By Don Bennett, DAS
I've been intensely researching the subject of iodine
for more than a year, and wanted to have a thorough understanding
of the issue, along with some personal experience and clinical empirical
evidence before writing about it. I can now say with certainty that
having sufficient iodine levels is critical for having vitality
and the best odds of avoiding serious conditions (and of resolving
ones you may currently have). And although this may seem like I'm
"stating the obvious" because we need enough of all the
nutrients our body requires to have robust health, it turns out
that iodine is one of the "problematic" nutrients because
it is one of the nutrients that most people are lacking in, and
lacking in it enough to be causing health issues that we're
either not aware of (yet), or that we're attributing to something
other than the real cause... which is not enough iodine.
Since writing this article in 2013, I've counseled many people
and found iodine deficiencies, and when they resolve those deficiencies,
they lose some weight, gain some energy, and various conditions
of ill-health are benefited by this.
This article is a long one, by necessity... I want
you to know the facts about this very important topic. I wrote this
article to be enlightening and empowering, to the point that you
will be motivated by it to actually do something, and not just be
"informed". So even if you have to digest it in installments,
please carve out the time needed to eventually take it all in.
First, some background is needed to fully appreciate
what we're dealing with today.
There have been various deficiency diseases
that have plagued populations: scurvy from not enough vitamin
C, beriberi from not enough B1, pellagra caused by insufficient
B3, pernicious anemia from a lack of enough B12, rickets,
a bone disease caused by a deficiency of D, and goiter, an
enlarged thyroid caused by an iodine deficiency. We're going
to look at that last one a little closer because, although
goiter is no longer a common occurrence in our population
as it once was, we still have thyroid problems today... and
that's because we still have an iodine problem, it's just
not as bad as it once was... but it's still bad.
Back in the early 1900's when it was discovered
that an iodine deficiency was the cause of goiter, the U.S. government
decreed that the American diet needed to be fortified with iodine
because there obviously wasn't enough in the foods being provided
by the agri-based food industry. So iodide was added to table salt
since table salt was a big part of the American diet. And very quickly
goiter was brought under control. So iodine was the darling of the
beginning of the 20th Century. Here's a brief but educational blast-from-the-past.
is from 1927 when the Morton Salt Company first started iodizing
its table salt.
on the bottom, it says...
"Help Keep Your Family Goiter Free!"
a chewing gum that also contained iodine.
were manufactured in the early part of this century. Each pastille
contained 6.48 mg of iodine. Popping two of these lovelies a
day would give you close to the average Japanese iodine intake
of 12.5 mg.
was so popular, there was even a comic book character, Little
Iodine (a take-off of another character, Li'l Nadine).
It should be noted that the proper pronunciation of iodine is
eye-oh-deen, not eye-oh-dine as most people say
it. So now the Iodine-Nadine relationship makes more sense.
the late 1920s, the South Carolina Natural Resources Commission
began a public relations campaign to advertise the relatively
high iodine levels found in fruits and vegetables grown in their
state, and sought to expand the national market for South Carolina
produce by warning Midwestern and West Coast residents of the
consequences of iodine deficiency, which included enlarged thyroids,
mental and physical birth defects, and sterility. The word Iodine
was proudly placed on South Carolina license plates in 1930.
Can you guess where this came from?
in the 1930's many of the soils in the U.S. were already iodine
deficient (shown in red). Today it's worse. And it's not just
in the U.S.
India Postage Stamp commemorating Global Iodine Deficiency
the entire population is prone to Iodine deficiency disorders
(IDD) due to deficiency of iodine in the soil of the subcontinent
and consequently the food derived from it. India has been
largely successful at eliminating the most obvious manifestation
of iodine deficiency, goiter, with its salt iodization program,
as was done in the U.S. Do you know of another nutrient
that has its own day?
As you can
see from that little slice of history, iodine was a big issue back
then. It isn't in the public consciousness today because it appears
not to be an issue anymore. But as you will see, it still is, it's
just not recognized as an iodine problem as it once was.
You may have
noticed two different terms being used: iodine and iodide (as in
iodized salt). They are basically two different forms of
the same thing, the difference being one of them has one less electron
in the outer ring.
But the difference
in atomic structure is not what matters. The thing that's important
for you to know is that some tissues of the body concentrate iodine
(depend on it heavily), and some concentrate iodide. For example,
the thyroid needs iodide, while breast tissue needs iodine. Why
is this important? Because if you take an "iodine" supplement
that is just iodide (usually as potassium iodide), you're not getting
any iodine which is important to prevent or resolve fibrocystic
breasts which can be a precursor to breast cancer. And conversely,
if you're taking an iodine supplement that is just iodine, now you're
not supplying your thyroid with the form that it uses. It
was once theorized (assumed) that the body could convert one form
to the other as needed, but we now know that this is not true. How
is this information useful? Well, if a health practitioner recommends
an iodine supplement that doesn't contain both forms, this
is a clear indication that you should find a different health practitioner.
this point forward, I'll use the word iodine to include
both forms unless I need to make a distinction.
To show just
how important iodine is to the thyroid, when a doctor orders a thyroid
panel, the lab result will show tests for "T3" and "T4",
two thyroid hormones. The "3" in T3 and the "4"
in T4 stand for atoms of iodine (iodine accounting for 59% of the
molecular weight of T3 and 65% of T4). So why doesn't a standard
thyroid panel include a test for iodine since thyroid health depends
so heavily on it? The answer will become apparent as you read on.
PERIODIC TABLE OF THE ELEMENTS
Iodine is one
of five elements known as halogens (the yellow group above).
The others are fluorine, bromine, chlorine, and astatine. Knowing
this helps with the correct pronunciation of iodine .
We're not going to talk about astatine, and for a good reason: it
doesn't affect your body's use of iodine (because astatine has a
higher atomic weight than iodine). But the other halogens are going
to get a lot of press here because they very much affect your body's
ability to utilize iodine, especially bromine.
group to the halogens are the halides, with iodide being
one of them, the others as you might guess are fluoride, bromide,
and chloride, and they play a huge role in how your body is able
to use iodide.
does the body use iodine for?
We now know that sufficient iodine is needed for
the thyroid to prevent the deficiency disease of goiter, but sufficient
iodine is also needed for the thyroid to create enough hormones
for proper hormonal balance so as to prevent both hypo- and hyper-thyroidism,
and for a normal basal metabolic rate (a slower than normal rate
makes you prone to being overweight).
Enough iodine is also required for proper brain
development, to fight infections, to protect from and to deal with
cancer, for healthy skin, and to prevent fibrocystic breast disease
and mental impairment as we age. After the thyroid, the other glands,
organs, and systems with high iodine uptake are the breasts, ovaries,
cervix, blood, lymph, bones, stomach mucosa, salivary glands, adrenals,
prostate, colon, thymus gland, lungs, bladder, kidney, certain areas
of the brain, and the skin. That's the in-a-nutshell version, but
to fully appreciate iodine's role in health restoration and maintenance,
let's have a gander at a list of iodine's duties, keeping in mind
that sufficient quantities are needed, and that every
cell of the body has an iodine receptor:
apoptosis (programmed cell death which prevents cancer)
in ATP (energy) production and management, prevents premature
helps to keep insulin requirements normal
supports protein synthesis
destroys pathogens, molds, fungi, and parasites
helps excrete toxic halogens and lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum,
regulates estrogen production and helps
prevent polycystic ovarian disease
affects IQ all throughout life
is needed for healthy nails, hair, teeth, and bones
is required to achieve and maintain your ideal weight
helpful in preventing cancer of breasts, colon, lungs, ovaries,
pancreas, prostate, stomach, and thyroid
And not to
put too fine a point on the anti-cancer issue, but if you thought
that it didn't matter how cancerous cells were stopped as long as
they were stopped, think about this: It's better for the body to
stop a cancerous cell by restarting the cell's normal programmed
death cycle, called apoptosis (a body-initiated anti-cancer
mechanism), rather than use a substance that has anti-cancer properties
that work on a cancer cell directly. And this is because cancer
cells that are killed by apoptosis don't leave a messy residue to
trigger inflammation which occurs in necrosis (the "other"
cancerous cell-killing mechanism), which can spread any still-viable
cancerous cellular material. I'm mentioning this as a way of saying
that the best cancer fighting program is the one the human body
is programmed with, which will work fine if we support
it with what it needs. And it needs sufficient iodine.
It should also
be noted that some doctors are now using iodine in the treatment
of children with Down Syndrome as well as Autism, with positive
results. And there's also an iodine-Parkinson's connection because
iodine concentrates in an area of the brain that has been associated
with Parkinson's disease.
of iodine insufficiency
These are the
noticeable symptoms of an iodine insufficiency (there could be other
issues that you're not yet able to notice). If your whole body sufficiency
level of iodine is less than what it should be, you will experience
one or more of these:
Im sensitive to cold. My hands and feet are always cold to
I put on weight easily, or have a hard time losing
I fatigue easily.
I experience muscle weakness.
I have dry or cracked skin.
I have issues with my nails.
I have swollen or sore breasts.
I have sub-clinical depression (a lower than
normal "happiness potential").
I get irritated too easily.
My hair is coarse and falls out, it is dry, brittle,
and grows slowly.
I have trouble getting up in the morning.
I need more sleep than I think I should.
I get constipated.
My joints are stiff or sore, especially in the
I feel like Im living in slow motion.
I have less-than-stellar mental functioning ("brain
The outer 1/3 of my eyebrows is light or missing.
My lips are swollen and protruding, particularly
the lower lip.
I have a slight ringing in the ears.
My face is puffy and my eyelids are swollen in
My hair is dull and lusterless.
I have reduced initiative.
My calves are big.
My legs and ankles are swollen in the morning.
My butt & thighs are too well padded, when
I look in the mirror, Im pear shaped.
I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
My basal body temperature is below 97.8 (when
I'm having a difficult time becoming pregnant.
I have symptoms associated with hormone imbalances
(women and men).
I get headaches.
I have a low libido.
If you said
'yes' to four or more, you should consider getting tested for low
iodine and low iodine utilization function (don't simply take some
iodine to see if it improves your symptoms).
iodine is insufficient and no longer binds to enough thyroid
cell membranes, enzymes called peroxidases are able to damage
these membranes, and this contributes to autoimmune diseases
such as Hashimotos thyroiditis and Graves' Disease (a
type of hypothyroidism). So anyone who tells you that an iodine
deficiency has nothing to do with a thyroid autoimmune disease
and that the immune system is the problem, has not done their
homework (like some Naturopaths I know), or is simply trying
to scare you from doing iodine therapy and steer you towards
a medical/pharmaceutical therapy.
did we have an iodine deficiency problem in the first place?
depletion. As you noticed in that map above, many of the soils
that the agri-based food supply industry uses to grow the foods
we eat are not what you'd call iodine-rich, and are certainly not
as iodine-rich as they once were. Could this be due to overpopulation
(from the planet's perspective) and the resulting agriculture that
was needed to feed this many people? Reasonable minds would probably
believe this has something to do with it. But whatever the reason,
the plant-based foods we're eating today are not providing us with
competitors. I touched on this item earlier when I briefly mentioned
that certain elements that resemble iodine and iodide can interfere
with their utilization by the body, and I'll go into more detail
need. From that list above, it's plain to see that iodine is
needed for a whole host of functions that are affected by the environment
we live in. We swim everyday in a toxic soup of sorts that affects
us both emotionally and physically. Emotional stress increases iodine
needs through many pathways, and physiological stress on our various
organs and systems increases our needs of many nutrients, iodine
being chief among them.
economics we often hear about "Supply & Demand",
but this also applies to health. As the supply of a nutrient
goes down and the demand for that nutrient rises, there
is an increased risk of ill-health. Many health educators focus
on the supply side of the issue when it comes to nutrition
(depleted soils, early harvesting, transport & storage)
but give little thought to the demand side. Demand for
nutrients, especially ones that play large roles in immune system
function like iodine, can increase and be higher than what we're
designed for due to things like environmental toxins including
things that compete with an essential nutrient, unnatural amounts
of stress, existing ill-health, and genetics that have weakened
over the generations. So when looking at fulfilling our nutritional
needs, both Supply & Demand should be considered.
foods. Some foods, called goitrogens, interfere with
iodine utilization, and thus burden the thyroid primarily (which
affects hormone production), and breast tissue secondarily (which
contributes to fibrocystic breast disease and breast cancer). Coming
in a close third are all the other biological mechanisms that depend
on sufficient iodine. The classification of these foods was derived
from the condition goiter being that these foods have properties
that cause goiter. These foods include the cruciferous vegetables
like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and also
kale, kohlrabi, turnips, peanuts, and soy products. If your initial
reaction is to come to the defense of the cruciferous veggies being
that they have beneficial properties, let's consider getting those
benefits from other foods that have none of their detrimental, goitrogenic
effects. And this is easily done. Soy products have been found to
mess with the thyroid big time, and here too we can apply the Bennett
Paradigm of getting soy's benefits from some other food source
that has none of soy's downsides.
are a few health educators who contend that you needn't avoid
cruciferous vegetables because they don't affect your iodine
level to any significant degree. And an example given is that
they themselves have eaten cruciferous vegetables everyday for
decades and their thyroid function tests are fine. But this
is not good science; just because the medical industry's thyroid
function tests are all "in-range" does not necessarily
mean that a) the thyroid is functioning optimally, and b) that
all the other glands and organs that require sufficient iodine
for optimal functioning are getting enough iodine (whole body
tissue sufficiency). Lab work is a good tool, but it is not
the only consideration when assessing how well your body is
interference issues. In our modern environment, we are exposed
to two of iodine's close cousins, chlorine and fluoride, and these
toxic iodine "look-a-likes" crowd out iodine and iodide,
which deepens an insufficiency/deficiency. But the worst offender
is iodine's closest cousin, bromine. It is used as a flame retardant,
gasoline additive, pesticide, vegetable oil additive, swimming pool
and hot tub disinfectant, to reduce pollution from coal-fired power
plants, and it's in most products that contain flour, like bread.
iodine was used as a de-caking agent in all products made with
flour, and it served to keep bugs out of the flour while in
storage. It's interesting to note that about 50 years ago the
food industry decided to remove iodine (a helpful substance)
from baked goods and replace it with bromine (a toxic substance).
This substitution of bromine for iodine is a double whammy for
iodine insufficiencies (less iodine in our diet plus
bromine inhibits iodine utilization). And I couldn't find a
good reason for this substitution. Hmmm.
do we still have an iodine insufficiency issue if we stopped the
iodine deficiency disease of goiter?
And now we
get to the heart of the matter... the issue that various industries
see as an elephant in the room; they would rather no one speak about
this for reasons that will become clear.
babies who develop the worst-case-scenario of lower than normal
IQs and physical defects due to a congenital deficiency of thyroid
hormones usually caused by an iodine deficiency during pregnancy.
When it was
discovered that the high incidence of goiter and cretinism was being
caused by an insufficiency of iodine, the fledgling pharmaceutical
industry could provide no medication because it was simply iodine
a natural element that was needed to solve the problem.
And when the decision was made to fortify the population's diet
with iodine, the big question then was, with how much? So
experiments were done to determine the minimum amount needed to
prevent goiter. But goiter was the result of an iodine deficiency
worst-case-scenario... it resulted from a "deep deficiency".
So instead of trying to discover how much iodine was needed for
optimal functioning of the thyroid and the body in general,
all that was determined was how much was necessary to prevent goiter
and cretinism... the most noticeable symptoms. And that was
the amount that was added to salt, and no more. It's impossible
to determine whether this was done out of ignorance or if it was
done intentionally, but I do know that today it is evident that
we need more than the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) for iodine
of 150 micrograms (mcg) for optimal functioning of the glands and
organs that require iodine, in-other-words, for "whole body
tissue sufficiency". Yet the RDI remains at the amount that
is needed to just prevent the observable signs of an iodine deficiency,
and not to prevent iodine insufficiency.
The other side
of the coin is the environmental exposures to goitrogenic toxins
like bromine, chlorine, and fluoride which are worse today than
they were 100 years ago. The bromine off-gassing in a new car driven
in winter when the windows are rolled up can be a tipping point
for some people whose iodine level is right at the point of deficiency.
Add to that, swimming and bathing in chlorinated water, and drinking
chlorinated and fluoridated water. Along with increased iodine needs,
it's no wonder we're all iodine insufficient or deficient. Including
myself (more on that in a moment).
the past, endemic cretinism due to iodine deficiency was especially
common in areas of southern Europe around the Alps. It was described
by ancient Roman writers and often depicted by medieval artists.
The earliest Alpine mountain climbers sometimes came upon whole
villages of cretins. In the early nineteenth century, several
physicians described alpine cretinism from a medical perspective,
often attributing the cause to stagnant air in mountain
valleys or bad water. More mildly affected inland
areas of Europe and North America were referred to as goiter
belts. Here the degree of iodine deficiency was not as
severe, and manifested primarily as thyroid enlargement rather
than severe mental and physical impairment. I mention this to
point out that there is a range of ill-effects depending on
the degree of deficiency, and those effects occur even when
we don't notice anything visually, as we do with goiter and
reason there are still people with iodine insufficiencies is because
many people are no longer using table salt, so they are getting
little to no iodine. Then there's the miseducation of the general
public with articles about the thyroid and the problems it can have
and what you can do about it that have zero mention of iodine, even
though the 3 and 4 in T3 and T4 (the two hormones iodine makes)
represent molecules of iodine. And thirdly, there's the non-education
of MDs (endocrinologists) about this very same "3 and 4"
issue, so when they do thyroid testing, they do not test your iodine
the main source of the public's iodine is iodized table salt, what's
been happening since people have been cutting down on or cutting
out table salt over the last decade?
the other problems caused by insufficient iodine are on an upswing
(thyroid hormone issues like hypothyroidism and fibrocystic breast
disease), and even cases of goiter are now appearing again in the
U.S. In a recent clinical study more than 96% of over 5,000 patients
tested were iodine deficient! Why isn't there a campaign to educate
the public about the importance of iodine, like there was 85 years
ago? Maybe because today's very large and powerful medical/pharmaceutical
industry has a treatment type of fix for thyroid issues, like synthetic
hormones and radiation "therapy" of the thyroid. The sad
fact is that the problems that are directly attributable to insufficient
iodine are big business, so the profits-before-people business model
means we need to take matters into our own hands if we want optimal
health. But no surprise there.
to World Health Organization, in 2007, approximately 2 billion
individuals had insufficient iodine intake, a third being of
don't use table salt anymore, so can't I get the iodine I need from
sea veggies like dulse and kelp?
Yes, if they're
fresh, but unfortunately, no if they're dried. Here are three reasons
not to rely on dried sea vegetables to try and fulfill your iodine
1) They contain B12 analogs which compete with active B12 for B12
receptors sites, and this causes lowered B12 levels.
2) Sea veggies can be contaminated with harmful substances like
heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, and lead, and industrial
chemicals like PCBs, and
3) The amount of iodine in dried sea veggies is not enough to normalize
an iodine insufficiency, and is probably not even enough to maintain
a normal iodine level considering today's higher iodine needs. And
it's a little known fact that much of the iodine is lost to evaporation
when the sea veggies are dried (sublimation), and that a large number
of sea veggie products have high levels of halogens which interfere
with the sea plants' iodine uptake, just like with us humans.
So, all things considered, sea vegetables, in pill or flake form,
are not a reliable source for meeting your real-world iodine needs.
Yes, I know that there are well-known health educators saying to
consume dried seaweeds for their iodine, but this is an example
of "a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing" because
they know that seaweeds contain iodine but not that the iodine is
lost to the drying process (and we're further miseducated because
the package of kelp says that there's a bunch of iodine, but that's
the pre-dried amount).
organs that need iodine one being the stomach
cannot absorb it until blood iodine levels reach normal values
(a case of some iodine is not enough). Many people exhibit
impaired production of stomach acid as they age. Since sufficient
iodine is necessary to produce sufficient stomach acid, this
impaired capability to produce adequate stomach acid can be
the result of an iodine deficiency.
how much iodine do I need?
The short answer
is, probably a lot more than the RDI of 150 mcg (and I have to say
"probably" to cover my butt). The amount you need depends
on two basic factors.
1. Your body's
iodine requirements, which can vary from person-to-person based
on the health issues your body is dealing with (and most issues
2. How much
of the "competing" halogens and halides have you been
exposed to, and more important, how much of that exposure has taken
up residence in your tissues. Fluoride, chloride, and especially
bromide, along with fluorine, chlorine, and especially bromine,
can interfere with some of the iodine and iodide that comes into
your body by preventing them from "parking" in their receptor
sites, and this affects whole body sufficiency. Your requirement
for iodine also depends on the amount of the goitrogenic foods you
eat, as mentioned above. In general, the greater the goitrogen load,
the greater the need for iodine.
the amount of iodine we'd require in a perfect world would come
under the heading of "small amounts", we need more than
that today for the reasons mentioned (and this is what the "requirement
charts" don't take into account).
RDI for iodine: 150 mcg (0.15 mg) Cases of hypothyroidism compared
to Japan: High
Some segments of the Japanese population take in an average
of 13.8 mg of iodine a day in their diet (farmers use seaweed
in composting); this is almost 100 times the U.S. RDI. Cases
of hypothyroidism compared to the U.S.: Low (and the
Japanese have the lowest incidence of breast cancer in developed
nations; yes, correlation does not necessarily equal causation,
but the connection between adequate iodine levels and lowered
risk of breast cancer has been clearly shown).
I can't get enough iodine from the foods I eat, how can I
It's both unfortunate
and fortunate that we can get enough iodine from nutritional supplementation.
I say unfortunate because it would be great if there was
enough iodine in our diet to meet our body's needs so that we wouldn't
have to take a supplement, and I say fortunate for the obvious
reason that if we didn't have access to supplemental iodine, we'd
be in big trouble, just like with D and B12. (By the
way, I don't sell supplements.)
But the key
here is what supplement to use and how much to take. As you might
imagine, there are tons of iodine supplements on the market, each
insisting that it is the best, yet their formulations are very different,
so obviously they can't all be "the best". And to make
it even more confusing, there is plenty of independent conflicting
information from the mainstream and "alternative" literature,
and from miseducated laypeople, and from iodine "experts";
you almost want to look for an iodine supplement that includes aspirin!
And then when you consider that the issue of how much to take depends
on many variables, you'll begin to understand why this is not a
DIY (Do It Yourself) paradigm... it's something where you need guidance
to get it right.
note about "insufficiency/deficiency"
this phrase a lot, so it would be good to know the difference
between the two. And although some would simply say it's just
a matter of degree, it's describing two different scenarios,
each with their own set of issues and remedies.
can be described as not enough of a nutrient for optimal health,
but not so low that serious damage is being done, but this
will likely happen if the insufficiency gets worse (turns
into a deficiency), or if it becomes a long-standing insufficiency.
Insufficiencies may be "sub-clinical" in that it
is currently impossible to detect them with our present level
of testing technology even though, from the body's perspective,
there isn't enough of the nutrient to efficiently and effectively
carry out the body's day-to-day maintenance and repair work,
and there isn't enough to give you the best odds of never
getting a diagnosis of something serious in the future. Insufficiencies
may cause symptoms, but they are usually not noticed or not
recognized as a symptom of anything being wrong ("it
comes with getting older").
is an insufficiency that has gotten worse to the point where
damage is being done. Here there are usually noticeable symptoms,
but even these symptoms can be chalked up to "getting
older". And this is why I am trying to raise awareness
of the iodine issue, so you can prevent conditions where a
low iodine level is a contributing factor.
notable difference between insufficiencies and deficiencies
is the amount of supplemental nutrient needed to correct the
problem. There is a difference between a "maintenance
dose" of a nutrient which is meant to compensate for
the nutritionally sub-par food we get from the agri-based
food supply system (for those nutrients that are supposed
to come from food), and a "therapeutic dose" which
is taken short term and meant to correct an insufficiency/deficiency,
in-other-words, meant to normalize your whole body sufficiency
I'm known for
providing free information on my website that allows people who
have enough confidence in themselves to self-assess and self-correct
insufficiencies/deficiencies in things like vitamin
D and vitamin
B12, which are two of the other "problematic" nutrients.
With D and B12, it's almost impossible to get it wrong to the point
where you're making matters worse. If you're willing to put in the
little bit of time needed to read through the thorough coverage
of the issues, and to do the testing required, correcting those
nutrient problems is pretty straightforward, and that's the kind
of info I provide in those articles. But the iodine issue is not
as clear-cut as D and B12, and to diagnose an iodine insufficiency/deficiency,
and then to correct it, is something that is best done under the
guidance of an iodine literate health practitioner (and for those
who know me, you know that I'm not being self-serving here). Just
as it is unwise to do a lengthy water-only fast without supervision,
detecting and correcting an iodine insufficiency/deficiency on your
own is also unwise, and here are the reasons why:
are various iodine tests. The ones that are ordered by most
MDs are not the most revealing tests that can be done (similar to
the B12 blood test versus the B12 MMA test). And the DIY skin patch
test is not diagnostically significant and thus should never be
relied on for testing your iodine level; the only revealing thing
about this test is if a health practitioner mentions it, you'll
know to find a different health practitioner... seriously (some
say this test correlates well with the most accurate iodine test,
and this is not so). And even when doing the best iodine test available,
understanding the results is nowhere near as easy as the D and B12
tests; there's a lot to know about iodine levels.
and critically important iodine co-factors. To utilize B12,
you simply have to take it (taking enough of course). But when you
test low on iodine, you can't just simply take supplemental iodine.
For iodine to be properly utilized, your body requires certain co-factors
other nutrients that iodine depends heavily on. If you don't
have enough of them, you're not only wasting iodine, you're also
not resolving your insufficiency/deficiency. And one of iodine's
co-factors is not only necessary for its utilization,
if you aren't getting enough of it you can cause serious neurological
damage from an overproduction of hydrogen peroxide.
since I mentioned B12 and iodine in the same paragraph, and
since B12 works with other substances to prevent "B12 deficiency",
guess what? Iodine plays a role in B12 utilization! Iodine insufficiency
= underactive thyroid = less T4 than normal, and T4 is needed
not just to make T3, but is an integral part of converting riboflavin
(vitamin B2) to its active coenzyme form "FAD" which
is needed for proper methylation ("methyl" as in the
active form of B12, methylcobalamin). This mechanism
could partly explain how thyroid disfunction affects the metabolism
of folates and homocysteine. This will not be on the test.
3. The detox
issue. When you transition from an unhealthy diet to a super
healthy diet, and you also pay equal attention to the other equally
important aspects of robust health, you can experience symptoms
of detoxification (detox for short). Freed up nervous system
energy can now be used by the body for some much needed housecleaning,
which is never pleasant (but it's a very good thing). Some of you
may have already experienced this. When you do orthoiodosupplementation
(consuming therapeutic amounts of iodine/iodide to correct an insufficiency/deficiency),
something similar can happen. I mentioned earlier that there were
certain halogens that occupy iodine receptor sites, and these substances
have toxic properties, and one in particular, bromine, doesn't belong
in the body at all. When a therapeutic amount of iodine enters the
body, one of the benefits is that it can cause stored toxins like
the halogens to be dislodged as the iodine pushes things like bromine
off the iodine receptors. But when this happens, and the toxic substances
become systemic (travel around your system while on the way out
of the body) you can experience some rather unpleasant detox symptoms.
And although detoxification is a good thing, you'll want unpleasant
symptoms to be tolerable and to minimize potential "collateral
damage" from the toxins being detoxed. So there are certain
things that can be done to make the detox and halogen elimination
processes safer and less unpleasant.
utilization process. There are many biological mechanisms and
pathways that work to facilitate iodine's use by the body. One,
the NIS (Sodium Iodine Symporter, an "iodine pump") may
not be functioning correctly, and without knowing how to determine
if this is the case, wrong conclusions can be drawn from iodine
test results. And obviously, if you act on incorrect conclusions,
you won't get the results you're looking for, and you may get some
you weren't looking for.
was iodine deficient!
ago, when, on my learning journey, I realized the importance of
getting enough iodine, I began consuming dried sea vegetables as
a hedge against an iodine deficiency. I figured that, along with
the iodine in my daily multi, I'd be getting enough. Fast forward
to 2011. When I turned my researching attention to the subject of
iodine, I naturally wanted to test myself before I started testing
clients. I would have bet that my iodine sufficiency would have
been fine. I would have lost that bet. On a scale of 1 to 100, with
1 meaning you were dead from not enough iodine, and 100 meaning
that all your tissues were saturated with the amounts of iodine
that they wanted (unless you were so bromine toxic that the reading
of 100 was a false positive), I came in at 47. I was iodine deficient!
But because of what I had learned about the issue, this wasn't a
big surprise. After all, I could have had (and probably did have)
inadequate iodine levels my whole life, and probably started out
life with less than an optimal amount (but fortunately not so low
that I was born with serious problems).
So now that
I was knowledgeable in orthoiodotherapy, I began supplementing with
a therapeutic dose of iodine/iodide, and within a few days I felt
noticeably better. Now, I realize that this is a subjective observation,
but keep in mind that I wasn't expecting to feel any different,
partly because I believed the way I was feeling at the time was
the best I could possibly feel, having been eating the healthiest
of diets for over 20 years (all-raw, fruit-based diet+),
and having paid close attention to the other equally important requirements
of robust health. So there was no placebo effect going on here...
what I was feeling was very real.
And since I
hadn't had any bromine-containing foods in decades, and had not
been showering or swimming in chlorinated or brominated water or
drinking chlorinated or fluoridated water, I was not halogen-toxic,
so there were no detox symptoms to mask the beneficial effects of
my normalizing iodine and iodide levels. So just when I thought
I couldn't feel any better than I was feeling, I was hit with a
dose of reality. And although this feeling better was physiological,
there was an emotional component too. Since becoming acutely aware
of iodine's importance in disease prevention, there was a moment
when I realized that my body's Disease Prevention Mechanisms were
now going to be able to work even better than before, thus giving
me even better odds of avoiding a diagnosis of something serious
later in life... a real Woo-Hoo moment!
have not been any multiple, peer-reviewed, double-blind, placebo-controlled
(MPDP) studies of thousands of people over many decades to prove
that my body's Disease Prevention Mechanisms were now going
to be able to work even better than before. And this is the
downside of studies, because there doesn't have to be MPDP studies
done to realize that this is the case, but some people will
not consider making any changes in their diet or lifestyle practices
without them. MPDP studies are part of what goes on inside-the-box.
Using the tools available to you in your outside-the-box toolbox
can help you to achieve your health, quality-of-life, and longevity
potentials. And although doing so is bad for the economy, it
is very good for you.
supplementation via animal products
I just finished
watching a segment of the Dr. Oz Show where a neurosurgeon is recommending
that all carbs are bad for the brain, even fruit, and that we should
be getting our calories from fat. He said, "Fat is back!"
And when he said we all need to be eating butter, the previously
quiet studio audience erupted in spontaneous clapping! (which is
the same thing that happens when charlatans in the raw food industry
tell their audience that we all should be eating chocolate every
day.) The neurosurgeon went on to state that when he took patients
with cognitive function conditions off all carbs and put them on
high amounts of animal products, they improved, with the assumption
being that it must have been the high carb diet that caused the
ill-health, and that we're designed for an animal based diet (I'd
ask how could Dr. Oz give someone like this airtime on a national
television network, and the answer is: look how the people applauded
If you're reading
this article on the Health101.org website, you probably know that
although we need some fat, we're not designed to get our
fuel (calories) from fat, so why would someone improve their cognitive
function when they eat animal products or more of them. There must
be something else going on here (hint: this brain doctor treats
his patients with drugs and animal foods... what is he not
treating them with?)
being one of the reasons for improved function, is also one of the
reasons people can draw erroneous conclusions about their dietary
practices. Case-in-point: There have been long-term vegans who came
to the realization that they weren't feeling as good as they probably
should be, or who started experiencing actual symptoms of something
being "off". Bottom line: They felt like they had gone
"downhill" in some respect. They then hit the Internet
to look for information that might explain why. When they invariably
come across the info that says that it is impossible to be healthy
when eating a vegan diet, and that we need things like eggs or dairy
at the very least in order to be healthy, some of these folks figure
there's nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing a little
experimenting. So they try eggs and/or dairy. When they start feeling
better or their symptoms go away, they conclude that the anti-vegan
information which they had long believed to be untrue, was in fact,
correct. So they incorporate eggs and/or dairy into their diets,
and they stop promoting a raw vegan diet.
When they blog
about this, the debating begins (for the umpteenth time). And as
usual, there are two sides to the issue: "There is nothing
in animal foods that we can't get from a plant-based diet"
versus "We are obviously designed to require some animal
foods in our diet for optimal health". And this is how
we debate things, with the two sides presenting their respective
cases. Why only two sides? Well, there are only two debaters or
debate teams in a debate, and after all, we all know there are "two
sides to every story", and a coin only has two sides. And besides,
two positions are easier to argue about than three. Since I've always
been able to see the space between the typically held positions,
I interjected, "couldn't there be a third scenario going on?"
Could it be
that there was some nutrient that these folks weren't getting enough
of in their diet, not because fruit isn't a good source of it naturally,
but because of the way the fruit's produced. So the fruit they were
eating wasn't a good source of it, and the eggs or milk were
a good source of it because of the way they were produced.
It's important to note that the fruit and veggie growers don't grow
for nutritional value (they grow for yield, shelf-life, sugar content,
etc), but the livestock farmer really cares about the health of
his chickens or cows because he doesn't want them getting sick and
dying because they're his livelihood. So he feeds them really well,
and he supplements their diet with the nutrients
they should have that aren't in their feed (like iodine for example).
And then the hen makes an egg, something that will be a new life,
so the mother hen's body makes absolutely sure that this egg will
contain everything it needs to make a healthy baby chick (like iodine).
And then these folks ate these eggs, which supplied them with what
they had become deficient in over time because of the nutritionally
sub-par produce they were eating and the discontinuation of fortified
foods, and voila! They felt better!
And what makes
this third scenario even wilder, is that some of these now ex-vegans
are philosophically opposed to taking supplements, yet they're eating
eggs as a way of supplementing their iodine requirements which prevents
them from following their vegan philosophy! And all because they
drew the wrong conclusions or participated in the all-to-common,
dogmatic, this-or-that debates. This is why I am so
glad to have been taught by my mom to be an independent, outside-the-box
So the brain
doctor's patients would have probably improved if he had simply
treated them with the nutrients they weren't getting enough of in
their diet (like D, iodine, and B12). But that doesn't sell newspapers.
And with a headline like, "FAT IS BACK! BUTTER IS BETTER THAN
FRUIT!" you'll get a lot of people tuning in, and that equals
higher ratings which equals more money. And this is the purpose
of shows like Dr. Oz... in my opinion.
if I already have a thyroid condition?
matter whether someone has a malfunctioning thyroid or not, their
thyroid still needs adequate amounts of iodine. So the fact that
thyroid function can improve when iodine levels are normalized should
come as no surprise. Obviously if you have thyroid issues, thyroid
lab tests should be done when you are correcting iodine levels,
but care should be taken to not have those lab results misinterpreted.
Remember that a lab test's low, normal, and high ranges are not
handed down from the heavens; they've been based on the general
population's functioning, and on certain correlations. But a correlation
does not necessarily infer causation. So readings that are out-of-range
(lower or higher than the established norm) do not necessarily indicate
something bad. For example, when an organ starts getting something
it's been needing for a long time, a "rebalancing" can
occur, and during this time, a lab test might not show a "normal"
reading, even though what's going on is normal. And this scenario
can be misinterpreted because it's not something that medical practitioners
normally encounter, so they have no experience with this, and thus
their interpretation is correct from their perspective. This
is why, if you're doing iodine therapy, a thyroid panel should be
looked at by someone who has experience with iodine therapy. And
although this makes perfect sense, when you ask some MDs if they
are an iodine literate practitioner, they may launch into a rant
about how no one is iodine deficient in this country anymore, and
how so-called iodine therapy is quackery, and the RDI for iodine
is adequate, etc. If they do this, they are in effect saying that
they aren't knowledgeable regarding iodine, and you could interpret
this as meaning that you should find someone who is. But this is
just my opinion.
All of this
was to say that although TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) may go
high for a while, this can be normal when normalizing iodine levels.
And someone taking thyroid hormones should be monitored so that
if less is needed, less is taken. And if you haven't had your thyroid
removed or destroyed by radiation "therapy", you may find
that the normalization of your body's iodine levels normalizes your
thyroid function as well.
if my thyroid panel (blood test) says everything's fine?
You can infer
from the above section that just because a lab test's reading is
"in-range" doesn't necessarily mean that the organ that
the test is a marker for is operating optimally. There is
something to be said for the notion that sub-optimal organ function
is one of the major contributing factors to the epidemic of degenerative
diseases that plague our society today. And just because sub-optimal
functionality is the norm doesn't mean it's normal. As an example:
When I had blood tests done, the doc told me there was something
wrong with my WBC count (white blood cell count); it was "low"
and further tests would be needed to determine why. I asked to look
at the lab results (and the look on her face was priceless), and
when I handed the paper back to her saying that this was normal
for a person who ate no cooked food, and that the lab-work's in-range
number was normal for people who eat cooked food, she was understandably
perplexed. But instead of behaving like the typical MD, she asked
what I meant. After explaining digestive leukocytosis to her and
that I didn't need such a high "standing army" of foreign-invader-fighting
cells, she admitted that she never saw anyone who didn't eat any
cooked food. And when I noted that lab test ranges are based on
a cooked-food-eating population, she asked if my "low"
blood pressure was also normal for me. It was an atypically heartening
conversation for sure.
thyroid is the largest customer for iodine, all other glands and
organs require iodine too, including the ones that make up our immune
system (Disease Prevention Mechanisms). So even if your thyroid
is functioning perfectly, this doesn't necessarily mean that all
other glands or organs are too; they may be functioning sub-optimally
from lifestyle practices that specifically affect them, and/or have
a genetic weakness. So when looking at iodine, it is whole body
sufficiency that should be the definition of "enough iodine",
and not the functioning of one organ relative to the others.
The moral of
this section: just because things look fine on paper, doesn't mean
they're fine from the body's perspective.
every woman needs to know about iodine deficiency
Iodine requirements are increased by 50% during pregnancy.
Even mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy may be associated
with lower intelligence in children. Lower IQ of 12
- 13.5 points are seen in iodine
deficient populations, whereas iodine supplementation before
or during early pregnancy generally increases developmental
scores in young children by 10 -
20%. In the U.S., the introduction of iodized salt
increased IQ by 15 points in some areas. Drinking fluoridated/chlorinated
water can yield children with lower IQs because these halogens
compete with iodine.
Iodine deficiency in the mother has been associated with miscarriages,
stillbirth, preterm delivery, congenital abnormalities and
The correlation of iodine deficiency with breast cancer is
strengthened by reports in the scientific literature: Women
with a history of breast cancer are almost three times as
likely to develop thyroid cancer than women with no such history,
and there is a geographic correlation between the incidence
of goiter and breast cancer. Demographic studies show that
a high intake of iodine is associated with a low incidence
of breast cancer, and a low intake with a high incidence of
works so well for breast health because it makes breast cells
less sensitive to estrogen, and it detoxifies toxic halogens
bromide, fluoride, and chloride. Its important
that you help your body flush out these harmful elements:
one study found that breast cancer patients had double the
bromide levels compared to non-cancer patients. Normalizing
your iodine level with the proper protocol detoxifies these
The Importance of
Being Iodine Sufficient Prior to Pregnancy
is based on my iodine research and on my clinical experience with
those I've counseled whom I've had tested for iodine sufficiency
and have done iodine therapy.
1. Do not
assume that if you simply consume things like dulse and kelp
that you'll be iodine sufficient or that you'll resolve an iodine
insufficiency/deficiency if you happen to have one.
2. Do not
wait for noticeable symptoms of iodine deficiency to do something
about it. This is very disrespectful to your body. And many health
practitioners do not recognize symptoms of iodine deficiency as
iodine deficiency symptoms.
3. Get tested.
Seek the guidance of a qualified
health practitioner who is iodine literate. Do not treat
this as you would D or B12; this is not something that lends itself
to a DIY approach. Work with someone who is well-versed in the iodine
issue; someone who not only has "book learn'n" but who
has also counseled a goodly number of people and has had nothing
but positive results.
4. If you haven't
already, consider adopting a mostly or all-raw, fruit-based diet+
which is a diet that contains a lot of fruit, along with enough
nutrients, exercise, sunshine, sleep, and relaxation. And remember,
food matters... nutrition matters more.
"When I was a medical student, iodine in the form of
KI [potassium iodide] was the universal medicine. Nobody knew
what it did, but it did something and did something good.
We students used to sum up the situation in this little rhyme:
If ye do not know where, what and why, prescribe ye then K
and I." Dr. Szent-Györgyi (discovered vitamin
C in 1928)
deficiency has been not only present in today's world, it
is occurring at epidemic levels, and it is associated with
a plethora of illnesses including thyroid disorders, chronic
fatigue, fibromyalgia, and cancer - including cancer of the
breast and prostate. I believe that properly evaluating and
treating iodine deficiency will not only help people improve
the functioning of their immune system, it will also play
an integral role in helping people achieve optimal health."
- David Brownstein, MD
am a newbie and struggling with a plethora of information,
and thereby have made a few challenging and dangerous choices
with iodine both topically and orally."
started taking iodine daily last year. Didn't know about the
complementary supplements. About 6 months into it I began
to have hyperthyroid symptoms, and thyroid tests showed hyperthyroid.
Turns out, it was because I didn't really know what I was
[And this is why
you can find a statistic like, "In a recent study, up
to 47% of people taking more than 1 mg of iodine developed
thyroid disease". Normalizing iodine levels does not
lend itself to a DIY approach because to prevent a malfunctioning
thyroid, you must
know what co-factor nutrients to take along with supplementary
and Hashimotos. I had it. Over the years I have taken
Synthroid, then Nature-Throid, WP Thyroid, NP Thyroid, Cytomel,
and Thyrovanz. WP Thyroid, NP Thyroid, and Thyrovanz arent
so bad, but each year my body required larger doses, and this
made me question taking it. Against medical advice from two
of my doctors, my endocrinologist and my functional medicine
doctor, I decided to supplement with iodine. I feel a world
of difference. I will continue to take it for the rest of
my life. Best of all, I am no longer taking Natural Desiccated
Thyroid for my Hashimotos. None of my thyroid medications
were ever as effective as iodine is. Now ask yourself: Why
do doctors and the medical establishment advise against supplementing
with iodine?! Answer: They dont want you to take iodine
because your health conditions will improve, and there will
be no more medical office visits needed, and the pharmaceutical
companies and the insurance companies will lose on profits."
"If I have a slower than normal metabolism because of
not enough iodine, and I take an iodine supplement, how long
will it take for my weight to come down to normal?"
Although you can start feeling better almost immediately after
starting to take appropriate amounts of therapeutic iodine/iodide,
it can take up to eight weeks after your iodine levels approach
whole body sufficiency before you see any downward movement
on the scale (and it can take six months or more to reach
whole body sufficiency). So even though it's not as immediate
as the improvement in your overall feeling, it's still a good
thing to do. And when you consider that healthy weight loss
should not be quick, the relative slowness of
weight normalization is actually a good thing.
Also consider that there are multiple contributing
factors to attaining your ideal weight, and it's not a good
idea to rely on just one of them, regardless of how big a
factor it is. So being appropriately active (not too little
and not too much), getting sufficient sleep, and getting enough
of all the other nutrients that your body requires is also
a good idea.
reasons I do not give out information on
how to deal with iodine in a Do-It-Yourself manner
and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
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