It’s needed in every stage of life and exists in every single cell in your body. It’s responsible for making sure hormones are produced in the right balance. And it’s essential for proper immune function.
Low levels are linked to cancer, ADD/ADHD, hypertension, hemorrhoids, liver disease, and many other conditions.1 These risks are well known, and widely ignored.
Yet deficiencies may be widespread. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 29% of the world’s population lives in areas at risk of iodine deficiency.2 And if you test absorption levels, that percentage is potentially far higher.
If you have iodized salt sitting on your kitchen table right now, you may assume you’re getting plenty of iodine. But don’t be too sure…
Read on to find out if you’re at risk of iodine deficiency…
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Most people only know this nutrient as something needed to produce thyroid hormone, and that’s the focus for WHO’s data on deficiency. Thyroid deficiency leads to unsightly goiters, as you may know. And most of the medical profession takes the attitude, “no goiters, no iodine problem.”
But this nutrient is concentrated not only in your thyroid gland, but in all your glands and glandular systems. Why the determined ignorance about iodine?
Iodine is an element that comes from the sea.
You find it in seawater, rocks that form when seawater evaporates, seaweed and other sea vegetables, and fish. However, it can also be added to other food sources through animal feed or the soil.
Or, of course, through iodized salt.
But the truth is, you may not be consuming anywhere near the quantity you need.
Nearly 100 years ago, the government began urging the addition of iodine to salt to decrease the incidence of goiter, which used to be an epidemic in the United States, especially in areas far from the ocean. Iodine was frequently added to bread as well. While many western countries achieved the goal of eliminating goiters, the amount they added isn’t actually enough to satisfy your body’s true need for iodine.
First of all, less than half the U.S. population even uses iodized table salt.3
In addition, studies show that the iodine in iodized salt is only about 10% bioavailable.4 So you might assume you’re getting enough, yet your body is unable to absorb it and flushes it right back out.
Widespread cancer impact
When you’re deficient in iodine, you become a sitting duck for a wide variety of diseases and health conditions, many related to cancer, fertility, and brain health.
David Brownstein, M.D., is a long-time advocate of large doses of iodine. He writes, “Diets that are deficient in iodine can result in . . . cretinism (very severe brain damage occurring in very early life), mental impairment, reduced intellectual ability, goiter, and infertility. In addition, iodine deficiency predisposes one to an increased risk of breast, prostate, endometrial, and ovarian cancer.”5
He also adds uterine and thyroid cancers to that list. All of these are heavily affected by hormones.6
However, Dr. Brownstein also notes that iodine shows a promising ability to actually fight against cancer. Studies have shown it may be able to force cancer cells to die rather than multiplying indefinitely.7
It is also a strong antioxidant, with its own unique blend of anticancer properties – possibly even more effective than Vitamin C.8 And it functions simultaneously as both an antioxidant and oxidant in your body, much like Vitamin C.
Iodine’s arch enemies
Iodine is one of the halogens, a family of basic elements that shares a column in the Periodic Table. Halogens often combine with sodium and certain metals to form salt-like compounds. The other common halogens are chlorine, bromine, and fluorine.
Bromine, a toxin that worsens iodine deficiency, tricks your body into thinking it is iodine. High levels of bromine in your system can lead to delirium, hallucination, psychomotor retardation, and schizophrenia, among other things.9
You’re exposed to bromine in many places – in pools and hot tubs, as a fumigant for the plants you eat or to kill termites and other bugs, and even in some prescription drugs.
Additionally, you may be able to thank your daily bread for your iodine deficiency. Unless you intentionally buy non-brominated flour and do your own baking, your baked goods most likely contain bromine.
Another dangerous halogen that negatively impacts your iodine levels is fluorine and its cousin fluoride. And rest assured, studies show that adding fluoride to drinking water does not prevent or decrease tooth decay.10 People who know what they’re talking about regard it as a toxin (and if you read the label on a fluoride toothpaste, you’ll see a warning not to swallow.)
Nor is it a neutral agent. Brownstein writes, “Fluoridation has been linked to dental fluorosis (discoloration of the teeth), hip fractures, bone cancer, lowered intelligence, kidney toxicity . . . [and] has been shown to inhibit the ability of the thyroid gland to concentrate iodine.”11
Like bromine, fluorine is also present in many common medications and is a typical ingredient in sprays used for fruits and vegetables.
If you’re on a municipal water system, you’re also undoubtedly ingesting toxic chloride into your system regularly.
Avoiding these toxins whenever and however you can is one key to achieving and maintaining sufficient iodine levels. But what about the toxins already in your system?
Creating a clean internal slate
Because of our increasing exposure to the toxins bromine, fluorine, and chlorine, higher iodine intake and regular detoxification are vital.
Here are three ways to detox your body of these halogens:
- Hydration. Whatever you’re attempting to expel from your body, drink large quantities of purified water. A rough guideline is to take your bodyweight in pounds, divide it in half, and drink that number in ounces every day. Be sure to drink filtered water free of toxins like chlorine and fluoride.
- Vitamin C. Supplementing with this powerful antioxidant can help oust toxins from both fat and tissue. For a brief detox, take it just short of the point where it gives you diarrhea (generally around ten grams or so per day (10,000 mg); this will vary with the individual).
- Unrefined salt. Yes, contrary to popular belief, you do need salt to help remove the bromine from your body. Dr. Brownstein recommends consuming 1 to 1½ teaspoons per day.12 By unrefined, we mean sea salt or Himalayan salt.
How much iodine should you take?
That’s truly the $64,000 question. And the answer is (drum roll please)… it depends.
Even doctors who agree that the RDA of approximately 150μg/day is not enough vehemently disagree about what the right amount actually is. And there isn’t a great deal of research on the subject.
The Japanese consume large amounts of iodine, up to about 7,000 mcg daily from Kombu alone.13 And they are some of the healthiest people in the world (till they emigrate to other countries). Japanese women with high iodine have lower risk of breast cancer. They also keep up their high levels during pregnancy.
But some scientists believe that the Japanese intake exceeds the upper safety limit of 1 mg by a staggering five to 14 times.14
Either the Japanese are mutants capable of thriving at toxic levels of iodine, or we’ve been deceived. Guy Abraham, M.D., of the Iodine Project, has done extensive study on iodine and believes we need 100 times the current RDA.15
There’s no question that the high rates of thyroid and other chronic health problems in America suggests that most of us are iodine deficient.
The best way to find your personal intake level is to measure iodine in urine samples. But differences of opinion exist even here.
WHO defines deficiency as a urinary iodine concentration of less than 50 μg/L. Brownstein recommends your urinary level be above 90. Now you at least have a range.
It’s unlikely a single amount works perfectly for everyone. You have to determine your current iodine status, toxin levels, and how well your body assimilates it. The best I can tell you is that you should – and you safely can – take many times the amount found in a conventional mineral supplement.
You’re unlikely to get much help from a doctor, whether conventional or alternative. Dr. Brownstein’s advocacy of high doses of iodine has not won widespread acceptance. I think he’s on to something, but the science is not definitive.
I took a popular high-dose form of iodine called Iodoral for several years with no ill effects that I could ever see. Iodoral contains 5 mg of iodine and 7.5 mg of iodide, a potassium salt. I stopped taking it, on the advice of my integrative doctor, because he said high doses of iodine actually depress thyroid function. I now take Nature’s Way Kelp, which consists of 600 mg of kelp containing 300 mcg of iodine. Some days I take two capsules just for an extra boost.
Our last issue covered a good natural cancer treatment that was almost buried by a major drug corporation, until a whistleblower inside the company revealed it to the outside world. The article is running again just below, in case you missed it.