Iodine is a chemical found in the human body in very small amounts. Not having enough iodine in the body is called an iodine deficiency. Iodine is extremely important to the functioning of the thyroid gland, so an iodine deficiency causes problems with the thyroid gland. The physical symptoms of iodine deficiency include a slowed metabolism, fatigue, a loss of bone density and high blood pressure. Among the mental signs of iodine deficiency are depression, irritability and poor memory.
The thyroid gland produces the hormones T3 and T4, which affect most of the body’s systems. They help the body to produce heat and consume oxygen, and they aid in growth and development, including brain function. Iodine deficiency causes the thyroid to decrease its production of T3 and T4. This causes another gland in the body, the pituitary gland, to produce a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in an attempt to stimulate the thyroid to produce more T3 and T4.
As a result of TSH, the thyroid can become enlarged. Enlargement of the thyroid gland is called goiter. The thyroid gland affects so many body systems and relies so heavily on iodine that an iodine deficiency is responsible for a host of symptoms, both mental and physical.
Perhaps one of the most obvious physical symptoms of iodine deficiency is slowed metabolism. This manifests itself as weight gain. Many people who complain to their doctors of weight gain that cannot otherwise be explained will undergo thyroid testing. There are other causes of thyroid problems, but iodine deficiency is one of the main causes.
Other physical symptoms of iodine deficiency include osteoporosis, or a loss of bone density; hypertension, or high blood pressure; fatigue; dry skin; hair loss; and puffiness in the hands or feet. People who have an iodine deficiency might also experience intolerance to cold, muscle cramps and infertility. These are only a few of the many physical signs of iodine deficiency.
Iodine deficiency also has mental symptoms. This is because it impairs the proper production of hormones that also affect mental function. The sufferer might experience depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating and poor memory.
Eating foods that are high in iodine should aid in restoring the thyroid gland to health. This will cause the thyroid to produce healthy amounts of T3 and T4, which will make many if not all symptoms of iodine deficiency go away. Shellfish are an excellent source of natural iodine and should be a staple in the diet of anyone with an iodine deficiency. Sea salt, iodized salt, cheddar cheese, eggs, mayonnaise and most fresh water fish also should be consumed.
One way to test for iodine deficiency is to use the iodine patch test. This involves placing a small amount of a chemical called tincture of iodine on the skin, leaving it on overnight, and seeing how much of it remains on the skin by morning. If the tincture of iodine is completely gone, the skin has absorbed it. The iodine patch test is said to be complete, and this indicates an iodine deficiency.