Busting the Iodine Myths

Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can't Live Without It

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.

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About Dana Trentini

I founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby I lost to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroid Mom is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links to favorite resources including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Connect with me on Google+


  1. What’s the best iodine to take.

  2. Cindy Christen says:

    Can detoxing cause heart arrhythmias? I was taking 31mg of iodine (lugotabs) and ended up having major heart arrhythmias that lasted an hourbor so. Was I taking too much?

    • I’m sorry to hear what happened Cindy. I had a terrible time when I took high dose iodine. I didn’t get heart arrhythmia but my thyroid health tanked. I hear from many that react poorly to high dose iodine especially those with Hashimoto’s. At the same time I also hear from others that have amazing results. What I recommend with iodine is to get testing with your doctor and if you are deficient to supplement at a low dose then gradually increase over time. Also I’ve included health experts here at Hypothyroid Mom that recommend supplementing with 200mcg of selenium before beginning iodine supplementation.
      Dana Trentini (Hypothyroid Mom)

  3. Dana, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I have lupus and Hashimoto’s and have been researching the iodine/thyroid connection and am at a loss around whether or not I should continue taking my thyroid medication while supplementing with iodine. My ND isn’t quite on the up and up with iodine yet to educate me. I will be taking the necessary supplements with iodine once I start but reading your comments on starting low is helpful. I will probably test my levels first too. Thank you for your help!

  4. I was wondering about how to figure the correct dose of liquid iodine. I have hypothyroidism and have been on 100mcg of Levothyroxin for years. However, I no longer have health insurance and cannot afford to go to the doctor to get my Rx renewed. Dr. Brownstein says in the above article that he recommends 6-50mg/day depending on the severity of deficiency. The liquid iodine I have is measured with a 1mL dropper. I am unsure how to determine how much to take everyday, as it is not possible to accurately convert mg to mL. Is there a way to at least approximate how many mL I should be taking to meet the dose that Dr. Brownstein recommends?

    • Hi Jessica,
      This is not an advertisement plug. I am just a regular girl who did a lot of reading for six years, about nutrition, our toxic environment and the conspiracy that exists between the gov’t and big pharma. I have been taking Detoxadine Nascent Iodine, for over a year now; a product from globalhealing.com. This site belongs to world renowned researcher Dr. Edward Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM, who was featured in the series, “The Truth About Cancer”. The serving of this liquid iodine product is 3 drops/1,950 mcg, or 1.95 mg as I understand the math. I take up to 6 drops a day. I also take 200mcg of organic selenium per day. I was only on 5 mcg per day of Levothyroxine for about a year, but I cut my last two weeks of tablets in half and weaned myself off of it for the same reasons you are trying to leave it behind. The Nascent Iodine I take is required to be taken on an empty stomach, dropped under the tongue and swallowed with purified water. I wait one hour before eating or drinking. I need to get my blood work done again to see what’s going on, but I have not felt this good since I was in high school!! Check out the globalhealing.com website. There is incredible information on that site and I believe they are right about the body needing more that the U.S. RDA of iodine.

    • S Littleton says:

      15 mL is approximately 1 Tablespoon (3 teaspoons) so 5 mL = 1 teaspoon.

  5. I’ve been on iodine for a couple of years and my tsh is always up last blood test was 7.4 my free t3 was 3.2 and free t4 was 1.2 they have always been normal my iodine 24 hour was 31469 which was high by quest diagnostic my bromide and fluoride were undetectable i take lugols 2% iodine 1 drop daily and celtic sea salt and a bunch of vitamins i started taking iodine for a dry mouth problem which help tremendously is there any suggestions thank you

  6. Are Dr. Brownstein’s recommendations also applicable to someone who has had a total thyroidectomy?

  7. Kathryn Lloyd says:

    Dr. Brownstein recommends unrefined salt (Selina’s Celtic Brand Sea Salt). I’m wondering 2 things. 1. How much salt per day. 2. Would unrefined Himalayan pink salt do the trick.
    I’ve just read the article at https://stopthethyroidmadness.com/2013/12/29/companion-nutrients-the-key-to-iodine-protocol/ I printed it also. In reading many of the comments, I’m feeling very concerned. It seems so complex! I’m really nervous to deal with high-dose iodine on my own since I had Graves disease some years ago. But any holistic practitioners who I know of are out of my range financially. I’m feeling totally overwhelmed by all the information.

  8. Alexandra Dib says:

    Can you help me understand why I do not tolerate more than 1 drop of nascent iodine a day. I get a Ssimilar reaction when I up T4 in any manner (Over 1 grain of NDT and Levoxyl). I gain 10lbs of water in a week, joint inflammation… I am very low in iodine no and clearly need – one good thing is hat my libido increase and my eyebrows start to grow ;-). Any input appreciated!

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