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Iodine is most commonly known as an element needed for optimal thyroid function. Whilst this is true, it has many other beneficial effects on the body. It may even be more important than we can imagine as Dr. Brownstein says “Iodine is found in each of the trillions of cells in the body. Without adequate iodine levels, life itself is not possible.” He also says “I am frequently asked by my patients: “If you only had one natural item to treat with, which would it be?” Although there are many natural items that provide wonderful effects for the body, one nutrient stands head and shoulders above the rest: iodine.”

  • Iodine helps with the production of thyroid hormone and also the production of all other hormones in the body. Iodine is concentrated in the glandular system of the body.

  • Adequate levels are need for proper immune functioning.

  • Iodine has antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral, and anticancer properties.

  • Iodine is essential for normal growth and development of children.

  • Iodine is found in seawater and solid rocks near the ocean. Seaweed is the most abundant source of iodine.

  • Iodine deficiency is very common

Iodine Deficiency

Iodine deficiency is more prevalent than you may think. Dr. Brownstein has tested over 6,000 patients in his clinic and said 96% were deficient. Iodine deficiency can result in goiter (treating goiter was the first medical use of iodine), infertility, increased child and infant mortality, and mental retardation. “The World Health Organisation has recognized that iodine deficiency is the world’s greatest single cause of preventable mental retardation” – Dr Brownstein.

Spontaneous abortion, delayed physical and mental development, and sudden infant death syndrome are associated with iodine deficiency.

In children iodine deficiency can lead to mental retardation, goiter, lowered IQ, ADHD, and autism.

Iodine deficiency also increases the risk of breast, prostate, endometrial, and ovarian cancers.

There are so many conditions that are helped treated by iodine such as ADD/ADHD, atherosclerosis, fatigue, fibrocystic breasts, headaches and migraines, hypertension, infections, liver diseases, prostate disorders, sebaceous cysts, thyroid disorders, and many more.

If you are deficient in iodine, radioactive iodine used in medical procedures can make your iodine deficiency worse, so it may be worth considering supplementation if you are having any procedures that use radioactive iodine.

Why are we deficient in iodine?

Poor farming techniques that have stripped the soil of iodine amongst other minerals is a big problem, along with exposure to chemicals that stop iodine form being able to bind to receptors in the body. These include things like bromide, fluoride, and chloride.

Not eating enough fish or sea vegetables is another reason why we are deficient in iodine. Diets high in baked goods are a problem too as they contain bromide which stops iodine binding properly as mentioned above. Vegan and vegetarian diets cam also lead to an iodine deficiency.

Iodine Excess

Too much iodine can also cause problems. Although this is rare, does higher than 1g per day have been associated with hyperthyroid symptoms.

Myths about iodine

“There are so many myths about iodine, but I will focus on two main myths propagated by many conventional doctors. Myth No. 1 is that we get enough iodine in salt, and Myth No. 2, that taking iodine as a supplement will cause or worsen thyroid disorders. Because of these myths, people have the mistaken idea that iodine is a toxic substance that needs to be avoided.” – Dr Brownstein

“The iodization of salt was hailed as the first public health miracle. However, iodized salt is inadequate for supplying the body’s need for iodine, particularly in our toxic environment. Even though refined salt can prevent goiter in the vast majority of people, the minuscule amount of iodine found in it falls far short of the amount necessary for promoting optimal thyroid function. Furthermore, refined salt fails to provide enough iodine for the rest of the body’s needs.”

“If Myth No. 2 were correct, taking iodine will cause thyroid disorders and that the declining iodine levels would help prevent thyroid disease. This has not been the case. As iodine levels have fallen over 50% during the last 40 years, thyroid disorders including hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease, and thyroid cancer have been increasing at near-epidemic rates. We would expect the opposite to occur—thyroid illnesses on the decline—if iodine were the cause.” – Dr Brownstein

Forms of iodine

There are two forms of iodine, non-radioactive and radioactive. Radioactive iodine is used in medicine to diagnose and treat certain illnesses. Non-radioactive iodine can be protective against radioactive iodine.

Radioactive iodine is often used to treat autoimmune thyroid disorders but it destroys the thyroid gland. According to Dr Brownstein, researchers have reported a 400% increase of death from thyroid cancer due to radioactive iodine, a 40% increase in stroke, and a 29% increased of death from cancer of any sort. He does mention that there are other articles pointing to no risk. I feel it is something you should consider before deciding which treatment to take.

Iodine and the thyroid

The thyroid gland is unable to make enough thyroid hormones if there isn’t enough iodine in the body. T4 contains 4 iodine atoms, T3 contains 3. About 15-20mg of iodine is stored in the thyroid, and when levels are sufficient, the thyroid can hold up to 50mg.

If deficient in iodine, thyroid problems such as goiter, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease (autoimmune issues), and even thyroid cancer can occur.

If you have any thyroid problems, it is important to check your iodine levels before starting any type of thyroid hormone. Having optimal iodine levels will allow you to take a smaller dose of thyroid hormone if needed. Iodine isn’t the only nutrient needed for optimal thyroid function, but it is very important.

Iodine and other glands

All the glands of the body depend on optimal levels of iodine. The hormonal system won’t function properly when iodine deficiency is present.

Iodine and fertility

In men, optimal levels of iodine are associated with better semen concentration and semen count.

In women, studies have suggested a 50% decreased chance of falling pregnant when iodine levels were deficient in comparison to women with optimal levels of iodine.

So, if having fertility issues, iodine levels are something you should definitely check. I have had do this personally and have mentioned it to many clients who have now had great success.

Iodine and pregnancy

Before becoming pregnant it is important to optimize iodine levels. In-utero iodine deficiency has been associated with ADHD, depression, mental retardation, poor height and bone maturation, to name a few.

Iodine deficiency is associated with lower IQ. “The fetus is dependent on the mother supplying enough iodine to stimulate normal neurological function. Inadequate maternal iodine can leave the child with permanent neurological damage and a lowered IQ. It is unclear if iodine supplementation after birth will reverse the neurological problems obtained from the lack of iodine during pregnancy.” – Dr Brownstein.

Children born to mothers with mild iodine deficiency also had poorer educational outcomes.

Iodine and cancer protection

How iodine helps with cancer protection seems to be through apoptosis or programmed cell death. We want our cells to die so they can be replaced by new cells. Cancer cells don’t die when they should, continue to divide, and end up overwhelming the body. Iodine may promote the death of cancer cells without damaging healthy cells.

When it comes to breast and prostate cancer, iodine can help by keeping balance between the hormones, specifically the estrogens. Imbalances in estrogen can lead to a host of problems such as weight gain, mood swings, and cancers of the breast, ovaries, uterus in women, and the prostate in men.

How to Measure Iodine Levels

A 24-hour iodine loading test seems to be one of the most accurate measures. You take 50mg of iodine/iodide combo and collect your urine for 24 hours. If you have optimal levels of iodine, about 90% of the dose will be excreted in the urine. Any less than this indicates a deficient state as it showing the body is hanging on to the iodine because it needs it.

Dave Asprey has mentioned an at home test you could try. You put a drop of Lugol’s 5 percent iodine on your forearm. The drop should leave a dark orange stain on the skin that slowly fades as the iodine is absorbed through your skin into your body. If the stain is gone within 4 hours, there’s a good chance you are deficient in iodine, but if it’s still there after 24 hours, your body probably has plenty of iodine.

How much to take

To maintain iodine levels, we need about 13mg per day. This is a lot more than the RDA.

As with most things, dosages are very individual with the typical range of iodine being 12-50mg per day. If a disease state is present, you may need even more.

References / further reading:

Iodine – why you need it, why you can’t live without it – Dr Brownstein

The better baby book – Dave Asprey

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