully, most cases of goiter can be treated with sufficient iodine intake.
6. Decreased Concentration and Productivity
It’s no secret that concentrating and being productive requires a significant amount of energy. Due to how thyroid hormones are necessary components for energy production, you might find that you’re struggling with mental functions and work productivity.
Therefore, if you can’t figure out what’s impairing your productivity and mental focus, the answer may be an iodine deficiency.
7. Heart Rate Changes
Thyroid hormones are responsible for a vast number of things – including your heart rate. Research tells us that low iodine levels often result in slow heart rates, and inversely too much iodine causes fast heart rates.
This outcome means that if you are suffering from an iodine deficiency, you might find yourself:
- Suffering from a slow heart rate
- Struggling with low blood pressure
- Feeling weak and fatigued.
- Feeling lightheaded and dizzy often.
- Prone to fainting from low blood pressure
As such, consider consulting a doctor to get your iodine levels tested if you find yourself suffering from slow heart rates and low blood pressure. You may just be suffering from an iodine deficiency.
8. Dry Skin
Dealing with skin that just keeps flaking no matter how religiously you moisturize it? It may actually be a symptom of iodine deficiency. Research confirms that up to 77% of patients with low thyroid levels suffered from dry, flaky skin as one of their many symptoms.
This aggravating condition is likely because of thyroid hormones:
- Help with skin regeneration.
- Help with sweat regulation.
- Helps with regulating skin moisture levels
As a result, the lack of thyroid hormones results in the skin being:
- Unable to regenerate skin cells from a lower level
- Dry and dehydrated due to a lack of moisturization
- Unable to sweat properly
9. Lumps On The Throat, Especially With Choking
Sometimes, the swelling of your neck isn’t that obvious. Instead, you might find that you are just struggling with things like:
- The sensation of choking when lying down
- Pressure on the front of the neck, at the base
If you notice a slight enlargement of your neck in conjunction with these symptoms, you may be suffering from an iodine deficiency. In such cases, try checking with a doctor to be sure.
10. Sudden Weight Gain
Have you found yourself dealing with rapid and sudden weight gain out of nowhere? It may be a symptom of iodine deficiency. Research shows that thyroid hormones are a crucial and necessary component in regulating your metabolism rate.
In other words, this means that:
- Iodine deficiency results from low thyroid hormone levels
- Low thyroid levels mean slower metabolism rates
- Slower metabolism rates result in fewer calories burned at rest
- Fewer burned calories inversely means an increase in stored fat
Thankfully, the effects of a slow metabolism rate may be reversed by the addition of iodine into one’s diet. This allows the body to make more thyroid hormones and subsequently return metabolism rates to normal.
11. Pregnancy Complications
It is important to note that anyone pregnant is also often at a high risk of iodine deficiency. This result is because their daily iodine needs have increased.
Research shows that during pregnancy, you will have to consume enough iodine for not just yourself, but also your growing child as well – which you pass to them through your breastmilk. This increased iodine consumption must continue throughout your pregnancy and until you are done lactating. Failure to do so may cause:
- Goiter in the mother
- Weakness and fatigue in the mother
- An inability to regulate the mother’s temperature and stay warm
- Stunted physical growth in the growing infant
- Impaired brain development in the growing infant
- Increased risk of stillbirth
It is an excellent idea to have your iodine levels tested by your doctor regularly. If they are low, you can simply consume some iodized salt, which should benefit both you and your growing baby.
12. Decreased Memory and Learning Capability
Your struggles with learning and memory may not entirely be your fault. Studies indicate that adults with low thyroid levels often resulted in poorer performance on learning and memory tests, and inversely adults with higher thyroid levels performed much better on the same tests.
According to research, the reason for such performance discrepancies is because:
- Thyroid hormones are necessary for proper brain growth.
- Low thyroid hormones can negatively affect brain development.
- Low thyroid hormones may result in smaller hippocampi
Iodine deficiency can result in severe long-term problems if not treated. If you notice symptoms of iodine deficiency, speak to your doctor as soon as possible. You can also attempt to take supplements or increase your intake of foods that contain this essential nutrient, like iodized salt and seafood. Either way, make sure you keep your eyes open for the early signs of iodine deficiency!