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7 Reason for Iodine Deficiency and 37 Symptoms

Susanna Sisson's picture

Iodine deficiency remains one of the most important public health issues globally, and an estimated 2.2 billion people live in iodine-deficient areas. [1] Iodine is a mineral that is absolutely essential for every cell in the body to function, especially the thyroid. It is crucial for immune function, fetal development [2], neurocognitive function and prevents the formation of cancer cells.


Iodine is stored in the thyroid, breasts, and the prostate and in every cell in the body and is critical to maintaining good health because our thyroid uses iodine to create the hormones which control metabolism, weight gain and all core body functions. Over the past 30 years our average daily iodine intake has decreased by over 50% while the incidence of disease has increased.

Iodine raises saliva pH and reduces our risk of cancers by neutralizing the low pH environment where cancers thrive, while strengthening our body’s defenses. In a recent survey of 1478 cancer patients, 93% had a low saliva pH. The RDA in the US is 150 micrograms per day. In contrast, the average Japanese consumes 12 milligrams per day, 83 times higher. The incidence of breast cancer in Japan is half that of the U.S. while the general cancer rates were about one third of ours. There is a direct link between iodine deficiency and increased incidence of disease. With adequate iodine you will boost your metabolism, increase your energy and stamina, lose weight and, in many cases, reduce your dependency on other medications.

Have you been told you are “allergic” to iodine? That is virtually impossible since every cell needs iodine and it’s found in trace amounts in many foods. I’ve been a nurse for almost 30 years and have yet to see a true iodine allergy. What I have seen are allergies to radioactive iodine used in medical testing or allergies to the preservative in the dye. However, to prevent injury or getting sued, doctors often list iodine allergies on patient’s charts rather than explain the difference.

Some doctors estimate that 19 out of 20 Americans are iodine deficient. The big question is why?

Reasons for iodine deficiency

Lack of iodine in soil
Iodine is more abundant in coastal areas. One of the most deficient areas in the US is the Northwest including the Great Lakes and Appalachia, which was at one time called the goiter belt. Not only is where food is grown a problem, over-farming depletes iodine levels in the soil which means out food supply is iodine deficient. Iodine was added to salt in 1924 to correct the problem but the amount was lowered in the 1960’s by the FDA for no apparent reason and again thyroid issues and cancer rates soared.

Halogens (fluorine/fluoride, chlorine/chloride, bromine/bromide)
Iodine is a halogen, but when stronger halogens are taken in through diet, water consumption or bathing, dental treatments or products they cause the body to excrete iodine and exacerbate already deficient levels. Fluoridation became an official policy of the U.S. Public Health Service by 1951, and by 1960 water fluoridation had become common. When iodine deficiency was recognized as a health issue due to increased numbers of goiters, the US began to add iodine to salt. Initially salt fortified with iodine at 100 mg/kg, resulting in an estimated average intake of 500 µg iodine daily, but in 60’s the FDA lowered the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iodine to 150mcg which is just a fraction of the amount of iodine people in Japan get in their daily diet where thyroid problems and cancer rates are much lower than in the US. Then in the early 1970’s manufacturers of flour and bread products began to replace iodine with bromide which was used as a dough conditioner. To make matters worse bromine is used as a fire retardant in mattresses, clothes, carpets and many other household items so we are exposed to this toxic halogen whether we get it in our diet or now. While chloride is an element found in table salt it’s not the same as found in natural salt which has not been processed. Table salt is heated to a temperature of 1200 degrees and once heated chemical bonds are broken and the body does not recognize or assimilate the salt. Instead we should be eating salt that is not processed like Himalayan or sea salt. Not long after these halogens began to be used in the US physicians began to the incidence of thyroid disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cancer rates began to skyrocket. According to Dr. David Brownstein, author of “Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It”, this is not a coincidence.

Fluoride and bromide are in medications
You may not be aware but both of these halogens are found in medications. Fluoride is common in drugs to treat depression and bromide is found in many drugs used to treat asthma and epilepsy.

Pesticides contain bromine
Purchase organic food whenever possible. If you can’t afford organic wash your fruits and vegetables in a large bowl of water with about ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide. The water will be dark with contaminants. [9]

Consumption of foods that contain goitrogens
Goitrogens are substances that interfere with the iodine uptake in the thyroid and cause iodine deficiency. Cruciferous vegetables including soy, cassava, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower can lower uptake of iodine. The researchers point out that for most people eating cruciferous vegetables is not a problem but can be if already iodine deficient. [3]

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Deficiencies of iron and vitamin A
Deficiencies of micronutrients may also lower iodine uptake and have goitrogenic effects. A study at UC Davis confirmed that iodine combined with iron and or vitamin A improved thyroid function. [4]These issues are of concern primarily for people living in areas prone to iodine deficiency, especially Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. [5]

Use of artificial sweeteners or foods that contain them
If you drink diet drinks that contain sucralose which breaks down into chlorine then chances are you have an iodine deficiency. Even occasional use can cause a problem. Even frequent extended exposure to chlorinated pool water or hot tubs that can also be treated with bromine could pose a potential problem. [8]

What are symptoms of iodine deficiency? (This is a partial list – there are actually 300) [6]

• allergies
• brain fog/cloudy thinking
• dementia
• dry or cracking skin, cysts and nodules
• fatigue/lack of energy
• thyroid problems (hypo or hyperthyroidism)
• ovarian problems
• menstrual irregularities
• weight gain
• breast pain/fibrocystic breast disease
• feeling cold and having cold hands and feet
• gum infection
• psoriasis
• hair thinning
• puffy face
• fertility problems/miscarriages
• depression
• heart arrhythmia
• high blood pressure
• high cholesterol
• scars
• infections
• fibromyalgia
• elevated blood pressure or cholesterol
• hearing loss
• tinnitus
• prostate disease
• lung conditions
• constipation
• vaginal infections
• eye problems
• neck pain
• Eczema
• frequent colds and viruses and other infections
• low testosterone
• decreased libido

How to protect yourself from iodine deficiency
• Install a water filter on your home that filters out halogens.
• Eat foods high in iodine such as seafood and seaweed.
• Avoid black tea or use organic tea s
• Avoid grapes, grape juice and wine. Wineries use fluoride-based pesticides in their vineyards. Buy organic wines if possible. California wines have higher levels of fluoride than European wines. [11]
• Cook with cast iron which enriches food with iron.
• Avoid using Teflon-coated non-stick pans. These pans are made with polytetrafluoroethylene which releases carbonyl-fluoride and other extremely toxic gases when it is heated. These chemicals have been linked to thyroid disease.
• Be careful what prescription drugs you take. Prozac, Paxil, some other SSRI antidepressants, antacids, antibiotics, antihistamines and some vitamins can all contain fluorine. Fluorine metabolizes into fluoride in your body. You may want to check with your doctor to see if your medication contains fluorine, and consider an alternative. [10]
• If you have asthma or epilepsy and take medications ask your doctor if they contain bromine.
• Avoid reconstituted juices, sodas such as such as Mountain Dew, Fresca, Gatorade and other citrus-flavored sodas and soft drinks.
• Use non-bromated flour and do no use vegetable oil which is bromated.
• Limit exposure to chlorine in pools and hot tubs.
• Make your own toothpaste with coconut oil, baking soda, and a drop of peppermint oil.
• Supplement with iodine or Iodoral but before you do, ask your doctor to evaluate your thyroid and get tested for high levels of bromide and fluoride.
• Eat foods rich in Vitamin A such as sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, winter squashes, lettuce, dried apricots, cantaloupe, bell peppers, fish, liver, and tropical fruits.

These are 2 simple questions you should be asking yourself and addressing with your doctor.

  1. Do you feel that you lack the energy you need?
  2. Do you have symptoms that your doctor cannot explain?

If the answer to either is yes, iodine deficiency may be the cause, even if your thyroid levels are within normal range. I personally had over 50 symptoms of iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism yet my lab results were considered “normal”.

I would also recommend finding a doctor who will do an iodine loading test and bromide toxicity test. If you live in an area where the water contains fluoride, you may also want a fluoride toxicity test. Before you see your doctor I highly suggest doing a Thyroid Symptom Survey ( http://www.thyroid.ca/thyroid_questionnaire.php) and discussing these tests with your doctor. You should also have a complete thyroid panel test before beginning any supplementation with iodine supplements so that you have an accurate baseline.

Iodine is your body’s front line defense against disease. Our immune system cannot function effectively without it. The anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties of iodine have no known substitute, yet there is a serious lack of iodine in the U.S. food supply and the RDA for iodine is ridiculously low. There is a direct link between iodine deficiency, breast and prostate health, fibromyalgia, cancers and many other diseases. And this is one instance where it beneficial to have more than too little since deficiency poses substantial risks.

To learn more about iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism I recommend reading Dr. Brownstein‘s book “Iodine Why We Need It, Why We Can’t Live Without It” for a complete explanation. Another good source of information is Dr. Steven Hotze’s book, “Hypothyroidism, Health, and Happiness“.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22892867
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24864180
3. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/
4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20172476?dopt=Abstract
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18676011?dopt=Abstract
6. http://hypothyroidmom.com/300-hypothyroidism-symptoms-yes-really/
7. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/iodine
8. http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/the-dangers-of-chlorinated-pools-and-how-to-protect-yourself/
9. http://www.healthyandnaturalworld.com/easily-remove-pesticides-fruits-vegetables/
10. http://www.slweb.org/ftrcfluorinatedpharm.html
11. http://lowthyroiddiet.com/low-thyroid-chemicals.htm