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Friday, August 19, 2011

7: In Response to a Reader

An email showed up in my inbox one day from a reader who had read my article “Anxiety and the Iodine Intervention.” She described some of her own struggles with stress and anxiety and the help she found from a naturopath who treated her for a sluggish thyroid and maxed-out adrenals, all with natural products. Three years later she is still “doing just fine.” She adds, “Your article has me wondering if I need to also incorporate iodine-rich foods in my diet.”

Many people, once they recognize their need for iodine, tend to think first of trying to get it from food. This is a noble ideal, but perhaps not practical. It’s very difficult to get adequate iodine from food sources in North America.
The first question is, “How much iodine do we need?” Well, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for iodine is 150 mcg for adults and 200 for pregnant women. But a number of researchers today believe this amount is woefully inadequate. It is the bare minimum required to prevent goitre, and gross mental retardation in babies. However, there are many organs in the body that need iodine, and since the thyroid gets first dibs, the rest of the system often must do without.

In mainland Japan, it’s been calculated in a wide survey by urinalysis that the average intake of iodine there is 13.8 mg per day. (To get this much iodine from ocean fish, we’d have to eat 10-20 pounds per day.) This is well over eighty times the RDA. Not only is seaweed (a rich source of this essential mineral) a mainstay in their diet, but also their fields are fertilized with seaweed. This population is one of the healthiest in the world, especially in their low incidence of cancer, particularly cancer of the female reproductive organs.

Current research suggests that if one takes 2 drops of Lugol’s Solution (13 mg of iodine and potassium iodide) daily for a year, the body will reach iodine sufficiency: that is, every system in the body will finally have all it wants. The mainstream medical profession freaks out at such a suggestion. They say these amounts can cause the thyroid to malfunction. This fear comes from an inconclusive and trumped-up study conducted in 1948, which came up with a theory called the Wolfe-Chaikoff Effect. (If you’re up for a heavy read, google “Crying Wolfe?” by Dr. G. Abraham.) Up until this point, both hypo- and hyperthyroidism were successfully treated with Lugol’s. From then on (to the drug companies’ delight), hypothyroidism has been treated with synthetic thyroxin; hyperthyroidism patients are first given radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid and thereafter they also must use thyroxin.

Our need of iodine is greater in this day than ever before, given our ingestion of various forms of chlorine, bromine, and fluorine. These three elements are halogens, as is iodine. They appear together in a vertical column on the periodic table that we all tried to understand in high school chemistry. Iodine is the weakest of the four, so any iodine present in the body gets “bumped” when one of the others shows up. And these other three elements are all ultimately toxic to the human body, so when, for instance, the iodine receptors in the thyroid get taken up with fluoride, this is not a good situation. Some suspect that this is part of the reason for the increased incidence of thyroid cancer. Sufficient iodine will drive these impostors from the receptors.

Sometimes supplementing with generous amounts of iodine will cause symptoms that the medical establishment have interpreted as overdose. Researchers have now seen that it is a sign of the kidneys and liver being overwhelmed with disenfranchised bromine as these organs struggle to clear it from the body. I personally experienced three of these symptoms at three different times: frontal sinus headache, crazy sneezing, and acne (well, in my case, a few very uncharacteristic pimples). Each time the symptoms eased immediately when I followed a simple sea-salt cleanse that takes one hour.

One final word to the wise: if you decide to supplement with iodine, make sure you are also getting selenium, between 100 and 400 mcg per day. This too is vital for thyroid balance.