What you should know about iodine

Published on September 14, 2020

Reading time: 8 minutes.

Iodine is an important nutrient that is largely missing from our diet, with far reaching consequences for our health and wellbeing.

This article provides the answers to the following questions:

  • What is Iodine?
  • Why is iodine crucial for optimal health?
  • What can I do to improve my iodine levels quickly?
Iodine is a chemical element (meaning it is a pure substance that cannot be broken down) and the heaviest essential mineral nutrient.

What is iodine?

You’ve probably seen iodine and perhaps not realised. Maybe your grandparents kept a bottle of it handy to disinfect cuts and scrapes (bottle of dark liquid, hurt like hell) or perhaps you saw a patient undergoing surgery on TV, wearing the usual green gown and having their skin painted with a dark, purpley liquid. That’s iodine!

Iodine, like magnesium, is a ‘mineral’, meaning it is a solid, naturally occurring substance that is required as an essential nutrient by organisms to perform functions necessary for life.

Iodine is found in our seas and the earth and of course our bodies where it is found in each and every one of our trillions of cells.

Why is iodine crucial for optimal health?

All of our cells need iodine, but some of our glands, organs and bodily functions have a higher dependancy on it, in particular: the breasts; ovaries; cervix; blood; lymph; bones; gastric mucosal; salivary & adrenal glands; prostate; colon; thymus; lungs; bladder; kidney; and skin. Iodine is also found and used in every hormonal receptor in the body.

Without adequate iodine levels life becomes difficult yet, iodine deficiency affects about two billion people and is the leading preventable cause of intellectual disabilities.

In his blog entitled, “Iodine – The Universal and Holistic Super Mineral”, Dr Gabriel Cousens, a leading authority on iodine, lists out the important functions of iodine, in no particular order. His blog is quite long so I have removed some of the details and jargon for easier reading:

  1. Iodine helps synthesize thyroid hormones and prevents both hypo- and hyperthyroidism – these thyroid hormones control metabolism, temperature, heart rate, regulation of cortisol and improve immune function.
  2. Iodine sufficiency reverses hypo- and hyperthyroidism – obesity, fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, low stomach acid can be overcome with iodine sufficiency.
  3. Iodine supports apoptosis – which is the programmed cell death of unhealthy cells to protect against cancer and keep us younger for longer.
  4. Iodine activates hormone receptors and helps prevent certain forms of cancer – iodine sufficiency activates the thyroid hormone sites in all our bodies cells which means that the energy producing parts of the cells (the mitochondria) are all properly activated. The primary cause of cancer from an energetic perspective is mitochondrial failure.
  5. Iodine protects ATP function and enhances ATP production – ATP is our biological units of energy, and iodine deficiency can result in a materially lower ATP production (18 times less) resulting in a low vital life force and disease.
  6. Iodine prevents fibrocystic breast disease – iodine has been shown in studies to significantly improve this disease with an intake of 3-6 milligrams daily.
  7. Iodine decreases insulin needs in diabetics – Dr. David Brownstein, another leading authority on iodine, has found that iodine helps decrease insulin needs in diabetics when they use 50-100 milligrams daily.
  8. Iodine helps support protein synthesis – thyroid hormones activate key biochemical reactions including protein synthesis, enzymatic activities, and function of target organs such as development of brain, health, muscles, pituitary and kidneys. Deficiency causes hormone dysfunction in all bodily hormones.
  9. Iodine deficiency is a global health threat – iodine deficiency in the general population yields 1-10% cretinism, 5-30% brain damage and 30-70% loss of energy. Iodine deficiency has increased significantly over the last 40 years. Instances of ADHD have skyrocketed as have everyday cognitive impairment problems like memory loss, depression, slowness of mind, anxiety, suicidal tendencies and various psychiatric illnesses.
  10. Iodine destroys pathogens, molds, fungi, parasites, and malaria – iodine is the most powerful antibiotic we have and as more antibiotic resistant bacteria emerge, iodine may become the “new” lifesaver on many levels.
  11. Iodine supports immune function – iodine plays a role in helping the body to kill bacteria and thus to reduce levels of inflammation with which all disease is associated.
  12. Iodine eliminates toxic halogens from the body (including radioactive I-131) – iodine displaces and release the toxic halogens (fluorine, bromine and chlorine) from the cellular systems as well as helping remove mercury, lead, and cadmium and competitively inhibits the uptake of I-131.
  13. Iodine regulates estrogen production in the ovaries – the ovaries, testes and adrenals all produce estrogen. The three main estrogens, (estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) and estriol (E3) come into balance with iodine sufficiency fixing problems like estrogen dominance.
  14. Iodine is anti-mucolytic (meaning it reduces mucus catarrh) – iodine helps decrease build up of catarrh in the intestines and sinus. Since iodine effectively cleanses and detoxifies the lymph system, deficiency enables a build up of parasites, bacteria, viruses and toxins in the lymph.
  15. Iodine neutralizes hydroxyl ions and hydrates the cells – iodine also has anti-tumor and anti-sclerotic activity and when used as a supplement, antioxidant activity increases as well as immune system function.
  16. Iodine makes us smarter – since iodine helps with mental functioning, deficiency is associated with lower IQ’s in children. In adults, deficiency means low thyroid function which decreases brain circulation slowing intellectual function.
  17. Iodine prevents heart disease – the thyroid regulates heart rate, and hypothyroidism, which is a result of iodine deficiency, weakens the heart muscle causing cardiac arrhythmia. Dr Broda Barnes, the father of the pro-thyroid awareness movement, demonstrated in his research that the consumption of thyroid glandular (high in Iodine) showed there was an extremely significant reversal and prevention of heart disease outperforming on many levels the current approach that cardiologists reference today.
  18. Iodine is needed with the use of cordless phones, cell phones and now smart meters to prevent hypothyroidism – a recent study in International Journal of Radiation Biology, Vol 86, No. 12 December 2010, pp. 1106 – 1116, shows that pulsed 900HMz radiation which is a frequency range emitted by cordless phones, cell phones and “smart” meters – induces hypothyroidism which is considered a precursor to, and common condition associated with, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
  19. Iodine supports pregnancy (as the fetus undergoes more apoptosis than any other developmental stage) – pregnant women need more iodine therefore and even the FDA suggests 47% more for pregnant women and 93% more for lactating woman.
  20. High doses of iodine may be used to reverse certain diseases – iodine in gram (g) amounts has been used to cure syphilis, skin lesions and chronic lung disease. In milligram (mg) amounts helps prevent and cure many things like cancer, fibrocystic breast disease, and Alzheimer’s. In microgram amounts (mcg) iodine simply prevents and cures cretinism and goiter (an enlargement of the thyroid).
  21. High doses of iodine may be used for wounds, bedsores, inflammatory and traumatic pain, and restoration of hair growth when applied topically – gram (g) amounts of iodine have been used for wound care, bedsore and pain. It has many other uses such as relieving headaches, restoring hair growth and combating toenail fungus.
  22. Iodine helps in the diminishing of tissue scarring, cheloid formations, and Dupuytren’s and Peyronie’s contractures – these are hyper-scarring conditions.

These are all reasons to be supplementing with iodine since, like magnesium, iodine plays a hugely diverse and influential role in the body and can wreak havoc with your health if it’s in short supply.

Current government backed advice states that adults need about 150 micrograms (μg) of iodine a day. As is the case with magnesium, the experts tend to suggest that this is on the very low side and that our daily requirement should actually be much higher, certainly in the milligram (mg) not microgram amounts, and Dr David Brownstein, who is a recognised iodine expert, advocates daily iodine supplementation in mg amounts.

What can I do to improve my iodine levels quickly?

Similar to the problems with magnesium, we live away from the water and modern agriculture has, over time, stripped the earth of its iodine. Recent estimates suggest that as much as a fifth of the world’s population is living on iodine deficient soil.

Eating a diet high in seaweed can help – sea vegetables such as kelp and algae are known to concentrate iodine up to 30,000 times more than levels found in the sea, however, unless you are eating lots of the stuff daily, it likely won’t be enough.

As Dr Cousens demonstrates, microgram amounts serve only to protect against goiter (an enlargement of the thyroid) and cretinism (a condition characterised by physical deformity and learning difficulties caused by thyroid problems from birth) and will not satisfy the needs of the other glands, organs and body systems which require much more.

For example, the thyroid holds 50mg, the breasts hold 200mg, the skin 400mg and the whole body amount is in the region of 2000mg, possibly much more according to Dr Cousens. Therefore in order to supplement iodine to optimal levels, mg amounts are required.

Iodine is the heaviest essential mineral and is slightly soluble in water. When supplementing using Lugol’s iodine, this is what you can expect to see after the iodine is dropped into a glass of water – the iodine takes on an orange-brown colour.

I used Lugol’s iodine – which is a mixture of potassium iodide and iodine, in water. I choose a 12% solution which is at the stronger concentration end meaning more iodine and iodide per drop (7.5 grams of elemental iodine per metric drop).

I followed an iodine loading protocol, which is used in the case of iodine deficiency and essentially involves starting slowly and carefully when supplementing, which for me was just a few drops in the first week (about 12mg daily) working up to much higher doses of around 100mg daily over the course of about 4 months.

The protocol involves supplementing with co-factors (that is molecules whose presence is essential for supplementation to work properly and safely) such as selenium, but also real salt which helps the body to detoxify and release for example the toxic halogens (fluorine, bromine and chlorine) which compete with iodine in the body and are expelled during supplementation in the urine.

I have created a separate blog post with the details of the loading protocol to help with supplementation.

If you are concerned about being iodine deficient, get your levels tested! There are several ways you can do this at home; I’ve focussed on the two I am familiar with:

  • Iodine patch test: This is what I did but it’s not very accurate or reliable but you can do it at home if you have iodine. I painted a patch of iodine on a hidden part of my skin (say 5cm by 5cm on the shoulder or thigh) and monitored the patch over the course of the day. The idea is that those who are not iodine deficient should expect to see the patch fade around about the 24 hour mark. However a deficiency will likely cause the iodine to be absorbed into the skin more quickly than that.
  • Iodine loading test: This is more accurate but more involved and requires some kit. Essentially it involves supplement iodine and then testing to measure how much iodine you excrete in your urine over say a 24-hour period. It requires a urine sample to be collected each time you pee so that it can be tested.

Please consult with your doctor before commencing a dietary supplementation regime, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.

Good health!

Robbie Mack

About Robbie Mack

Robbie is a lawyer not a doctor. Robbie took an interest in nutritional and lifestyle health research after developing depression in his early 30s. Some years later his research has helped him find the answers to his problems. He believes that everyone should have access to the correct diet and lifestyle information based on the evolution of the human species. Robbie has taken full responsibility for his own health and thinks that everyone should try to do this.

Robbie-mack.org is the result of thousands of hours of research found on the internet and platforms like YouTube, where you can access the impartial and honest views of real experts on health and wellbeing.

Robbie isn’t a doctor so please don’t rely on his articles as medical advice as they are not intended to be used in this way.

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