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An Interview With Dr. David Brownstein On Iodine and Thyroid Health

Today’s post includes a very special guest, Dr. David Brownstein.  Dr. Brownstein is author of many different books, including “Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It” and “Overcoming Thyroid Disorders”.  During this interview Dr. Brownstein is going to discuss the importance of iodine, and how it can help people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid disorders.

Dr. Eric: How are you doing today Dr. Brownstein?

Dr. Brownstein: I am doing great and thanks for having me here.

Dr. Eric: I really have been looking forward to this interview, as I enjoyed attending your webinar on Overcoming Thyroid Disorders, and I’m sure you’re going to share some great information here that will benefit people with both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid conditions, including autoimmune thyroid disorders such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

When I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease I’m pretty sure iodine was very important in helping to restore my health back to normal, yet many medical doctors advise people with hyperthyroid conditions to avoid iodine. Why is this so?

Dr. Brownstein: Most doctors are under the impression that iodine is toxic to the thyroid gland. They believe that iodine will precipitate a thyroid problem or if one already has a thyroid problem, make it worse.  This just isn’t true.  The NHANES and other data clearly show iodine level have been falling over the last 30-40 years and thyroid illnesses have  been increasing. If iodine were a toxic agent to the thyroid, we would see iodine levels falling during this time period, not rising. That goes for hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroid disorders such as Graves’ and Hashimoto’s disease.

Dr. Eric: There seems to be a great deal of controversy as to whether people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis should supplement with iodine, even if they have a deficiency.  I admittedly have been guilty of this as well, as I always was taught that people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis should avoid iodine because it will worsen their condition.  When I attended your seminar you told the audience you usually have had no problems giving your patients who have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis iodine supplementation.  Can you please elaborate on this?

Dr. Brownstein: Animal studies show that you cannot cause Hashimoto’s disease in an animal unless they are iodine deficient and they are given a goitrogen.  That is what is happening to our human population;  we are iodine deficient and we are exposed to an ever-increasing amount of goitrogens like bromide and fluoride.

Dr. Eric: If it’s fine for people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis to take iodine, then why do some people feel bad when supplementing with iodine?

Dr. Brownstein: Iodine can cause a detoxification reaction whereby the body releases bromide.  I believe this is where many of the adverse effects are coming from.  I explain this in my books.  My experience has clearly shown that vast majority of patients with autoimmune thyroid disorders improve with iodine when it is used as part of a holistic treatment regimen.

Do some react negatively to iodine? Yes.  Iodine is not for everyone, but, my clinical experience has clearly shown adverse effects to iodine are rare when it is used appropriately.

Dr. Eric: So then this should also be the case with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease too, as while most of my patients with hyperthyroid conditions do fine supplementing with iodine, I have had a few who were deficient in iodine, yet didn’t feel great when first supplementing with it.

Dr. Brownstein: Absolutely.  The entire country is in a state of iodine decline.

Dr. Eric: What are some of the reasons why many people are iodine deficient?

Dr. Brownstein: The number one reason is eating a poor diet full of refined flour-containing products such as bread, pasta, and cereal.  The bromide in food and drink (many soda products contain it) competitively inhibit iodine  and cause the body to excrete iodine.  The second reason is that our exposure to bromine from multiple non-food sources is enormous. It is used as a fire retardant in clothing, computers, furniture, automobiles and other consumer items.  Every one of the nearly 1,000 patients that I have tested for bromine has tested positive for  high levels.

Dr. Eric: But why can’t most people obtain all of the iodine they need by eating iodine-rich foods and consuming iodized salt?

Dr. Brownstein: In my book I showed that iodine is poorly absorbed from iodized salt.  Couple in our increasing exposure to goitrogens and we are ripe for major health problems.

Dr. Eric: When I supplemented with iodine my TSH actually went well above the reference range after a few months, yet all of my other labs were fine and I felt pretty good.  Eventually it did fall back within the normal range, but I’m sure some people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease would be concerned about this.  Is there any cause for concern if someone with hyperthyroidism supplements with iodine and the TSH goes higher than the reference range?

Dr. Brownstein: The elevation of TSH is a normal and expected response to iodine supplementation as the TSH stimulates NIS—the transport molecule for iodine.  Within 6-12 months TSH levels decline as optimal iodine levels are restored intra-cellularly.

Dr. Eric: We both recommend the iodine loading test to determine whether someone has an iodine deficiency. But how can someone with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid disorder specifically know how much iodine they need to take?  Is this something they can do on their own, or do you recommend them speaking a doctor before supplementing with iodine?

Dr. Brownstein: I recommend working with a health care practitioner who is knowledgeable about iodine and thyroid disorders.  I also suggest having your levels tested before and during supplementation.  The iodine loading test is the best test we have for this.

Dr. Eric: In your book “Overcoming Thyroid Disorders”, you estimate that up to 40% of the population may be suffering from a thyroid disorder. Can this be related to many people being deficient in iodine?

Dr. Brownstein: Absolutely.  Iodine deficiency coupled with the increasing exposure to toxins like bromide and fluoride are negatively affecting the thyroid gland.

Dr. Eric: What are some of the other factors which can cause or contribute to the high incidence of thyroid conditions?

Dr. Brownstein: Nutrient deficiencies such as B-vitamins, vitamin A and mineral deficiencies can all contribute to thyroid problems.  Furthermore, many commonly used drugs such as birth control pills or beta blockers also inhibit normal thyroid function.  My book covers more items.

Dr. Eric: Dr. Brownstein, I’d like to thank you for taking the time for this interview.  I highly recommend for anyone with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition to get your books on Iodine and Overcoming Thyroid Disorders I mentioned earlier.  Plus you have some other great books, such as “The Soy Deception” and “The Guide To A Gluten-Free Diet”.  You also have a blog which I highly recommend everyone visiting.  Can you tell everyone where they can get some of your books and DVDs, and check out your blog?

Dr. Brownstein: My website is:  www.drbrownstein.com.

Well thank you again Dr. Brownstein for taking the time for this interview, as I’m sure many people will find this information to be extremely valuable, and will also look forward to reading your blog and hopefully some of your books.

Thanks for having me, Dr. Eric.


 

22 Comments

  1. kerry adams says:

    do you have a recommended practitioner list? Specific for a sensitive hyperthyroid auto immune condition ?
    thank you in advance

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Kerry,

      As of now I don’t have such a list, and so I would just recommend contacting some of the local chiropractors and naturopaths in and around your area to see if any of them focus on thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions.

  2. Elaine says:

    Is it correct that those with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis are to avoid taking additional iodine as it is like adding fuel to a fire? My thyroid antibodies went up significantly after taking a small iodine supplement for my thyroid. Any info would be appreciated

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Elaine,

      I think it varies, as I have always been cautious about giving people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis iodine, but then you have someone like Dr. David Brownstein who is an iodine expert and has seen many patients with these conditions, and commonly gives iodine supplementation to people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I think each person needs to be monitored individually, as if someone has an iodine deficiency it eventually is important to correct it, but I agree that if iodine is taken one should monitor the blood tests and thyroid antibodies, as iodine doesn’t always raise the thyroid antibodies.

  3. Ken says:

    I have researched iodine suppementation and auroimmune thyroid diseae while persuing a MS in nutrition. My conclusion was that there was a link between iodine supplementation and graves and Hashimotos. The incidence goes up in areas newly supplemented with iodized salt. I also found studies showing a higher incidence of autoimmune thyroditis in areas of higher iodine intake. A certain percentage of individuals with higher levels of thyroid peroxidase or or anti-thyroidgloubulin antibodies will be predisposed to hypo-hyper thyroid conditions with supplemental iodine.
    We know that iodine is necessary for production of thyroid hormones. If someone has Graves, the treatment is to block iodine uptake in the thyroid to reduce hormone levels. I’m also aware that high dose iodine with shut thyroid hormone production down and can be used as a treatment.
    I’m not saying that supplemental iodine is always contraindicated but caution is advised. My THS was steadily rising so I started sprinkling seaweed on my 2 salads per day. One year later my THS crashed to almost nothing and I had Graves. 

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Ken,

      I would agree that caution should be advised, and I’m pretty certain my Graves’ Disease condition wasn’t caused by iodine, and in fact I supplemented with up to 25mg of iodine as part of the natural treatment protocol without a problem, and feel it was an important part of my recovery. But even Dr. Brownstein admits that iodine isn’t for everyone. Iodine of course is an important mineral, and I have given it to many of my patients without a problem. On the other hand, there have been some patients who have tested for a deficiency who still didn’t do well on iodine. So everybody does need to be treated individually, and when I do recommend iodine to my patients I always start with a low dosage and then slowly increase it.

  4. larry says:

    i lived for 20yrs using only rainwater for washing and drinking etc.
    then i moved to a house on mains, heavily chlorinated plus flouride etc water supply, i had a swimming pool and spa both chlorinated and with bromine etc which i used daily. after 3-4yrs i developed rapid heartbeat,palpitations, tremor anxiety, etc and was diagnosed with graves.
    i had not used iodised salt for many yrs and no red meat for 30yrs.
    i suspect iodine and b12 deficiency as the cause.
    several times when iv had rapid heartbeat i have taken 3drops of lugols in water which immediately calmed it down.
    i was told by naturopath to take pulse, then take 3drops of lugols on tongue, then take pulse at 15,30,60min intervals. i have yet to try the iodine loading test

  5. Karen says:

    After having an adverse reaction (rash, swelling, itching, etc.) to the dye used in a CT scan, I was told by the hospital staff that I had an allergy to iodine. I’ve been told since then by an endocrinologist that this is impossible. What are your thoughts and how does this couple with the fact that I’ve gone from being diagnosed as hypothyroid 20 yrs ago to being hyperthyroid/Graves’ Disease 3 yrs ago to being told in the last 6 months that I am hypothyroid/Hashimoto’s? It would stand to reason that I would be iodine deficient if my immune system is attacking my thyroid due to the iodine allergy.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Karen,

      Iodine is an essential mineral in the body, so while someone can be allergic to the substance used in the CT scan, and/or iodine supplements, it is not the mineral iodine they are allergic to. Iodine is necessary not only for thyroid function, but also for every cell and tissue in the body. This of course doesn’t mean that everyone should supplement with iodine, but one can’t be allergic to it.

  6. Ursula Noble says:

    Hello Dr Eric. I am about to purchase a quality brand of vitamin/minerals. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s 4 months ago and am being treated with NDT, Vit D3 and & 7 KETO DHEA. I noticed the mineral capsule contains 150mcg of Iodine as pottasium iodide and 400mcg of selenium from L-selennomethionine. My urine iodine test showed I was not deficient 126 (parameter >100 not iodine deficient). I also have high reverse T3 671 pmol/L (140-540), Thyroglobulin Ab ,20 IU/mL (0-80) and Thyroid Peroxidase Ab 14 IU/mL (0-120). Do you feel the 150mcg’s of iodine daily will cause a problem or is that a very low dose and nothing to worry about? Is there a better test than urine iodine? Thank you.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Ursula,

      I’ll actually will be releasing a blog post on Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and iodine tomorrow, although it relates to iodine consumption during pregnancy. Although I’m cautious when it comes to recommending iodine to people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, in most cases, taking a small amount won’t cause problems when the proper precautions are taken (supplementing with selenium, which is also in the capsule, along with vitamin C, magnesium, the B vitamins, etc.). Of course some people do react to even small doses of iodine. I do prefer the iodine loading test through the urine, as I find this to be the most accurate test.

  7. Jeri Gray-Reneberg says:

    Hi, Dr. Eric,

    My 18-year-old daughter has struggled with Hashimoto’s and Lyme disease for the last four years (her initial symptom was a loss of her menstrual cycle, which had been regular). Her thyroid antibodies came down after being as high as 1000. She still doesn’t feel well, however (after antibiotics, nose spray, etc. for the Lyme disease and treatment for mold toxicity). When her doctor gave her the iodine loading test, she spilled all of it into her urine. The doctor said she had never seen a result like that and counseled her to avoid it. But it is so extreme, I wonder if the iodine is not being attached to the receptors or something. She is still fatigued, cold, and weighs 200 lbs. Thank you for any suggestions you can make. She is now in college and far away from her doctor.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Jeri,

      It sounds like your daughter might have a sodium/iodide symporter defect. When this happens iodine isn’t being taken into the cells properly. While an iodine deficiency can be a factor, improving the health of the immune system would be a priority with both Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Lyme disease. Obviously diet plays an important role in this, as it’s important to eat mostly whole foods, avoid the refined foods and sugars, consider avoiding gluten and dairy, etc. Often times the best way to improve the health of the immune system is by focusing on the gut, as a leaky gut is a common problem in people with these conditions. I know you said the thyroid antibodies have decreased, but I still would look into this.

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