Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency

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.

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  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.

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  • Brindes

    A good way to erradicate this problem is to enrich salt with Iodine. That wordked in Brazil and you rarely see any case of the related diseases with iodine deficiencys ;)

  • Shirl

    Aren’t there foods to get sufficient iodine other that iodized salt?

  • Holly

    Seafood.

  • ghc_health

    Shirl,
    Thank you for your post! We have an article posted that does mention a few food items that can help you, 8 Foods Rich in Iodine is a good place to start.

    I would also suggest taking Iodine supplementally, Made from dietary transformative iodine in a bio-elemental nanocolloidal state, Detoxadine is a high-quality daily nascent atomic iodine supplement that will supply you with your recommended daily allowance.

    I hope that this helps you, thank you again for your post, take care and be well!

  • Jess

    Most table salt in the US is enriched with iodine, but it lacks Iodide and is also not sufficient to support the body’s nutrient demand of Iodine/iodide levels, particularly when 90 percent of those tested are greatly deficient. Those who eat whole or raw foods also know that it’s wise to stay away from the usual table salt and that it is best to use a sea salt such as himalayan sea salt. Therefore, it is best to gain iodine/iodide from a food based source and supplement with an additional food based form of iodine such as kelp and black walnut, dulse, irish moss, bladderwrack, etc… The iodine in table salt is only sufficient to prevent a goiter and often it isn’t sufficient for many in that respect.

  • lib_erator

    Kelp. Or get a kelp supliment at Wal Mart. Natural vitamins in the Herbal isle.

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  • Jon Anthony Hamilton

    seafood is high in iodine

  • Jon Anthony Hamilton

    I wouldn’t trust the “natural” products from Wal-Mart. For the price they sell supplements, there’s no way they are made of good ingredients. IMO

  • ghc_health

    Right you are, seafood is one of the best sources-

    http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/8-great-sources-of-iodine/

    -Dr. Edward Group

  • Rebecca Scheiderer Davis

    I recently read somewhere that the bromine (it may have been bromide?) that they put in flour now blocks the absorption of iodine.

  • ghc_health

    Both bromine and fluorine can inhibit iodine absorption, yes. Good point, Rebecca in pointing out another one of the factors working against good health.
    -Dr. Edward Group

  • nathalie

    Can you fix your brain imbalance with the usage of nascent iodine?

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