by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© May 2014, The Center for Development
One of the most important and overlooked minerals today is iodine. Iodine is needed in the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. However, iodine is also required for every tissue of the body!
It is called the endocrine mineral because it is important not only for the thyroid gland, but also for the adrenal glands, ovaries, breasts, prostate gland, and the entire hormone system of the body.
More and more research indicates that the entire world population today is deficient in iodine. For example, Dr. David Brownstein has tested his patients for iodine sufficiency, and 96% show a deficiency.
Reasons for iodine deficiency today. The reasons are:
1. The RDA is much too low. This is a disgrace, in my view. The RDA is 150 micrograms. It may be enough to prevent a goiter, but it is not enough for optimal health. The ideal dosage of iodine today is much higher, probably between 5 and 15 mg daily.
The same is true for vitamin D, B vitamins, and other vital nutrients. The recommended amounts are designed to just prevent deficiency diseases, and have nothing to do with optimal amounts of these nutrients for health.
2. There are few good sources of iodine besides foods from the sea. In fact, iodine is a relatively rare mineral that is not found much in any land-based foods at all such as vegetables, meats, dairy products, fruits, or others.
3. Exposure to iodine antagonists. This is a major factor in iodine deficiency today. It is discussed in the section below.
4. Stress may deplete iodine.
5. Many people are being told by doctors to avoid or limit salt. For many people, iodized salt is one of the few sources of iodine besides foods from the sea. Refined table salt is a junk food that is best avoided, but unrefined sea salt is an excellent source of minerals, including some iodine.
6. Iodine is no longer added to commercial breads. Until the 1980s, iodine was routinely used as a dough conditioner in commercial bakeries. This actually provided a significant amount of extra iodine for many people. Due to fears about getting too much iodine, (which were probably totally fabricated), the government forced bakers to stop using iodine and instead to use bromine, a poison, to make bread. Bromine is also one of the iodine antagonists that makes iodine deficiency much worse.
THE IODINE ANTAGONISTS
A very important topic related to iodine deficiency and thyroid disease is to understand the iodine antagonists. Iodine is a member of the halogen family of elements. Besides iodine, the halogens include fluorine, bromine and chlorine, among others.
This is very important because:
1. The halogens compete with each other for absorption and even utilization in iodine binding sites in the thyroid gland and everywhere else in the body. This occurs because all of the halogens “look alike” at an atomic level, so they tend to bind to receptors similarly and can replace each other.
2. Our environment is literally swimming in the iodine antagonists:
Bromine and bromides. These toxic chemicals are used in baking, by law, of all the breads in America and many nations. It definitely interferes with iodine uptake and also iodine utilization.
Often, when iodine is supplemented, people start eliminating large quantities of bromine from the body. This can be measured, to some degree, in the urine and hair. In fact, it is the cause of some healing reactions associated with taking iodine or kelp supplements.
The widespread use of brominated compounds in bread-making, soft drinks such as Gatorade and Mountain Dew, and in other industries has also caused bromides to find their way into the water and food supplies of America and other developed nations. It is thus hard to avoid this element in your food. This is just one of the reasons I do not recommend eating any flour products or breads.
Chlorine and chlorinated compounds such as chloramines. This is another highly toxic element that interferes with iodine utilization in the body in an important way. The chlorine in salt is not toxic. However, toxic chlorine compounds such as chloramines and others are widely used in modern societies to kill germs and as bleaching agents. They are added to most water supplies, by law, for example, so they find their way into our food supply easily.
Chlorine bleach is also added to flour to whiten it, even though it forms toxic compounds when baked. Chlorine is used to sterilize or sanitize fruits, vegetables, fish, meats and many other foods before shipping them to markets. It is also widely used in other industries such as paper-making and many others. As a result, toxic chlorine compounds are in the soil, the water supplies, and even the air.
Fluorides. The main source today is fluoridated water supplies. Not only is the water a problem in most major metropolitan areas, but the water is then used to make many food products, from breads and other bakery goods to chips, dips, pickles, beverages and thousands of others.
In addition, the fluorides from the water have found their way into the water table and irrigations systems of most of the United States. Thus, the fluoride levels in all the crops grown in America are too high.
Foolish public health authorities keep adding toxic fluoride compounds to the water supplies, even though all the food products in the nation are now basically contaminated with this extremely toxic element. For more information about the abomination of water fluoridation, read Water Fluoridation on this website.
Iodine supplementation has a wonderful effect on all the toxic metals in the body. It can also help remove toxic chemicals and infections. This occurs for several reasons:
1. Iodine opposes or antagonizes the halogens. This has been discussed above. Taking iodine often leads to the elimination from the body of bromines, chlorine, fluorides and other metals as well.
2. Iodine improves thyroid activity. As thyroid activity recovers, the body is far more able to eliminate all the toxic metals. This is the main mechanism behind iodine’s ability to reduce the toxic metal burden in the body.
3. Iodine is a germicide – antibiotic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anticancer. It appears to help the body fight off many types of infection. This occurs partly by improving thyroid activity. However, iodine can also act as an anti-oxidant, according to researchers.
IODINE AND CANCER
According to medical studies listed in Dr. Brownstein’s book, iodine deficiency is definitely associated with breast cancer, as well as ovarian, thyroid, and other cancers. It is probably no accident that as our populations have become more iodine deficient, the incidence of these cancers has risen significantly. So-called modern medicine has made little progress against these cancers after years of research. Iodine can help, and does help prevent and even eliminate some of these cancers. For more on cancer, please read Cancer And Alternative Therapies on this website.
IODINE AND THYROID HORMONE REPLACEMENT
Medical research indicates that thyroid hormone replacement therapy worsens iodine deficiency. This is important to know. Also, it is my experience, as well as that of Dr. Brownstein and other iodine specialists, that supplementing a person with iodine or kelp in the proper amounts, along with a complete natural healing program, often reduces and may completely eliminate the need for thyroid hormone replacement.
Conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and even Grave’s disease go away on their own when the body is brought into better overall balance and health. For more on this topic, please read Hormone Replacement Therapy.
ASSESSING IODINE IN THE BODY
Most doctors do not measure iodine levels, and completely ignore iodine, sadly. However, a doctor can measure it one of three ways:
1. The blood serum iodine level. This is not always accurate, but may be helpful.
2. The oral iodine loading test. Dr. Brownstein recommends taking 50 mg of iodine in a pill or liquid form. Then collect all urine for 24 hours. This urine is sent to a specialized laboratory that calculates the percentage of iodine that the body excreted from the loading dose that was given. It should be at least 90%. Most people are extremely depleted, however.
3. The iodine patch test. A much simpler and somewhat less accurate test is to paint some iodine on one’s forearm and then wait and see how long it takes for the body to absorb the iodine patch or spot. This is very simple, can be done at home at practically no cost, and gives a good general ideal of iodine status. To do the test, one simply buys some liquid iodine such as SSKI and paints a square about 2 inches on a side, on the inside of one’s arm. It should not disappear in less than a few days. However, in most people it is absorbed and disappears within a few hours, indicating a severe need for iodine.
Iodine assessment with nutritional balancing programs. In my experience, so far, it is not necessary to assess iodine status if one uses a non-toxic form of iodine supplementation such as kelp. I find extremely few people who cannot take up to 6 600 mg capsules of Nature’s Way or Endomet kelp each day.
The only exceptions are those places where people eat a lot of seafood AND seaweed both. These people, living in places such as Japan, are generally healthier, and may only need 3 kelp capsules daily. It is surprising to me that they need some kelp, because they ingest a lot of iodine, but they generally do need a supplement. Perhaps they need the minerals in the kelp, rather than the iodine.
Nutritional balancing programs supply a maximum of about 8.5 mg of iodine. (This includes taking 6 kelp capsules daily, 6 Megapan tablets and 6 Thyro-complex capsules daily.) This seems to be enough. By contrast, Dr. Brownstein gives between 12 and 50 mg of Iodoral. This, however, is a synthetic product and more may be required. Nutritional balancing may also balance the body chemistry better, and therefore less iodine may be needed for this reason, as well.
IODINE AND HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS
Iodine is not read by most hair mineral testing laboratories. The reason is that it is somewhat more difficult to measure accurately. However, this does not diminish its importance and I hope some day the labs will read the hair iodine level, which would give some indication of the iodine level in the soft tissues of the body.
SUPPLEMENTING YOUR IODINE
The forms of iodine. Every cell of the body utilizes iodine in some form. There are two major forms, iodide and iodine, required by various tissues, according to researchers. They claim the body cannot convert the forms one to another. I am not sure about this, but that is the research.
For instance, the thyroid gland and the skin requires primarily iodide. The breasts, however, require iodine. Without it they can become fibrocystic or develop precancerous and cancerous lesions.
Other body tissues, including the kidneys, spleen, liver, blood, salivary glands and intestines, can use either form, apparently.
Principles of iodine supplementation:
1. Everyone needs extra supplementary iodine. This is one mineral you cannot get from your food, unless you were to live on a lot of fish AND seaweed, and this would give you so much mercury you could die from it.
Please do not listen to doctors, nutritionists or anyone else who claims that you can get enough iodine from your food. They may have learned this in school, but in my experience, and that of many others, they are entirely wrong. Even worse, it could cost you your life, since iodine deficiency is associated with more cancers, strokes and other serious health problems.
2. It is important that one supplement both forms of iodine. This is easy using kelp or other preparations.
3. Chemical forms of iodine can be somewhat toxic. Here I differ from many doctors who use potassium iodide, elemental iodine in water, and other chemical forms of iodine. They say it is not toxic, but my research is that it is a little toxic and it can build up in the body.
As a result, I much prefer kelp as one’s iodine supplement. Dr. Brownstein, whom I greatly respect, and some other natural doctors prefer to use iodine pills such as Iodoral, or liquids such as Lugol’s solution. Other natural doctors prefer supplements such as prolamine iodine, Liquidulse, or others. These are also somewhat toxic, in my experience, or have other problems.
The usual adult dosage of kelp is about 3600-4000 mg daily. This is usually given as 6 (six) 660 mg capsules daily. Some adults need a little more than this, and a few people need a little less. Children need less. If there is a reaction to this much kelp, it is usually a healing reaction. Just start with a pinch and work up. To learn about kelp, please read the article entitled Kelp on this website.
Fish and Seafood as iodine supplements. These foods are excellent sources of iodine. However, most fish - and even more so shellfish - are today very high in mercury. In fact, mercury replaces iodine in the body.
As a result, I cannot recommend eating fish, except for 3-4 cans of sardines weekly. This is an excellent food, especially the boneless sardines, because they are so small they do not have time to accumulate nearly as much mercury. They are also always wild caught, and are cooked promptly when they are caught.
However, they do not provide enough iodine to supply our needs today, in my experience. So even with 3-4 cans of sardines weekly, an iodine supplement is always needed.
Iodine is regulated in many ways in the thyroid. However, the most important pathway is the conversion of iodide into iodine through an oxidation reaction.
This requires an enzyme called TPO or thyroperoxidase. It also requires hydrogen peroxide. If too much hydrogen peroxide is left in the thyroid, however, it leads to Hashimoto’s disease, a common thyroid problem.
The mineral that helps control hydrogen peroxide is selenium. It is needed to make glutathione peroxidase, whose function, among many others, is to detoxify hydrogen peroxide after it has done its job in the thyroid gland.
Selenium is also required later in the metabolism of the thyroid hormone in the conversion of the relatively inactive T4 to the active thyroid hormone T3. The enzyme primarily responsible for this conversion is iodothyronine deiodinase. This enzyme also requires selenium to function properly.
Any deficiency of selenium in the body will impair T3 production and thus cause hypothyroidism symptoms, even if the body is producing plenty of T4. This is sometimes called a conversion problem, as opposed to an iodine deficiency problem.
Thus selenium is critical for two phases of thyroid hormone production. It is thus considered a close relative to iodine in the correction of thyroid difficulties. For more information about selenium, see the article on this website entitled Selenium, A New Mineral For Health and Healing.
OTHER THYROID ANTAGONISTS
Soy and iodine. Soy products not only contain copper, which can interfere with iodine and thyroid activity. They also contain enzyme inhibitors that affect the thyroid at times. So soy is not generally good for the thyroid gland and iodine metabolism.
Tap water and iodine. This is also detrimental for thyroid activity, thanks to its chlorine and possibly fluoride mixed with the water. Spring or distilled water are far better for the thyroid and iodine metabolism.
REACTIONS TO IODINE SUPPLEMENTS
Occasionally, a client reports that taking kelp or another iodine supplement causes nausea, vomiting, an upset stomach, or some other symptoms. In my experience, this is a healing reaction, and in 99% of the cases, it is NOT an allergy to iodine, as I hear frequently from some doctors.
This reaction occurs, usually when one begins taking an iodine supplement, because the iodine begins to interfere with and remove the iodine antagonists – bromides, chlorides and fluorides. This is the cause of the reaction, and little else.
In almost all cases, if one will simply reduce the dosage and begin with just a small amount – one capsule daily or less, if needed – the symptoms will go away. Then, over a period of weeks or a few months, if necessary, slowly increase the dosage until one reaches the full dosage of kelp, ideally. To understand healing reactions, please read Retracing And Healing Reactions on this website.
GIVING IODINE WHEN A PERSON HAS HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS
Millions of people have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is associated with hypothyroidism. We regularly give kelp to everyone who has Hashimoto’s disease. No problems occur and it hastens the healing of the Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Beware of internet articles that say one must not take iodine in this situation. Perhaps this is true if one does not follow a complete nutritional balancing program. We always use kelp along with a complete healing program, and it works well.
GIVING IODINE TO BABIES AND CHILDREN
I do not suggest giving iodine to babies, as a general rule. I do give it to some children around age 4 and older, as they can be born low in iodine due to deficiency in their mothers.
These children usually take about half a kelp capsule daily (about 300 mg), and more is given to older children, without any problems. Most experience better energy and an enhancement of their oxidation rate.
GIVING IODINE WITH BOTH SLOW AND FAST OXIDATION
Some people ask if one can take iodine if one is a fast and/or a slow oxidizer. The answer is yes. While there are articles describing that iodine can inhibit the thyroid gland, at times, I find that both fast and slow oxidizers improve with kelp.
The likely reason is that both metabolic types are usually deficient in iodine. A fast oxidation rate in an adult, for example, is always just a stress situation that quickly resolves to slow oxidation as the body is renourished and detoxified. To read more about the oxidation types, please read Fast, Slow And Mixed Oxidation on this site.
TAKING IODINE IN CASES OF GRAVE’S DISEASE
Most people with Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism (an excessively high level of thyroid hormones) cannot take much kelp, in my experience. They may need more iodine, but one must use it cautiously until the Grave’s disease is gone, which can take several months or more on a nutritional balancing program. For more on this topic, please read Grave’s disease.
RELATION OF IODINE TO TOXIC FORMS OF IRON, MANGANESE AND ALUMINUM
I believe there is an antagonism between iodine and what are called “the amigos”. These are oxides of iron, manganese, aluminum, nickel, copper and at times other minerals. When iodine is deficient, the amigos may build up in the body.
LOW IODINE MAY PREDISPOSE TO TOXICITY WITH MERCURY AND/OR COPPER
I believe that iodine deficiency may increase the risk of toxicity from mercury and copper. The reason I say this is that mercury and copper tend to build up in the thyroid gland in some people, especially when the metabolic rate is sluggish.
A “FEMALE” MINERAL
Iodine may be called a modern “female mineral” because women need more of it, and it is critical today for breast health. Also, next to the thyroid gland, the ovaries require more iodine than any other gland or organ in women or men. While it affects all the hormones, it is particularly important for the female hormones such as the proper balance between the forms of estrogen - estriol, estrone and estradiol.
VEGETARIAN DIETS AND IODINE
Since the best sources of iodine are products from the sea, vegetarians and especially vegans are very prone to iodine deficiency. The amount of iodine found in sea salt is not sufficient. The only way a vegetarian can get enough iodine is to eat a lot of kelp or other sea vegetables on a daily basis. For more on vegetarianism, please read Vegetarian Diets on this site.
DANGERS IN RESEARCHING IODINE ON THE INTERNET
If one checks the internet, there is information about iodine that I believe is totally incorrect. Please be careful with internet research. For more on this important topic, please read Internet Research on this website.
1. Brownstein, D., Iodine, Why You Need It and Why You Can’t Live Without It, Medical Alternative Press, W. Bloomfield, MI, 2008.