By: David Brownstein, M.D. Available at: Dr. Brownsstein.com
I began my interest in iodine over 12 years ago. Michigan, my home state, resides in the “Goiter Belt” of the United States, where the soil is deficient in iodine. Although I suspected iodine deficiency in many of his patients, my initial uses of potassium iodide gave suboptimal results. Some patients did improve, but many did not notice any appreciable improvement. When I started using the correct form and amount of iodine, I started to see clinical results. With the advent of iodized salt, iodine deficiency was thought to be a thing of the past. That is not true. Iodine deficiency is occurring at near epidemic rates. This presentation will review the consequences of iodine deficiency.
Four years ago, I began testing my patients with the Iodine Loading Test (FFP Labs, 877–999–5556). Although I expected lowered body iodine levels, I was not ready for the magnitude of the results. After testing over 4,000 patients, over 95% of those tested showed deficiency on laboratory testing for inorganic iodine. When physiologic doses of iodine/iodide were added to their regimen, many of these patients showed dramatic improvement in their condition.
Many illnesses have been helped by iodine/iodide. These include fibromyalgia, thyroid disorders, chronic fatigue, immune deficiency syndrome, autoimmune disorders, as well as cancer (including breast, prostate, thyroid, and ovarian). Most patients who are deficient in iodine will respond positively to iodine supplementation. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that iodine deficiency sets up the immune system to malfunction which can lead to the development of many of the above disorders. Every patient could benefit from a thorough evaluation of iodine levels.
Iodine deficiency is often thought of as synonymous with thyroid malfunction, particularly with the development of goiter. The research is clear that iodine deficiency can lead to cysts and nodules of the thyroid gland. David Marine reported the benefits of treating school-aged children with iodine/iodide (Lugol’s solution) nearly 70 years ago (JAMA. 1937. 108:860-864). Marine looked at two groups: a control group and a treatment group receiving 9mg/day of iodine/iodide. The iodine/iodide treatment group had a 0.2% incidence of goiter, while the control group had a 22% goiter—a 110x difference. This was the first U.S. iodine study showing the decline of goiter formation with the use of iodine. Shortly after this study, iodized table salt was introduced and was a great success in eliminating goiter in the U.S.
In medical school, little was taught about iodine. Specifically, doctors were taught that the iodization of salt was implemented to prevent goiter and therefore no further iodine was necessary in the diet. After studying the literature on iodine, I realized what I was taught in medical school was incorrect. The iodization of salt was adequate to lessen the prevalence of goiter, but it did not address the rest of the body’s need for iodine.
When I began testing his patients for iodine levels, I was amazed at the prevalence of iodine deficiency. As previously stated, over 95% of my patients tested low for iodine. I noticed that patients with chronic illnesses, from autoimmune disorders to cancer, often have lower iodine levels as compared to relatively healthy patients.
I was initially hesitant to use higher (>1mg) doses of iodine due to his concern about causing adverse effects. In reviewing much of the literature there was concern about larger doses of iodine causing hyperthyroid symptoms. However, a further, more exhaustive review of the literature failed to prove that iodine, in milligram doses ever was shown to cause hyperthyroid symptoms. In fact, as iodine levels have fallen over 50% in the last 30 years in the United States, autoimmune disorders and hyperthyroid symptoms have been increasing at near epidemic proportions (CDC. NHANES study 1971-2000).
After testing individuals and finding low iodine levels, I began to use milligram amounts of iodine/iodide (6-50mg/day). It was only with these higher doses that he began to see clinical improvement as well as positive changes in the laboratory tests.
Why would people need the larger doses of iodine? Why have iodine levels fallen 50% in the last 30 years? As I pondered these questions, I came to the conclusion that the toxicity of modern life must be impacting iodine levels. It is well known that the toxic halides, fluoride and bromide, having structure similar to iodine, can competitively inhibit iodine absorption and binding in the body.
After the thyroid gland, the breasts are the second main glandular storage site for iodine. The relationship between breast illness and iodine deficiency has been reported for over 100 years. Iodine concentrates in the breast and is secreted from the breast. Normal breast architecture will not develop when there is iodine deficiency present. Diseased breast tissue has been shown to take up more iodine as compared to healthy breast tissue (Eskin. OB-GYN. 1974;44:398-402). The higher uptake in the abnormal breasts indicates that a greater deficiency of iodine is present compared to normal breasts.
Maryann is a 45-year-old R.N. who has been a patient of Dr. Brownstein for five years. He diagnosed Maryann with hypothyroidism five years ago, and she was being treated with Armour thyroid. Her hypothyroid conditions (fatigue, hair falling out, etc.) improved significantly with thyroid replacement and she was presently euthyroid. Maryann was also suffering from fibrocystic breast disease. She said, “I was thinking about a mastectomy. I can’t wear a bra because my breasts are so tender.” Maryann was told to avoid caffeine and to go on birth control pills to treat the cystic breasts. She could not tolerate the birth control pills and received minimal improvement from dietary changes. Maryann was found to be very low on iodine (27% excretion—normal is >90%). Within three weeks of taking 50mg of iodide/iodine (4x Iodoral®), all her breast symptoms improved. She said, “My pain level declined immediately and after three weeks, it was 70% better. I can now wear a bra without pain.” Two months later, a physical exam revealed no signs of fibrocystic breasts, and she was now completely pain free. “I am ecstatic. I can now exercise, and I feel just wonderful,” Maryann said.
Iodine/iodide supplementation has markedly improved the course of illness in fibrocystic breasts in almost all of my patients with fibrocystic breast disease. In addition, those with breast cancer also improve. Nodules and fibrous changes of the breasts significantly improve in a short time period. I believes that the epidemic of breast disease we are seeing in this country is due, in no small part, to iodine deficiency.
There are many other illnesses that also improved with iodine therapy. Table 2 gives examples of some of these illnesses.
Iodine has many positive therapeutic actions. It is a potent anti-infective agent. No virus, bacteria or parasite has been shown to be resistant to iodine therapy. I have found that providing adequate iodine to provide the body with iodine sufficiency markedly decreases the number and severity of infections in these patients. Table 3 lists some of the other therapeutic actions of iodine.
Table 2: Conditions Treated With Iodine
- Breast Disease
- Dupuytren’s Contracture
- Excess Mucous Production
- Fibrocystic Breasts
- Headaches and Migraine Headaches
- Ovarian Cysts
- Parotid Duct Stones
- Peyronie’s Sebaceous
- Cysts Thyroid Disorders
- Vaginal Infections
Table 3: Therapeutic Actions of Iodine and Conditions Iodine Can Treat
- Mucolytic Agent
My clinical experience using physiologic doses of iodine/iodide (6.25-50mg/day) has been very positive. To date, I and my partners have treated over 4,000 patients. The side effects with using these doses have been minimal. Rarely, we observed iodism (metallic taste in mouth, frontal sinus pressure/pain, and increased salivation). Iodism is easily rectified by adjusting the dose of iodine down or simply by telling the patient to await the resolution of these symptoms, which takes approximately 1-3 weeks. In treating over 4,000 patients, he has found three patients with “allergy” to non-radioactive inorganic iodine/ iodide. An acupressure technique, NAET (NAET.com) has proven very effective to reverse this allergy. Allergy to fish, shellfish or radioactive iodine does not mean there is an allergy to inorganic non-radioactive iodine. In fact, true inorganic iodine allergy is very rare, if it in fact exists.
In summary, iodine deficiency is common in today’s toxic world. Iodine levels have fallen 50% over the last 30 years in the United States. During this same time, there have been dramatic increases in illnesses of the breast (including breast cancer), prostate, thyroid and the immune system (i.e., autoimmune disorders). All of these conditions can be caused (in part or wholly) from iodine deficiency. Iodine levels should be evaluated in all suffering from illness and those trying to achieve their optimal health.