The Importance of Iodine

New Book review: “Iodine: why you need it, why you can’t live without it, (4th edition, 2009) by David Brownstein M.D. ”

The recent publication of this book has the power to do for thyroid health what Dr John Lee MD and Suzanne Somers, among others, have done for the field of natural female hormone replacement.

It presents a compelling argument that iodine is an unappreciated essential nutrient, yet over 90% of Americans are deficient in iodine. In addition, this deficiency is a major factor in many common diseases of the thyroid gland, reproductive system, immune system, and many common forms of cancer.

Iodine deficiency is also a major factor in troublesome conditions such as depression, fatigue, obesity, mental retardation, infertility, ADD/ADHD, non-healing wounds, and infant/child mortality. Dr. Brownstein carefully explains why this has occurred, and what we can do to remedy the situation.

Dr. William M. Lee and I (at The Lee Clinic, LLC) have been working with thyroid hormone replacement for over 20 years. The thyroid, adrenals, and sex hormones are closely interrelated. They interact and affect each other significantly.

This article presents an overview of Dr. Brownstein’s new book along with some additional related material from the internet.

Iodine is classified as an “essential nutrient.”

This means that the body cannot live without it. The current standard american diet largely consisting of refined foods grown on impoverished soil, loaded with pesticides, antibiotics, and other toxic substances, is often lacking even the minimum requirement for essential nutrients.

Iodine is essential, yet iodine deficiency is increasing to epidemic proportions worldwide and our health is greatly suffering as a result.

What does iodine do?
Many people know that iodine is important for proper functioning of the thyroid gland, but its vital functions reach far beyond that. Iodine deficiency has been implicated in the development of the following health problems:

Goiter (enlargement of the thyoid gland)

Hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Hashimotos and Graves diseases, and thyroid cancers

Immune disorders, autoimmunity. Some cancers.

Increased child and infant mortality, infertility, and socioeconomic decline.

Mental retardation. Iodine deficiency disorder is the most common preventable form of mental retardation known

Depression, fatigue, mood disorders, ADD/ADHD.(Attention Deficit disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Diseases of the reproductive organs: cancers of the breasts and other female organs, as well as fibrocyctic breasts and ovarian cysts and cancers. Prostate enlargement and cancer.

Delayed healing of wounds, formation of keloids (raised scars)

Dr. Brownstein summarizes the therapeutic actions of iodine and specific conditions Iodine has been shown to effectively treat on page 22 of his book:

Therapeutic actions include: Antibacterial, anti cancer, antiparasitic, antiviral, mucolytic agent (dissolves mucous and thins secretions.), accelerated healing of wounds “from the bottom up” without scarring, makes the blood more alkaline.

Conditions treated with Iodine include: ADD/ADHD, atherosclerosis, breast diseases, Dupuytren’s contracture, excess mucous production, fatigue, fibrocystic breasts, goiter, hemorrhoids, headaches and migraines (including menstrual migraines), hypertension, infections, keloids, liver diseases, nephrotic syndrome, ovarian disease, parotid duct stones, Peyronie’s disease, prostate disorders, sebaceous cysts, thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s and Grave’s disease, vaginal infections.

Iodine deficiency is widespread
Approximately 1/3 of earth’s population now lives in an area of iodine deficiency as defined by the World Health organization. During the last 30 years, Iodine levels have fallen over 50% on average in this country, along with a corresponding increase in infertility, obesity, cancer, and mental/psychological illness.

Of all the elements known to be essential for human health, iodine is the most misunderstood and the most feared. Yet it is the safest of all the essential trace elements, being the only one that can be given in its inorganic nonradioactive forms to many patients for long periods of time at up to 100,000 times the Recommended Daily Allowance. This is because the RDAs were designed to prevent obvious “deficiency diseases,” but much higher levels are needed to produce optimal health. Dr. Brownstein does not generally recommend the medical use of radioactive iodine as a treatment, but feels that natural inorganic nonradioactive iodine can often be of use in promoting healing instead.

Why are we so deficient in Iodine?

  • Deficiency of iodine in the food and soil, especially in the mid-west Great Lakes area (the goiter belt) and other places far from the sea, mountainous, or subjected to glaciers and fresh water flooding.
  • Excess exposure to “goitrogens” ie. substances that promote the development of goiters, which are non-cancerous enlargements of the thyroid gland in the neck. Goitrogens are typically halogen elements such as chlorine and fluorine or fluoride from medications (eg. Chlorine in Splenda, Fluorine in Prevacid) or water treatment facilities and bromine/bromide in commercial baked goods. The halogen elements interfere with iodine absorption and utilization, and can cause goiters and other serious health conditions even when iodine is present in reasonable quantities.
  • Poor diet. Diets that may cause iodine deficiency include: diets without ocean fish or sea vegetables, inadequate use of iodized salt including low-sodium diets, diets high in bakery products such as breads, pasta etc. which containing bromide, vegan and vegetarian diets.
  • Even iodized salt doesn’t not contain enough to help the average American. It is supplied in dosages sufficient to reduce most goiters if used liberally to salt food, but in quantities too low to be therapeutic for thyroid, breast, prostate, immune, and other considerations. Many Americans avoid salt because of high-blood pressure or low-salt diets.

How much Iodine do we need?
The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) calls for 150mcg or micrograms (which equals 0.15 mg or milligrams vs true need of 12.5mg/day?

In the previous generation, the RDA for supplementation of iodine was 12.5 to 37.5mg daily in the form of Lugol’s solution. The RDA there for is only providing about 1/100th of optimal intake levels.

Iodine is best supplied in the form of both iodine (the elemental form) and iodide (the salt form, in which the atoms carry an electrical charge). The iodide form is more soluble in water, and is easily taken up by the thyroid gland, which has a special ability to concentrate iodide. The breasts, ovaries, prostate, and other organs can only concentrate the iodine form. Lugol’s solution (available at most pharmacies by prescription), contains 5% iodine and 10% iodide in 85% distilled water, and is also available in a tablet form known as Iodoral, which contains about 12.5 mg total of iodine/iodide. Most patients take 1-4 pills per day, and may choose to do a laboratory urine test after 2-3 months to check their levels.

Iodine treatment is generally combined with other nutrients which may be needed to support the detoxification processes and need for increased cellular energy involved. Magnesium, Selenium, and vitamins such as the B complex (especially B2 and B3) help stimulate ATP production to provide energy and provide adequate hydrogen peroxide for the oxidation of iodide back to iodine.

Many cases of infertility are helped by normalizing iodine levels. Children may also need iodine to reduce the risk of early death or mental retardation. ADD/ADHD may respond to a holistic approach and detoxification which includes cleaning up the diet along with iodine and other nutrient supplementation.

Measuring Iodine levels
Urine testing and the challenge test. The lower the iodine levels in the body, the harder the body will hold on to the iodine it has, and the less will be excreted in the urine Generally, iodine is measured in a random urine specimen, but that is not reliable. Instead, Dr. Guy E Abraham and his fellow investigators have recently developed an iodine-loading test in which the patient is given 50 mg of iodine mixed with iodide in the form of Lugol’s solution or in pill form (4 Iodoral tablets).

A normal test shows excretion of over 90% of the iodine ingested during the next 24hrs. After Dr. Brownstein tested testing about 5000 patients, he reported that approximately 96% of his clients tested low for iodine. More recently two different labs have tested a total of over 28,00 subjects and their results are consistant with that.

Skin Absorption test. Some of the popular literature recommends having the patient paint a quarter-sized spot of a 2% iodine solution, obtainable at most drug stores,.n an arm or leg. Presumably, the more quickly it is absorbed, the more the person needs iodine. If it is totally absorbed in less than 6- hours, (depending on which version you read) the person could use more iodine. The quicker it is absorbed, the more the person can take. If you taste the iodine or get a metallic taste, then you are probably taking too much.

Blood test (NEW). Iodine can now be easily measured in blood, with your regular labs.

Signs of Iodine overdosage (Iodism)
Iodism occurs when the dose of iodine is too high and results in a metallic taste in the mouth, increased salivation, sneezing, headache, and acne. Also symptoms of sinus headaches, especially in the frontal area and a sense of fever may be present. This is easily solved by adjusting the dosage of iodine used. Dr. Sherry Tenpenny has reported that chlorophpyll helps prevent the metallic taste. Dr. Flechas adds that unrefined salt use such as Celtic Sea Salt, which provides trace elements, aids detoxification from goitrogens, and also minimizes iodism.

Susan Silverman CFNP

Certified nurse practitioner and naturopath.
Suggested Reading:
Iodine: why you need it, why you can’t live without it, (4th edition) 2009, by David Brownstein M.D. Medical Alternatives Press. West Bloomfield, Michigan 48323. Tel: (248 ) 851-3372 or (888) 647-5616. Or order online from Read the on-line article Iodine: the role of iodine in health and disease, Some New Exciting Concepts by Michael B. Schachter, M.D. which discusses the work of Guy Abraham MD and some recent developments.

Blog contribution by Susan Silverman CFNP on Iodine (4th ed) by David Brownstein, MD