Iodine is an extremely important element yet iodine deficiency is becoming increasingly prevalent because of low levels in the soil and the move away from iodised table salt. Many of us are severely deficient and don’t know it. Some problems caused by iodine deficiency include:
•Thyroid problems: Without sufficient iodine, the thyroid gland is unable to make thyroid hormones in adequate amounts16. Iodine deficiency can therefore lead to hypothyroidism and goiter formation15 (the thyroid enlarges in an attempt to make more thyroid hormone).
•Auto-immune disease: Iodine deficiency also increases the incidence of autoimmune thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s disease and Graves disease. Some clinicians suspect the marked increase in the incidence of autoimmune thyroid disease is actually due to iodine deficiency. Other possible factors include subclinical infections, gluten intolerance, mercury and food allergies. Studies have shown that people who are iodine deficient have an increased incidence of antithyroid antibodies.
•Weight gain: iodine deficiency may lead to weight gain due to its critical role in thyroid function, hormone balance and metabolism.
•Fatigue: iodine deficiency may lead to an abnormal pituitary-adrenal function in addition to low thyroid function.
•Poor Digestion: many people exhibit impaired production of stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) as they age which may be as a result of iodine deficiency as iodine promotes stomach acidity.
•Impaired growth: Iodine deficiency is associated with impaired growth in children1, as well as low birth weight babies born to mothers with iodine deficiency.
•Hearing impairment: deafness may occur as a result of iodine deficiency. Treatment with iodised table to address the deficiency resulted in improved hearing, especially in children2,3,4,5,6,7
•Immune function: iodine deficiency may increase the risk of some forms of cancer and iodine may help to prevent cancer. The main cancers that have been linked to iodine deficiency include: breast, ovarian, uterus & endometrial cancers8,9,10,11, stomach cancer12, thyroid cancer13,14.
•Foetal brain development issues during pregnancy: iodine deficiency in the mother during pregnancy may contribute to neurological damage17 and increase the risk of lowered intelligence18 (IQ) and increase the risk of ADHD19
•Hormone function & balance: Fibrocystic disease often reverses with sufficient iodine replacement20. Iodine is also very effective at eliminating ovarian cysts. It works for fibrocystic breast disease and ovarian cysts because of its effect on estrogens. It actually helps metabolise estrone (an estrogen which promotes breast cancer cell growth) and its dangerous metabolite 16-alpha-hydroxyoestrone to estriol which is an anti-carcinogenic estrogen.
•Lipoprotein (a) is an important substance as it produces plaques in arteries because it is very sticky and collects platelets, calcium and fibrin from the blood circulating inside our arteries. Excessive clotting and vascular disease resulting from high levels of lipoprotein (a) may be reversed by iodine treatment.
Testing for an Iodine Deficiency
An accurate test for diagnosing iodine deficiency was developed by Dr. Abrahams, a prominent iodine researcher. It involves taking an iodine challenge using 4 iodine tablets (12.5 mg each) or 8 drops of lugols solution followed by a 24 hour iodine urine excretion test. If there is sufficient iodine in the individual the excess iodine is excreted in the urine in the next 24 hours. A person with adequate iodine stores who takes 50 mg will excrete 90% of the iodine in their urine. If iodine is lacking the body retains most of the iodine with little iodine appearing in the urine. There is a risk that if the patient is experiencing a thyroid storm (excess thyroid hormones) the iodine challenge could possibly make it worse so some doctors recommend an initial baseline urine test without the iodine challenge and if iodine replacement is indicated retest after 3 months using the iodine challenge. This would appear to be the safest option however urinary testing does suffer from significant day to day variability in specific individuals so therefore is not generally used or recommended.
Another simple and inexpensive way to test is an iodine skin patch test. This test may indicate if an iodine deficiency exists however it not considered as accurate as the iodine loaded urine test. It involves painting a 5 by 5 cm patch of iodine tincture onto your inner arm or thigh. If the stain remains or only slightly lightens after 24 hours then your levels are considered normal. If the stain disappears, or almost disappears, in under 24 hours then there is a possibility you are deficient, if it disappears, or nearly disappears, under 10 hours then are likely to be deficient and should consider supplementation. Please note that an iodine tincture is required for this test which is iodine dissolved in ethanol. A water based preparation such as lugols is not suitable.
Some practitioners recommend to re-test using the skin patch test every 2 weeks to determine when your iodine dose can be reduced.
Prominent thyroid researcher, Dr. Benjamin Eskin, has shown that the thyroid gland and skin prefer to concentrate the iodide form of iodine while the breasts concentrate iodine. His research suggested that the body in general needs both the iodide and iodine form of iodine. This can be accomplished by using Lugol’s solution which contains a mixture of 10% potassium iodide and 5% iodine in water.
Dr. Abrahams recommends taking 50 mg of Iodine/Iodide (Lugol’s solution 8 drops daily) for 3 months as a loading dose. Lugols solution is available from our online pharmacy. Then this dose should be gradually reduced to the 12.5 mg (2 drops) maintenance dosage under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care professional. Dr Abraham feels that 14 to 15 mg. of iodine/iodide daily is the upper maximum of safety. This is close to Dr. James Howenstine’s (a prominent iodine advocate) recommended dose of 12.5 mg daily (2 drops of Lugol’s). A major problem with Lugols solution is the bitter taste and its ability stain anything it touches.
Another valuable iodine preparation is a saturated solution of potassium iodide (SSKI drops) which is also available from our on line pharmacy. SSKI contains 100g of potassium iodide per 100ml dissolved in water. This only contains the iodide form and thus does not have the correct ratio of iodine/iodide recommended by Dr.Abrahams for correcting general iodine deficiency. It does however have a multitude of valuable healing properties for specific problems and is useful for thyroid and skin conditions as the iodide form accumulates in these organs. We also use it extensively to help promote the conversion of estrone and it bad metabolite into estriol with great effect. It may also help open up blocked arteries, disinfect water, cure bladder infections, reduce or eliminate ovarian cysts, diminish unsightly keloids, loosen thick bronchial secretions, even reduce or eliminate Peyronie’s Disease.
Nascent Iodine is another preparation which consists of a 1% iodine tincture (dissolved in ethanol) exposed to a magnetic field which which apparently breaks the diatonic (I2) iodine bond to form monotomic (I) iodine. It is argued that this is the form of iodine required to produce thyroid hormones so this is a better formulation. Many people who cannot tolerate Lugol’s or SSKI claim they do better on Nascent iodine however it is not known if this is due to the much lower doses of iodine it provides or due to the Nascent state in which it exists. Advocates of Nascent iodine claim it is significantly more effective and as such much lower doses are required – 5 drops 3-4 times a day on an empty stomach (NB: 30 drops of Nascent iodine = 1 drop of lugols). The problem is that there is no way to test if the monotomic form is actually present and being in a unstable highly energised state how long does it remain in its monotomic form. Nascent iodine is usually significantly more expensive due to the processing it requires. Our laboratory does produce it sparingly for those who insist on using this form of iodine. We recommend you store your bottle between two powerful neodynmium (rare earth) magnets to maintain a constant magnetic field which produces the monotomic state and thus increase the likely hood of actually getting the monotomic form. Some people actually store their Lugol’s in this manner and claim it no longer tastes bitter, is better tolerated and works better suggesting it may have converted into the monotomic state.
SSKI and lugols iodine supplements are available through our laboratory Complementary Compounding Pharmacy.
Food Sources of Iodine
Iodine from fish should be limited because of mercury problems. However sardines are a good option as they only have a short life span and do not get contaminated with mercury. Brown and red seaweeds contain the most iodine of all sea vegetables. You may still need supplemental iodine to get an adequate dose unless you are eating lots of seaweeds.
Things to note about iodine therapy and thyroid function:
(1) Iodine supplements can reduce the size of the thyroid gland. This is exactly what you would expect when supplementing with iodine. In fact, a decreased thyroid size is a good sign as iodine helps improves the architecture of the thyroid gland. Many iodine users have been scared off by this effect being lead to believe it is a bad thing.
(2) Iodine supplements cause the TSH to rise. It is well known, or should be well known, that iodine is transported into the cell by a transport molecule known as sodium-iodide symporter (NIS). NIS is stimulated by TSH (AJCN. Published online ahead of print December 28, 2011 as doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.028001) Therefore, when iodine supplementation is begun, one of the first effects seen is a slight elevation of TSH as the body is trying to produce transport molecules (NIS) to move iodine into the cell. Many doctors who only measure TSH then conclude that iodine causes hypothyroid and scare people off using it. This is another reason why we feel the TSH test is of very limited value. If T3 and T4 (the thyroid hormones themselves) had been tested for it would have been found that they were normal and thus thyroid function had NOT been affected by iodine supplementation.
The majority of this article has been sourced from www.custommedicine.com.au written by Dr. Michael Serafin who has established Complementary Compounding Services. They also have an excellent online pharmacy which compound nutritional formulations without the need for a script. As mentioned Lugol’s liquid iodine is also available from them. Please always consult with your Health care professional in regards to testing & treatment, with treatment always monitored closely under supervision.
BHSc (Nat), Adv. Dip (Nat)
1. Azizi, F., et al. Physical, neuromotor and intellectual impairment in non-cretinous schoolchildren with iodine deficiency. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 65(3):199-205, 1995.
2. Gao, H., et al. [Iodine deficiency and perceptive nerve deafness.] Lin Chuang Er Bi Yan Hou Ke Za Zhi. 12(5):228-230, 1998. Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Navy Hospital, Nanjing, China.
3. Liu, M., et al. [Comparative analysis on the hearing ability of children in iodine deficiency areas born before and after iodine supplementation.] Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 30(5):303-304, 2001. Health and Epidemic Prevention Station of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou, China.
4. McDonnell, C. M., et al. Iodine deficiency and goitre in schoolchildren in Melbourne, 2001. Medical Journal of Australia. 178(4):159-162, 2003.
5. Soriguer, F., et al. The auditory threshold in a school-age population is related to iodine intake and thyroid function. Thyroid. 10(11):991-999, 2000. Endocrinology and Nutrition Service, Civil Hospital, Carlos Haya Hospital Complex, Malaga, Spain.
6. Valeix, P., et al. Relationship between urinary iodine concentration and hearing capacity in children. Eur J Clin Nutr. 48(1):54-59, 1994.
7. Wang, Y. Y., et al. Improvement in hearing among otherwise normal schoolchildren in iodine-deficient areas of Guizhou, China, following use of iodized salt. Lancet. 2(8454):518-520, 1985.
- Aceves, C., et al. Is iodine a gatekeeper of the integrity of the mammary gland? J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 10(2):189-196, 2005.
9. Garcia-Solis, P., et al. Inhibition of N-methyl-N-nitrosourea-induced mammary carcinogenesis by molecular iodine (I2) but not by iodide (I-) treatment Evidence that I2 prevents cancer promotion. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 236(1-2):49-57, 2005.
10. Patrick, L. Iodine: deficiency and therapeutic considerations. Alternative Medicine Review. 13(2):116-127, 2008.
11. Stadel, B. V. Dietary iodine and risk of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer. Lancet. 1(7965):890-891, 1976.
12. Golkowski, F., et al. Iodine prophylaxis-the protective factor against stomach cancer in iodine deficient areas. European Journal of Nutrition. 2007. Dept. of Endocrinology, Jagiellonian University, Collegium Medicum, Faculty of Medicine, Kopernika Krakow, Poland.
13. Venturi, S., et al. Role of iodine in evolution and carcinogenesis of thyroid, breast and stomach. Adv Clin Path. 4(1):11-17, 2000.
14. Ward, J. M., et al. The role of iodine in carcinogenesis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 206:529-542, 1986.
- Delange, F. The disorders induced by iodine deficiency. Thyroid. 4: 107-128, 1994. Department of Pediatrics, Hospital Saint-Pierre, University of Brussels, Belgium.
16. Topliss, D. J. Iodine deficiency disorders. Med J Aust. 150(12):669-671, 1989.
17. Pharoah, P. O. D., et al. Neurological damage to the foetus resulting from severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy. Lancet. 1:308-310, 1971.
- Becker, D. V., et al. Iodine supplementation for pregnancy and lactation-United States and Canada: recommendations of the American thyroid association. Thyroid. 16(10):949-951, 2006.
19. Vermiglio, F., et al. Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders in the offspring of mothers exposed to mild-moderate iodine deficiency: a possible novel iodine deficiency disorder in developed countries. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 89(12):6054-6060, 2004.
- Ghent, W. R., et al. Iodine replacement in fibrocystic disease of the breast. Can J Surg. 36(5):453-460, 1993.