Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health
Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health

Iodine

Are you iodine-deficient?

Reasons for iodine deficiency

Symptoms of iodine deficiency

Benefits of iodine sufficiency

Iodine as a chelating agent

Tests for iodine deficiency or excess

Sources of iodine

Iodine doseage

Optimal iodine absorption

Side-effects / contraindications / symptoms of excess iodine

References

Are you iodine-deficient?

iodine dropper into a glass of water

Do you often feel tired, and have low energy? Do you have muscular and skeletal aches and pains? Brain fog, unenthusiastic or depressed? Do you have a variety of allergies or intolerances? Are you prone to fungal and other infections? Digestion not what it used to be?

It is possible that you are iodine-deficient. Medical and scientific research tends to focus on those diseases that are caused by a critical shortage of iodine (goitre, cretinism and hypothyroidism). However, diseases that are caused by a less severe iodine deficiency are not just common - they are endemic.

A century ago, iodine was called the universal medicine. Iodine was the remedy and natural antibiotic that every doctor carried in their bag of medicines every day, and was regularly used to treat a wide variety of conditions and ailments (2, 5, 6, 10, 11). Iodine deficiency affects much more than the thyroid. For example, iodine supplements have been used to successfully treat fibrocystic disease (6).

Pressure from pharmaceutical companies and other commercial interests has led to the deliberate discrediting of iodine as a remedy. The recommended daily intake (RDA) for iodine has been set at a level that will prevent goitre, but is short of the level required for optimal health. In fact, if you get no more than the RDA of 150 mcg per day, you will be deficient.

In Australia and New Zealand, iodine deficiency at the (low) RDA level is a widespread problem in the general population. A dietary survey conducted in 2008 by the national food regulator (FSANZ) found that 43 per cent of Australians don't even get the low RDA level. 70 per cent of women of child-bearing age and about 10 per cent of children between the ages of two and three did not even meet the RDA.

Reasons for iodine deficiency

Symptoms of iodine deficiency

Benefits of iodine sufficiency

Iodine as a chelating agent

A study showed that after starting iodine supplementation, the levels of mercury, cadmium and lead measured in the urine of test subjects increased by several fold after just 24 hours (5). For aluminium, increased levels in the urine took a month or more to appear (5). Bromine and fluorine are also excreted at high levels (7), and may result in cloudy urine for several months and body odour for one or two weeks. Bromine can take up to two years for full removal (7).

Tests for iodine deficiency or excess

Iodine patch test. This is a quick, rough, simple, inexpensive test. Paint a 5 cm (2 inch) square of iodine tincture (such as Lugol's solution) onto your inner arm or thigh. If the stain disappears or almost disappears:

You can repeat this test every couple of weeks to see when your iodine dose can be reduced.

Iodine urine test. Take 4 iodine tablets (12.5 mg each) or 8 drops of Lugol's solution in half a glass of water. You will need a laboratory or test kit to monitor the iodine in your urine during the next 24 hours. If you have sufficient iodine, 90% of the 50 mg dose will be excreted during the next 24 hours. If iodine is lacking the body retains most of it with little appearing in the urine.

Sources of iodine

Iodised salt contains about 100 mcg/gm. Even if you eat vast quantities of this salt, it is not enough to get your iodine level back to a healthy level. In addition, I strongly recommend that you do NOT use processed salt (supermarket salt). Rather use sea salt, though unfortunately it is not a good source of iodine.

Pure iodine is an easily-absorbed element that is very reactive with living tissue. For this reason it is preferable to get iodine from natural food sources rather than to take it as a supplement.

There are a few rich food sources of iodine, mainly foods coming from the sea. However, most fish, seafood and seaweed is not sufficient. Fish heads are best. Most seaweeds contain little iodine, though others (particularly kelp and kombu) are high in iodine. If you want to get sufficient iodine without supplementation, it is important to know which foods to use regularly.

Kelp or kombu seaweed is the richest food-derived source of iodine. Other brown and red-coloured seaweeds contain lesser amounts of iodine. Iodine from seaweed has good bio-availability.

Kelp/Kombu 1500-2500 mcg/gm of dried seaweed.

Hijiki 629 mcg/gm.

Dulse 72 mcg/gm.

Wakame 32 mcg/gm.

Nori 16 mcg/gm.

Other foods from the ocean provide iodine, particularly fish heads (they contain the fish's thyroid gland). Most societies value the fish's head above other parts of the fish. In the West, we often throw away the most nutritious part of our food. If you do not wish to eat fish heads, at least make a stock from them. Not only are they rich in iodine, but the best and sweetest flavour comes from the heads.

Plants (particularly greens and sunflower seeds) are only a good source of iodine if they are grown in iodine-rich soils. As soils around the world are being depleted, even foods grown on the coast are iodine-deficient.

Lugol's iodine. In 1829 Jean Lugol developed an iodine solution that carries his name (Lugol's solution). It was in widespread use until the 1940's and 1950's, when many doctors successfully used it as a universal medicine. By 1950 doctors had been taught to prescribe a variety of pharmaceutical drugs rather than the very cheap and effective Lugol's solution, and there was an active campaign to discredit iodine because of its severe impact on pharmaceutical profits.

Lugol's solution consists of 5% (wt/v) iodine and 10% (wt/v) potassium iodide in distilled water. It has a total iodine content of 126.5 mg/mL, which is about 6.5 mg per drop. Lugol's solution is available in tablet form under the name Iodoral iodine. Iodoral tablets are not particularly expensive, but they still cost many times more than taking the same quantity of iodine in Lugol's liquid form.

Lugol's iodine has been used for many years as an antiseptic and disinfectant. It is rapidly absorbed through the skin. Lugol's solution may be used on the skin, though it stains clothing for a few minutes while it is wet, and it can sting when applied to open wounds.

In Australia, Lugol's iodine is available from many chemists under the name "iodine solution". Check that the ingredients are correct. In many other countries it is available from compounding chemists or can be purchased online.

Dilution warning. In several countries in Europe, and sometimes in the USA, the authorities have required retail Lugol's iodine to be diluted to one tenth or one twentieth of its proper concentration. After using this deceptively diluted iodine, many consumers think it does not work. If you buy Lugol's iodine, check the label for the correct concentration. If it is diluted you can still use it, but up the dose accordingly.

Nascent iodine is a liquid form of iodine that comes in a dropper bottle. It looks similar to Lugol's solution. The manufacturers describe it as more bio-available than other forms of iodine, because it holds an electromagnetic charge which is released when it is consumed. In this atomic (rather than molecular) form it is similar to the iodine already in the body. Nascent iodine is more expensive than Lugol's iodine. Nascent Iodine

Warning. Povidone iodine is a topical antiseptic. Povidone iodine is a mixture of olyvinylpyrrolidone (povidone or PVP) and elemental iodine. Povidone iodine should not be consumed (taken internally) because PVP is a toxic water-soluble polymer used as a wetting agent and stabiliser. A popular brand of povidone iodine is Betadine.

Iodine doseage

The conventional Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for iodine is 150 mcg (micrograms) per day. Many credible researchers say that larger doses are needed for optimal health, functionality, longevity and protection. (1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 13)

An examination of the iodine intake of the Japanese population led to the conclusion that the RDA is at least 100 (one hundred) times too low. (5) In addition, when iodine was widely used with such great success 50-100 years ago, the levels used were around one hundred times higher than the RDA. Sixty million Japanese consume about 14 mg per day of elemental iodine because of the high level of kelp in their diet. This is about 93 times the RDA. By many measures the Japanese are the world's healthiest nation, including in longevity, wellbeing and cancer statistics. (4, 5)

It is preferable to get iodine from food sources rather than taking it as a supplement.

You can supplement iodine by applying Lugol's iodine solution to the skin in the same way as doing a skin patch test. After many years of using iodine, this is the method that I prefer. I look for skin lesions, keratosis, moles and other skin blemishes and carefully apply iodine on them using a dropper or cotton bud. It is effective in treating all kinds of skin blemishes so you get this additional bonus while taking your iodine supplementation. I usually do it at night before bed, because brown patches will remain on your skin for several hours, depending upon your level of iodine sufficiency. As the iodine level in your body increases, you will find it takes longer to absorb through your skin. Sometimes the brown patch can last for a day or even longer.

The disadvantage of topical application is that it is difficult to measure the dose, it may be unsightly, and it stains clothing unless you wait a few minutes for it to dry.

If you take iodine internally in the form of Lugol's solution or nascent iodine, start with one drop per day mixed in a glass of water. Build-up to the doses shown below over a period of several weeks, depending on how you feel. If the iodine seems to have no effect on you after a few days, then gradually increase the dose to the high end of the values shown below.

When taking high-dose iodine, monitor your thyroid function by checking your temperature before getting up in the morning.

An antimicrobial dose is 6 to 8 drops of Lugol's solution per day in a large glass of water or juice for 3 weeks. You can divide this into several doses over the day.

For those adults suffering from severe iodine deficiency, or for recovery from a variety of degenerative diseases, take up to 10 drops per day. For most non-obese people on a non-goitrogenic diet, iodine sufficiency is reached after three months at this dose. (9, 12) However, if there are a high level of goitrogens in your food or environment, or you are obese, or you have a poor ability to absorb iodine, this dose may be needed for a year or more before iodine sufficiency is reached. To improve iodine absorption, see the section on Optimal iodine absorption below.

Maintenance dose. Most people do not need to supplement with iodine after sufficiency is reached. A diet with plenty of iodine-rich foods is best for maintaining iodine sufficiency. If testing shows that your level has still fallen after reaching sufficiency, then 1 to 2 drops of Lugol's solution or nascent iodine providing 6 to 12.5 mg elemental iodine per day should be sufficient. This applies to non-obese adults on a non-goitrogenic diet, with normal ability to absorb iodine. However, if iodine is completely deficient in your diet, or there are high levels of goitrogens in your food or environment, then a higher dose of up to 4 drops per day may be required but this should be done under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner.

Optimal iodine absorption

If you are iodine-deficient, your body will efficiently absorb the iodine in your diet. When iodine sufficiency is reached, excess is excreted in the urine. However, this is not an excuse to overdose. Any supplement should always be taken with care.

There is a synergy between iodine and selenium, which means that if one consumes too little selenium, the body uses iodine inefficiently (and probably vice versa, though there is no research that has been done to show this). Of all foods, Brazil nuts usually contain the highest level of selenium. If you eat one Brazil nut per day, you probably get sufficient selenium for good health, without overdosing on barium and radium, which are also very high in Brazil nuts. (15) Other food sources of selenium include kidneys, shellfish, fish and egg yolks.

Tin, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin B1 and vitamin C also assist with the absorption and use of iodine (8).

Side-effects / contraindications / symptoms of excess iodine

Research (2, 3) based on the experience of several thousand patients taking a high iodine dose for up to three years, has shown that approximately 1 - 3% of them experience side-effects. The side-effects reported are:

Many of these symptoms like headaches and skin eruptions are probably caused by the release of stored toxins in a Herxheimer reaction. During iodine supplementation, I recommend that you drink more water than usual to help remove the toxins being released. If any unacceptable side-effects persist, simply reduce the iodine dose.

Do not supplement with iodine if you suffer from Hashimoto's disease or other autoimmune thyroid disorders, as additional iodine may stimulate an attack on the thyroid. Those with symptoms of hyperthyroidism should not supplement with iodine.

Children and pregnant women should not supplement with iodine except under doctor's advice.

References

1. Orthoiodosupplementation: Iodine Sufficiency Of The Whole Human Body. Abraham, G.E., Flechas, J.D., Hakala, J.C., The Original Internist, 9:30-41, 2002

2. Clinical Experience with Inorganic Non-radioactive Iodine/Iodide. Brownstein, D., The Original Internist, 12(3):105-108, 2005

3. Orthoiodosupplementation in a primary care practice. Flechas, J.D., The Original Internist, 12(2):89-96, 2005

4. Iodine Deficiency and Therapeutic Considerations. Patrick, Lyn., Alternative Medicine Review, Vol 13, No. 2, 2008

5. Iodine, The Universal Nutrient. Guy E. Abraham., 2007

6. Iodine Replacement in Fibrocystic Disease of the Breast. Ghent, W.R., Eskin, B.A., Low., D.A., et al., Can. J. Surg., 36:453-460, 1993

7. Iodine Supplementation Markedly Increases Urinary Excretion of Fluoride and Bromide. Abraham, G.E., Townsend Letter, 238:108-109, 2003

8. Evidence that the administration of Vitamin C improves a defective cellular transport mechanism for iodine: A case report. Abraham, G.E., Brownstein, D., The Original Internist, 12(3):125-130, 2005

9. The safe and effective implementation of orthoiodosupplementation in medical practice. Abraham, G.E., The Original Internist, 11:17-36, 2004

10. Iodine in Medicine and Pharmacy Since its Discovery - 1811-1961. Kelly, Francis C., Proc R Soc Med 54:831-836, 1961

11. Optimum Levels of Iodine for Greatest Mental and Physical Health. Abraham, G.E., Flechas, J.D., Hakala, J.C., The Original Internist, 9:5-20, 2002

12. The concept of orthoiodosupplementation and its clinical implications. Abraham, G.E., The Original Internist, 11(2):29-38, 2004.

13. Iodide Goiter and the Pharmacologic Effects of Excess Iodide. Wolff, J., Am. J. Med., 47:101-124, 1969

14. Bernecker C. Intermittent therapy with potassium iodide in chronic obstructive diseases of the airways. A review of 10 years experience. Acta Allergol. 1969 Sep;24(3):216-25.

15. Margaret P. Rayman. Food-chain selenium and human health: emphasis on intake. British Journal of Nutrition (2008), 100, 254-268. doi:10.1017/S0007114508939830.

16. C Bernecker. Potassium iodide in bronchial asthma. Br Med J. Oct 25, 1969; 4(5677): 236. PMCID: PMC1629847.

17. Facebook page IODINE as at October 2019.

18. Maren Eggers, Torsten Koburger-Janssen, Markus Eickmann, Juergen Zorn. In Vitro Bactericidal and Virucidal Efficacy of Povidone-Iodine Gargle/Mouthwash Against Respiratory and Oral Tract Pathogens. Infect Dis Ther. 2018 Jun; 7(2): 249-259. Published online 9 April 2018. doi: 10.1007/s40121-018-0200-7. PMCID: PMC5986684, PMID: 29633177.

19. Fischer AJ, Lennemann NJ, Krishnamurthy S, Pocza P, Durairaj L, Launspach JL, Rhein BA, Wohlford-Lenane C, Lorentzen D, Banfi B et al. Enhancement of respiratory mucosal antiviral defenses by the oxidation of iodide. American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology. 2011, 45: 874-881.