Iodine is a rare element found mostly in the oceans. This makes seafood one of the most beneficial sources of this mineral.
The body needs iodine for the thyroid gland to produce hormones for metabolism, growth, healing, and the development and proper functioning of the brain. Because iodine is added to table salt in the United States, many individuals get enough of this vital nutrient.
However, individuals who do not use iodized salt, vegans, and some vegetarians, and those who do not get a diet rich in this element may be at risk for certain health problems due to a lack of iodine.
Signs and Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency
Learn about the first symptoms of an iodine deficiency now.
1. Weakness and Chronic Fatigue
If individuals are getting enough sleep and eating enough for their body yet still feel extremely tired, they might be deficient in iodine.
Likewise, if objects begin to feel heavier than they used to, this could signal a problem as well. The thyroid uses iodine to produce hormones that convert the foods individuals eat into energy for the body.
Without enough iodine, the thyroid is unable to produce as much of the hormones necessary to give the body the energy it needs to get through everyday activities, leading to weakness and chronic fatigue. This can leave patients feeling sluggish and unable to function properly.
2. Increased Sensitivity to Cold Temperatures
Without enough thyroid hormone for the body to produce enough energy, individuals may experience an increased sensitivity to cold temperatures.
When individuals move around more, they tend to feel warmer because energy creates warmth within the body. If a patient’s metabolism is slowed due to a lack of iodine, they do not have as much energy to move around and tend to stay at rest more frequently.
Additionally, the body needs to produce enough thyroid hormone to allow stores of brown fat to be used by the body, as brown fat creates heat as it is used up.
3. Swelling in The Neck
Swelling in the neck is perhaps the most common symptom of iodine deficiency. When individuals do not consume enough iodine, the thyroid gland has to work harder to do its job to produce the appropriate hormones for the body.
As it works harder, it becomes enlarged as it tries to pull more iodine from other areas. This swelling of the thyroid gland is often referred to as goiter.
The good news is once patients begin to eat foods rich in iodine, the swelling should go away without further complications.
4. Hair Loss
A certain amount of hair loss is normal because the body sheds hair for new growth to occur. However, hair follicles require thyroid hormones to keep regenerating new hair.
When iodine levels are low, new hair growth does not occur because the hair follicles can no longer regenerate once the old hair has fallen from the follicle. As other hair is shed and new growth does not occur, patients may notice thinning or loss of hair.
Some studies have shown hair loss is more likely to occur from an iodine deficiency in individuals who have a genetic predisposition for hair loss in general.
5. Weight Gain with No Explanation
If patients notice they have been gaining weight although they have not changed the way they eat or the amount they exercise, they might have an iodine deficiency. Weight gain with no explanation can occur as the metabolism slows down.
When the body can no longer turn the foods individuals eat into energy, or use the energy the way it should, it will take all that is not used and store it as fat in the body.
It is normal for weight to fluctuate over time but if individuals find improving their diet and increasing the amount they exercise does not help, they may want to have their iodine levels checked.