Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Iodide (I)

Iodine (I2), present in food as iodide (I) and other nonelemental forms, was linked to the presence of goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland, during World War I. Men drafted from areas such as the Great Lakes region of the United States had a much higher rate of goiter than men from some other areas of the country. The soil in these areas is very low in iodide. During the 1920’s, researchers in Ohio found that goiter could be prevented in children by feeding them low doses of iodide for an extended period. Following the lead of the Swiss, American companies began adding iodide to table salt.

Early in the 1960’s, published research linked thyroid disease to overconsumption of iodine. The Wolff-Chaikoff studies (later proved to be fraudulent) corresponded with the push by Knoll Pharmaceuticals to corner the thyroid market with Synthroid. Synthroid, introduced in 1955 would go on to supply 90% of the thyroid medication worldwide by the 1990’s. Today it is still the third most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S.

It also is one of only a handful of drugs that was never approved by the FDA. After 46 years on the market, the FDA finally demanded that Abbott (who bought Knoll) to apply for FDA approval in 2001.

Following the Wolff research, iodine was subsequently removed from baked goods. Although it remains in iodized salt, physicians have been preaching reduced salt intake for years. Subsequently, the number of underactive thyroid cases in the U.S. skyrocketed.

Iodine supplementation began to find favor in the alternative health community during the 1990’s. Dr. Abraham and Dr. Brownstein have pioneered treatment regimens and published several research papers on the topic. Please visit and look for the tab “iodine research” to review their studies. Dr. Brownstein has written several books on the thyroid, including a New York Times best seller “Iodine: Why you need it. Why you can’t live without it”.

The RDA for iodine is 150 mcg. However, physicians routinely recommend doses ranging from 3 to 50 mg per day. That is anywhere from 20 to 140 times the RDA.

In the 1990’s, I did try building to the “loading dose” of 50mg, starting with 3mg per day and adding 3mg each day until reaching 50mg. The goal is to then stay at 50mg per day for up to 3 months to rebuild the iodine deficiency.

The “loading dose” worked really well for me. I was born and raised in Michigan, goiter capital of the U.S. and home to Dr. Brownstein’s practice. However, it did not perform so well in my practice. About one-third of my patients benefited from loading iodine. Another third had no apparent benefit, but the last third got significantly worse. They noted weight gain, hair loss, and dry skin increasing rather than improving.

These negative effects are thought to be due to toxic accumulation of the other halides in the body – bromine, fluoride and chlorine. When iodine intake is increased, these halides are forced out of the tissues and create increased symptoms of hypothyroidism

I have since modified my approach to iodine supplementation. Typically, I start at 6.25mg per day for two weeks. If the patient tolerates it well, we increase to 12.5mg per day. This matches the average daily intake for people living along the northern coast of Japan, where much of the research on dietary iodine has been conducted.

The Bottom Line:
As with all supplements, please consult a well-qualified nutritionist before adding iodine to your daily regimen. However, if you suffer from low energy, weight gain, hair loss and/or dry skin, your thyroid may be starved for iodine.

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