You’re probably iodine deficient because most people reading this will be American, and most Americans are iodine deficient. Whether it will cause out-and-out disease in your body depends on whether you have any physical “weak links”, so to speak.
I have a history of “hot” thyroid nodules – nodules that spew thyroid hormone without regard for what my body needs, making me hyperthyroid. I had a partial thyroidectomy when I was 19, and most of my thyroid was removed. My doctor told me to take synthroid for the rest of my life to suppress my thyroid activity, but I didn’t and I was fine for many years. But recently the nodules recurred.
The problem was caught in a blood test. Again my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was very low, indicating that my body somehow already had enough hormone – i.e., nodules again. It occurred to me that I had recently switched from regular, iodized salt to sea salt, which is not fortified with iodine. So I did a google search to see if iodine deficiency could cause hot thyroid nodules. The answer was yes, so I then researched supplements. After taking a high dose supplement (details below) for about a month, two miraculous things happened:
- My thyroid nodules went away and my thyroid levels returned to normal.
- My ulcerative colitis went into complete remission for the first time in 10 years. (HUH?!?!)
It turned out that my two assumed-to-be-unrelated conditions were actually related – to an iodine deficit. Iodine is heavily absorbed in the bowel, as well as the thyroid (and a few other areas, notably breast tissue). Both thyroid problems and inflammatory bowel disease run in my family. Apparently I inherited an above-average need for iodine, and/or my thyroid and bowel were vulnerable.
Here are the links for the iodine supplement and accompanying book I bought on Amazon:
Supplement: Optimox Iodoral 180 tabs
Book: Iodine: Why you need it, Why you can’t live without it by David Brownstein, M.D.
Iodoral, the iodine/iodide supplement, is very high dosage and the only one of its kind. The only other supplement in this dosage with both iodine and iodide is a foul tasting liquid. This is the only tablet. The associated book explains the science. It’s self-published and not well-organized, but the information is documented and the studies appear solid – solid enough that I tried it, and it’s working in my body. I had my thyroid levels checked before and after taking the supplement, with these results:
|Before iodine||One month on iodine|
|Mar 8, 2012 (normal range)||Jul 19, 2012 (normal range)|
|T3||131 (71-180 ng/dL)||T3 (total) 0.82 (0.80-2.00 ng/ml)|
|T4||8.7 (4.5-12.0 ug/dL)||5.1 (4.5-11.7 mcg/dl)|
|TSH||0.013 (0.45-4.500 uIU/mL)||TSH (ultrasensitive) 2.690 (0.270-4.200 uIU/ml)|
The very low TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) before I started the supplement was a sign that my “hot” thyroid nodules were back (confirmed by scan). After taking the iodine supplement, my TSH became normal – a sign that the nodules went away. Insufficient iodine sometimes causes nodules, and sometimes causes hypothyroidism. Iodine supplementation also put my colitis into remission, which I did not expect. I later found this journal article, confirming the link between iodine deficiency and inflammatory bowel disease:
Brownstein’s book argues persuasively that everyone needs iodine supplementation. It says that the US RDA for iodine is grossly underestimated. Iodized salt (which I’d stopped using right before my nodules came back) does not give enough iodine. The iodine intake levels in Japan are much higher than the US because of the sea vegetables they eat, and their rates of thyroid disease are vastly lower. Your whole body uses iodine. It’s especially used in breast tissue, and prevents breast cancer. It’s also heavily absorbed by the bowel (which is why iodine deficiency can cause inflammatory bowel disease). Even without outright disease from iodine deficiency, people commonly experience decreased energy levels. Plus iodine keeps certain toxic substances from taking residence in your tissues – a good thing. But for this reason, when you first start taking Iodoral, there can be some detox symptoms.
Here are some links with info:
Iodine: Its Role In Health and Disease
Iodine: An Important Detoxification Tool – this site sells the gross-tasting liquid version of the iodine I mentioned. You shouldn’t buy this – buy the pill. But the detox information still applies. Iodine has a detoxifying effect on the body which can be uncomfortable at first if you tend to eat a junky diet. I had almost no detox symptoms – just a bit of a headache the first week and nothing after that. But if you read the reviews for the supplement on Amazon, you’ll see some complaints about skin breakouts and feeling crappy (these are the 1-star reviews). These are detox reactions from a lifetime of junk food (the comments explain). It’s temporary, and you’re better off getting the poisons out of you.
Each Iodoral tablet contains 12.5mg of iodine and iodide. A maintenance dose is 0.11mg per pound of body weight. So if you weight, for example, 140 pounds, you’d multiply 140*0.11=15.4mg recommended daily dose. Each pill is 12.5mg. You can cut pills in half, so you could take 1.5 pills. That would give you 18.75mg – a little over, but that’s okay. Taking more than you need is not a problem – you just pee out the extra. So in this case 1.5 pills per day would be your maintenance dose.
But before you can take a maintenance dose, you need to get iodine sufficient. That requires taking more than your maintenance dose for a few months so your iodine-deficient tissues can absorb a baseline of iodine. The book recommends taking 50mg per day (4 pills) for 3 months. You can minimize any detox effects by slowly increasing the dose rather than starting with 50mg per day. This is what I did, except that I found I couldn’t tolerate 50mg (4 pills) per day – it gave me headaches (from iodism), so I cut back to 37.5mg or 3 pills per day.
I started with half a pill for a week, then a whole pill for a week, then 1.5 pills for a week, then two pills for a week, and then 3 pills per day for 3 months. I probably could have ramped up faster because I experienced almost no detox symptoms.
After 3 months, I took a test for iodine sufficiency. I bought the test kit from here:
The lab is owned by the guy who manufactures and sells Iodoral. It’s a 24-hour urine test. They couldn’t mail the test kit to New York State because of its nanny laws, so I had to have them mail it to Vermont, where I have a PO box. I also bought the bromide test option (to see if that was detoxed out of my body). The results showed I have no bromide in me. But after 3 months I was only halfway to iodine sufficiency (45%), probably because I was taking only 37.5mg per day, and probably also because I have a higher-than-average need for iodine, as evidenced by my family history of thyroid disease (mother, brother, and grandmother also had/have nodules). Had I been iodine sufficient, I’d have dropped to 1 or 1.5 pills per day for life. Since I was not yet, I continued to take 3 pills a day for another 3 or 4 months. I am now iodine sufficient. My thyroid hormone levels remain normal, and my ulcerative colitis is still in remission.
Other Health Impacts
I mentioned at the start of this post that iodine is heavily absorbed in the breasts, as well as the bowel and the thyroid. Brownstein says that iodine supplementation has been successful in treating and preventing fibrocystic breasts, and protecting against breast cancer, and well as various other problems.
I’m not a doctor, so please don’t treat this post as medical advice. I am just passing along information that I found helpful in my own life. I hope it’s helpful to someone else, but please consult your doctor if you have questions.