Iodine Supplementation

Of all the nations in the world, it is estimated that mostly people living in Japan where seaweed is a large part of the diet get enough iodine from dietary sources. Almost everyone else probably has some degree of iodine deficiency.

Iodine deficiency is implicated in thyroid cancer and many other diseases. Giving T4 (synthroid) to iodine deficient women increases their risk for breast cancer. Anyone needing to take thyroid hormones should also take supplemental iodine. Normalization of iodine is also important before selenium supplementation in order to prevent hypothyrodism. Normal but borderline thyroid panel lab values make a thyroid problem highly suspect.

Hormone imbalances in estriol, estrone, and estradiol, which can lead to weight gain can benefit from iodine. Iodine has been shown to help maintain the balance in favor of estriol. Iodine can induce apoptosis (death) in cancer cells, especially those of thyroid and breast. However, this effect is negated if a goitrogen is given. Iodine is incorporated into lipids and helps stabilize cells. All women should be evaluated for iodine deficiency before they reach the stage of breast cancer.

Iodine is needed by various cells and tissues in the whole body, not just the thyroid. Female reproductive tissues have a large need for iodine. Radioactive iodine used to destroy thyroid cells also goes to other iodine concentrating tissues in the body. It does increase the risk of cancer. Autoimmune thyroid problems need to have the underlying cause visited, be it food sensitivity or iodine deficiency, or vitamin or mineral deficiency. Hashimoto's and Graves can respond to iodine treatment.

Vit B2 100 mg and B3 500 mg BID can help cells use iodine better. These are co-factors in the NADPH oxydase pathway. "ATP co-factors" by Optimox can be used as a supplement. One can test for iodine transport by testing saliva/serum iodine ratio. Normal level is 42; ie saliva should have 42 times the iodine of serum. If it is less than 20 then search for reasons for poor transport.

Iodized salt provides a non-optimal form of iodine for absorption, and is implicated in increasing risk for autoimmune thyroiditis, because it does not provide enough iodine. The levels of iodine in iodized salt are just barely enough to prevent goiter, and are certainly not enough to provide adequate iodine for optimal health. It is very poorly bioavailable.


Bromine, used as a dough conditioner, is found in many breads. It competes with iodine at tissues, can inhibit thyroid hormone production, and can worsen and cause iodine deficiency. Canada and some other countries have wisely banned its use. Avoid any food with ingredients such as potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, azodicarbonamide, etc. Enriched flour may contain bromide as an unlisted ingredient. Subway, Dunkin Donuts and Burger King add azodicarbonamide to their breads, whilst Pepperidge Farm bread is supposedly bromide-free. Medications that contain bromide include atrovent, ipratropium, pro-panthine, spiriva, pyridostigmine. Bromine should be considered a toxic element and needs to be avoided. It can cause delirium, psychomotor retardation, schizophrenia, depression, headache, and irritability. Iodine as well as chloride from salt will help with excretion of bromide.

Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury also disrupt enzyme function.

Fructose intake can create copper deficiency, which in turn can decrease thyroid hormone production. Splenda is chlorinated sugar, and chlorine is toxic. Fluoride at concentrations found in drinking water has also shown to damage thyroid tissue. Other environmental toxins that depress thyroid gland and hormone function include PCBs, dioxins, DDT and its metabolites, aminotriazole, HCB, and phthalates. Medications that contain fluoride include paxil, prozac, flonase, and flovent.

Perchlorate is used for rocket fuel, and is now an environmental contaminant. It can displace iodine in the body and damage transport of iodine into cells. Lettuce grown during fall and winter months in sw US, including organic lettuce, has high levels of perchlorate. Do not eat lettuce during winter.

Correcting an iodine deficiency can help decrease the risk of breast cancer, normalize blood pressure, improve cold tolerance, normalize hypoglycemia and improve diabetes, improve mood and mental performance, decrease breast tenderness in fibrocystic breast disease, decrease PMS symptoms, decrease menstrual cramps, improve fertility, help detoxify heavy metals such as lead and mercury, as well as fluoride and bromide, improve resistance to infections, improve heart failure, and protect against radioactive fallout.

Iodine, not iodide, will decrease lipoperoxidation of breast tissue and in the body. Different tissues concentrate different forms of iodine. The prostate concentrates iodine, while the thyroid gland and skin concentrate iodide. Therefore, a supplement of both iodine and iodide is most beneficial (Lugol's or Iodoral). Women with larger breasts will need more iodine.

Iodine is best absorbed as a combination of potassium iodide and iodine. Lugol's 2 or 2.5% solution one drop every other day or 5 days out of a week in a beverage of choice is generally a good and safe dose for the initial repletion (one to two weeks), then decrease to just one drop twice a week. Two drops is 0.1 ml. Tablet forms of combination iodine/iodide (such as Iodoral) are also available, may be more convenient, and can be used 2 to 3 times a week. Some people may be sensitive to iodine and may experience symptoms of rapid heartbeat etc even at low doses. If this happens, stop supplementation for a week or until symptoms subside, then slowly resume at a decreased dose. Too high a dose of iodine can cause metallic taste in the mouth, increased salivation, sneezing, headache, palpitations, and acne.

With any supplementation, periodically monitor random spot urine iodine levels to make sure things are within acceptable ranges. A random serum level is also acceptable.

People with Hashimoto's need to be very careful with iodine, as it can put them into a thyroid storm.

National Academy of Hypothyroidism
Dr Brownstein
Alkalize for health
Book: Iodine Why you need it, David Brownstein, MD

Food Sources:
Food Club

Updated 5/1/2012
Su Fairchild, MD

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