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The Iodine Issue
By Don Bennett, DAS
November, 2013

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.

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.




An example of goiter

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.

This ad is from 1927 when the Morton Salt Company first started iodizing its table salt.

Notice on the bottom, it says...
"Help Keep Your Family Goiter Free!"


Here's a chewing gum that also contained iodine.

Iodine 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 correct 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.


In 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.


Back in the 1930's many of the soils in the U.S. were already iodine deficient (shown in red). Today it's worse.


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.

Iodine 101

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.

From 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.

THE 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.

The "sister" 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.

What 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:

supports apoptosis (programmed cell death which prevents cancer)

involved in ATP (energy) production and management, prevents premature fatigue

helps to keep insulin requirements normal

supports protein synthesis

destroys pathogens, molds, fungi, and parasites

helps excrete toxic halogens and lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and mercury

regulates estrogen production and
helps prevent polycystic ovarian disease

helps prevent heart disease

affects IQ all throughout life

supports pregnancy

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.

Symptoms of iodine insufficiency

These are some of the possible symptoms of an iodine insufficiency. If your iodine whole body sufficiency level is less than what it should be, you will experience one or more of them: fatigue, less-than-stellar mental functioning ("brain fog"), cold hands and feet, swollen or sore breasts, sore joints, sub-clinical depression or a lower than normal "happiness potential" or irritability, weight gain or problems with weight loss, difficulty becoming pregnant, issues with hair and/or nails, dry skin, muscle weakness, more sleep needed, constipation, and symptoms associated with hormone imbalances (for both women and men).

When 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 Hashimoto’s 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.  

Why did we have an iodine deficiency problem in the first place?

1. Soil 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 enough iodine.

2. Iodine 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 below.

3. Increased 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.

4. Goitrogenic 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.

5. Iodine interference issues. In our modern environment, we are exposed to two of iodine's close cousins, chlorine and fluoride, and these toxic iodine "look-alikes" 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.

Originally, 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.  

Why 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.

cretinism: 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, all that was determined was how much was necessary to prevent goiter and cretinism... the 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 sufficiency. Yet the RDI remains at the amount that is needed to just prevent the observable signs of an iodine deficiency.

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).

In 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 with goiter and cretinism.  

If the main source of the public's iodine is iodized table salt, what's been happening since people have been cutting down on table salt over the last decade?

Not surprisingly, 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.

According to World Health Organization, in 2007, approximately 2 billion individuals had insufficient iodine intake, a third being of school age.  

I don't use table salt anymore, so can't I get the iodine I need from sea veggies like dulse or kelp?

Unfortunately, no. Here are three reasons not to use dried sea vegetables to try and fulfill your iodine needs: 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 not even enough to maintain a normal iodine level considering today's higher iodine needs. And it's a little known fact that some of the iodine is lost to evaporation when the sea veggies are dried, and that a large number of sea veggie products have high levels of halogens which interfere with the sea plants' iodine uptake, just like 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.

Several 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.  

So 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 require iodine).

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.

So although 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).

U.S. 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).
 

If I can't get enough iodine from the foods I eat, how can I get enough?

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 and 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.

A note about "insufficiency/deficiency"

I use 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.

"Insufficiency" 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").

A "deficiency" 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.

The other 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 level.

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:

1. There 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.

2. Important 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.

And 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.

4. Iodine 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.

I was iodine deficient!

Many years 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 very 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!

There 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.  

Iodine 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 butter).

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?)

Iodine, besides 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 thinker.

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.

What if I already have a thyroid condition?

It doesn't 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.

What 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.

Although the 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.

What 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 learning disabilities.

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 breast cancer.
 

My recommendations

What follows 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)

 

"Iodine 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

 

"I 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."

 

"I 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 doing."

[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 have enough iodine and must know what co-factors to take along with supplementary iodine.]

 

 

 

Q: "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?"

A: 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.

 

 

Click the PLAY button above to view a short video
of Don talking about the iodine issue

 

Additional Reading:

Why I Do Not Give Out Information on
How to Deal with Iodine in a Do-It-Yourself Manner

Iodine and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

 

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