Iodine is a trace element essential to life because it’s a key component in thyroid hormones. If iodine levels are insufficient, the thyroid can’t produce enough of the hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), which can lead to hypothyroidism. The condition can cause a reduction in the body’s metabolic processes.
Hypothyroidism can cause severe complications if left untreated, such as obesity, infertility, joint pain and heart disease. The body can’t naturally produce iodine. Instead, it must be ingested from external sources such as food, drinks and supplements. Since the introduction of iodized table salt, iodine deficiencies have decreased dramatically worldwide, but 30 percent of the world’s population does not use iodized salt. Geographical locations, diseases and gender are just a few factors that influence iodine consumption.
Iodine deficiency can have an enormous impact on health. Lack of iodine destabilizes normal chemical, hormonal and enzymatic processes in the body. If you feel you may have an iodine deficiency, consult your health care provider to discuss and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Common signs of iodine deficiency are as follows:
The thyroid relies on iodine to synthesize hormones and facilitate metabolism. If someone develops hypothyroidism (caused by an insufficient level of iodine), it can decrease all of that person’s metabolic processes. Metabolism is the burning of calories the body uses for energy, and a decrease slows the body’s energy production, resulting in weakness and fatigue.
2. Muscle and joint pain
Physical activity that was once easy becomes difficult to perform with insufficient iodine. This weakness and pain are due to the lack of available energy. Muscles are especially vulnerable to lower energy. In cases of untreated hypothyroidism, peripheral vascular disease can develop. This type of disease damages the peripheral nerves, leading to pain, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs.
3. Weight gain
Iodine is critical for thyroid hormone production. A lower metabolism means fewer calories are burned for energy. When someone can’t burn calories properly, that person’s body will store any unused calories as fat, which can lead to an increase in weight.
4. Depression/memory problems
Hypothyroidism can cause signs of depression and memory issues in the early stages. When the body can’t metabolize calories for energy, that affects the brain’s ability to process and react efficiently. Thought processes and memory could be slowed and scattered. Iodine deficiency affects many chemical reactions within the mind and body. Researchers have proven that chemical imbalances can cause mental disorders, including depression and anxiety.
5. Cold sensitivity
Feeling cold and chilled is a common complaint from someone suffering from iodine deficiency. Individuals with hypothyroidism have reduced energy production. In addition, the skin may also appear pale from the lack of proper metabolism and nutrients. Also, thyroid hormones help regulate the body’s temperature. If those hormones are low, temperature sensitivity is likely to occur.
Hypothyroidism disrupts the ovulation cycles of females, affecting fertility by disrupting regular cycles. Furthermore, hormonal imbalances can cause women to experience heavier than usual or irregular menstrual cycles.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck. The neck area is where a goiter can form in cases of iodine deficiency. A goiter is one of the earliest signs of hypothyroidism because the thyroid gland swells in response to constant stimulation to produce more hormones. The body also tries to enlarge the thyroid gland so it will be able to absorb more iodine. Typically, a goiter is not a problem, but if it becomes too enlarged it can cause breathing and swallowing difficulties.
8. Heart complications
A typical symptom of hypothyroidism is a slow heart rate. Thyroid hormones directly affect body temperature and heart rate regulation. If thyroid levels are lacking, the body can’t regulate the heart rate effectively. A slow heart rate, or bradycardia, can cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea and fainting. Chronic hypothyroidism can lead to high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. High cholesterol increases one’s risk of heart attacks, heart disease and heart failure.
9. Hair, skin and nail problems
Thyroid hormones support the growth of hair, skin and nails. The lack of these hormones commonly causes the skin to become dry, pale and itchy. The nails and hair can become dry, thin and brittle. A decrease in metabolism further hinders skin, hair and nail health as the amount of nutrient-rich blood delivered to the body is insufficient.
10. Birth defects
Babies born to mothers with an iodine deficiency can experience serious complications. Iodine is essential for normal growth, healing and metabolism. Babies who are iodine deficient face an increased risk for intellectual and developmental delays. Mental retardation, deafness, mutism, stunted growth, neurological problems and delayed sexual maturity are possible complications of iodine deficiency. The mother and infant are also at an increased risk of experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth.