Minerals play a vital role in keeping our bodies healthy. Iodine is one of the essential minerals our body uses for various functions. Iodine, a water-soluble mineral, is required by our body’s thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone and healthy functioning of the thyroid. The thyroid gland uses iodine for producing thyroid hormones, which in turn controls the growth and repair of damaged cells as well as supports proper metabolism.
Our body is unable to make iodine, so it is necessary to replenish it in our diet through food or supplements. Iodine is naturally found in various foods, added to others, and can also be availed as a dietary supplement.
About one-third of people in the world are iodine deficient, making it a potential public health problem. Iodine deficiency leads to several unpleasant symptoms, which, if left untreated may cause more severe diseases like hypothyroidism, heart failure or cancer.
Our body needs a daily intake of 150mcg iodine per day for most adults, 220mcg for pregnant and lactating women, and 110mcg for infants from birth to 12 months. A decrease in these intake levels may lead to iodine deficiency disorders.
Here are some signs & symptoms that suggest our body is in dire need of iodine:
1. Weight gain
Iodine deficiency wreaks havoc on the levels of the very hormone that relies on it as its basic building block. Lower levels of iodine will lower the thyroid hormone levels which will lead to an under-active thyroid and reduced thyroid function.
Lower levels of thyroid hormone will cause hypothyroidism, which slows down a person’s metabolic rate. Low metabolic rate causes the calories to burn less than usual and increases the chance of storing food energy as fat, which makes us gain weight.
2. Cold intolerance
Do you keep searching for a blanket to wrap yourself up? Do you find that you are the only one complaining about feeling cold when everyone else is sweating out? It looks like you might be suffering from a low iodine level. Iodine’s work is to drive our body’s metabolic rate.
Heat is created while digesting food for energy, which gives the body the required warmth. Lower metabolic rate lowers energy conversion to heat, which in turn makes you cold sensitive.
3. Weakness and fatigue
People with low thyroid hormones have this general problem as hypothyroidism slows down a person’s metabolic rate. Things that you used to enjoy may seem to be a mundane task. You have to drag yourself to work with almost no energy even though you got enough sleep than iron deficiency is the one to be blamed.
Lower metabolic rate means fewer calories burned for energy, and less energy means the muscle cannot work efficiently, which in turn makes you feel weak. Extreme tiredness and fatigue are other symptoms of low metabolism.
4. Hair loss
A sign that is always overlooked, especially with older adults, is hair loss. It is assumed to be a part of aging, and it can be accurate, but it can also be due to lack of iodine. Hair falls out naturally but is replaced by new hair follicle over time.
Thyroid hormone supports hair follicle regeneration, and with the drop in thyroid level, the hair follicle stops being renewed, and hair stops regrowing or grows at a slower rate leading to hair loss.
5. Dry skin and brittle nails
Dry and flaky skin can be a sign that our body needs iodine. It helps regulate the moisture level of the skin, revitalize cut and scars, and also slow down the formation of wrinkles.
Sweat production is regulated by thyroid hormone; sweating helps typically keep skin hydrated, and compromise in sweat production can lead to dry and flaky skin.
Like skin, nails also tell a lot about the overall health of a person. Compromised levels of thyroid hormone can lead to brittle nails or Onycholysis (splitting of nails from the nail plate). So determining your iodine intake should be a part of your nail and skincare regime.
6. Slow heart rate
Deficiency in iodine can also be associated with heart problems. Iodine deficiency may cause the heart of a person to beat slowly. To be specific, it can cause bradycardia, a heart rate that is pondered to be slower than average.
When the person experiences a slow heart rate, the heart beats so slowly that it doesn’t pump enough blood to meet body needs and he/she may feel dizzy or sick causing them to faint.
7. Complications in pregnancy
Pregnant women have to cover not only their need for iodine but also their child’s demand. So they have to pay special attention to this problem. Thyroid hormone plays a vital role in the child’s development inside the mother’s womb. It helps in the baby’s brain development and intelligence.
Their deficiency can have a negative impact on the child’s development as well as the mother’s health. Lack of iodine in pregnant women can prove to be fatal as it can cause miscarriage and there is a higher risk of stillbirth.
8. Heavy or irregular periods
Deficiency in iodine indirectly affects the menstruation cycle of women. Decreased thyroid level or hypothyroidism can affect various other female hormones that regulate a woman’s period. Iodine deficiency can affect periods in 2 ways:
Periods that are heavier than usual-without sufficient thyroid hormone, ovaries are unable to make enough flow, thus decreasing hormone progesterone and also may not make enough of coagulation factors to prevent massive bleeding.
Lowered production of the thyroid hormone can cause your period to stop for several months or longer, which is a condition called amenorrhea.
9. Concentration and memory problems
Hippocampus, a part of our brain that controls our long term memory. A study carried out in 2014 revealed that people with low thyroid levels have a small hippocampus, which affects a person’s long term memory.
Learning and memorizing things can be a real struggle for people with a small hippocampus caused due to low iodine levels and its role in the production of thyroid hormone. Brain’s ability to process information & effectively respond to it can also be affected by a slow metabolism.
10. Swollen neck
A swollen neck is a clear sign and most common symptom of iodine deficiency. The swollen throat or usually called as Goitre is due to the abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland present in the neck. When the body doesn’t get enough iodine, the thyroid gland is unable to produce enough hormones required by the body.
To compensate it, the thyroid gland tries to absorb iodine from the blood, which causes the cells to multiply & grow more than usual, causing the thyroid gland to increase in size, making the neck appear swollen.
11. Depression and anxiety
Anxiety and depression are thought to be a psychological problem. But scientists confirmed that there is a link between depression and thyroid disorders. Low levels of T4 and T3 can negatively impact serotonin and dopamine levels.
These are neurotransmitters that influence our cognitive behavior and mood. It is high time to consider mood disorder as a sign of iodine deficiency and make an appointment with a doctor and get proper treatment.
Complications of iodine deficiency are experienced mostly by pregnant women and babies. Iodine deficiency can be diagnosed via a urine test. So it is advised to reflect on the risk factors listed above and address any that might apply to you. Ensure consuming this mineral on a daily basis by including iodine-rich foods and keep a target of getting 150mcg as per the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) by WHO.