Hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough key hormones, has been estimated to effect more than 10% of the world’s population.  Individuals suffering from hypothyroidism may not even know it. Early symptoms can be mild and general, such as depression, weight gain, and elevated cholesterol. Women may specifically experience infertility. More advanced symptoms include goiter (a swelling of the thyroid) and low blood pressure. Men may experience reduced libido as a result of lower testosterone levels.
All of these symptoms result from the hormonal imbalances created by improper thyroid function. The most common cause is iodine deficiency, although genetics, certain medications, pregnancy, exposure to radiation, smoking, alcohol and stress have also been associated with the condition.   While many causes have been identified, again, the most common reason is simply not getting enough iodine.
How Does Iodine Deficiency Causes Hypothyroidism?
In the thyroid gland, iodine and an amino acid combine to form two hormones — triiodothyronine and thyroxine. These two hormones regulate metabolic function and the function of other non-thyroid hormones. Without enough iodine in the diet, the thyroid cannot create enough of these two hormones. In adults, this results in problems associated with improper metabolism. During pregnancy, inadequate iodine can lead to impaired fetal development or mental retardation.
The Association Between Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy
You may have heard pregnant women say they’re, “eating for two.” Not only do pregnant women need to nourish both themselves and their developing baby with enough calories, but also with enough nutrients. Iodine requirements increase during pregnancy and women must maintain appropriate levels for their own well being as well as their developing child. Women who suffer from mild iodine deficiency can experience greater deficiency during pregnancy… and they must be aware of this and the potential danger to the fetus.  Simply put, women already suffering from hypothyroidism must increase their iodine intake to ensure the health of the child. 
While iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism are proven to have substantial impacts on a pregnant woman and her fetus, researchers have identified additional complications related to these conditions…
Complications Associated with Hypothyroidism and Iodine Deficiency
Researchers have recently determined wider reaching impacts of hypothyroidism. Hearing problems and hearing loss have been frequently reported with cases of hypothyroidism.  When children suffer from this condition, it can have long lasting impacts on education and personal relations.
A connective tissue disease, systemic sclerosis, has also been associated with hypothyroidism.  Complications like this show how mineral and nutrient deficiencies can have far-reaching impacts.
Due to the importance of thyroid function to proper hormonal balance and general body function, it is very likely researchers will continue to discover new complications associated with thyroid disorders resulting from iodine deficiency.
Avoiding Iodine Deficiency
There are a number of foods you can add to your diet to increase your dietary iodine intake — and this is perhaps the best method. While it is possible, and many people are able to incorporate iodine-rich foods into their diet, others have lifestyle issues that make it difficult and find it easier to take an iodine supplement. There are a number of options available for iodine supplementation, I recommend nascent, or atomic, iodine as it’s the most bioavailable to the human body.
Has hypothyroidism been a problem for you? How have you dealt with and overcome it? Please leave a comment below and share your experience with us. And, to learn more about iodine, check out the video for my webinar, Everything You Need to Know About Iodine.
– Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
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- Santana Lopes M, Jácome de Castro J, Marcelino M, Oliveira MJ, Carrilho F, Limbert E; Grupo de Estudos da Tiróide. [Iodine and thyroid: what a clinic should know]. [Article in Portuguese] Acta Med Port. 2012 May-Jun;25(3):174-8. Epub 2012 Jul 23.
- Velasco I, Martin J, Gallego M, Gutierrez-Repiso C, Santiago P, Lopez-Siguero JP, Gonzalez Mesa E, Herrera Peral J, Perez V, Garcia-Fuentes E, Soriguer-Escofet F. Maternal-fetal thyroid function at the time of birth and its relation with iodine intake. Thyroid. 2013 Jun 13.
- Melse-Boonstra A, Mackenzie I. Iodine deficiency, thyroid function and hearing deficit: a review. Nutr Res Rev. 2013 Jun 12:1-8.
- Antonelli A, Fallahi P, Ferrari SM, Mancusi C, Giuggioli D, Colaci M, Ferri C. Incidence of thyroid disorders in systemic sclerosis: results from a longitudinal follow-up. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Jul;98(7):E1198-202. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-3583. Epub 2013 Jun 18.