Why and how much iodine do you need?
Iodine is a trace mineral that is essential for health. Iodine plays an important role in ensuring proper thyroid gland functioning. It plays a pivotal role in manufacturing the thyroid hormones, Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). (1)
What is less well known according to Dr. Arlan Cage, a naturopath with 20 years of clinical practice in gynecology specializing in endocrines, iodine is a mineral that is required for every hormone cell receptor to properly function. If one is deficient in iodine, the hormones will be very poorly absorbed which aggravates the already imbalance hormone state.
Iodine also helps prevent fibrocystic breast disease, a condition when breast swell causing pain.
Iodine helps strengthen the immune system and prevents miscarriages.
Dr. Flechas has discovered that diabetics who have insulin resistance diabetes (Type II diabetics who take insulin), and who take iodine, need less insulin. He feels this is because every hormone receptor in the body needs iodine to function normally.
Dr. Craig Kraffert explains iodine’s role in skin health: “Iodine aids in healing skin infections by increasing oxygen consumption and the metabolic rate of the skin. Iodine also prevents rough skin from developing and prevents premature aging.”
It is used as a disinfectant and used in water purification systems because it deactivates bacteria.
Iodine is highly bioavailable. It is absorbed in the small intestine and to a lesser extent, the stomach. Once in the blood, iodine is rapidly taken up by the thyroid gland and incorporated into the thyroid hormones. Its uptake by the thyroid gland is regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), produced by the pituitary gland located directly beneath the brain. (2)
Regulates and influences Thyroid Hormones for
- energy metabolism
- the immune system
- the neural development
Iodine helps regulate thyroid hormones. Without sufficient iodine, your body is unable to synthesize these hormones. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism in every cell of the body and play a role in virtually all physiological function.
In addition, iodine supplements are used in the event of a nuclear accident to prevent the absorption of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland protecting against thyroid damage and possibly thyroid cancer.
Your thyroid gland uses iodine to make hormones, so it tends to concentrate iodine whenever it is introduced into your body. One substance released during nuclear accidents like the one in Japan is radioactive iodine called I-131. Your thyroid can’t distinguish between natural iodine and I-131, so if you were to be exposed to nuclear radiation your thyroid could potentially stockpile enough I-131 to lead to cancer some years later.
The thyroid is particularly good at absorbing iodine, but if it is already saturated with iodine say from potassium iodide tablets or naturally occurring sources, it is less likely to absorb the damaged I-131. That is why the Japanese government issued potassium iodide after the Fukushima accident, and it also explains why so many people the world over are suddenly interested in the supplement today.
The trace amount of iodine found in sea salt is not sufficient to saturate thyroid tissue with natural iodine and prevent the absorption of I-131. In fact, even artificially iodized table salt would be insufficient–you would have to eat so much you’d be sick.
Signs of not consuming enough iodine
- Goiter (enlargement of thyroid gland)
- Weight Gain
- Cretinism (fetal iodine deficiency)
When there is iodine deficiency, low levels of T3 and T4 signal the pituitary gland to release more TSH in order to increase their production. Stimulation of the thyroid gland by high level of TSH causes the thyroid gland to become enlarged causing goiter. Typically you will see weight troubles, eyebrow or body hair loss, low thyroid hormone or TSH levels in the blood than goiter. (2)
How much iodine is recommended?
First let’s take a look at how many micrograms are in a milligram. A microgram is 1/1000th of a milligram. Micrograms per day is abbreviated mcg/d or ug/d.
1000 milligrams (mg)=1 gram
1000 micrograms (mcg)=1 milligram
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) and The Suggested Optimal Daily Nutritional Allowances (SONA) for iodine is between 110 mcg to 290 mcg depending on age and circumstance.
The Suggested Optimal Daily Nutritional Allowances (SONA) for iodine intake is in line with RDA’s recommendations.
According to Institute of Medicine, the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for iodine vary from 900 mcg to 1100 mcg of iodine per day depending on age and circumstance.
To confuse the matter, the American Thyroid Association (ATA) advises against the ingestion of iodine or kelp supplements containing in excess of 500 mcg iodine daily, and noted that ingesting more than 1,100 mcg of iodine per day (the tolerable upper limit) may cause thyroid dysfunction. (3)
Pioneers like Dr. Brownstein, a Board-Certified family physician and the Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Michigan, recommend iodine in doses ranging from 6-50mg/day (in Milligrams not micrograms) is adequate to provide iodine for the vast majority of the population.
Here is a list of doctors who are leading the revival of iodine include:
- Dr. Guy Abraham
- Dr. Bernard A. Eskin
- Dr. David Brownstein
- Dr. Jorge Flechas
- Dr.William Shevin
- Dr. Jonathan Wright
- Dr. Donald W. Miller
- Dr. David Derry
Who should we trust?
The most important thing to remember is that we need to be the keeper of our own temple. We are all unique biochemically. We all respond differently to everything we eat including those nutrients that are super important to us.
Why is Dosage Recommendation so Low?
A lot of these low recommendations are based on the flawed The Wolff–Chaikoff effect. So many reasons why that is flawed.
In 1948, Wolff and Chaikoff published a landmark paper, on the thyroid effect of increasing amounts of iodide (Potassium salt), injected intraperitoneally in rats. The W-C Effect was extrapolated to humans, without supporting data reproducing this effect in vivo by either oral ingestion of equivalent amounts of iodide, based on body weight and given daily over a long period of time; or by keeping PII levels above 20% using sufficient amounts of iodide orally to produce those levels. In 1948, there was already evidence that the W-C Effect did not occur in humans.
As Dr. Guy Abraham notes “in Japan, where the incidence of breast cancer and infant death (infant mortality) is very low, people consume about 13.8 milligrams of iodine per day. In the United States, the government’s Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for iodine is 150 micrograms per day. If the Japanese average daily intake of iodine is con- verted to micrograms, the number would be 13,800 micrograms.”
As Dr. Mercola states “An experiment was done that resulted in a case of hypothyroidism, which researchers misinterpreted as being caused by excessive iodine intake. However, the individual was given intravenous radioactive iodine — which is toxic. It had nothing to do with food or supplement iodine intake, and the two are completely different.”
Interestingly, Dr. Mercola’s recommendation is on a very low side. Perhaps he is catering to the population who have autoimmune disorders who can’t handle too much iodine.
Just think how healthy our population would be if the average consumption of iodine/iodide by supplementation was in the range consumed by mainland Japanese.
Signs of overconsumption of iodine
It is difficult to take in too much iodine from food sources alone. However, in certain circumstances, excessive consumption of iodine can actually inhibit the synthesis of thyroid hormone leading to goiter or hypothyroidism. Overconsumption of iodine could also lead to hyperthyroidism, thyroid papillary cancer, and/or iodemia which is a serious skin reaction. Individuals with Grave’s disease or Hashimoto’s which are both autoimmune thyroid disease may be susceptible to the negative side effects of excessive iodine consumptions.
According to Dr. Guy Abraham, out of 5000 patients tested, 95% of the population is deficient in the form of iodine.
As Dr. David Brownstein points out in his book, “Iodine,WhyYou Need It,WhyYou Can’t LiveWithout It”, Iodine Levels Have Dropped By 50% in the U.S.
Reaction to Iodine
A very small number of people are sensitive to iodine and may break out with hives when they consume iodine. In his 30 years of practice, Dr. Jonathan Wright says he’s only seen an iodine allergy a few times. He says that it causes a red, bumpy skin rash that goes away when iodine is discontinued, and that a topical (on the skin’s surface) iodine allergy is almost never a serious emergency. He says that SSKI or iodine can occasionally cause acne, that also goes away once the source of iodine is discontinued.
Dr. Wright thinks that iodine allergy is usually an allergy to seafood. Wright explains that an iodine allergy, that can interfere with breathing and occasionally send people to the emergency room, is usually not allergy to iodine or iodine molecules, but instead to a much larger, possibly iodine-containing molecule found in lobster, crab, clams and other shelfish. These molecules are not present in SSKI or iodine.
Dr. Janet Lang explains that magnesium and selenium are two keys to minimizing reactions to iodine. Scientists have recently discovered that there is a relationship between iodine and selenium. Similar to Dr. Jonathan Wright, she emphasizes that an allergy to iodine is often an allergy to seafood, and not iodine. The iodine reactions that she lists in her paper include:
- Hyperthyroid Response. Hyper or over reactive thyroid is characterized by trembling of the hands, fast heart rate, and nervousness. Dr. Lang explains that this condition can occur in people with thyroid nodules (diagnosed with ultrasound). This group can take iodine, but slowly, and should be monitored.
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This condition is considered to be an autoimmune disease where the body’s own antibodies attack the cells of the thyroid. Dr. Lang explains that these patients are usually iodine de cient, and that the iodine can intensify the thyroid gland dysfunction.This group should be monitored with frequent thyroid tests (a thyroid panel).
- Iodism. This rare condition is considered to be iodine poisoning that includes increased salivation, fever, swelling and tenderness of the salivary glands, and a skin rash.
- Detoxification. Detoxification symptoms that occur from iodine supplementation include fatigue, aches, pains and headaches that are often from halogen excretion.
However, if there’s any suspicion at all of iodine allergy, it’s best not to swallow any without testing for allergy or sensitivity. It also goes without saying that it is important to consult with your general practitioner to meet the your biochemical individual needs.
- Sea vegetables
- Cow’s milk
Ocean fish tend to have high amounts of iodine because they concentrate the iodine from sea water into their tissues. (2)
What about salt?
About half the salt that American put on their food is iodized. Kosher and sea salt are not iodine fortified. (2)
Careful attention needs to be paid to salt. Not all salt is created equal. And just because it is iodized doesn’t make it safe to consume.
One note of caution. Don’t go to the store and pick up that container with the little girl in the yellow dress holding the purple umbrella. Iodized table salt may have a high amount of iodine, but it’s chock full of chemicals.
Processed table salt is missing over 80 minerals. But only ONE mineral is added back in — iodine. That’s because iodine is the one mineral that causes the most obvious disease (goiter is sort of hard to not notice).
Healthy sea salts (Himalayan, Celtic or Real Salt) are never adulterated like regular table salt, so they retain healthy minerals like copper, iodine, potassium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, iron and others.
Table salt is so refined that I consider it a food additive because certain brands look virtually like the same industrial chemical used to de-ice highways. Sea salt, on the other hand, is not synthesized in a lab. It is essentially water from a sea (or river) that gets evaporated and purified. This type of dried sea salt fully retains healthy minerals that you need for your very survival, and for normal thyroid, muscle, heart and pancreatic function. These types of salts usually won’t raise your blood pressure to the extent that table salt will. Again, keep in mind that we are biochemically individual meaning that we are all unique. A nutrient may be good for one person but not for another. 30% of the population may be salt sensitive.
Also, Iodized salt and the iodine supplements usually found in health food stores contain the iodide form of iodine, but Dr. Brownstein, one of the world’s iodine experts has had little success treating patients with only iodide.
Sea salt does contain naturally-occurring iodine, but not enough to satisfy the recommended daily allowance of 150 micrograms. Because nature intended salt to provide our bodies with sodium chloride and trace minerals! Get naturally occurring iodine from other delicious sources like kelp, sea vegetable, yogurt, eggs, and mozzarella cheese.
How to Test your Iodine Levels
Iodine/Iodide intake has decreased significantly over the past thirty years and consequentially clinical symptoms have become apparent. Iodine/Iodide sufficiency can be readily assessed by analysis of urinary iodide excretion.
Iodine Challenge Test: To test for iodine deficiency, ask your health care provider about the urine iodine challenge test.
SSKI: Another simple way to ensure you’re getting enough iodine is to get an inexpensive prescription from your physician for SSKI, which is a super-saturated potassium iodine. You simply apply three drops to your skin and rub it in, once a day. If when you touch something with slightly wet fingertips it leaves a yellowish stain, then the iodine is coming out of your skin, indicating your body is saturated, i.e. you’re getting enough iodine.
Forms of Iodine
There are several different forms of iodine and it is helpful to understand how they differ.
- Iodine (or di-atomic iodine) refers to two iodine molecules that are chemically bound together (I2).
- Iodine salts are formed when iodine combines with another element, most commonly, potassium or sodium:
- KI (potassium iodide) and NaI (sodium iodide)
- SSKI refers to Saturated Solution Potassium Iodide. This colorless solution contains potassium iodide but no iodine.
- Lugol’s Solution is a solution of iodine, potassium iodide and water, developed in 1829 by a French physician named Jean Lugol. Lugos (bad taste. Absorption is poor due to rapid conversion of iodine to iodide [ii] and this might explain why one needs to take very high doses of Iodoral or Lugol’s compared to nascent iodine, which seems to bypass the digestive track
- Nascent iodine which seems to bypass the digestive track
- Povidone-iodine (Betadine) is a solution of poly- vinylpyrrolidone and iodine used as an topical anti- bacterial agent (e.g. as a surgical scrub).
- iodoral (contains both iodine and iodide).
Adequate form and dosage is important. Our body needs Iodine and potassium iodide. Iodoral brand made 30 years ago. Was a tablet in Lugal’s iodine solution (Lugal’s was the standards form). In 25% of people, it caused stomach upset. Iodoral started putting it in time release tablet to eliminate the stomach upset that lugal’s caused.
Food and toxins that deplete iodine
- Goitrogens can inhibit iodine utilization in situations of very low iodine intake or in people who have thyroid dysfunction. They are found in cassava (a root eaten worldwide), soybeans, peanuts and millet, and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. While overconsumption of these foods may reduce the amount of available iodine for the manufacture of thyroid hormones, cooking them (like steaming the broccoli) may partly offset this effect by deactivating the goitrogenic substances.
- Fluorides (artificial fluoride added to municipal water systems) have been shown in studies to decrease the iodine levels. Fluoride exposure aggravates the impact of iodine deficiency which can lead to: Lower IQ, dental fluorosis, thyroid disease.
- Bromite (found in our food supply, particularly in products made from brominated flour such as bread, pasta, and cereal) produces brominated halogen which binds to iodine and leaches it out.
- Chlorine derivative-pesticides
According to RDA and SONA, based on my age and gender, I need 150 mcg/day of iodine.
Many of the food rich in iodine provide a few micrograms of this nutrient and I would have to eat a whole lot of those ingredients to meet the recommended amount.
The following is the amount of micrograms I received from the kind of foods I ate during that one day of analysis.
1 cup of Yogurt gave me 35 mcg
2 eggs gave me 47 mcg
3 scallops gave me 135 mcg
½ teaspoon of sea vegetable in my miso soup gave me 325 mcg of iodine!!!!
The sea vegetables, the mere ½ teaspoon of it, accounted for about 60% of my iodine intake that day.
Even if I ate more than what is RDA’s recommended amount, I wasn’t worried about overdosing on iodine because I consumed this form of iodine in a whole food form and I do not have thyroid issues.
Here is an easy to make, delicious Miso recipe. Remember that the Japanese eat this food on a daily basis. I understand why now.
One thing is for certain. Iodine is a vitally important nutrient that is detected in every organ and tissue; iodine is a mineral that is required for every hormone cell receptor to properly function. It is necessary for proper thyroid function to mitigate diseases ranging from hormonal imbalance, fibromyalgia to cancer.
If one is deficient in iodine, the hormones will be very poorly absorbed which aggravates the already imbalance hormone state.
Ideally, iodine rich foods like toxin-free sea vegetables, spirulina (harvested from uncontaminated waters), raw milk and eggs should be added to your diet.
Here are some additional strategies you can implement to help optimize your iodine levels naturally:
- Eat organic as often as possible. Wash all produce thoroughly to minimize your pesticide exposure.
- Use glass and safe ceramic food containers (for storing food and water in). Avoid plastic containers.
- Look for organic unbleached whole-grain stone ground breads and flour. Grind you own grain, if possible. Look for the “no bromine” or “bromine-free” label on commercial baked goods.
- Avoid sodas. Drink clean and pure water instead. I recommend this water purification system.
- If you own a hot tub, look into an ozone purification system. Such systems make it possible to keep the water clean with minimal chemical treatments.
- Use toxic and chemical free personal care products. What you put on your body enters into your body.
First line of defense is optimizing your levels of nutrients through nutrient dense whole foods. This may not always be possible.
Because our soils are so depleted from modern agricultural practices and because we are bombarded by so much more toxins (environmental toxins, ultra refined foods, Electro Magnetic Fields, GMOs, pesticides, chemtrails etc) than our ancestors were, iodine is a nutrient that we may not get enough of it from food source and may need in a supplement form to make sure we get enough of it.
There is so much confusion about dosage from RDA (recommended dietary allowance) (110 mcg/day), institute of Medicine (900-1100 mcg /day), SONA (suggested optimal daily nutritional allowance (same as RDA s recommendation). American Thyroid Association advises against ingesting anything above 500 mcg iodine daily.
Dosage recommendations for iodine are all over the map… from very low dosages (ex. 150 micrograms/day) to very high (ex. 12.5 milligrams per day). These are very extreme differences.
For dosage that works with your body (high dosage or not), work closely with your physician to determine what’s prudent based on your individual case and needs.
Please comment below and let me know if this article was helpful. Your feedback is super important to me.
Disclaimer: Any advice given should never be used as a substitute for the medical advice from your own doctor. Always consult your own health care practitioner or General Practitioner (GP) if you are concerned about your health.
- Mateljan, George. “Part 7.” The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating. Seattle, WA: George Mateljan Foundation, 2006. 760-61
- McGuire, Michelle, and Kathy A. Beerman. “10.” Nutritional Sciences: From Fundamentals to Food. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. 567-70.U
Disclaimer: I used to have a disclaimer that said “consult with your physician”. I now stand firmly behind on inviting you to consult with your inner healer to ensure you are making informed choices right for your body.
Why give management of your health to those who benefit from you being sick?!?
Try practicing and living in accordance with the 7 Natural Laws. Most likely most of your imbalances will get resolved. If there are any remaining issues that simply need additional help, then consult with a functional doctor who truly practices holistically not just masking the symptoms with herbs or homeopathy.
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