Dr. David Brownstein is author of the book Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It. Thank you to Dr. Brownstein for writing this guest post about the controversial topic of iodine for thyroid health.
Written By Dr. David Brownstein, Author of Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It
I am frequently asked by my patients if I had only one natural item to treat my patients with, which would it be? Though there are many natural items that provide such wonderful effects for the body, one nutrient stands head and shoulders above the rest — iodine. In all my years of practicing medicine, I have yet to see one item provide such miraculous effects on the body as iodine does. In this article, I will show you the wonders of iodine and why you need to take a close look at your supplement regimen to ensure you are getting enough iodine daily.
There are so many myths about iodine, but I will focus on two main myths propagated by many conventional doctors. Myth No. 1 is that we get enough iodine in salt, and Myth No. 2, that taking iodine as a supplement will cause or worsen thyroid disorders. Because of these myths, people have the mistaken idea that iodine is a toxic substance that needs to be avoided.
How prevalent are these myths? Let me share with you an e-mail that was forwarded to me, originally sent by an endocrinologist in the United States. “We only see iodine deficiency in Third World countries. We have never seen it here in my past eight years as a physician and the experience of other endocrinologists that I know as well. So, I don’t trust books and information that are out there. Our salt is iodine fortified, so just eating a regular diet, we get about 10 to 20 times the recommended amount of iodine in the diet.”
Busting the Iodine Myths
Unfortunately, this is the prevailing opinion of most endocrinologists and of mainstream doctors. The reason this doctor has not seen iodine deficiency in eight years is that he has not tested for it. And, of course, he also mentions the salt myth. The iodization of salt was hailed as the first public health miracle. However, iodized salt is inadequate to supply the body’s need for iodine, particularly in our toxic environment. Even though refined salt can prevent goiter in the vast majority of people, the miniscule amount of iodine found in it falls far short of the amount necessary for promoting optimal thyroid function. Furthermore, refined salt fails to provide enough iodine for the rest of the body’s needs.
Iodine is added to table salt at 100 parts per million as potassium iodide, which amounts to 77 μg (micrograms) of iodide per gram of salt. The RDA for iodine is set at 150 μg per day for adults in the U.S. and slightly more during pregnancy and lactation. Remember, the RDA was set to prevent goiter in the vast majority of people. The average American takes in 4 grams to 10 grams of refined salt per day. That’s more than the recommended daily allowance. So, why don’t we get enough iodine from salt?
Research, however, shows that just ten percent of iodine in salt is bioavailable–that is, completely absorbed by your body. (1) That means that that iodized salt provides somewhere between 30 to 77 μg a day — markedly below the recommended amount. Additionally, approximately 70 percent of the salt used by commercial industry in the U.S. is not iodized salt.
Not only is iodized salt a poor source of iodine, but we have been conditioned to avoid salt by the media and by mainstream medicine. Presently, less than half of U.S. households use salt. As a result, iodine levels have fallen by more than 50% over the last 40 years as reported by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the Centers for Disease Control. This is a recipe for making a whole population of U.S. citizens iodine-deficient. That is exactly what has happened in the United States and many other Western countries.
If Myth No. 2 were correct — taking iodine will cause thyroid disorders — declining iodine levels would help prevent thyroid disease. Yet this has not been the case. As iodine levels have fallen over 50% during the last 40 years, thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease and thyroid cancer, have been increasing at near-epidemic rates. We would expect the opposite to occur — thyroid illnesses on the decline — if iodine were the cause. In fact, it is impossible to experimentally induce autoimmune thyroid disorders in animals unless the animals are iodine-deficient.
After twenty years of practicing medicine, I can state that it is impossible to treat thyroid illness if there is an inadequate level of iodine in the body and this includes autoimmune thyroid disorders. The largest amounts of iodine occur in the oceans. Sea vegetables and ocean fish contain large amounts of iodine and are the foods that provide the most usable iodine for the body. Diets lacking in seafood can predispose one to iodine deficiency.
The RDA for iodine (150umg/day) is inadequate to supply the body’s need for iodine. When you couple in the increasing exposure to toxic halides bromine, fluoride, and chlorine derivatives, our iodine requirements have markedly increased over the years. My experience has shown that iodine in doses ranging from 6-50mg/day is adequate to provide iodine for the vast majority of the population. Finally, it is important to use the right kind of salt—unrefined salt. For the last 20 years I have used Selina’s Celtic Brand Sea Salt in my practice with great success. The best results with using iodine are seen when it is used with unrefined salt as part of a holistic treatment regimen. Unrefined salt helps the body safely detoxify from the toxic halides bromine, chlorine and fluoride that can be released when iodine is taken. More information about this can be found in my books, Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, 5th Edition and Salt Your Way To Health, 2nd Edition. These books can be found at my website: www.drbrownstein.com.
This article was adapted from Dr. Brownstein’s Natural Way to Health newsletter. More information about this newsletter can be found at: http://brownsteinhealth.com/newsletter.html.
(1) Pitman, JA. Changing normal values for thyroidal radioiodine uptake. NEJM.
About Dr. David Brownstein
Dr. David Brownstein is a Board-Certified family physician and is one of the foremost practitioners of holistic medicine. He is the Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Dr. Brownstein has received two prestigious awards by his colleagues. The first was given by the American College for the Advancement in Medicine at the 2005 annual meeting. The award was the Norman E. Clarke Sr. Award for Science and Practice. The second award was given by the American Academy of Integrative Medicine at their 2005 annual meeting in Florida. This was titled, 2005 ARC Excellence Award for Distinguished Clinician for his “Advancement in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Diseases.”
Dr. Brownstein has written 12 books including 8 national best sellers. More information on Dr. Brownstein’s books can be found at: www.drbrownstein.com
Dr. Brownstein’s books Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It and Overcoming Thyroid Disorders are both included in Hypothyroid Mom’s Favorite Thyroid Books.