The fantasy of both conventional and alternative healthcare practitioners is finding a single nutrient to treat hypothyroidism. For doctors, this is thyroid hormone. For alternative practitioners, it is iodine.
In the previous article I showed why, when used alone, thyroid hormone replacement often fails. In this post I’ll explain why iodine may not only be ineffective, but also cause harm.
Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism worldwide. Once researchers realized this, health authorities around the world began adding iodine to table salt.
This strategy was effective in correcting iodine deficiency. But it had an unanticipated – and undesired – effect. In countries where iodine has been added to table salt, the rates of autoimmune thyroid disease have risen. The following is just a sample of studies around the world demonstrating this effect:
Why does this happen? Because increased iodine intake, especially in supplement form, increases the autoimmune attack on the thyroid.
Iodine reduces the activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO). TPO is required for proper thyroid hormone production.
Also, in studies where rats were given excess iodine, they developed a goiter-like condition.
On the other hand, restricting intake of iodine can reverse hypothyroidism. In one study, 78% of patients with Hashimoto’s regained normal thyroid function with iodine restriction alone.
However – and this is a big “however” – iodine may only pose a problem for people with Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune thyroid diseases in the presence of concurrent selenium deficiency. In the study above where rats developed goiter while receiving excess iodine, when they were given adequate selenium they did not develop the goiter.
Other studies have shown that selenium protects against the effects of iodine toxicity and prevents the triggering and flaring of autoimmune disease that excess iodine without selenium can cause.
This is important information for anyone with hypothyroidism in the U.S., because the most common cause of hypothyroidism is not iodine deficiency, but Hashimoto’s (the autoimmune form of hypothyroidism).
In my practice I always test for both iodine deficiency and Hashimoto’s when a patient presents with hypothyroid symptoms. If they are iodine deficient, I will start them on a trial of iodine and selenium together. In most cases, patients see a significant improvement. In a minority of cases, they cannot tolerate supplemental iodine even with adequate selenium intake.
The use of iodine in the treatment of thyroid disease is a controversial subject. I’m sure some readers will post comments directing me to the work of Dr. Abraham and Dr. Brownstein, both of whom have successfully treated hypothyroid patients with iodine.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that for the people who have hypothyroidism caused by iodine deficiency, supplemental iodine is both necessary and effective. How do you know you’re in this group? You can get a 24-hour urine iodine test to determine your tissue iodine levels. This involves taking a 50 mg iodine tablet and measuring how much iodine is excreted in the urine over the subsequent 24-hour period. You should excrete more than 90% of that iodine if you have sufficient levels in your body. If you excrete less than 90%, it means you’re iodine deficient.
Also keep in mind that a minority of patients with Hashimoto’s confirmed by biopsy (the gold standard) never test positive for thyroid antibodies. This is probably because their immune systems are so depressed they can no longer produce antibodies. If you have a combination of hyper- and hypothyroid symptoms, I would still suspect Hashimoto’s even if your thyroid antibody tests are normal.
Like what you see? Join more than 30,000
others and subscribe for email updates.
I hate spam too. Your email is safe with me.
Follow Chris Online:
Discover your own ideal diet & end confusion about what to eat forever.Learn More
Boost fertility naturally & promote lifelong health for you & your baby.Learn More
Personalized online portal with easy-to-use tools, expert advice, and the support of a passionate, intelligent community.Learn More