Symptoms of Iodine or thyroid deficiency
Do you have any of these symptoms? Brittle nails, cold hands and feet, cold intolerance, depression, difficulty swallowing, dry skin, dry hair or hair loss, fatigue, high cholesterol, hoarseness, infertility, lethargy, menstrual irregularities, early menopause, poor memory or concentration, slower heartbeat, throat pain, or weight gain. Or more serious diseases: thyroid dysfunction, fibrocystic breast disease, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, or prostate cancer? Does your child have any of these symptoms? Developmental delays (ADD, PDD, LD), mental retardation, or Down's Syndrome. If so, iodine deficiency or hypothyroidism could be the cause.
Symptoms of thyroid excess
Symptoms of hyper-thyroid (levels that are too high) include: racing pulse, heart palpitations, and Graves Disease. Graves Disease is an autoimmune condition that reflects toxemia, where a foreign substance binds to TSH receptors, causing the body to make higher and higher amounts of thyroid hormones. It can become life threatening.
The 4 functions of Iodine
1. Thyroid, metabolism & weight
Iodine is the key to a healthy thyroid and metabolism. It is best known for being a part of thyroid hormones, which are used in every cell of our bodies to regulate metabolism and weight by controlling the burning of fat for energy and heat. Over 100 years ago iodine was shown to prevent and reverse goiter (swelling of the thyroid) and hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency may also be involved in autoimmune disorders such as Grave's and Hashimoto's diseases; as studies have shown iodine-deficient patients have a higher rate of anti-thyroid antibodies.
Thyroid hormones are required for growth and development of children.
Iodine also controls metabolism in other ways. It is important for the other endocrine glands: the adrenals, pituitary, gonads (sex glands), pancreas, pineal and thymus. Iodine is also involved in digestion, and is concentrated in the salivary glands and gastric mucosa. It has also been associated with: excess mucus production, fatigue, hemorrhoids, headaches, keloid scarring, and migraine headaches.
There is an epidemic of obesity and overweight people in this country. And no wonder! Iodine is crucial for metabolism and weight loss. Iodine stores in fat cells. Toxic halogens can also store in fat cells, blocking the release of fat and blocking weight loss. Low thyroid has long been associated with modest weight gain. But patients with low iodine levels AND accumulation of toxic halogens are showing a disturbing trend of being unable to lose weight beyond a certain plateau. By some estimates 50% to 60% of our population is now considered obese. The best therapy in most cases is brief high-dose iodine (12.5 mg/day) combined with L-Tyrosine (1000 mg/day) to make more thyroid hormones. Also essential are dry-heat or far infra-red saunas for detoxification of other halogens, 25% calorie reduction, and consistent exercise.
2. Mental development vs retardation
The World Health Organization (WHO) has related iodine deficiency to mental retardation, cretinism, increased child and infant mortality, infertility, and socioeconomic decline -- and more recently developmental delays (ADD, PDD, LD). Iodine and thyroid hormones stimulate the development of the brain and nerves. Hence it is important for intelligence and memory. It was shown to make a difference of 13.5 points on IQ tests between iodine deficient and iodine sufficient areas. Iodine is crucial to brain development, and is concentrated in the brain, cerebrospinal fluid, and the eye, as well as the substantia nigra of the brain (an area associated with Parkinson's Disease). High amounts of iodine are excreted in breast milk to help develop a baby's growing brain and nervous system. Some evolutionary biologists believe iodine and eating seafood played an important role in human brain development and evolution.
The World Health Organization has also related iodine deficiency to infertility. Iodine is most important for women, because it is most highly concentrated in the thyroid, breasts and ovaries. Iodine deficiency can lead to menstrual irregularities, infertility, early menopause, and ovarian diseases. But it is still vital for men, especially for the prostate.
4. Enhanced immune function
Iodine is now known to play an essential role in immune function. It has potent anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-viral, and anti-cancer activity. For centuries it has been used topically to kill bacteria. Until recently it was the leading anti-parasitic drug (yodoxin or iododoxin). High-dose iodine has been shown to kill breast and thyroid cancer cells (induce selective apoptosis). It is also a potent antioxidant. More recently, iodine deficiency has been related to: thyroid cancer, fibrocystic breast disease, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, and prostate cancer. In the 1960's when iodine intake was higher (and toxic halogens lower) the risk for breast cancer was 1 in 20; today it is 1 in 8 and increasing by 1% per year! Iodine deficiency has also been associated with the following: parotid duct stones, sebaceous cysts, and vaginal infections.
Causes of Iodine deficiencies
Why are Iodine levels so low?
According to the NHANES data iodine levels in the USA have fallen by about 50% over the last 30 years. Why? There are many reasons. According to the World Health Organization, about one-third of the world's population live in Iodine deficient areas, which affects 129 countries. This is because most of the iodine resides in the sea and seashores, while most inland areas are iodine deficient. Other contributing factors include: diets low in fish, shellfish or seaweed, vegan or vegetarian diets, poor availability of iodine in salt, poor farming techniques, avoidance of salt due to fear of high blood pressure, the ingestion of toxic halogens, and the use of radioactive iodine in many medical procedures (which competes with natural iodine). In addition, past sources of iodine in food have been removed. For example: Iodide was used as a dough conditioner in baked goods from the 1960's to the 1980's, but has since been replaced with bromide (a toxic halogen). But no longer.
The reason is "THE WOLFF-CHAIKOFF EFFECT", which has been a disaster for iodine. This experiment led to a fear of iodine, and iodine being removed from the American food supply for over 30 years! This paper has been quoted by many, but understood by few. It was misinterpreted, and used to describe a case of hypothyroidism caused by excessive iodine intake. In fact: toxic radioactive iodine was injected intravenously. It had nothing to do with food or supplement iodine intake. And it cannot explain why high intake of natural iodine does not cause the same effect.
New Iodine lab tests
Doctors Data Laboratories now offers 2 new Iodine/Iodide tests: TEST 1: An Iodine loading test: a 24-hour urine test after specific Iodine ingestion. The loading test tells how much Iodine you have retained and excreted. Healthy people retain only 10% and excrete 90%. Currently the average American retains 56% and excretes only 44% -- a sign of severe deficiencies. TEST 2: An Iodine loading test which measures iodine plus fluoride and bromide.
How much Iodine we need?
The French were the first to use iodine to treat goiter in the early 1800's. There are two forms: iodine and iodide, each used by certain tissues in the body. The thyroid mainly uses iodide. Dr. Lugol employed 5% iodine and 10% potassium iodide in water to increase solubility. Just two drops of Lugol's solution supplied 12.5 mg of iodine/iodide daily. This was widely available at apothecaries, and was used to treat goiter, infections, and many other symptoms.
The Japanese have had a high iodine intake for millennia, primarily due to seaweed and seafood. They also add iodine to their eggs through the chicken feed. Their average daily iodine intake is 13.8 mg (about 100 times the U.S. RDA). They have remarkably lower rates of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer, and significantly lower rates of fibrocystic breast disease and prostate cancer. They also have low rates of obesity, and are noted for their academic achievements.
In the USA from the early 1800's to the mid 1900's we had a much higher iodine intake than we do today, especially near the coasts. The National Institutes of Health reported that the average iodine intake in the 1960's from bakery products alone was 726 mcg/day. Today it is zero. This did not even include seafood.
Today the RDA for iodine in the USA is only 150 mcg/day, 220 mcg during pregnancy, and 290 mcg during lactation. This is the bare minimum needed to prevent goiter, extreme stupidity, and hypothyroidism; but it is not enough to supply the body's total needs - nor to prevent cancers. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine (June 29, 2006) claims that iodine deficiency is still widespread, and argues for an increase to at least 300-400 mcg/day. Too conservative, but moving in the right direction!
So how much iodine do we really need? A lot more than the U.S. RDA. But how much? The maximum amount is simple to calculate based on Dr. Abraham's extensive research. This shows that with an iodine-loading test of 50 mg in 24 hours, healthy iodine-sufficient subjects excrete 90% and retain 10%. 10% of 50 mg = 5 mg; this is the maximum amount the body can use each day for saturation of iodine receptors. However, in clinical practice, once iodine stores are re-pleated the body needs less, about half this amount (1-3 mg/day as a maintenance dose). Women need more than men. Other recommendations of 12.5 mg/day are based on French and Japanese traditions, but only demonstrate dose tolerance.
Foods rich in Iodine
The foods richest in iodine are: seaweed, seafood (shrimp, cod, sea bass, haddock, and perch) and iodized salt. In the USA and other countries iodine has been added to salt since the 1920's to prevent goiter; but research shows that iodine in salt is only about 10% bioavailable. Iodized salt prevents most goiter, but is not sufficient to supply the rest of the body's needs. A better approach is to add iodine to bread, as was done in the past, because studies show it is 10 times more bioavailable than salt. A single slice of bread once supplied 150 mcg - one day's RDA.
Potent Iodine supplements
"Iodoral" is a high-potency tablet of 12.5 mg (5 mg Iodine + 7.5 mg Potassium Iodide). This is about the current average daily intake of Iodine from food in Japan, and the same as Lugol's Solution. This is also available in a 6.25 mg dose from ProThera. Commercially available Iodine supplements are typically only 225 mcg, which supplement a USA daily iodine intake from food of only 100-150 mcg/day. Initial therapeutic dosage for Iodine deficiency for the first month is 12.5 mg/day. This is followed by a lower maintenance dose of 1 - 3 mg / day.
Can excess Iodine be harmful?
Natural iodine is essential to life. True allergies are extremely rare, but can occur, and can cause a life-threatening IgE immune response with hives and anaphylactic shock. Toxic amounts of iodine usually cause an IgD immune response along with toxic symptoms, including: acne, rashes, diarrhea, fever, headache, increased salivation, metallic taste in mouth, nausea, and sneezing. But some reactions to high iodine intake are likely due to the forced excretion of toxic halides, such as bromide, fluoride and perchlorate. Higher iodine doses tend to elevate TSH scores (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and cholesterol, and lower T3 and T4 scores (Tri-iodothyronine and thyroxine). But as the iodine dose is reduced T3 and T4 normalize at the mid-range, cholesterol declines, while TSH may remain slightly elevated. [Or do current American TSH ranges actually reflect an iodine deficient state?] As you can see, symptoms can result from excess iodine intake; so do not exceed the recommended therapeutic or maintenance doses.
Comment: Dr. Brownstein's research suggests that an elevated TSH goes back to normal after 6 months on iodine therapy. TSH regulates the sodium-iodide symporter which promotes iodine uptake by the thyroid gland. In some people who are iodine deficient, TSH rises to up-regulate this symporter.
Harmful sources of iodine
Radioactive iodine is used in medical testing and therapy procedures, and can be especially dangerous if natural iodine stores are low. It is also released by nuclear power plant contamination. These can lead to thyroid cancers and other rare cancers. Other organic iodine compounds are used in certain drugs and radiographic contrast media.
The toxic halogens
Halogens are a class of related elements that include iodine, bromine, fluorine and chlorine. When they are chemically "reduced" they become "halides": iodide, bromide, fluoride, and chloride. These are the forms we usually encounter in foods, medications and the environment. While iodine and chloride are beneficial in small amounts, the others are toxic. They can bind to iodine receptors, block the action of iodide and thyroid hormones, and cause many severe diseases.
Toxic halides excrete very slowly from the body, because there is no known liver detoxification pathway for them. But excretion can be increased with the following: high-dose iodine, high-dose vitamin C (which aids detoxification), unrefined sea salt (which substitutes chloride for bromide), Epsom salts baths, and sweating in a dry heat far infrared sauna.
BROMIDE / BROMINE
Bromine is a poison, and has no place in human consumption. As a gas it is used to tent your house and kill termites! Bromine is close in size to iodine, and can bind to iodide receptors blocking their function. Bromide has been substituted for iodide in many foods, medications and the environment - despite the fact that it is a pesticide. It has replaced iodide in all bakery products, reducing our iodide intake by 726 mcg/day.
The ingestion of bromide (or breathing bromine gas) in an iodine-deficient state will further exacerbate thyroid illness. Bromine intoxication symptoms include: feeling dull, apathetic, depressed, irritable, and headachy, plus hypothyroidism. Severe reactions include: delirium, psychomotor retardation, schizophrenia, and hallucination. Bromide also binds to and damages the iodide transporter (sodium-iodide symporter -- SIS).
SOURCES OF BROMIDE: MEDICATIONS: Atrovent inhaler, Atrovent nasal spray, Ipratroplum nasal spray, Spiriva handhaler, Pro-Panthine, Pyridostigmine bromide, anesthesias. FOODS: All bakery products with bromated wheat flour, Mountain Dew, AMP energy drink, Gatorade - citrus. OTHER (bromine gas): Some pools & hot tubs, fumigants for termites, and other pesticides.
FLUORIDE / FLUORINE
Fluoride is a known toxin, and can be lethal. Fluoride has been added to the USA drinking water for over 50 years. This is despite the fact that a New Zealand study found no difference in tooth decay between fluoridated and non-fluoridated water areas. Many European countries have stopped fluoridating. Fluoridation has been linked to dental fluorosis (tooth discoloration), hip fractures, bone cancer, lowered intelligence, and kidney toxicity, plus a cause of goiter in dogs. Fluoride is more toxic when there is an iodide deficiency.
SOURCES OF FLUORIDE: MEDICATIONS (removed from market): Astemizole, Baycol, FenPhen, Omniflax, Posicor, Propulsid. OTHER: Fluoridated tooth paste, dental tablets, public drinking water. OTHER: Fluorine gas as propellants in spray cans, and in the ozone layer.
CHLORIDE / CHLORINE
Chloride is an important element in the extracellular fluid and in stomach acid. But in large amounts it is toxic, and (with its byproducts) has been linked to: birth defects, cancer, reproductive disorders, stillbirth, and immune system breakdown. Excess sodium-chloride (table salt) competes with iodide, and was shown to cause hypothyroidism in China.
SOURCES OF CHLORIDE: FOODS: Salt, public drinking water, Sucralose or Splenda (chlorinated table sugar). OTHER: Chlorine gas in dish washer steam, hot tubs, swimming pools, propellants in spray cans, and the ozone layer.
Perchlorate is one atom of chlorine surrounded by 4 atoms of oxygen. It is a toxin. It can displace iodide in the body and damage iodide transporters. It can cause: hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, goiter, breast disease, disruption of the menstrual cycle, immune system dysfunction, poor fetal development, and mental retardation of newborns.
Perchlorate is found naturally in the environment and can be manmade. It has become a major contaminant of ground water in 43 states. The entire lower Colorado River is contaminated with perchlorate, affecting 20 million people.
SOURCES OF PERCHLORATE: FOODS: Public drinking water, cow milk, human milk, lettuce (fall & winter in the SW USA). OTHER: Car air bags, leather tanning, fireworks, and rocket fuel.
The dedoxbox sauna: Detoxify halogens & other chemicals
In America beneficial iodine has been replaced in our food supply, water supply, medications, and environment by toxic "Halogens" over the last 30 - 60 years. Toxic halogens are chemically related to Iodine, and include: Bromine, Fluorine, Chlorine and Perchlorate. They block iodine receptors in our bodies, and lead to cancers, thyroid disease, and obesity, plus learning disabilities and mental retardation in children. There is no known liver detoxification pathway to excrete them. They are stored in body fat, and prevent weight-loss. The only way to remove them is high iodine and vitamin C intake along with sweating. The best way to sweat out toxins is to use dry heat sauna with beneficial Far Infrared light/heat. These are available as small portable units for one person or larger wood-&-glass structures. Or you can use your local gym's sauna.
1. Brownstein, D., Iodine: Why You Need It: Why You Can't Live Without It, Medical Alternatives Press, West Bloomfield, Michigan, 2006.
2.Beck, L., The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Seminar Manual, 2006.
3. Iodine Nutrition - More Is Better, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol 354: pages2819-2821; June 29, 2006.
4. Pelletier C., Doucet E., Imbeault P., Tremblay A., Associations between weight loss-induced changes in plasma organochlorine concentrations, serum T3 concentration, and resting metabolic rate, Toxicol Sci., 67 (1): 46-51, May 2002.
5. Abraham,G.E., The Original Internist, 11:17-36, 2004.
6. Abraham, G.E., Flechas, J.D., Hakala, J.C., The Original Internist, 9:30-41, 2002.
7. Abraham, G.E., The Original Internist, 11:(2) 29-38, 2004.
8. Abraham, G.E. Townsend Letter, 245:100-101, 2003.
9. Abraham, G.E., Flechas, J.D., Hakala, J.C., The Original Internist, 9:5-20, 2002.
10.Abraham, G.E., additional articles in The Original Internist, 2003 - 2008