The warning signs of an iodine deficiency
Although not as obvious or well-known to the average person as the heart or brain, the thyroid gland is a critically important part of your body. The hormones produced by the thyroid are distributed throughout the blood stream and used to help regulate metabolism and body temperature, as well as ensure that your organs and muscles are functioning exactly as they're supposed to. Iodine is the mineral that nourishes the thyroid gland, helping to guarantee that the body is generating adequate levels of thyroid hormones.
But if your iodine intake is too low and you simply don't get enough of this nutrient into your daily diet, you may incur an iodine deficiency, which can present a host of problems for the thyroid and, consequently, your overall health and well-being. Here are some of the most common warning signs of an iodine deficiency:
- Goiter: When the thyroid doesn't get enough iodine, it begins to swell in order to create more hormones. The thyroid grows so big that it actually appears visibly as a large mass growing on the neck, called a goiter. This is the most obvious red flag that you aren't consuming enough iodine.
- Slower metabolism: Because thyroid hormones help dictate how the body consumes energy and burns fat, a thyroid gland weakened by a low iodine intake ends up slowing down your metabolic rate. Consequently, you may find yourself suddenly putting on extra pounds and gaining weight unexpectedly.
- Severe hyperthyroidism: This condition is rare in the United States but stems from a prolonged lack of proper iodine consumption. Severe hyperthyroidism presents itself as a number of very serious symptoms, including a thickening of the skin, depression, weakened mental capabilities and even heart failure.
While these are some of the more obvious indicators of a thyroid problem, they are far from the only ones. Here are a few other common symptoms associated with an iodine deficiency:
- Dry skin
- General feelings of weakness
- Greater sensitivity to cold
- Thin, brittle hair and nails.
While an adequate iodine intake is crucial to any person's health, it is especially important for pregnant women. Recent studies have found that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to iodine deficiencies, which can present a range of serious health issues for their children, including impaired mental functions and stunted speech, growth or hearing development.
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