Iodine is an essential mineral that your body cannot make. Your thyroid gland uses it to make thyroid hormones, which help control growth, repair damaged cells and support a healthy metabolism.
Unfortunately, up to a third of people worldwide are at risk of an iodine deficiency
Those at the highest risk include:
An iodine deficiency can cause uncomfortable and even severe symptoms. They include swelling in the neck, pregnancy-related issues, weight gain and learning difficulties.
Its symptoms are very similar to those of hypothyroidism, or low thyroid hormones. Since iodine is used to make thyroid hormones, an iodine deficiency means your body can’t make enough of them, leading to hypothyroidism.
Here are 10 signs and symptoms of an iodine deficiency.
Swelling in the Neck
Swelling in the front of the neck is the most common symptom of an iodine deficiency. This is called a goiter and occurs when the thyroid gland grows too big. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It makes thyroid hormones upon receiving a signal from the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
When blood levels of TSH rise, the thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. However, when your body is low in iodine, it can’t make enough of them
To compensate, the thyroid gland works harder to try to make more. This causes the cells to grow and multiply, eventually leading to a goiter.
Fortunately, most cases can be treated by increasing your iodine intake. However, if a goiter hasn’t been treated for many years, it might cause permanent thyroid damage.
Unexpected Weight Gain
Unexpected weight gain is another sign of an iodine deficiency. It may occur if the body does not have enough iodine to make thyroid hormones. This is because thyroid hormones help control the speed of your metabolism, which is the process by which your body converts food into energy and heat.
When your thyroid hormone levels are low, your body burns fewer calories at rest. Unfortunately, this means more calories from the foods you eat are stored as fat. Adding more iodine to your diet may help reverse the effects of a slow metabolism, as it can help your body make more thyroid hormones.
Fatigue and Weakness
Fatigue and weakness are also common symptoms of an iodine deficiency. In fact, some studies have found that nearly 80% of people with low thyroid hormone levels, which occur in cases of iodine deficiency, feel tired, sluggish and weak .
These symptoms occur because thyroid hormones help the body make energy. When thyroid hormone levels are low, the body can’t make as much energy as it usually does. This may cause your energy levels to plummet and leave you feeling weak. In fact, a study in 2,456 people found that fatigue and weakness were the most common symptoms among those with low or slightly low thyroid hormone levels .
Thyroid hormones help control the growth of hair follicles. When your thyroid hormone levels are low, your hair follicles may stop regenerating. Over time, this may result in hair loss. For this reason, people with an iodine deficiency may also suffer from hair loss . One study in 700 people found that 30% of those with low thyroid hormone levels experienced hair loss. However, other studies have found that low thyroid hormone levels only seem to cause hair loss in those with a family history of hair loss. If you experience hair loss because of an iodine deficiency, getting enough of this mineral may help correct your thyroid hormone levels and stop hair loss.
Dry, Flaky Skin
Dry, flaky skin may affect many people with an iodine deficiency. In fact, some studies have found that up to 77% of people with low thyroid hormone levels may experience dry, flaky skin. Thyroid hormones, which are made of iodine, help your skin cells regenerate. When thyroid hormone levels are low, this regeneration doesn’t occur as often, possibly leading to dry, flaky skin. Additionally, thyroid hormones help the body regulate sweat. People with lower thyroid hormone levels, such as those with an iodine deficiency, tend to sweat less than people with normal thyroid hormone levels. Given that sweat helps keep your skin moist and hydrated, a lack of sweat may be another reason why dry, flaky skin is a common symptom of iodine deficiency.
Feeling Colder Than Usual
Feeling cold is a common symptom of an iodine deficiency. In fact, some studies have found that over 80% of people with low thyroid hormone levels may feel more sensitive to cold temperatures than usual. Since iodine is used to make thyroid hormones, an iodine deficiency can cause your thyroid hormone levels to plummet. Given that thyroid hormones help control the speed of your metabolism, low thyroid hormone levels may cause it to slow down. A slower metabolism generates less heat, which may cause you to feel colder than usual. Also, thyroid hormones help boost the activity of your brown fat, a type of fat that specializes in generating heat. This means that low thyroid hormone levels, which may be caused by an iodine deficiency, could prevent brown fat from doing its job.