Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on October 21, 2015

woman drinking coffee - Iodine Deficiency

Iodine deficiency is a global health issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates over 2 billion people may be iodine deficient, with up to 50 million of them suffering from serious symptoms of iodine deficiency, such as brain damage [1]. Once a rare problem in the Western world, this imbalance is on the increase in North America.

This may be related to modern, industrial agricultural practices and a lack of minerals in the soil. Environmental pollutants have robbed the soil of natural mineral levels, and this in turn, translates into poor iodine content in foods. In fact, in some regions of the country, soil levels of iodine are naturally low, and in regions where they used to be high, we are witnessing depletion. Iodine is especially necessary for pregnant women, their unborn babies, and young children; a deficiency can lead to severe developmental issues. Recently, Iodine deficiency has been linked to autism in children.

Iodine deficiency symptoms manifest as a result of improper thyroid hormone production. Simply stated, when the thyroid gland does not receive enough iodine, trouble ensues. The more serious signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency may vary according to individuals, but usually include the following:

  • Thyroid enlargement – sometimes called “goiter”
  • Mental imbalances such as depression and anxiety
  • Mental retardation (in extreme cases, and particular in children of mothers who have had an iodine deficiency)
  • Fetal hypothyroidism (improper functioning of the thyroid in unborn children, leading to brain damage).
  • Autism

Other Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency

Beyond the global issue of iodine deficiency in children, Westerners are also susceptible to a lack of iodine. Many researchers are looking into the correlations between various chronic conditions and a lack of iodine.

Some of the lesser-known symptoms of iodine deficiency include:

Slowed Brain Function

Studies have shown the correlation between the shortage of iodine and cognitive function, particularly in the gestation period in children. In fact, one study from 2009 found that iodine supplementation in mildly-deficient children helped improve their perceptual reasoning [2].

Slowed Metabolism

A lack of iodine can lead to a reduced ability to bio synthesize food into usable nutrients. This may lead to sluggish metabolism, weight gain and constipation.

Lowered Immunity

Iodine deficiency leaves us open to free radical exposure, particularly in the thyroid gland, specifically in regard to the accumulation of harmful levels of fluoride, perchlorate, and goitrogens. This can cause individuals with symptoms of iodine deficiency to experience more colds and flus.

Emotional Upset and Anxiety

Due to the relationship between iodine and hormone balance, an iodine deficiency disrupts the proper functioning of hormone receptors and communication. This may lead to emotional imbalances, anxiety and a lack of sexual interest.

Cysts, soreness, and heaviness in breasts

A study reported in the Canadian Journal of Surgery found that 70% of patients given iodine supplements showed an improvement in their fibrocystic breast disease [3]. This leads to speculation on the correlation between iodine deficiency and breast cancer, although more research is required. It is generally accepted that there is a connection between a lack of iodine in women, and breast pain/tenderness that can accompany the menstrual cycle.

Compromised organ function

Because of iodine’s role in organ health, iodine deficiency may lead to an inability of the bodies organs to detoxify. Compromised function of the detoxification organs may eventually lead to overall organ failure.

Improper thyroid function

The New England Journal of Medicine reported a correlation between iodine intake and thyroid disease. When the thyroid cannot function properly, it can lead to a whole host of symptoms [4]. These include fatigue, exhaustion, puffy eyes, digestive upset, muscle pain, depression, weight gain, swelling in the body, menstrual upset, fuzzy head, memory impairment, allergic skin reactions, dry skin, brittle nails, sensitivity to cold, hair loss, high cholesterol or general low immunity.

Iodine Supplements

Continuing Research

Other possible symptoms of iodine deficiency are currently under scientific research. This research is looking into the possible correlations between iodine deficiency and breast and stomach cancers. Preliminary studies show that iodine deficiency may produce an increased incidence of cancerous malignancies in animals. Similarly, other research shows a possible relationship between iodine levels and gastric forms of cancer. These studies offer hope, as both show a decreased rate of cancer development when the animals are given an iodine-prophylaxis supplement.

Be aware when choosing an iodine supplement. Not all iodine supplements are the same or safe to consume. I personally recommend using a nascent form of iodine, such as Detoxadine.

GHC youtube Video

Watch an In-Depth Video on
Everything You Need to Know About Iodine

Video Length: 60 minutes


  1. Dr Oleg Chestnov. Sustaining the elimination of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD). Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health World Health Organization.
  2. Gordon RC, Rose MC, Skeaff SA, Gray AR, Morgan KM, Ruffman T. Iodine supplementation improves cognition in mildly iodine-deficient children. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Nov;90(5):1264-71. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28145. Epub 2009 Sep 2.
  3. Ghent WR, Eskin BA, Low DA, Hill LP. Iodine replacement in fibrocystic disease of the breast. Can J Surg. 1993 Oct;36(5):453-60.
  4. Teng W, Shan Z, Teng X, Guan H, Li Y, Teng D, Jin Y, Yu X, Fan C, Chong W, Yang F, Dai H, Yu Y, Li J, Chen Y, Zhao D, Shi X, Hu F, Mao J, Gu X, Yang R, Tong Y, Wang W, Gao T, Li C. Effect of iodine intake on thyroid diseases in China. N Engl J Med. 2006 Jun 29;354(26):2783-93.
  5. Eskin BA, Grotkowski CE, Connolly CP, Ghent WR. Different tissue responses for iodine and iodide in rat thyroid and mammary glands. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1995 Jul;49(1):9-19.
  6. Stoddard FR 2nd, Brooks AD, Eskin BA, Johannes GJ. Iodine alters gene expression in the MCF7 breast cancer cell line: evidence for an anti-estrogen effect of iodine. Int J Med Sci. 2008 Jul 8;5(4):189-96.
  7. Venturi S. Is there a role for iodine in breast diseases? Breast. 2001 Oct;10(5):379-82.

  • maryann

    The solution is to ban bromide and its derivitives. It is chemically similar to iodine which is why it absorbs into the glands. But it is poison to the human biology. Simple as that. Why was iodine removed from bread some generations ago and replaced with bromide? Nobody can tell me. Why was it removed from bromoseltzer but not food? Because it makes us fat and stupid. Who would want us fat and stupid? There is no mystery. Bromide is in bread soda its in everything including animal feed. It is absorbed into the glands and blocks iodine from getting in. Still want to give WHO money to research it? Want to spend money on cures? Ban it! Take all the iodine potions u want but if you still ingest bromide it won’t work. It can’t. It’s blocked. There is iodine in food bromides make it impossible to absorb. Why don’t you believe me? Because I’m not selling something or asking for a grant to research it?

  • Patti O’Donnell

    What if you have had a diagnoises of being allergic to Iodine

  • Conspiracy Cat

    Can iodine deficiency lead to inherent skeletal deformities (not in extremes like the Elephant Man), like thicker joints and Achondroplasia-like conditions?

  • Robin Matthews

    I went another route to help with my iodine deficiency and fibrocystic breast disease. I had no idea I was at such a high risk of breast cancer if I didn’t try to take actions in treating the disease. My regular doctors never told me about that at all. Dr. Jorge D. Flechas, MD recommends we take 50 mgs of iodine/iodide daily for everyone and recommends we take it with 1000 mgs of Niacin (B3) and 200 mgs of Riboflavin (B2) to help the iodine/iodide absorb and attach itself to the proteins and cells. I’ve only taken iodine/iodide supplements for 3 wks and I’m already getting great results from it. I no longer have any tenderness or lumps like I have been experiencing and I’m experiencing better overall health too. Dr. Flechas says that our bodies can hold up to 1500 mgs of iodine and our thyroids can hold up to 50 mgs all by itself, so there’s really not anything to worry about for doctors to recommend 50 mgs per day to their patients. He says people with cancer can double his recommended dose but divide it into taking it twice a day. Our bodies get rid of any excess it doesn’t need. But we need to be careful our bodies are absorbing it too and not just dumping it and not getting any benefits from it.

    Women have more absorption trouble with iodine than men because of our estrogen. But even dairy milk has estrogen in it if you don’t buy organic milk. These corporations that run dairy farms will try to get more from their cattle with less heads of cattle by giving them estrogen to produce more milk. All for the bottom dollar for caring and feeding less cattle.

    I hope your company can make products that have higher doses of iodine/iodide so that it’s cost effective to purchase. I think I would use your drops to add to homemade breads and other foods as it stands currently, but I couldn’t use them for my treatment for fibrocystic disease.

    I’m willing to try other products and brands because I’m in this for the long haul. I’m hoping this can also help ward off any more pre-melonoma cancer on my skin as I have shown symptoms of iodine deficiency in my skin as well.

  • Robin Matthews

    You may be allergic to the dye in some of the iodine products? I’m using tablets for my iodine/iodide supplements and I’m allergic to a lot of products, especially with sulfa in them. Try seaweed or some other plants that naturally have iodine in them. But I’m really sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with being able to take iodine. It’s so essential in warding off diseases and cancer.

  • Robin Matthews

    Iodine deficiency can lead to Cretinism if mothers are iodine deficient during pregnancy, according Dr. Jorge D. Lechas, MD

  • Dora Ray

    I have been hypothyroid for 15 years – treated with dessicated thyroid medications. When I take iodine, even in the smallest mcg quantity, I get a sensation of tightness in my neck and symptoms of hypothyroid. My diet is incredibly pure and does not include products with bromine or fluorine.
    I used to be able to take iodine and enjoy seaweeds but no longer. Dr. Group, please kindly shed some light on this as with all the information about the benefits of iodine, I feel left out!

  • Global Healing Center

    Hey Dora, thanks for reaching out. It’s hard to tell exactly what could be causing your issue but I did notice this discussion that describes some of what you mentioned.

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  • Muddy

    Try iodoral. No Dyes, tablet form. Read about it, too. I severely doubt you’re allergic to iodine. In fact, most allergies can be attributed to the system not functioning correctly. Now THAT is something to tackle.

  • Muddy

    Sea food was great, but now it’s laden with mercury. Wouldn’t reach for seafood if I have a deficiency in my body – seafood should be early rarely, if ever.

  • Muddy

    Have you tried iodoral or Lugol’s Iodine 5?

  • Muddy

    I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but iodoral is something I read about and recently purchased. It’s supposed to be the tablet form of Lugol’s iodine 5 (liquid), which I took as a small child, following the Chernobyl explosion.

  • Muddy

    Dr Oz is known to peddle items for money he receives from companies. At least that’s what I’ve read.

  • Lora1972

    Fax me a copy of your medical degree and we’ll possibly discuss that you MIGHT know something about MY body. Until then, I am quite content with my knowledge on the matter, considering I have more than one degree in Health Sciences.
    And that fact that you are recommending Potassium Iodide to someone who is deathly allergic to it is somewhat frightening. And by that, I mean the last time I ingested Potassium Iodide, I suffered from anaphylactic shock. That was from one sip of a beverage that contained it. Can you imagine what would happen if I did what YOU recommended and eat a bottle of pills? Stop dispensing medical advice online!

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