Iodine, a critical mineral for the prevention of cancer, has been used for centuries. It was used as medicine then added to bread. Then, in 1948, iodine was suddenly thought of as dangerous and was removed from medical arsenals – as well as from our food in the 1970s.
Politicians felt we could get enough iodine from iodized salt. Two things happened, we were told to reduce salt in the diet and later research shows that the iodine in salt evaporates with moisture, storage and exposure to oxygen.
Iodine consumption has plummeted 50% since 1970. This corresponds with a dramatic increase in breast and prostate cancers. Between 1974 and 1994 there was a 5-fold increase in iodine deficiency. Females showed a higher level of deficiency than males. Blacks showed a lower level than whites and black women between the ages of 20-39 showed the lowest levels. Black women remain at greater risk for breast cancer relative to white women regardless of age and other perimeters.
Iodines Role in the Body
Most of us have heard of the need for iodine for proper thyroid function, and that’s true, and may be why we have seen such a surge in thyroid disorders such as Hashimoto’s disease since the levels have gone down.
Iodine plays a role in the immune system and a successful pregnancy, but it is less known that other tissues also require large amounts of iodine, namely the breasts, pancreas, stomach, brain, and thymus.
It’s important to note that the body needs two types of iodine, “iodide” which the thyroid needs and “iodine” which the breasts and prostate need. Many other tissues in the body can concentrate either form. These include glands like the salivary, liver, spleen, kidneys and intestines.
Iodine Blocking Elements
Ironically while iodine was being removed from our food supply iodine blocking elements where being added.
Bromine was added to our flours and as a fire retardant to our mattresses, clothing (especially children’s clothes) and so many other products.
Bromine is in a family of chemicals called “halogens.” There is a family of Halogens that are toxic to the body and they include bromine, chlorine and fluorine (think fluoride). Interestingly enough, iodine is also a halogen but is the only halogen the body needs.
Fluoride is the easiest one to avoid if you know where to look. I’m sure you automatically think of toothpaste which most do contain fluoride, but it’s also used on food crops as a pesticide, in the home as an insect repellant, in baby foods, processed cereals and even in sodas and wine, beer and tea. But don’t forget, most of our water supply is fluoridated too!
Did you know that there is Fluoride in medications such as antidepressants, antibiotics, cholesterol lowering drugs, chemotherapy drugs, antihistamines, anti-fungals, and even anesthesia?
When these halogens block the receptors for iodine on your cells you now have a double whammy, low iodine consumption and poor iodine utilization. Fluoride has been linked to the cause of thyroid cancer.
Fluoride functions by blocking iodine receptors in the thyroid. It influences the feedback mechanism that regulates the thyroid-pituitary axis, and therefore causes increased levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). This can activate cancer cells by activating an enzyme system known as “adenylate cyclase”, which has to do with TSH binding and TSH stimulation.
Thyroid cancer cells are not the only cells activated by Fluoride, all hormone related cancer such as breast, ovarian, uterine, prostate, testicular and thyroid share the fact that cancerous cells are activated by adenylate cyclase, when activated by Fluoride.
Another Halogen to Avoid
Chlorine is so commonly know because of its use in our public water supplies. Chlorine is a “free radical” which is an unstable molecule capable of damaging tissue and weakening immune systems, damaging gut microbiome, causing liver dysfunction and again, filling up the receptor site for iodine.
Did you know you absorb more chlorine in your shower than in the water you drink? Your skin is like a big mouth, it absorbs everything we put on it and immediately sends it to the blood stream. Chlorine vapors from a single 10-minute shower have been shown to be greater than the amount of Chlorine from the average two liters of water you may drink daily. This means that the filtration of your water in the shower may be more important than what you drink!
Take Steps Against These Bad Halogens
By now you’re realizing not only are we low in iodine consumption but we have these toxic halogens permeating our daily environment. Here a few steps to lower this toxic load.
- Get a chlorine shower filter. I like the Berkey shower filter, easily found on their website www.berkey.com
- Filter your drinking water for chlorine. I also like the Berkey counter-top unit that will filter fluoride and chlorine.
- Change your toothpaste. There are many brands such as Tom’s toothpaste that do not use fluoride. You can also make your own!
- Consume fluoride free foods. Choose organically grown, local produce over commercially grown, sprayed crops. Avoid processed foods such as grape juice products, instant tea and soy milks, since they all contain high levels of Sodium Fluoride. Dried fruit, dried beans, and some cocoa powders contain Fluoride also.
- Avoid bromine containing foods such as flours (think break, pasta, crackers etc.)
- Use supplements to reduce fluoride in the body. Along with iodine supplementation (which I’ll discuss below), magnesium is essential to prevent absorption of fluoride into the cell. Epsom salt baths are another great, relaxing way to get magnesium into the body.
- Detox through sweating. Whether it’s vigorous exercise, sauna or far-infrared sauna, sweating is a great way to detox the body of halogens.
Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency
It’s always important to understand that the body has ways of telling us when it’s missing something, and that is “symptoms.” I like to call them the “body sign languages.” Western medicine treats a symptom with a drug, not getting to the root cause of the symptom. Wholistic medicine always goes deeper, looking for the imbalance in the system.
Iodine’s way of talking to us can be any of these symptoms:
- Swelling on the neck (goiter)
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Unexpected weight gain
- Mental fog
- Dry, flaky skin
- Colder than normal
- Hair loss
- Changes in heart rate
- Problems during pregnancy (miscarriages, still births)
- Heavy or irregular periods
- Cancers of the breast, uterus, ovaries and prostate
We have many pathways of detoxification, liver, lung, kidney, bowel, lymphatic system and skin. Iodine is involved in most of these.
Iodine is a natural lymph mover. When the lymph system becomes congested, certain lymph sensitive tissues react. The breasts will swell during menses, which indicates lymph drainage is compromised. When the lymph becomes congested, the cells cannot remove the waste and the white blood cells in the lymph and the immune system become “stuck”, kind of like a traffic jam!
If the body loses adequate blood flow, due to poor lymph drainage, the ovaries may become cystic as well as the breasts, and the uterus can accumulate fibrous tissue.
The liver is your master detoxifier! The liver and thyroid are intimately connected and iodine is the communication molecule between them. The metabolic thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) is comprised of 4 iodine molecules and is inactive when it is produced by the thyroid. It must travel to the liver to be converted to its active form, triiodothyronine (T3).
According to a 2002 British report, thyroid dysfunction may perturb liver function, liver disease modulates thyroid hormone metabolism, and a variety of system disease affects both organs. When was the last time you thought about your liver? Doing a gentle liver cleanse is super important to make sure you’re getting the T4 to T3 thyroid conversion.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is often associated with low T3 production and hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is also very common amongst CKD patients, according to a 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Again, the need for iodine in supporting the conversion of T4 to T3 is essential to the health of your kidneys.
Chronic constipation is often correlated with low thyroid production. Now we know how important iodine is for the correct production and conversion of thyroid hormones.
Earlier, when I discussed the toxic effects of “halogens” in our food supply we must realize the only way to “detoxify” these substances is through our elimination channels, your bowels being the biggest. Pretty hard to do if your constipated!
Heavy Metal Detox
We live in a toxic world, no way around it. Some of the worst offenders are heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium and aluminum.
Iodine supplementation may help you detox from these heavy metals. Dr. David Brownstein, author of the book Iodine: Why You Need It / Why You Can’t Live Without It and an expert in iodine, states that “Iodine is a chelator of mercury. It will bind with mercury and allow the body to release it.”
Caution, it’s best to work with a knowledgable health care practitioner when starting an iodine program, especially if you have had chemo and radiation. Iodine can be very detoxifying and it’s important to start slow and under a physicians care.
Supplementing with Iodine
There are different forms of iodine. The food source is from the sea, such as kelp flakes, dulse flakes, ocean fish and shellfish. Unfortunately our sea is contaminated with heavy metals and radiation from the Fukushima disaster which dumped large amounts of toxic radioactive material into the ocean. Kelp has been tested and found to be high in arsenic. For those concerned with reaching a high level of health, this is not a viable option.
Nascent iodine is another popular form.The iodine is reduced to a 1% concentration in 100% ethyl alcohol and electro-magnetically transmuted into the atomic state. Alcohol-based iodine tinctures have far higher iodine potency than the glycerin tinctures available today. The glycerin tinctures simply don’t pack as much iodine into each bottle. What you’re looking at is micrograms per serving, not milligrams, so for most folks this is not going to be enough for tissue saturation to detox halogens.
Lugol’s iodine, from my research, is the best source to use for detoxification of halogens and restoring iodine levels in the body.This is an iodine formula of Iodine and Potassium Iodide (5% Iodine /10% Potassium Iodide in water). Two drops of this 5% solution contains 5mg of iodine and 7.5mg of iodide, commonly called 12.5mg in tablet form.
This is the preferred form of iodine supplementation as the body needs both forms of this nutrient. The thyroid needs iodide and the breasts and prostate need iodine. Many other tissues in the body can concentrate either form. These include glands like the salivary, liver, spleen, kidneys and intestines.
When you consider the usage of iodine for thyroid hormone creation plus halide protection, the recommended 150mcg amount by the RDA falls considerably short. The body is reported to store 1,500mgs of iodine in total. They thyroid gland alone stores 50mgs of iodine.
There is no set amount that can be given as a blanket recommendation. Everyone needs different amounts based on their body’s ability to utilize the nutrients as well as the level of halide exposure. If you are a cancer survivor your dosage will more than likely be higher than someone who is on a maintenance program.
Cancer is the result of mutated cells. Iodine is absolutely critical for something called the P53 gene. Without iodine and selenium it will not function correctly to eliminate abnormal cells from the body. Cancer patients have taken anywhere from 50-300mgs a day successfully.
Ordering a 24 hour Iodine Loading Test with Bromide Levels
I would recommend that you order a 24 hour loading and bromide level test kit prior to supplementing with iodine. I recommend this because you may obtain a high saturation level on the iodine loading test and believe your levels are fine when in fact bromide toxicity will block the iodine receptors not allowing iodine to enter the cell which results in an elimination of iodine when it is needed/deficient thus skewing the test results.
It is not recommended that you do the spot test as this is only an indicator of how much iodine is in the diet and the amount that has been ingested in the last 24-48 hours. It offers no real value to determining the body saturation level.
Hakala Labs has the 24 hour loading and the add on of bromide analysis. As of this writing the 24 hour iodine loading test runs $70 and the add on of bromide is $35. Below if the link for ordering.
Supporting Nutrients When Taking Iodine
It’s very important that you also take these supporting nutrients when starting an iodine supplementation program. Ideally you want to retest your iodine at the 6 month and 12 month mark to see if you have reached tissue saturation and can go on a maintenance plan.
- Vitamin C – 2,000mg-5,000mg daily in divided doses.This nutrient is high in antioxidants and works to buffer the oxidation caused by the detoxing of halides from the cells. Vitamin C is also needed by the symporters and helps to support them in their healing process which allows iodine to more readily enter the cells.
- Selenium – 200-400mcg daily.Selenium is used by the thyroid in the hormone creation process. There is a selenium containing enzyme glutathione peroxidase which functions to keep the hydrogen peroxide reduce to H2) after it converts iodide to iodine. When selenium is deficient this process of defense is impaired. Selenium is also contained in iodothyronine deiodinase. This is an enzyme that is responsible for the conversion of T4 to T3.
- Magnesium 200-400mg daily. This nutrient works to counter the excess calcium in the cells. When there is excess, the oxidation process can be fueled and be part of the autoimmune thyroid issue.
- Unrefined salt such as Celtic, Pink Himalayan or Sea salt 1/2 tsp. daily. Supports the adrenals, binds to bromide and assists in its removal.
- Optional, ATP CoFactors B2/B3 1 tablet 2x daily. These two nutrients are needed by the cells to produce more H202 to assist in the oxidation process of iodine. It also stimulates the NADPH pathway, where iodide is converted to iodine. This would be important for those dealing with an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Hashimoto’s.
Iodine should be taken early in the day (before 2pm) and all other supporting nutrients can be taken at the same time.
I want to encourage you again to work with a doctor, functional medicine doctor, naturopathic doctor or nutritionist if choosing to do an iodine supplementation program. Iodine supplementing can be very detoxifying and you may experience unpleasant symptoms. When working with a health care professional they can guide you on proper dosage and how to deal with detoxification symptoms.
One of the blessings and a curse of iodine supplementing is that toxins are released in the body. It is a blessing because bromide, fluoride, mercury and lead are released from the cells so that the healing can begin. But the curse comes from the large amount of toxins being released which in most cases, cannot be eliminated quickly and effectively. The average person has no idea just how toxic they become. By the time illness sets in, the toxicity is more than likely very high.
Prior to starting an iodine program a few weeks of concentrated liver, lymphatic support, kidney and digestive support with the purpose of increasing bile, cleaning up the diet and cleansing the body, will offer a better result on your iodine journey.
- Changes in Dietary Iodine Explains Increasing Incidences of Breast Cancer with Distant Involvement in Young Women, Journal of Cancer, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5327366/#
- Iodine Fact Sheet, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/
- Iodine, Fluoride, Chlorine, Bromine: The Health Effects of Halogens,
4. 10 Signs and Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency ,https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/iodine-deficiency-symptoms#section2
5. Malik R, Hodgson H. The relationship between the thyroid gland and the liver. QJM. 2002;95(9):559-569. doi:10.1093/qjmed/95.9.559
6. Interactions Between Thyroid Disorders and Kidney Disease, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3313737/#
7. Iodine, Why You Need and Why You Can’t Live Without It, https://www.drbrownstein.com/iodine-why-you-need-it-p/iodine.htm
8. Ty Bollinger, Three Ways to Detox With Iodine, https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/detox-with-iodine/
9. The Guide To Supplementing with Lugol’s Iodine, Stephanie Buist, ND, HC
10. Enzyme’s Cancer-promoting Activities Linked To Inactivation Of ‘Genome Guardian’, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071015215101.htm
10. Evidence that the administration of Vitamin C improves a defective cellular transport mechanism for iodine: A Case Report, Guy E. Abraham, M.D. and David Brownstein, M.D.https://www.optimox.com/iodine-study-11