Iodine, an essential nutrient, is found in every organ and tissue in your body. Its main functions are associated with healthy thyroid function and efficient metabolism. Low levels of iodine are associated with a number of health risks, including cancer. About 40 percent of the worldwide population is at risk of iodine deficiency.
Health agencies in the United States report that most individuals have sufficient levels of iodine. However, Dr. David Brownstein, an expert on iodine, states that 95 percent of the patients in his clinic are suffering from iodine deficiency.
Although iodine deficiency is dangerous, Dr. Joseph Mercola explains that too much iodine is equally risky. Before taking an iodine supplement, it is important to be well-informed regarding this matter.
Too Little or Too Much Iodine Can Affect Your Thyroid
Iodine deficiency is associated with hypothyroidism, a condition where your thyroid produces very little thyroid hormone. Recent studies indicate that excessive iodine levels can lead to a subclinical version of the said thyroid condition, which is often misread or misdiagnosed by laboratory tests.
Symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism are fatigue and difficulty with weight control – similar to the regular case of hypothyroidism. People with the subclinical version may also be at risk of heart disease. However, some patients do not exhibit any signs at all.
In a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was revealed that participants who took higher doses of iodine supplements – specifically 400 micrograms a day or more – began developing subclinical hypothyroidism. This study proves the dangers of not being cautious with supplemental iodine.
Dr. Mercola says, “I don’t generally advise taking iodine supplements like Lugol’s or Ioderol, because your thyroid only transports iodine in its ionized form (i.e. iodide). Your thyroid reduces iodide (I-) into iodine (I2) for use in formation of thyroglobulin. Your body doesn’t utilize iodine directly. It has to split the I2 into two I- ions, which is an oxidative reaction that causes oxidative stress.”
Dr. Mercola suggests taking an iodine supplement only in the event of a nuclear fallout. During this time, it is recommended to take a potassium iodide supplement (a stable form of iodine) to address iodine deficiency. This supplement can help protect your thyroid by raising your iodine levels, so your thyroid will not take in any radioactive form. Remember that taking potassium iodide when not needed could result in thyrotoxicosis.
What Causes Iodine Deficiency
The iodine levels of many Americans have significantly dropped. Studies indicate that 11 percent of Americans and more than 15 percent of American women of child-bearing age possess urine iodine levels less than 50 mcg/L. (link) This indicates moderate to severe iodine deficiency.
On the other hand, 36 percent of reproductive-aged American women are considered mildly deficient, having
Common causes of iodine deficiency are:
- Bromine exposure – Bromine is found in baked goods, soda, medications, pesticides, plastics, and many others. Once consumed, bromine displaces iodine. This leads to iodine deficiency and increased risks of cancers in the breast, thyroid gland, ovary, and prostate.
- Low consumption of iodine-rich foods, including iodized salt, eggs, fish, and sea vegetables
- Soil depletion
- Low use of iodide in food and agricultural practices
- Consumption of fluoridated drinking water
- Rocket fuel (percholate) contamination in food
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iodine in the US is 150 mcg/day, while the Japanese people have an intake of 13800 mcg/day. In fact, they consume 89 times more iodine than Americans because of their daily consumption of sea vegetables.
The Japanese also have reduced occurrences of chronic disorders. It is said that Japan has the lowest rates of cancer in the world because of their high levels of iodine, which is documented to have antioxidant and anti-proliferative properties.
Dr. Mercola says that if you wish to have your iodine levels tested, ask your health care provider about the urine iodine challenge test. Another test you can use is an inexpensive prescription called SSKI, which is a super-saturated potassium iodine.
To use this, simply apply three drops to your skin and rub it in, once a day. “If when you touch something with slightly wet fingertips it leaves a yellowish stain, then the iodine is coming out of your skin, indicating your body is saturated, i.e. you’re getting enough iodine,” according to Dr. Mercola.
How to Optimize Your Iodine Levels
The best way to optimize your iodine levels is the natural intake of foods, says Dr. Mercola. Spirulina and toxin-free sea vegetables are ideal sources of iodine, provided that they are obtained from uncontaminated sources.
You should also avoid all sources of bromine, as this is linked to iodine deficiency. The following strategies are given by Dr. Mercola to avoid bromine exposure, helping you keep your iodine levels optimized.
- Increase your intake of organic foods. Wash produce thoroughly to reduce your exposure to pesticides.
- Avoid eating foods, drinking water, and storing them in plastic containers. Use glass or ceramic containers instead.
- Purchase organic whole-grain breads and flour, or grind your own grain. Read labels to see if the product if the product is “bromine-free.”
- Reduce your consumption of sodas. Drink more natural, filtered water.
- Use an ozone purification system for your hot tubs, if you have one. This filtration system keeps your water clean with minimal chemical treatments.
- Use personal care products that are organic and chemical-free. Dangerous chemicals will also enter your body through your skin since your skin is highly absorbent.
- Open windows as much as possible when inside a building and/or a car. Higher amounts of chemical pollutants are more concentrated indoors than outside.