10 surprising signs you may have an iodine deficiency

If you’re looking for signs that you may have an iodine deficiency, you’re probably already familiar with common symptoms, such as brittle nails, weight gain and dry skin.

However, there are other less well-known symptoms that you should have on your radar. According to a study from The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS), women aged 19-64 years have, on average, 11% below the levels recommended for sufficient intake of the iodine mineral.

For women in midlife, hypothyroidism (or an underactive thyroid) where the thyroid gland is unable to make enough thyroid hormones, can increase or worsen during the menopause.

Healthy iodine levels (the NHS advises 140 micrograms a day for adults) are important for a robust thyroid function. If you’re experiencing any of the below symptoms, speak to your GP.

 Surprising signs of iodine deficiency

A loss of physical strength

A sign that you might be deficient in iodine is physical weakness. Muscle weakness has various causes and is particularly common for women in midlife, as they start to lose muscle strength during and after the menopausal years, but low thyroid levels (often caused by iodine deficiency) can also impact the speed of muscle contractions and our energy levels.

Scaly skin

Sudden changes in our skin are often the result of fluctuating hormone levels, but low levels of iodine can also impact skin cell regeneration in the lower layers of the skin, causing both dryness and flakiness.

A study from the Journal of Dermato-Endocrinology also shows that depleted levels of the thyroid hormone can impact the epidermal barrier function, which helps your skin to retain moisture and keep you looking glowy.

Feeling cold

Low levels of iodine affect our thyroid’s influence on our metabolic rate, which might be why you’re feeling the cold more these days. According to a study from the Journal of Hypothyroidism, over 80% of people with low thyroid hormone levels (commonly caused by low iodine) feel more sensitive to the cold. This is down to the impact that low thyroid levels have on our basal metabolic rate, which dictates how our body uses energy.

Reduced perspiration

The impact that low levels of iodine have on our skin also affects the rate at which we sweat after a good workout. The moisture retained by our skin influences the amount that we perspire, so if our body is less willing to shed any more water, then we’ll end up sweating less – no matter how strenuous the activity.

Poor metabolic function

A common symptom of low iodine is weight gain, and this, in part, is because of the impact that an iodine deficiency has on our metabolism. According to a study in the Journal Thyroid, our thyroid hormones, which are linked to our basal metabolic rate and low levels of iodine can impact the speed at which our bodies burn energy. Over time, this can result in poor metabolic flexibility, which ultimately leads to putting on the pounds.


It may not be the most glamorous of topics, but iodine deficiency and constipation are closely linked. The impact that reduced iodine levels have on our thyroid hormones can result in obstructed bowel movements or constipation, according to a study by Innovation in Aging.

A swollen neck

Another sign that you may have an iodine deficiency is a swollen neck. When thyroid levels are too low, a swelling in the front of the neck develops – this is called goitre. In most cases, increasing your iodine levels can help decrease the size of the goitre, but if you suspect that you might have one, consult your GP as soon as possible. Having goitre can cause damage to your thyroid glands over an extended period of time.

Throat hoarseness

Frog in your throat? A less well-known sign that you might have an iodine deficiency is a hoarse throat. A hoarse throat is a common symptom in patients with hypothyroidism, which we know can be closely linked to iodine deficiency.

Mental fatigue

Iodine deficiency has an impact on a range of bodily functions, but there are countless studies that show it has a huge impact on our cognitive abilities. Research from the Food, Science and Nutrition Journal shows that low levels of iodine impair cognitive function, which can result in memory loss, brain fog, and in some cases, contribute towards mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

Low libido

Thyroid hormones control how our body uses energy. If hormone levels are low, this can actually lead to a loss of sex drive. Not only that, hypothyroidism can cause elevated levels of the hormone prolactin, contributing to vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable and painful.

How to increase your iodine levels

Thankfully, there are a few ways to keep our levels of iodine up. According to the NHS, good sources of iodine include cows’ milk and dairy products, eggs, sea fish and shellfish, but those following plant-based diets can also find fortified products such as almond and oat milks that come with added iodine, to keep their levels of the mineral up.

We also love Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful iodine supplements to help top up levels. Save 20% with the code LIZLOVES at checkout.

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