In the U.S. iodine was added to commercial salt products to address deficiency concerns, however many now avoid this unhealthy commercial product. To get an optimal dose of iodine from iodized salt you would need to take in several teaspoons a day which is not feasible. The elimination of iodine from bread, dairy products and other commercial foods over the last two decades has further kindled the iodine deficit.
The addition of bromine in place of iodine in food preparation even furthers the problem because bromine appears as iodine to the thyroid. When the thyroid absorbs bromine its uptake of iodine is inhibited. In addition to bromine other foods which slightly inhibit iodine absorption include: soy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage.
Health concerns related to iodine deficiency include: thyroid problems (both hyper and hypo), fibrocystic breast, cysts, uterine fibroids, plaque in blood vessels, Parkinson’s disease, Duputyren’s contracture, developmental brain disorders including attention deficit disorder, prostate and breast cancer. Breast cancer has risen from 1 in 20 in the 1960’s to 1 in 8 now, increasing by about 1% each year.
This is not the case in Japan where breast cancer rates until recently were the lowest of any industrialized country, and life span the longest of any industrialized country. It seems that breast ductal cells, the ones most likely to become cancerous, need iodine for optimal health just as the thyroid needs iodine for proper hormonal production. Over the last 30 years we’ve learned that iodine is essential for the optimal function of every organ and hormone secreting gland in the body.
While many think of iodine as an antiseptic, it has another important characteristic: it is a potent antioxidant. Studies now indicate that iodine has an anti-cancer effect in other areas of the body aside from breast cancer. It has the ability to help remove heavy metals from the body, including lead, mercury and aluminum, as well as reducing autoimmune reactions while strengthening the immune system. Some with blood sugar disorders such as diabetes have found improvement or resolution once iodine deficiency was corrected.
Identifying the Need for Supplementation
The first step in identifying iodine deficiency is to test. I use the “24 hour urine loading test”. After swallowing 20mg – 40mg of an iodine-iodide mix all urine is collected over the next 24 hours. If, for example, one passes less than 90% of iodine into the urine during 24 hours, he or she is deficient and would benefit from supplementation. With some of my patients I have chosen to go ahead and supplement without testing, but will do so later in the program to monitor their status
Food Sources of Iodine
Ocean going fish as a source of iodine must be limited because of mercury problems. Brown and red seaweeds contain the most iodine (kombu, fucus, etc.). Most individuals will still need supplemental iodine to get an adequate quantity.
What is the Best Form for Supplementation
I generally avoid administration of liquid iodine solution because it will stain if spilled, has an unpleasant taste and may cause gastric discomfort. For my patients I prefer a tablet form consisting of 7.5 mg of potassium iodide and 5.0 mg of iodine which is more precise and easy to ingest.
Dosage varies with the individual, with typical daily dosing of 12.5 mg, up to 50 mg daily for several months if testing indicates very low stores. For anyone apprehensive about this dose, remember that this is still well within the daily dietary range of those living in Japan.
All nutrients work best when they can work together coming from a healthy balanced diet. Three nutrients that are of particular importance when it comes to iodine are: selenium, magnesium and omega 3. A good multiple vitamin and mineral with some hemp oil or fish oil will suffice.
Allergic Reactions or Side Effects
Allergic or adverse reactions to iodine are essentially non-existent at the suggested doses in this article. Iodine side effects are not so much due to iodine itself, but result from rapid mobilization of stored heavy metals such as bromides, chlorine and fluoride. These metals also compete with iodine for absorption. That’s why it is important to increase iodine intake slowly over time to avoid this negative reaction, and to test periodically to ensure proper dose.
I believe that the majority of Americans are deficient in iodine, an essential nutrient for optimal health. Dietary sources of iodine are limited. Testing for adults is advised if taking more then 10-12 mg daily.
I hope you have enjoyed this month’s health newsletter. Comments are always welcome.
Jon Dunn, ND