Are you iodine-deficient?
Do you often feel tired, and have low energy? Do you have muscular and skeletal aches and pains? Brain fog, unenthusiastic or depressed? Do you have a variety of allergies or intolerances? Are you prone to fungal and other infections? Digestion not what it used to be?.
There is a good chance that you are iodine deficient. Medical and scientific research tends to focus on those diseases that are caused by a critical shortage of iodine (goitre, cretinism and hypothyroidism). However, diseases that are caused by a less severe iodine deficiency are not just common – they are endemic.
A century ago, iodine was called the universal medicine, and was used to treat a wide variety of conditions and ailments (2,5,6,10,11). Iodine deficiency affects much more than the thyroid. For example, iodine supplements have been used to successfully treat fibrocystic disease (6).
Pressure from pharmaceutical companies and other commercial interests has led to the deliberate discrediting of iodine as a supplement. The recommended daily intake (RDA) for iodine has been set at a level that will prevent goitre, but is well short of the level required for good health. In fact, if you get no more than the RDA of 150 mcg per day, you will be severely deficient.
In Australia and New Zealand, iodine deficiency at the (low) RDA level is a widespread problem in the general population. A dietary survey conducted in 2008 by the national food regulator (FSANZ) found that 43 per cent of Australians don’t even get the low RDA level. 70 per cent of women of child-bearing age and about 10 per cent of children between the ages of two and three did not even meet the RDA.
Reasons for iodine deficiency
Iodine deficient soil. Australia, India and several African and European countries have geographical areas of severe iodine deficiency. They are usually located long distances from the sea. Deficiency may also be caused by erosion, desertification and soil overuse.
Food sourced from inland areas with no access to sea-sourced foods. This particularly applies to poor people who cannot afford fish or seaweed in their diets.
Eating a modern diet, high in processed foods. Iodine is usually added to salt in rich countries, and sometimes to other foods such as milk and breakfast cereals. However, the tiny amount of iodine added is insufficient for good health, being merely enough to prevent goitre.
Health diets. Many so-called healthy diets are very low in iodine. If you are a vegetarian you are at high risk. Sea salt contains virtually no iodine. If you (sensibly) avoid processed salt and other processed foods, it is essential to eat plenty of kelp / kombu, or to supplement iodine.
Goitrogens. Goitrogens are substances that prevent the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland, and uptake in the rest of the body. Our exposure to goitrogens is much higher than 50 or more years ago. Their primary effect is suppressed thyroid function. Grasses are some of the most potent goitrogens, such as millet (grass seed) and bamboo shoots. The two main food categories of goitrogens are cruciferous vegetables and soy beans. Crucifers include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard, rutabagas, kohlrabi and turnips. Soy foods include soy milk, tofu, tempeh and TVP. Other goitrogenic foods include peach, strawberry, peanut and spinach. Goitrogens are also prevalent as halogens in the water supply and environment. Fluorides are added to the water supply, toothpaste and some medications in some countries, in the mistaken belief that they strengthen teeth. Research shows that fluorides lead to behavioural disorders, hypothyroidism, hip fractures, bone cancer and kidney damage. Bromine is used as a fire retardant, in carpets and clothing, in the preparation of white baking flour, as an antibacterial agent, as a fumigant and pesticide, in the manufacture of some carbonated drinks, and in some pharmaceuticals. Chlorine is added to drinking water as a disinfectant and has been linked to heart disease and cancer.
Severe deficiency of the essential trace element iodine causes goitre – a swelling of the thyroid gland. Long-term deficiency causes cretinism – stunted growth, mental retardation and many other health problems. The introduction of iodised salt in the early 1900s, and the addition of iodine compounds to other foodstuffs such as flour and milk has reduced the incidence of severe iodine deficiency (goitre) in many affluent countries. However, few people get enough iodine for optimal or even good health. Goitre-producing iodine deficiency is still a problem in many parts of the world, particularly in poorer nations and places where there is little iodine in the local food.
Fibromyalgia. This is the classic ailment presenting a variety of the symptoms listed below, and caused primarily by an excess of fluorides and other goitrogens in the body.
Glandular and hormonal problems. With insufficient iodine the thyroid gland may develop autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease (but see contraindications below). An increased incidence of anti-thyroid antibodies may lead to subclinical infections, gluten intolerance, and mercury or food allergies.
Fatigue – iodine deficiency can cause abnormal pituitary-adrenal function as well as low thyroid function.
General aches and pains, most noticeable in muscles and joints.
Ongoing subclinical infections from a compromised immune system. Iodine plays a role in protecting against bacteria, fungi and protozoa. Fungal infections such as candida/thrush, tinea, nail infections, bacterial and protozoan infections in the gut, and a variety of other chronic infections.
Build-up of fluorides, bromides and heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, lead). Iodine is one of a group of similar elements (halogens) including bromine, chlorine and fluorine. Halogens compete with each other in the body, particularly in the thyroid gland. Unfortunately bromine, chlorine and fluorine are toxic. When there is a deficiency of iodine, the other halogens build up, causing hypothyroidism. Most of us are deficient in iodine and in a constant state of halogen toxicity. The good news is that when sufficient iodine is present, the other halogens are excreted from the body, along with other toxic heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead.
Depression and a variety of other neuropathies.
Irregular mood or metabolism.
Reduced intelligence in infants and children (4). A reduction of up to 15-20 IQ points, even when no other symptoms are present. Sufficient iodine is essential during pregnancy and lactation.
Indirectly, obesity and weight gain. Bromides make it difficult to lose weight once body fat starts to build up, and iodine displaces bromine.
Iodine assists with antioxidant activity. A lack manifests in faster aging and higher levels of disease.
Iodine is necessary for healthy breast and ovary tissue. Breast cancer, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovary syndrome and fibrocystic breast disease (painful breasts with nodules and cysts which are more symptomatic prior to menstrual periods). Fibrocystic disease often reverses with sufficient iodine replacement. Iodine is also effective at eliminating ovarian cysts. This is because of its effect on estrogens.
Cardiovascular diseases. Lipoprotein is a sticky substance as that produces arterial plaques from blood platelets, calcium and fibrin. Sufficient iodine can reverse this lipoprotein build-up.
Lung diseases. Iodine has been used successfully for treatment of asthma, bronchitis, viscous phlegm and other pulmonary ailments. (14,16)
Dry skin with a decreased ability to sweat.
Weak digestion and a variety of digestive problems. Lack of stomach digestive acid production (achlorhydria).
Benefits of iodine supplementation
This includes some of the benefits that I enjoyed from iodine supplementation after being severely deficient. Here at Grow Youthful I thoroughly recommend that you gain iodine sufficiency.
Feeling of well-being.
Mental clarity and lifting of brain fog. Achieving more in less time.
Feeling warmer in cold environments.
Needing less sleep.
Disappearance of muscular aches and pains.
Stronger immune system and resistance to infections.
Improved skin complexion.
Regular bowel movements.
Iodine as a chelating agent
A study showed that after starting iodine supplementation, the levels of mercury, cadmium and lead measured in the urine of test subjects increased by several fold after just 24 hours (5). For aluminium, increased levels in the urine took a month or more to appear (5). Bromine and fluorine are also excreted at high levels (7), and may result in cloudy urine for several months and body odour for one or two weeks. Bromine can take up to two years for full removal (7).
Tests for iodine deficiency
Iodine patch test. This is a quick, rough, simple, inexpensive test. Paint a 5 cm (2 inch) square of iodine tincture (such as Lugol’s solution) onto your inner arm or thigh. If the stain disappears or almost disappears:
In less than 5 hours, then you are almost certainly extremely deficient.
In less than 10 hours, then you are probably deficient.
In less than 24 hours, then you may be deficient.
remains or only slightly lightens after 24 hours then your levels are considered normal.
You can repeat this test every couple of weeks to see when your iodine dose can be reduced.
Iodine urine test. Take 4 iodine tablets (12.5 mg each) or 8 drops of Lugol’s solution in half a glass of water. You will need a laboratory or test kit to monitor the iodine in your urine during the next 24 hours. If you have sufficient iodine, 90% of the 50 mg dose will be excreted during the next 24 hours. If iodine is lacking the body retains most of it with little appearing in the urine.
Side-effects / contraindications
Research (2,3) based on the experience of several thousand patients taking a high iodine dose for up to three years, has shown that approximately 1 – 3% of them experience side-effects. The side-effects reported are:
an unpleasant brassy taste.
increased salivation and sneezing.
headache in the frontal sinus.
Insomnia. This only affects a few people. Some actually sleep better. Try not to take the iodine at night, rather, take the biggest part of the daily dose in the morning, and the remainder in the afternoon.
acne-like skin lesions.
cloudy urine and body odour are temporary effects as halogens are excreted from your body. In severe cases, the chelation of halogens, aluminium and heavy metals can make you feel ill. In this case, lower the dose.
In rare cases, often related to breast disease / cancer, breast milk can turn yellow as accumulated bromides are excreted.
The headaches and skin eruptions are probably caused by the release of stored toxins. During iodine supplementation, I recommend that you drink more water than usual to help remove the toxins being released. If any unacceptable side-effects persist, simply reduce the iodine dose you are taking.
Do not supplement with iodine if you suffer from Hashimoto’s disease or other autoimmune thyroid disorders, as additional iodine may stimulate an attack on the thyroid. Those with symptoms of hyperthyroidism should not supplement with iodine.
Iodised salt in the USA contains 100 mcg/gm. Even if you eat vast quantities of this salt, it is not nearly enough to get your iodine level back to normal or maintain a healthy level of iodine in your body. In addition, I strongly recommend that you do NOT use processed salt (supermarket salt). Sea salt is a product I recommend, but unfortunately it is not a rich source of iodine.
There are a few rich food sources of iodine, mainly foods coming from the sea. However, most fish, seafood and seaweed is not sufficient. Some seaweeds contain very little iodine, though others are high in iodine. If you want to get sufficient iodine without further supplementation, it is important to know which foods to use regularly.
The Grow Youthful Iodine eBook that has the all information on this web page, plus:
Details of the different sources of iodine, and which are the most effective, bio-available, and cheapest.
Details on which are the most cost-effective forms of iodine to supplement, how much iodine to take, and how long.
Here is a good iodine supplement:
Nascent Iodine – Australian distributor
Nascent Iodine – USA distributor
Optimal iodine absorption
If you are iodine-deficient, your body will efficiently absorb the iodine in your diet. When iodine sufficiency is reached, any excess is excreted in the urine.
There is a synergy between iodine and selenium, which means that if one consumes too little selenium, the body uses iodine inefficiently (and probably vice versa, though there is no research that has been done to show this).
Of all foods, Brazil nuts usually contain the highest level of selenium. If you eat one Brazil nut per day, you may get sufficient selenium for good health, without overdosing on barium and radium, which are also very high in Brazil nuts. (15) Other food sources of selenium include kidneys, shellfish, fish and egg yolks.
Tin, magnesium and vitamin C also assist with the absorption of iodine (8), so David Niven Miller recommends using transdermal magnesium oil and a diet high in vitamin C whilst supplementing with iodine, especially if you don’t seem to be experiencing any improvements.
Originally Published On: Growyouthful.com
1. Orthoiodosupplementation: Iodine Sufficiency Of The Whole Human Body. Abraham, G.E., Flechas, J.D., Hakala, J.C., The Original Internist, 9:30-41, 2002
2. Clinical Experience with Inorganic Non-radioactive Iodine/Iodide. Brownstein, D., The Original Internist, 12(3):105-108, 2005
3. Orthoiodosupplementation in a primary care practice. Flechas, J.D., The Original Internist, 12(2):89-96, 2005
4. Iodine Deficiency and Therapeutic Considerations. Patrick, Lyn., Alternative Medicine Review, Vol 13, No. 2, 2008
5. Iodine, The Universal Nutrient. Guy E. Abraham., 2007
6. Iodine Replacement in Fibrocystic Disease of the Breast. Ghent, W.R., Eskin, B.A., Low., D.A., et al., Can. J. Surg., 36:453-460, 1993
7. Iodine Supplementation Markedly Increases Urinary Excretion of Fluoride and Bromide. Abraham, G.E., Townsend Letter, 238:108-109, 2003
8. Evidence that the administration of Vitamin C improves a defective cellular transport mechanism for iodine: A case report. Abraham, G.E., Brownstein, D., The Original Internist, 12(3):125-130, 2005
9. The safe and effective implementation of orthoiodosupplementation in medical practice. Abraham, G.E., The Original Internist, 11:17-36, 2004
10. Iodine in Medicine and Pharmacy Since its Discovery – 1811-1961. Kelly, Francis C., Proc R Soc Med 54:831-836, 1961
11. Optimum Levels of Iodine for Greatest Mental and Physical Health. Abraham, G.E., Flechas, J.D., Hakala, J.C., The Original Internist, 9:5-20, 2002
12. The concept of orthoiodosupplementation and its clinical implications. Abraham, G.E., The Original Internist, 11(2):29-38, 2004.
13. Iodide Goiter and the Pharmacologic Effects of Excess Iodide. Wolff, J., Am. J. Med., 47:101-124, 1969
14. Intermittent therapy with potassium iodide in chronic obstructive diseases of the airways. A review of 10 years experience. Bernecker C., Acta Allergol. 1969 Sep;24(3):216-25. Article
15. Margaret P. Rayman. Food-chain selenium and human health: emphasis on intake. British Journal of Nutrition (2008), 100, 254-268. doi:10.1017/S0007114508939830.
16. C Bernecker. Potassium iodide in bronchial asthma. Br Med J. Oct 25, 1969; 4(5677): 236. PMCID: PMC1629847.
Are you iodine-deficient?