Many people with thyroid conditions have an iodine deficiency. This holds true for people with hypothyroidism, as well as those with hyperthyroidism. And in both conditions, it is important to correct such a deficiency in order to help restore your thyroid health, as well as your overall health. This is also true with regards to autoimmune thyroid disorders, although as I’ll briefly discuss, someone who has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis shouldn’t supplement with iodine until the autoimmune response has been addressed. On the other hand, most people with Graves’ Disease who are iodine deficient have no problem supplementing with iodine when under the guidance of a competent holistic doctor.
As for why iodine is important to thyroid health, the reason for this is because iodine plays an important role in the formation of thyroid hormone. As a result, someone who has a deficiency in iodine very well may have a deficiency in thyroid hormone, which can contribute to hypothyroidism. Because of this, it’s assumed that people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease have an excess of iodine, which isn’t always the case. The only surefire method of determining whether someone has an iodine deficiency is through proper testing.
You might wonder why many people are deficient in iodine. There are numerous reasons for this. For a full explanation I highly recommend reading the book “Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It”, by Dr. David Brownstein. One reason he mentions is due to poor farming techniques, as the soils are depleted in iodine. Yet another reason is because the bread people eat contains bromine, which replaced iodine in the dough conditioners many years ago. And because bromine competes with iodine, this has really contributed to the increase in iodine deficiency over the last few decades. There are other reasons for the increase in iodine deficiency, but once again, you can refer to Dr. Brownstein’s book to find this information out.
The “Patch Test” vs. the “Iodine Loading Test”
There are essentially two different methods of detecting an iodine deficiency. One method is through an iodine patch test, which involves using a 2% tincture of iodine to draw a 2 x 2 square on your forearm, abdomen, or inner thigh, and then monitor the patch to see how long it takes to disappear. The quicker it takes the patch to disappear, the greater deficiency someone has in iodine. Someone who has a sufficient amount of iodine should have the patch remain for at least 24 hours before fading. If the patch disappears in under 24 hours then the person is iodine deficient.
A more accurate method of determining whether someone is iodine deficient is through an iodine loading test. This is a urine test which measures the excretion of iodine over a 24 hour period after taking a 50 mg tablet of Iodoral, which is an iodine/iodide tablet. If 90% of the ingested iodine/iodide is excreted, then the person has a sufficient amount of iodine. On the other hand, if they excrete less than 90% of iodine/iodide then they have an iodine deficiency. You can obtain this test by visiting www.hakalalabs.com.
Supplementing Properly With Iodine
To no surprise, the best method of correcting an iodine deficiency is to supplement with iodine. While some sources will recommend starting out with high dosages of iodine (25 mg or more), in my opinion it’s a good idea to begin with a lower dosage, and then slowly increase the dosage over time. For example, when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, in order to correct my iodine deficiency I took a 3mg tablet once each day for one week, and then added another 3 mg tablet each week until I was taking 24mg.
Does this mean you should take the same dosage, and follow the same steps that I took? Well, the first thing you of course need to do is determine whether or not you have an iodine deficiency. Once this has been determined, it’s a good idea to consult with a holistic doctor, rather than try to correct the deficiency on your own. If you do decide to self-treat your iodine deficiency problem then I do think starting out with a low dosage of iodine is a good idea. As for whether you should build up to 25 mg or more is something that should be determined through follow-up testing. After all, some people might need to build up to 40 or 50mg of iodine in order to correct a severe deficiency. Others might be fine taking 12 mg of iodine. In other words, different people will require different dosages.
Addressing An Iodine Deficiency In Graves’ Disease & Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
For those people with Graves’ Disease who have an iodine deficiency, you can simply follow the advice I have given thus far. However, people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis SHOULD NOT supplement with iodine, as doing so will most likely exacerbate their condition. So what should be done if someone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis has an iodine deficiency? While this deficiency will need to be corrected, one will need to eliminate the autoimmune response first. And this of course means that the person will need to follow a natural treatment protocol, since taking thyroid hormone for the rest of their life won’t do anything for the immune system component of the condition.
In summary, iodine is extremely important for proper thyroid function, and as a result it’s important to address any iodine deficiency you may have. And while such a deficiency is more common in people with hypothyroidism, people with a hyperthyroid condition can also be deficient in iodine. Some people just begin supplementing with iodine on their own, but it really is a good idea to first obtain an iodine loading test, or at the very least do the iodine patch test to determine for sure whether or not you have an iodine deficiency.
I have research showing that as little as 250 mcg of iodine can unmask mainly hypothyroidism but also hyperthyroidism. So, I understand your caution with suggesting iodine supplementation with autoimmune thyroid disease. What I don’t understand is the rationale for supplementing someone with hyperthyroidism. With the excess thyroid hormone production accompanying Graves’, iodine supplementation would counter the effects of natural goiterogens consumption (cabbage juice or supplements with glocosinolates) because iodine is necessary for thyroid hormone production and we want to slow production down. Now, if iodine deficiency is causing multi nodular toxic goiter, supplementation will eventually be necessary. I have a mild hyperthyroidism condition and I am trying to avoid iodine consumption but since I live near the ocean and eat fish and drink raw milk it isn’t easy.
Thanks for your information,
Dr. Eric says
I understand your thinking, and I thought the same way in the past. Obviously in hyperthyroidism the goal is to stop the excess production of thyroid hormone. And it does seem to make sense that since iodine is necessary for the formation of thyroid hormone, that one with a hyperthyroid condition should refrain from consuming iodine. And I’m not suggesting that all people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease do need to take iodine. However, the fact remains that many people with hyperthyroidism are iodine deficient, which is why it is necessary to test everyone with hyperthyroidism, rather than assume that everyone has a sufficient amount of iodine. The opposite holds true as well, as some doctors will give everyone with hyperthyroidism iodine. I’m not sure if you have read Dr. David Brownstein’s book entitled “Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It”, but if you haven’t I would highly recommend you doing so, as it’s a very interesting book that will probably answer a lot of your questions regarding iodine supplementation.
I wonder what your opinion is on the effect iodine has on weak adrenals since this can go hand-in-hand with low thyroid? I have read several comments that iodine shouldn’t be used with adrenal issues.
Dr. Eric says
Well, a lot of people with weak adrenal glands also have an iodine deficiency. And if this is the case then the person should supplement with iodine (unless if they have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), as it’s not going to worsen the adrenal problem, if that’s what you’re asking. In my experience I have had many patients who had problems with their adrenal glands and also had low iodine levels, and in these cases I do recommend iodine supplementation to address the iodine deficiency at the same time I’m addressing the problem with the adrenal glands, and I haven’t had any problems taking this approach.
I was very optimistic to read about iodine in the diet and then really disappointed to read that someone with Hashimoto’s should not take it.
What is meant by ‘follow a natural treatment protocol’?
Dr. Eric says
Iodine is very important, and although not everyone with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis has a negative reaction to iodine, taking iodine can exacerbate the autoimmune response, and so you need to be cautious. As for what is meant by “following a natural treatment protocol”, when I work with someone I evaluate their condition and then give recommendations which include dietary changes, nutritional supplementation and herbs, stress management, advice to help improve adrenal health, repair the gut, eliminate toxins, etc.