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Plants do not need iodine, but humans require it for the production of thyroid hormones which regulate the basal metabolic rate (BMR) of the body. Enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter) develops when there is not enough iodine to manufacture the thyroid hormones. The gland enlarges in an attempt to trap more iodine. Supplemental iodine in small quantities usually resolves this problem, but thyroid hormone supplementation may be needed. Even though commercial table salt has had iodine added to deal with this once common deficiency, iodine deficiency is still a problem, and many people in the United States have goiter. Cretinism occurs when iodine deficiency occurs early in life and is characterized by irreversible mental retardation and other problems. It may be present in iodine-deficient babies or children born to women who are lacking iodine.

The body contains only about 25mg (that is 25,000mcg) of iodine. Since iodine is not conserved by the body as with many other minerals, it must be obtained regularly from the diet. Iodine is well absorbed from the stomach into the blood and excessive iodine is eliminated rapidly through the kidneys.

Fish, shellfish, and seaweed are dependably rich sources of iodine. Kelp is an especially concentrated source of iodine. It is also rich in other minerals and thus is a good seasoning substitute for salt. Sea salt is a natural source of iodine, although it is not nearly as high in this mineral as "iodized" salt. Iodized salt contains about 75mcg (.075mg) of iodine per gram of salt. The average person consumes at least 3 grams of salt daily, thus exceeding the RDA for iodine of 150mcg. More iodine is needed during pregnancy and lactation and those on low-salt diets may need supplemental iodine.

The iodine content of a particular food may vary widely depending on the iodine content in the soil in which it grows. Plants grown or animals grazed on iodine-rich soil will contain substantial amounts of iodine. Foods that may contain iodine, especially when the soil is good, are onions, mushrooms, lettuce, spinach, green peppers, pineapple, peanuts, cheddar cheese, and whole wheat bread.

Even though getting the RDA for iodine, some people seem to have more energy consuming more than the minimal amount needed to prevent goiter. Iodine has also been used to help increase energy level and utilization in cases of fatigue, mental sluggishness, and weight gain caused by hypothyroidism. Iodine itself will not help with weight loss if there is normal thyroid function.

Potassium iodide has been used medicinally for problems of the skin and as an expectorant for bronchial congestion. Iodine supplements are also used to help prevent the uptake of radioactive iodine if it is present in the environment. When the thyroid is saturated with iodine, there is less radioactive iodine uptake and greater elimination of it from the body.

There is no significant danger of toxicity of iodine from a natural diet, though some care must be taken when supplementing iodine or using it in large doses. A regular elevated intake of iodine is needed to produce toxicity. Some people have allergic reactions, mainly as skin rashes, to iodine products. Iodine supplementation is known to worsen some acne cases. Taking large doses (50-100mg) regularly can cause a thyroid storm (hyperthyroidism) in some individuals.

The main function of the iodine is synthesis, storage and secretion of thyroid hormone. What iodine is left over is taken up in other tissues especially extracellular fluids and excreted in the urine. From extracellular fluids iodine travels in the lymphatics and re-enters the blood stream via the main lymphatic channel, the thoracic duct. In the 1960s it was established that if the daily dose of iodine was increased to over 2-3mgs (2000-3000mcg) of iodine per day, within two weeks, the thyroid became saturated and no longer took up iodine in significant amounts. So a normal person who raised their daily dose of iodine above, say 3 mgs, within two weeks their thyroid would almost completely stop taking up iodine as it became saturated, but more important to the body, all of the dietary iodine then went to perform other body functions.

In the 1960s (in the US) mandated iodine containing dough was equivalent to the RDA of 150mcg per slice of bread. Your average diet in 1960 contained about one mg of iodine per day, with bakery products providing 726 mcg. This amount was enough to significantly reduce your thyroid glandís ability to absorb radioactive iodine. It also was enough to lower excess thyroid hormone release, preventing hyperthyroidism. And it would provide more availability of iodine for your breasts or prostate.

Then it was withdrawn for fear of adverse effects from too much iodine (Iodophobia). It is very difficult to get too much iodine from food. But to make matters worse, the food industry decided to replace the iodine with bromine in many instances.

At that time the incidence of breast cancer was only 1 in 20. In the past 20+ years the use of iodine supplementation in bread was eliminated and a goiter producing substance toxic to the thyroid gland (bromine) was introduced as replacement for iodine. The risk for breast cancer is now 1 in 8 and this risk is increasing by one percent each year. The decision to replace iodine in an iodine deficient population with a goitrogen was illogical and lacking in common sense. The damaging effects of bromine on thyroid tissue also appears to contribute to the development of auto-immune diseases in the thyroid gland (Hashimoto's thyroiditis).

Switzerland, Germany and New Zealand have already decided to act to add iodine to foods. Australia is going to add it to bread again, after discontinuing it's addition for some years.

Nearly every physician in the United States will reach for a prescription pad to order thyroid hormone when he sees a patient with goiter or symptoms of hypothyroidism. This can be exactly the wrong thing to do if the patient has deficient stores of iodine. Insist on obtaining a 24 hour urine collection for iodine to eliminate iodine lack as the cause for your symptoms (values below 50 ug/liter are abnormal). Thyroid hormone therapy in the presence of iodine deficiency increases the risk of breast cancer and probably thyroid cancer as well. Endocrinologist, Dr. Guy Abraham, formerly of the U.C.L.A. Department of Endocrinology, is convinced that everyone needs to be on iodine therapy until their iodine stores have been fully restored. After this time frame periodic intake of iodine will help insure that the many body functions requiring iodine run smoothly.

Some holistic doctors feel that no more than one dose per day of Iodoral should be used without supervision. Others suggest a dosage of two tablets of Iodoral twice daily for three months followed by one Iodoral tablet daily for a year will restore iodine stores for most persons. At that point periodic taking of an Iodoral tablet daily one month out of 4 to 6 months etc. will be adequate to maintain iodine stores. Iodine stores can be easily monitored by taking 4 Iodoral tablets (50 mg iodine) and collecting a 24 hour urine sample for iodine content. If 80% of the ingested iodine is found in the urine collection the iodine stores are normal. Iodoral can be obtained from Optimox Corp. Torrance, Cal. To purchase a referral from a health care practitioner is needed.

SSKI (Super-Saturated Potassium Iodide) can be obtained without prescription in some compounding pharmacies, some health food stores, through online sources. This form of iodide has many practical uses, and can be used both topically and orally.


Iodine can help with the following:
AutoimmuneNot recommended for:
 Iodine use is often contraindicated in hyperthyroidism. However, very high doses of Iodine for short periods (about thirty drops daily of SSKI for three weeks) have sometimes produced favorable results in Graves' disease. Because of the possibility of causing a 'thyroid storm' (an acute hyperthyroid state), this therapy should only be attempted under close supervision by a doctor experienced in its use.

  Chronic Thyroiditis
 Iodine is important for normal thyroid hormone production but in Hashimoto's thyroiditis, supplemental iodine can enhance the immune system attack and thus could make the thyroid problem worse.


 Sometimes a low functioning thyroid gland will improve with the addition of iodine in some form. Seaweeds and kelp have been found helpful. See link between Hypothyroidism and Selenium, and the link to Fluoride Avoidance. Before prescription thyroid medication is considered, supplemental iodine should be tried.


  Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome
 Low iodine may also contribute to fatigue and CFS. A study showed that those with low body temperature and fatigue felt better on Iodine 1,500 mcg a day - even though their temperature did not rise with treatment. It is reasonable for those with chronic fatigue, CFS and fibromyalgia to try added iodine (Iodoral) for 3 months to see if it helps. Dr Jacob Teitelbaum MD.


  Fungal Skin / Nail Infection
 Sometimes applying an iodine solution, like Betadyne, once or more per day to the affected cuticla area of the nail will result in healthy nail growth - the damaged portion slowly moving outward as new nail is generated.


  Bruxism (Clenching/Grinding Teeth)
 People who clench and/or grind their teeth in their sleep can reduce this by taking up to 8 drops of Lugol's (potassium iodide) daily or periodically. SSKI can also be used.

  Blood Type O

Not recommended for:
  Metabolic Diet Type


  Dupuytren's Contracture
 Rub SSKI into the thickened tissue at least twice daily. This softens and lessens the fibrotic area over a period of several months, allowing for more normal function. If the hands are very clean, the SSKI can be mixed with DMSO. But because the tendons are so near the surface, mixing with DMSO may not be necessary in this area. The caution here is that the hands tend to get dirtier than other skin surfaces and DMSO is very effective at carrying things ON the skin, INTO to skin.


  Iodine Requirement

Organ Health

  COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
 If you have chronic bronchitis and or emphysema ("COPD", "COLD") SSKI is an invaluable tool. SSKI "gets into" all body secretions, including often thick and hard to cough up bronchial secretions, which get infected very easily. SSKI takes care of both of these problems. It "loosens" secretions remarkably, making them much easier to "clear", and it prevents micro-organisms from growing easily. With regular SSKI use, bronchial infection is a much less frequent happening. Depending on the severity of COPD, I recommend 3 to 6 drops of SSKI taken in water once daily. As COPD is usually a chronic condition, SSKI use will usually be indefinite, so make sure to monitor your thyroid function! (See the August 2002 Nutrition & Healing for a more complete discussion of natural COPD treatment - Jonathon Wright, MD.) [Taken from]


  Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
  Increased Risk of Thyroid Cancer


  Sebaceous Hyperplasia
 Rubbing in SSKI mixed with DMSO (50/50 mixture) will typically assist these cysts to go away in a few weeks. The mechanism of action may be that iodine helps dissolve the fatty material in the cysts, allowing the body to slowly resorb the cyst contents.

Not recommended for:
  Adult Acne
 According to James E. Fulton Jr., M.D., head of the Acne Research Institute in Newport Beach, California, "In some who are acne-prone, ... one milligram of iodine a day could be a problem." Foods high in iodine should be eliminated on a trial basis.


  Fibrocystic Breasts
 For reasons that are not known, supplemental iodine appears to help with cyclic mastalgia also known as cyclic mastitis or fibrocystic breasts. In animals, iodine deficiency can cause the equivalent of fibrocystic breasts. What appears to be the most effective form - diatomic iodine - is not readily available. Because some people are sensitive to iodine and high amounts can alter thyroid function, it should not be taken without a doctorís involvement.

One hundred-eight women with fibrocystic breasts were treated with a preparation containing molecular (diatomic elemental) iodine at a dose of 0.08 mg per kg of body weight per day orally for nine months. Ninety-eight percent of the women were pain-free by the end of the study and objective improvement was seen in 71.8% of cases. Sixty-five percent of the women had a reduction in breast size coincident with clinical improvement. In a larger series of women (n = 1,365) treated with molecular iodine, side effects (usually minor) occurred in 10.9% of cases; these included acne, nausea, diarrhea, hair thinning, hyperthyroidism (0.1% incidence), hypothyroidism (0.3% incidence), skin rash, headache, or transient increase in breast pain (5.7% incidence).

Two other groups of women were treated with Lugol's solution (a preparation containing 95% sodium iodide and 5% free iodine) and iodized casein, respectively. The response rate with Lugol's solution was 70%, and with iodized casein was 40%. Molecular iodine was associated with a lower incidence of thyroid dysfunction than the other preparations. [Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, Nov, 2004 by Alan R. Gaby]

Study of radioiodine uptake in normals and women with fibrocystic breasts reveals that the fibrocystic breasts were able to take in 12.5% of the iodine dosage compared to only 6.9% in normal breasts. This proves the existence of considerable iodine depletion in fibrocystic breasts.

May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended
May have adverse consequences
Reasonably likely to cause problems


Acne:  A chronic skin disorder due to inflammation of hair follicles and sebaceous glands (secretion glands in the skin).

Cancer:  Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.

Expectorant:  A substance that promotes the removal of mucous from the respiratory tract.

Goiter:  A chronic enlargement of the thyroid gland produced by the body in an attempt to increase hormone production from limited amount of iodine. It is not due to cancerous growth.

Gram:  (gm): A metric unit of weight, there being approximately 28 grams in one ounce.

Hormones:  Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.

Hyperthyroidism:  An abnormal condition of the thyroid gland resulting in excessive secretion of thyroid hormones characterized by an increased metabolism and weight loss.

Hypothyroidism:  Diminished production of thyroid hormone, leading to low metabolic rate, tendency to gain weight, and sleepiness.

Iodine:  A essential mineral that is an integral part of the thyroid hormones, thyroxin and triiodothyronine which have important metabolic roles and govern basal metabolism. The best known iodine deficiency symptom is goiter. Other iodine deficiency problems are reduced vitality, hypothyroidism, inability to think clearly, low resistance to infection, loss of control of the muscles of the mouth resulting in mouth contortion and drooling, defective teeth, tendency to obesity and cretinism which is a congenital abnormal condition marked by physical stunting and mental deficiency.

Lactation:  Production of milk; period after giving birth during which milk is secreted in the breasts.

Lymph Glands:  Located in the lymph vessels of the body, these glands trap foreign material and produce lymphocytes. These glands act as filters in the lymph system, and contain and form lymphocytes and permit lymphatic cells to destroy certain foreign agents.

Metabolism:  The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.

Microgram:  (mcg): 1/1,000 of a milligram in weight.

Milligram:  (mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

Mineral:  Plays a vital role in regulating many body functions. They act as catalysts in nerve response, muscle contraction and the metabolism of nutrients in foods. They regulate electrolyte balance and hormonal production, and they strengthen skeletal structures.

Potassium:  A mineral that serves as an electrolyte and is involved in the balance of fluid within the body. Our bodies contain more than twice as much potassium as sodium (typically 9oz versus 4oz). About 98% of total body potassium is inside our cells. Potassium is the principal cation (positive ion) of the fluid within cells and is important in controlling the activity of the heart, muscles, nervous system and just about every cell in the body. Potassium regulates the water balance and acid-base balance in the blood and tissues. Evidence is showing that potassium is also involved in bone calcification. Potassium is a cofactor in many reactions, especially those involving energy production and muscle building.

Prostate:  The prostate gland in men that surrounds the neck of the bladder and the urethra and produces a secretion that liquefies coagulated semen.

RDA:  Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins or other nutrients as determined by the FDA. U.S. RDAs are more widely used than RDAs, and focus on 3 age groups: Infants of 0-12 months; Children of 1-4 years; Adults and children of more than 4 years.

Stomach:  A hollow, muscular, J-shaped pouch located in the upper part of the abdomen to the left of the midline. The upper end (fundus) is large and dome-shaped; the area just below the fundus is called the body of the stomach. The fundus and the body are often referred to as the cardiac portion of the stomach. The lower (pyloric) portion curves downward and to the right and includes the antrum and the pylorus. The function of the stomach is to begin digestion by physically breaking down food received from the esophagus. The tissues of the stomach wall are composed of three types of muscle fibers: circular, longitudinal and oblique. These fibers create structural elasticity and contractibility, both of which are needed for digestion. The stomach mucosa contains cells which secrete hydrochloric acid and this in turn activates the other gastric enzymes pepsin and rennin. To protect itself from being destroyed by its own enzymes, the stomachís mucous lining must constantly regenerate itself.

Thyroid:  Thyroid Gland: An organ with many veins. It is at the front of the neck. It is essential to normal body growth in infancy and childhood. It releases thyroid hormones - iodine-containing compounds that increase the rate of metabolism, affect body temperature, regulate protein, fat, and carbohydrate catabolism in all cells. They keep up growth hormone release, skeletal maturation, and heart rate, force, and output. They promote central nervous system growth, stimulate the making of many enzymes, and are necessary for muscle tone and vigor.